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My First Impression of Volunteerism

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Osman Leedhakar Moyo

Having fully armed with expertise in community-led development approaches, I ventured down the famous Khwekwerere road of Dedza District which is located in the central region of Malawi, descending to Huwa Village with eagerness and thirst to quench as a Community-led Development facilitator. This was a roller coaster journey of volunteerism under the auspices of CorpsAfrica in Malawi. During our Pre-Service Training, the staff had repeatedly said, “The service is not for the fainthearted” but requires someone willing and passionate to serve rural communities.  From the time accepted this clarion call, I knew the weight of responsibility it comes with such as acting as a bridge between innovative solutions and the community I will serve for the next ten months to come. 

Upon Reflecting further on my volunteering service, I had mixed feelings I was both excited and anxious about my service in ten months to come stress. Fueled by the utmost task of shifting the mindsets of people in a community accustomed to traditional beliefs that solutions to their problems should be provided, I knew it would not be an easy task to serve them. The goal is towards/is bringing development led and chosen by the community of the community’s choice rather than imposing solutions imposing to them what we want to do for them. But, how do I achieve that? I told myself that I was ready for the service and I knew that the time had come now to unleash the knowledge gained during the 6-week intensive intensive Preservice training with CorpsAfrica. I faked a smile to myself a bit and told myself I was ready for this.

On the opposite end, however, I could still feel a gradual development of anxiousness about being a catalyst of all this change in an environment of all-round new faces I never imagined crossing paths with. That feeling was accompanied by doubts of possibilities to successfully implementing projects that required intense citizenry participation to ascertain their needs/problems and reach a conscience of solution. This is against the traditional development approach of perceiving communities as just recipients of project activities. It was at this time I had to walk the talk of the Asset-based Community Development approach.

When I arrived at my site I was Fast forward, to the moment I got deployed, I had the pleasure of being welcomed by the Village Development Committee secretary. Our conversation instantly jumped into pertinent topics that escalate problems in the community year. 

His insights into the community’s strengths and weaknesses, coupled with its preparedness for development, assured me of unleashing my practical solutions to some problems. Upon discovering that some villagers had already assembled assets, like bricks, for potential infrastructure projects, my anxiety started fading like debris being washed away by a flooding river.

A meeting with Group Village Head Huwa the following day was the icing on the cake of the confidence-building conversation I had earlier with the VDC Secretary. His warm reception, accompanied by jokes and praise for key community figures, solidified my sense of belonging—what a generous individual. The GVH’s endorsement of George Hara, the VDC secretary (whom I earlier met) to be my counterpart as he is a crucial member in running affairs of the community, affirmed my initial impression of how relevant he could be for our interventions to bear fruits. 

“I am available for any assistance you may need from me and, the community is ready to work with you.” Said GVH Huwa as we parted ways on my first-day meeting.

GVH Huwa’s declaration of support and the community’s readiness dissolved any lingering doubts about how I could execute the noble task of bringing change to the Huwa community. 

To date, the unwavering support I have received from both the GVH and other local leaders like the Village Development Committee, combined with the community’s determination and willingness to participate in almost all activities, reshaped my first days’ impression and cast aside the initial fear—arming myself for the ten-month journey of co-creating solutions with Huwa community. Such a great community to stay in and work with. 

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