Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Angella Chizimba
The coming in of the COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly changed most of our day-to-day operations. Due to this, we have been pushed beyond limits to create new ways of operating, which has not been an easy task. The outbreak has drastically increased recently, making community engagements more difficult to implement, so we have changed our normal community interactions. We have to make sure that we consistently help sensitize the communities on COVID-19 as well as practice the safety measures, such as washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks.
Now that we are working more from home, no schools to teach, no constant community meetings, it means we only go out when it is really necessary. The effect of the pandemic is bigger than we imagined. And while most organizations have completely shut down, CorpsAfrica Volunteers are still in their various sites. But we miss all the activities we were involved in like soccer/netball games, teaching, constant youth club meetings, and even enjoying personal outdoor hobbies that keep our lives healthy and focused.
Since the pandemic, my main concern has been the girls in my community. This made me reflect on how vulnerable groups have been put at risk since school was an escape for many of them from things that could destroy their bright future. A few girls I used to teach are already pregnant and following a few conversations with them, they are off to get married for they do not see any hope in waiting for the Covid-19 to end so that they can go back to school. Many young girls and women are locked down with their abusers at home with nowhere to find safety and no shoulder to lean on.
Working with women on potential projects to improve their livelihoods, mentoring a few girls around me and interacting with some, has been thrilling. We often take some time to share a few insights on how we can improve our lives, how we can focus and work on school activities, how we can even start something small from as little as 2000 Malawi Kwacha ($3) since most of them are often involved in sexual activities because they lack money to support themselves and to keep themselves busy.
I should say, my favourite time has been our daily reading time. We call it, ‘our study circle.’ We started this at the local secondary school where I was volunteering. It is sad to say that when the idea was just materializing, schools were shutdown. Well, fast forward to present case, the study circles are amazing. A few young girls pop in, though I know most of them are in it for book picture viewing. The secondary school girls on the other hand, take this study circle seriously and this has given me the chance to take some short breaks from all projects and report writing to just having an hour or two with these amazing young girls in reading books as well as learn their language and culture.