Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lusekelo Simwela
My site is called Makanani, it consists of 6 villages which are under the Group Village headman, Mr. Jumpha. Makanani is big, it is found 2 km from the Malawian border on a 5 km stretch of road that goes all the way to the Mozambican border in a “no man’s land”. This means for the remaining 3 kms, around 2 to 4 kms each side is Makanani. It is also hilly which makes getting to the different villages difficult. This makes community meetings at a central location for the whole area hard as most people will have to travel long distances to make it to the meeting.
I found out that even though the areas are far from the road, when you travel from one village to the next, it is relatively near. So I said why not spend one day and night in one village and then move to the next and repeat. I told my fellow volunteers and staff. Adam, our start up director dubbed it the Kelo Tour. This is part one.
The day started with a bike ride to Makanani 2, it is located near the road. Here I met Simon Denivala a member of the VDC (village development committee) . We walked for an hour to Makanani 3. Well walking is a misnomer, is it truly walking if 70 percent of the road is uphill? Hiking is more like it. So we hiked to Makanani 3. As we approached, the small foot paths we used grew into a relatively big road. (For cars perhaps?). There were tangerine trees on either side of the road which got me excited (quick question is there such a thing as tangerine poisoning? Asking for a friend). In no time we were at the chief’s house. She came out and greeted us. She was warm and welcoming. Gave us chairs to sit on, one of which was interesting. Check it out.
After the pleasantries I went around the village talking to some people. After a couple of people, my attention was drawn to this amazing thing.
It looks big here but I was a lot closer at the time and it just looked like a big Rock. My ego and playful side decided that it was a good idea to try and climb the hill. I foolishly agreed. So I asked one of the villagers to take me up and we started off. Worst idea ever!! It was excruciating, it was steep from the very start. It did not help that it was mostly rock either as I climbed with the fear of falling and hurting myself on the rocks. But it’s my ego that had brought me there so I faked not being in pain and climbed on.
We climbed till the top (well one of the peaks). The view was amazing; we saw the whole village in and its neighbors too. I could see the two nearest schools; I could see the only borehole in the village. I could see the paths children took to school; I could see the places that flooded when it rained. I could also see the many fields of pigeon peas, an important cash crop in the village. I also pulled out my notebook and gave him a personal interview. It was perfect.
We made it down slowly as we continued to talk and laugh. But what we didn’t realize was that people from the village could see us which proved to be an effective advertising tool. When people asked where the Volunteer that was said to be coming to the village, people simply pointed to the hill. It however turned on me when the chief’s daughter asked me if I was going to the hill to pray, I think I will never hear the end of that one.
I went back to the village had lunch and had held a successful community meeting in the afternoon. I heard people’s views on how living in their community was. They told me what made them happy about their community and the different problems they met. I am glad I did this. It was a great experience I got see and experience what many had told me in person. I shall do it again soon. Apart from all this I had fun. I think enjoying all what your community can offer, enjoying the company of the people is a very import part of my service. It helps me care about the community more and miss home lesser and lesser every day. It was a good first day on the Kelo tour.