It is so interesting to see how our Masomphenya team, based in Nkhata Bay, is working hand-in-hand sharing ideas on culture, dressing, food, housing and language. Though the team is performing well together there are some challenges, which the volunteers are facing. 

One of the challenges is communication because there is an obvious language barrier. Some national volunteers are just learning how to speak English and the UK volunteers tend to speak fast. At the workshops, people in the community are not able to understand English, so it means the local volunteers have to interpret. To overcome the challenge of communication, the UK volunteers are trying to speak slowly. Also, team language sessions are conducted every week to help them get to know how to speak the local language for better communication with the communities.

Weather is another challenge faced by the volunteers in the Masomphenya team because we are located near the lake, which sometimes causes high rainfall, bringing some difficulties when walking to the office. However, the team members have managed to buy umbrellas to help keep them dry during rainfall.  The slippery mud is still an obstacle though!

On religion and cultural beliefs, we all accept our friend’s views and allow them to enjoy their right to expression by not forcing them to do things they don’t want to do. For example, many people in Malawi go to church on Sunday but in the UK there are many atheists. This could have caused a clash in opinions. However, we all show an understanding and respect for each other’s different cultures and talking openly about our beliefs and opinions.

Another difference is family size. In the UK, having more children is expensive and to raise the child up to the stage where she/he can be independent, is difficult. On the other hand, in Malawi having more children is a source of income because they help in farming activities. Despite these differences in family size and culture, we are all still working together to achieve our goals.

Masomphenya means vision, so despite differences in skin colour, family norms, cultural beliefs and values, we are all working towards the same goal. We are all battling for a better educated youth on issues of sexual reproductive health and rights. We are all fighting issues of HIV and AIDS together for a better future for Malawi. It is this shared vision that drives us forward together as a team and allows us to accept each other’s differences. 

Written by ICS volunteer Mc Donald Chikusi