My name is Ethel Msusa, I am 23 years old and single, I have a Malawi School Leaving Certificate which I obtained in 2012. I also have a certificate of attendance in Electronics.

On 21st October my team and I went to Mfera Health Centre where we conducted a meeting with the Chisomo and Tigwilizane support groups.

At first we did our introduction and the aim of our visit that we want to help them change their lives. After hearing that everyone was happy but they were a bit worried that many organisations have been to visit them and have promised to do something for them but afterwards they don’t fulfil their promises. We assured them that we really came to help and they should not worry. These people face so many challenges in their lives - from the community members and also from their families, but the biggest challenge that they face is discrimination. These people also have some skills that they can be using such as gardening, sewing and livestock farming but they don’t as they are lacking the funds to start up a business.

Us volunteers discussed how we can help them, since they have the skills we thought of starting up a garden and we told them to contribute a little money so that they can buy seedlings, and about livestock farming we thought of doing it as a special project, the other thing is sewing so one of our volunteers offered herself to help them by teaching them how to make clothes by hand. 

As an in-country volunteer I feel bad when I hear about discrimination because that time is gone, I do understand that in the past people didn’t know about HIV and they thought they can be infected just by talking or touching the person who has HIV, but since so many organisations took part in conducting so many awareness campaigns telling the people about HIV. Today people have knowledge so I don’t think there is any need of discrimination, what we need to do is to talk to them and show them our love. By doing that their life won’t be the same and they will be leading a happy life.

HIV and AIDS in Malawi are taken as something that can’t be defeated but I think if we all stand together we can defeat it. We can work hand in hand with the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS and conduct as many awareness campaigns as we can to tell people to be faithful or to use condoms if they can’t abstain.

In the next meeting I am looking forward to seeing the people happy working in the garden. I want to respect their decisions. I want to see them changing their lives by that I will be happy that I have achieved my goal of helping them -  empowering  the poor to transform their lives and also to support the people living with HIV in their decisions making.

Written by ICS National Volunteer Ethel Msusa