Our trip began; the first challenge was getting one of our group leaders, Jon, through customs. During packing he decided that 4 pairs of scissors were a necessary addition to his hand luggage, the security guards seemed to disagree. About 20 hours later and after stop offs in Nairobi and Lusaka we landed in Lilongwe. We were taken to Msamba lodge where we met our team for the first time equipped with tiredness, excitement and a dash of apprehension.
The next week involved intense training on Malawian culture and Tumbuka, the local language that we would need to become familiar with. This proved a difficult task for the UK volunteers and required a lot of time and patience on behalf of the national volunteers. As we’re writing this blog the team has come together and reflected on how we all found each other to be friendly, open and equal. All the makings of a strong team!
As the first group to leave Lilongwe the leaving party, full of music and dancing, was the night before our departure. This gave a real feeling of unity, bringing all of the volunteers together to really get to know each other. After an early morning start we arrived in Mzimba, home to half the group and a home from home for the rest.
The real work began Monday morning when we met the staff at our partner organisation, Tovwirane HIV/AIDS organisation. After the English side of the team blundered our way through early attempts at Tumbuka greetings, we were immediately put to work going through all the information that we would be using to facilitate various meetings at villages in the surrounding areas. Since many of the communities that we will be visiting may not speak English all of our facilitations require a national volunteer to translate into Tumbuka. Perfecting this is taking a lot of work on both sides but the improvements seen so far have been positive.
Towards the end of the week we had our first trip to the field. The facilitation on Village Savings and Loans club was carried out entirely in Tumbuka by Newton, the group leader for the national volunteers. This gave the UK volunteers a great insight into how to interact with local villagers and gave us the chance to get involved in group activities. We all found the whole experience very humbling, despite the challenges they face, the community is incredibly welcoming and generous, on most of the visits we make, we are offered lunch of a traditional Malawian meal, nsima and nkhuku (a.k.a. chicken).
Really good start to our time here, the team is ready to face any challenges met and excited about the next 7 weeks. Tiwonanenge!
Progressio ICS UK volunteer Becky France, writes of her first 2 weeks in Malawi
Photo 1: The volunteer Team at Tovwirane at VCT centre on the first day of training.
Photo 2: Newton, local group leader, teaching Business and about the Village Saving and Loans (VSL) at Mbwiliwiza where 5 new VSL groups have been formed.