Moni! (Hi!)

Team Ngwazi have been living in Malawi for 2 weeks now. We have had many great experiences and have loved familiarising ourselves with Malawian culture and its people. Malawi has proven to be a welcoming, friendly and interesting place, and every day we learn something new about the culture and customs of the country.

We arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, on Saturday 5th July, the day before the 50-year anniversary of Malawi’s independence from Britain. We stayed in Lilongwe for the next six days, for an Orientation week. We had training in the Chichewan language and in Malawian customs and culture. We learned about the patrimonial and matrimonial systems in Malawi and the different customs that exist in Malawi’s rural areas. We had some time for exploring Lilongwe’s markets, which proved to be lively and fascinating especially for those of us who have never been to Africa. The orientation week was also an opportunity to get to know the national volunteers who we will be working with throughout our ICS placement, and we have all been getting on really well.

At the end of the week we travelled to our placement, Nkhotakota. Nkhotakota is Malawi’s ninth largest town and is situated a kilometre away from the shores of Lake Malawi. Learning phrases of Chichewa has proved vital for talking to the people who reside in Nkhotakota, as it is customary to greet nearly everybody you walk past! We are working with Progressio’s partner organisation COWLHA (the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS). Whilst the large ant population is taking some getting used to, we have found the people of Nkhotakota to be hugely welcoming. We have been joining in netball games, attending Church on a Sunday and hearing the beautiful singing and are assimilating to life in the town. 

Our first week in Nkhotakota has involved training around the issue of HIV and AIDS in the area, with the help of Annie Kachali, COWLHA’S Field Officer in Nkhotakota. We have learnt about issues such as the failure by some groups in the area to protect the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) of women. We have also been learning about the work we will be doing with COWLHA in the next few months and about the great work COWLHA has already done. This includes the work on their ‘We Have Rights Too’ project, which aims to promote and protect the SRHR of women. It has involved training traditional leaders and healthcare professionals about SRHR. The main focus of our project will be monitoring and evaluating the output of Cycle 1 and Cycle 2, and we are excited to look at the work that the previous cycles did. Our work will involve activities such as visiting support groups, running a youth club every week and holding a community awareness day. We have also received training on our individual roles, which will no doubt prove useful as we carry out these roles in the next few months.

Overall, our time in Malawi so far has proven to be a great learning experience. We are gaining so much: from the skills that come from working and living with a team of people who did not know each other previously, to learning about the way other people live and the daily challenges they face. Our ICS experience will no doubt help us to develop as people and enhance our understanding of global issues...

Tionana! (See you later)

Written by Alice Beardsworth