Monile mosi (Greetings everyone) from everybody here in team Mzimba!
Week 2 has been another eventful and challenging week. This week, we visited and introduced ourselves to more community groups, including a Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) group and two more Village Savings and Loans (VSL) groups. Another important focus this week has been to further integrate ourselves into the local community.
Village Savings and Loans Groups (VSL)
The bulk of our timetable this week involved visiting and introducing ourselves to more community groups. On Tuesday we visited a VSL group in Engalaweni named Tagwizana. The group comprised of 21 members and was the first ‘women-only’ group that we’ve visited. All the VSL groups that we’ve visited so far have been noticeably female dominated and this was the first group we’d met that admitted to not allowing men members amongst their ranks. The 2nd VSL group we met this week was a police community, based in our local area of Mzimba Boma. Like Tagwizana, this group also had no male members. Another noticeable distinction with this group was that many of its members were unemployed but well educated women, suffering in the current poor economic climate. Through the VSL, these women are able to become entrepreneurs, taking control of their families lives through localised business based ventures.
Many of the women said that their husbands are irresponsible and would waste away the money on mowa(beer) if given entire responsibility of the household’s income. These two particular groups are examples of the VSLs initiatives carried out by NGOs in Malawi, empowering women and giving them opportunities that were previously unattainable.
Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) group
The second aspect of the work we did with local volunteer groups this week has been to learn more about the local Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) groups which are based in all 12 districts of the Tovwrilani geography. On Thursday we met the nine members of one of the groups based in Chizungu. The members are all volunteers that help stop the spread of HIV, specifically from parent to child by communicating with their local communities about the transmission of HIV through primary and secondary measures. The meeting conducted was to express success stories the volunteers had experienced during their time as PMTCT members. In many cases, each of the volunteers recounted examples in which pregnant mothers who had the HIV virus were able to go on and have healthy, HIV negative babies by receiving proper HIV treatment.
Team Mzimba with members of a local PMTCT group in Chizungu. Front (L-R): Faith Nikoribari, Harriet Mwamlima, Hiliwona Solomon and Jordan Goodridge with local PMTCT members. Back: Joel Chirwa, Harriet Mwamlima, Hassan Butt and Edd Webster
After we met the PMTCT members we were treated to a very special community talent show with performances from many of the local children and youth groups. Acts that we saw included: singing (solo and choral), dramas, speeches and a little girl, no more than 5 years old hoola hooping what looked like a beer barrel ring! Most of the performances on show focussed on the issue of HIV and AIDS and how to stop the transmission of the virus, expressing the issue in a fun and engaging way.
Team Mzimba attend a community talent show in Chizungu.
Getting to know our community
Another important aspect of our week was our conscious effort to in integrate ourselves as fully as possible with the local community where we live. Earlier in the week, Hassan and Jordan visited a self-funded local project called Future Vision where they played various games and interacted with the youth. Future Vision is an after school club for children, offering a range of sports based activities using the limited resources they have available. The project was started by Progressio ICS volunteers in January 2012 with MANERELA+ a local network of religious leaders living with HIV and now has more than 300 children that regularly attend the club.
Jordan (centre) with children at the Future Vision project.
On Sunday, Faith and Hiliwona visited the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP), where they were introduced to the congregation by the minister. We also visited the family house of one of our fellow volunteers, Harriet, where we had lunch with her family. We met her Mother and Father and her two children, Kondwani and Wakisa . This was an interesting and eye opening experience for us all and provided us with a good insight into the daily life of a traditional Malawian family.
Team Mzimba at the house of local volunteer Harriet Mwamlima. Front (L-R): Hiliwona Solomon, Harriet Mwamlima, Wakisa, Kondwani and Jordan Goodridge. Back: Faith Nikobari, Hassan Butt, Katy Coats, Harriet’s Mum and Dad and Edd Webster.
Next week, we hope to start utilising our own skill sets within the local community. We will start to facilitate the meetings with local groups, using the knowledge we’ve learnt about HIV and AIDS and the village banks. This is sure to be a new and nerve racking experience for most of us, but one from which we will learn plenty!
Tiwonanege week yikwikz (see you next week). Tawonga chomene (thank you very much).
By ICS volunteer Edd Webster
Photo 1: Team Mzimba visit the police VSL for the first time. Front (left to right): Jordan Goodridge and Harriet Mwamlima with local VSL members.
Back: Edd Webster, Kondwani Ng’ambi, Joel Chirwa, Hassan Butt, Faith Nikobari and Hiliwona Solomon.
Photos by ICS volunteers Hassan Butt and Jordan Goodridge