We’ve finally arrived in Salima! We’re all ready and raring to get our project underway. Over the first few days in our house, the colleagues we’ll be working with dropped by to introduce themselves. First of all we met Janet who was to be our house-helper for the next 8 weeks, and our guard who watches our house at night, although we did catch him having a sneaky nap one night! We also had visits from Mufti Sosala and Reverend Banda, (Muslim and Christian leaders), members of the DIAC (District Interfaith Aids Committee) who we will be promoting by designing a brochure, and members of MIAA (Malawi Interfaith Aids Association) – our in-country partners. On speaking to these various people, it quickly became apparent that we are going to have a considerable challenge on our hands! We are to decide entirely on the structure of the project, so we will be arranging everything from project budgets to lesson plans.
Unfortunately one of our group members caught malaria which added extra pressure as our group is already small. Worryingly, the local private doctor failed to reach any diagnosis, and the hospital in Salima is closed at the weekend, so we arranged for Stacey to go to hospital in Lilongwe, so she could find out what was wrong with her. Due to the severe fuel shortage in Malawi, Godwin had to queue for hours at a petrol station in order to buy enough petrol to take Stacey to a government hospital in the capital, Lilongwe, over two hours away. It’s worrying to think that there is no hospital available at the weekend here, and that a doctor in an area with such a high prevalence of malaria would not recognise the symptoms. This experience made me realise how lucky we are to have 24 hour free A&E treatment in England, and that we should never take it for granted.
After an intense week, we decided to visit the famous Lake Malawi to boost team morale. We drove down a sandy road for around 45 minutes before eventually arriving at Senga Bay. We had expected the lake to be small, but instead it looked like an immense ocean with an idyllic beach. We lay down our towels on the burning sand and ran into the crystal blue water. Being on the beach made us feel like celebrities, as we were pulled from group to group of excited Malawians asking us to pose for photos with them. Going to Lake Malawi is the best way to spend Sundays; it is so relaxing, it sets you up for the week ahead!
Written by ICS volunteer Rachel Baldwin in week 3. Photo: the beach at Lake Malawi.