Pictured above: UK volunteers, National volunteers, and men of the Katengeza community sit down and discuss their income from crops and how best to utilise their produce.
Our first week as Progressio volunteers was spent at Msamba Catholic Community Centre undergoing a week long in-country orientation to prepare us for our placements at the sites we would be travelling to come the beginning of week two. The week entailed a number of different lessons coordinated by various Progressio staff members in which we learnt a bit more about Malawian life as well as achieving a basic understanding of Chichewa (the national language). Upon reflection, both of these activities have proved very helpful as the people we have been working alongside are kind and welcoming and their hospitality has undoubtedly been enhanced by our willingness to adopt and adhere to their culture.
Having completed the week of training, the 3 different groups of UK volunteers headed off to their respective accommodation sites. There was a collective feeling of excitement as the orientation had left us feeling well prepared for our upcoming placements and had made us eager to start the work we would be engaging in over the next 9 weeks. Our group headed off to Kamuzu Dam II Sailing Club, just 45 minutes away from Msamba. We arrived in the evening when darkness had already set in so we were unable to explore the area which surrounded our new home, but the morning sun of the next day revealed that we were situated on the edge of a beautiful lake surrounded by trees. However, not much time was spent exploring as we soon headed off to the Women’s Training Centre in nearby village, Malingunde, to meet members of our partner organisation (Arise and Shine) and to engage in 3 days of training on HIV/Aids alongside our Malawian counterparts, the national volunteers.
These few days allowed us to become more familiar with the national volunteers, the work Arise and Shine does, as well as the work we would personally be doing and the villages we would be working in. We learnt that Arise and Shine was established after observing various challenges young and elderly people are facing in communities in the face of climate change impacts, HIV and AIDS pandemic, persistent hunger, malnutrition and poverty. With this in mind, we were told that the villages we would be focusing on were called Katengeza and Phalazi. Our activities here have therefore been assessing the needs of these communities in light of ASI’s objectives and planning how we can be involved in helping them establish a positive and realistic vision for their future.
Phalazi and Katengeza are both situated in the central region of Malawi. They differ in size and layout but are connected by the same predicament – this being the issue of insecure livelihoods. Phalazi is surrounded by maize, but this one-dimensional source of food means members of the community struggle to meet their nutritional needs. Katengeza have a similar issue as they lack fundamental knowledge on nutrition, which means they do not utilise their ground to grow different things which would offer essential health benefits. It is important to address these key issues in the villages because with them in mind, we can start formulating objectives which strive to deal with them.
Pictured above: National volunteer Mike and UK volunteer Verity conduct a presentation on nutrition and the possibilities Katengeza have for the growth of new and beneficial crops.
What we have done so far has included familiarising ourselves with our colleagues and the people of the villages which we will be concentrating our efforts on for the duration of the placement. We have strived to identify the work we need to engage in over the upcoming weeks and meticulous planning has been the constant theme, as only with this can we be effective in our endeavours. There is a shared feeling of enthusiasm within the group as we cannot wait to see the impact we will make during the course of the placement. Bring it on!
Written by George Green