Amber's Gap Report
I stayed in Malawi for one month from mid June to mid July 2017 as part of a gap programme organized by Khudza Mitima CIC. The projects I supported during my stay were: The Stoves and Tree Planting project, the HIV/AIDS work at Jali Youth Centre, Café Leon in Monkey Bay, the Bag Project, the Special Needs Project at Namilongo village and MOSES (Malawian Orphans Secondary Education Scheme).
Khudza Mitima gave me the incredible opportunity to support local lives in the areas around Zomba and Monkey Bay. The volunteering I was involved in included: communicating and working with the local communities living in rural villages, providing workshops and activities for girls at Jali Youth Centre with the aim of attracting more girls to the Centre, eating the delicious food at the beautiful Café Leon, reporting back to the trustees of the UK charities about problems faced by the projects and meeting some of the MOSES students to evaluate how their studies are going and how the support is helping.
This wasn’t my first time in Malawi. My first visit was with a school group in 2014 whereas this trip in 2017 was a completely independent experience where I had to take responsibility for many aspects of the visit. Khudza Mitima has a Gap project house in Zomba, which is where we stayed. This wonderful little house had all the essentials including running water and electricity. I may have been hand washing my own clothes and buying and preparing my own food but I had the full support of Peatry and Annie Ntodwa and Nina Gunde, so while I was in a country far from home I was never without their help and kindness. The Gap House and Zomba began to feel like home.
I do recommend going with at least one other person. I was fortunate to have my cousin and we were able to support each other through our month in Malawi and share our experiences.
3 things I learned about Malawi:
· There is a very big difference between the rural parts of Malawi and the towns. In the villages it feels like you have gone back in time. In many villages girls marry young and start having children early although this did not seem to be the case in the town.
· The inventiveness of children’s toys! I love their imagination and ability to create their own toys from simple materials. Watching them push round a car tyre with a stick reminds me of pictures I could have seen of children in the UK 100 years ago.
· Religion is their life. I attended a Christian Church during my stay. I knew from my first visit just how amazing the services are with plenty of lively singing and dancing. They live their religion and they live what they preach, they are good people and live by the word of God that they learn in the Bible. They don’t come to Church as routine or out of fear but because they love to preach and praise God. They also have nights of praise, which is a big celebration of God and Jesus Christ and they dance and sing from 8 o’clock at night to 6 o’clock in the morning! Religion is a part of all people’s lives in Malawi without question. I think it gives them happiness and comfort.
3 things I love about Malawi:
· The food! Nsima nsima nsima!! It is maize flour boiled with water and it is eaten with vegetable dishes with a base of tomato and onion and goat/beef/chicken dishes in a tasty ‘soup’.
· The people. Malawi is nicknamed ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ which is no doubt because of their kindness and generosity. They are so welcoming and no matter what they have they want to share it.
· The beauty of Malawi. I doubt anyone could disagree with how beautiful the mountains and wildlife are. I love the lizards in the cities and the hippos and elephants in the national parks.
3 things I found hard in Malawi:
· Seeing the struggle of everyday life. Not every day should be difficult, nor should every day be a worry about food or your children’s futures but in Malawi life is a struggle.
· The everyday ‘no’. Every day, at some point, you will have to say no to someone. They may have asked for money, or for you to take them back to England with you. It is something you simply have to say no to, as you can’t help everyone. This includes offers from boys, such as them asking for your Facebook or your number, just say no.
· The care of animals in Malawi is very different. This is a personal thing I found hard in Malawi, due to my love for animals. Many people had pets but veterinary care is different. Many pets may sleep outside, such as a guard dog, and with many strays about there are plenty of fights between them. It’s hard to see a poor dog with a torn ear, and to listen to the fights at night.