MALAWI GAVE GRACE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME IMMERSED IN A TOTALLY NEW COUNTRY AND CULTURE, AND SHE HAS EMBRACED THE CHALLENGE WITH OPEN ARMS.
I wanted to become a volunteer because I felt as though being placed in a position where you truly become a part of a culture, that is so contrasting to your own, is one which gives you more perspective on the privileges that we’re afforded in our every day lives and often take for granted. I chose Malawi in particular, after it had been described to me as being the most challenging and therefore also the most rewarding option.
I’m placed in central Malawi and am currently making Mua Mission my home. I live with three other volunteers, one a fellow Kiwi, a girl from Germany and also a girl from Canada. Prior to arriving in Mua, I had no preconceived idea as to what to expect of my new home however if I had, I can assure you that Mua would have surpassed any expectation of any visitor or temporary resident like myself.
Our village is based on the top of a very large hill that was once described to me as being three months pregnant, however I personally would describe it as being 8 months overdue! Our village has two markets, the old one which is at the end of the village and the big market which is at the start and unfortunately both are based at the bottom of our 8 month overdue hill. The big market is open every Wednesday and Saturday while the old market is open the entire week and is always a reliable source for your basic necessities, such as tomatoes and onions etc. Our village attracts many mzungu (white person) on a weekly basis as it’s rich in culture and history, sporting the largest museum and also being the first mission in Malawi.
While here, my main duty is being the Standard 6a Life Skills and Bible Knowledge teacher in the primary school. My standard is split into two classes, Standard 6a and Standard 6b. This means that my class consists of about 46 learners while in contrast to that, the other volunteer here teaches about 100 learners in Standard 7. Other than this, I have a two main projects started which occupy most of my free time. I’m currently trying to create a library for the school and I’m also doing a Penpal Project with my class.
We’ve been incredibly lucky, as we’ve been given the old headmasters house which consists of three bedrooms, a toilet, shower, kitchen, living room and we also have electricity! We don’t have running water, so we’re still having the authentic bucket shower experience. One thing I am still in awe of is the fact that where our backyard finishes a forest reserve which inhabits monkeys, snakes and very large spiders begins. A few of these spiders have unfortunately ventured into my house recently.
Malawi is definitely described as challenging for a reason. While here, I’ve been called mzungu more than my name, the children of our neighbours are at our windows everyday screaming for us to come outside, communication especially while teaching can be difficult and you’re often met with the sentence “give a me money”. On the days when you long to be anonymous it can truly be challenging but I wouldn’t give up these experiences as they’ve given the the opportunity to become comfortable in dealing with uncomfortable situations and emotions.
I would say that through being responsible for other people, learning how to handle myself in difficult situations and being able to start projects that wouldn’t be a possibility at home, I’ve become more confident in myself. I came to Malawi not in the best of head spaces, and in three months becoming a part of the community, participating in their religion and everyone always having an abundance of time and patience for me, has changed that. I’ve fallen in love with learning, but from people in their own environment and routine. After this experience, teaching is something I would like to enter into someday.