It’s week three in Mzuzu, and we’re all finally beginning to adjust to life here in Malawi. The Malawian way of life is in stark contrast to how we do things back home and naturally it’s taken some getting used to for all of us. Foremost of these differences is something called ‘Malawian time’. Whereas in Britain punctuality is a characteristic lauded by one and all, here in Malawi it is a trait treated with less reverence. It is commonplace for meetings to be delayed by anything from 30 minutes to an hour, tardiness, it seems is something we need to embrace if we are to survive our ten weeks here without losing our minds!
That said, we cannot fault the warmth and generosity with which we have been accepted into our new host families and surrounding community. Although things do seem to go slower here, family life seems ever the richer for it. Evenings are spent together with many friends and family milling around- all are welcome.
Following our orientation week getting briefed on Malawian culture and meeting our local counterparts we were all allocated to our new families and also our ICS partner organisations. Throughout our time here Lattitude Global Volunteering is working with three NGOs.
APAUSE, which stands for Added Power and Understanding in Sexual Education is a peer education programme, which aims to deliver lessons on sex education and sexual health in schools. The problem for us at the moment is that the schools are on holiday, so we are desperately trying to find youth groups to deliver the programme to! The organization is a Catholic organization however, so some of us are finding it difficult in terms of what we can and cannot talk about. The workshops follow a strict script and effectively promote abstinence in order to avoid the risks associated with sex. Some of us have raised the issue that this message isn’t the most practical, and that contraception needs to be taught! Aside from this, the workshops undoubtedly deliver some good advice on healthy relationships, peer pressure etc.
Our goal is to create lessons on STIs/HIV and distribute leaflets– as knowledge on these is still seriously lacking. Whilst in the UK you can go to the doctors are pick up a bundle of information leaflets, they just aren’t available in Malawi. Last week we had a really interesting talk from a doctor about HIV in Malawi. There were some surprising facts – such as that male primary school teachers are among one of the most infected groups.
We have also started work planning an event in order to raise awareness of sexual health and hygiene. The event will be a talent show but will also include role plays, workshops etc. Today we have been drafting letters in an attempt to acquire sponsorship.
Saved By the Ball (SBB) is a community-based organisation that uses Tennis as a vehicle for education on a number of issues, providing a platform for youngsters to gain new skills and confidence to pursue their own personal ambitions. As well as providing education and information on HIV and AIDS the current cycle of volunteers are hoping to include English lessons, sport nutrition and also fitness/conditioning sessions in to their ‘curriculum’ in a bid to improve performance at tournaments across Africa and keep with schoolwork in the classroom.
Mzuzu Young Voices are currently changing tact, with schools out for summer their emphasis has shifted from improving literacy in schools to addressing some of the hygiene and sanitation issues which affect Mzuzu’s surrounding hospitals and clinics. The current plan of action is to establish health committees in each hospital.
Certainly, expectations have been adjusted in terms of what we will be able to achieve during our time here. Although arriving here in Malawi whilst schools are on vacation has made progress seem infinitely slow, preventing us from hitting the ground running, it does give us the opportunity to take stock and implement new ideas for the long run. Progress is progress – no matter how slowly it happens.