Archives - ‘Malawi’

Meaningful Connections

February 27, 2020 | Geneviève, Maîtrise en service social, WUSC, Malawi, Student Refugee Program, SRP Intern

Before arriving in Malawi six weeks ago, I knew I was going on the trip of a lifetime. Having prepared myself internally to enter a new culture, new environment and new me, I thought I was prepared for the experience that was too come. Truth be told, I was never prepared for this. This experience has been life changing for me in so many more ways than one. All of which, has absolutely been for the better.
Upon my arrival in Malawi, I was shocked by the accuracy behind Malawi’s title as “the warm heart of Africa”. Although many people here do not speak English (or French), they never fail to try and be helpful, to say hello, and to be welcoming. That being said, I found out quickly that this level of welcoming energy was also going to be extended to me by those who are not Malawian.

My responsibilities in Malawi include working in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, as a Student Refugee Program (SRP) intern. There, I teach the Canadian life course to refugee students who have been accepted into the program. The refugee camp is where I spend most of my time, and despite it having its hardships (such as a 4 hour daily commute), I would never trade this experience for the world.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to get to know my students, as well as many others within the camp, and listen to stories of happiness, resilience, excitement and hardships. I’ve gotten to learn that about their beliefs, and share laughs between us. Furthermore, I’ve gotten to know my supervisor who has been an undying force of support, introspection and kindness.

I have managed to travel around Malawi, to see safaris and beaches, and taste new food. I’ve made new friends throughout the city, as they show me their life, and ask me about mine. I got to taste nsima for the first time (the Malawian national dish), and get dresses made out of chitenge. Yes, all of these experiences has been truly wonderful, and eye opening at times. But my time at Dzaleka, that is the place where my true growth lies.

As I hope I am preparing my students for their new life in Canada, I don’t think they know that they are preparing me for MY new life in Canada. Being as Master’s student in Social Work, I learn about taking on new perspectives and active listening. Although my position includes teaching, I have found that creating meaningful connections with my students has allowed me to truly get to know about their excitement and their fears about moving to Canada, and has allowed me to put my knowledge from school into practice. Malawi…I came to you thinking I was prepared. I fear I may not be able to leave as I will never be the same again.

A Life Changing Experience in Malawi

February 25, 2020 | Taylor, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization, Uniterra Malawi, program officer

Malawi has been nothing short of amazing over these past 6 weeks, living and working in Lilongwe. I have wanted to complete an internship abroad for a very long time, and when the opportunity arose for this 3 month internship I had no clue how life changing the experience would be.

The WUSC Malawi country team has been so welcoming of me in the office, my position as Communications Officer is one that I was unfamiliar with before arriving in Lilongwe, but I have learned so much about public outreach and networking for NGOs. Not to mention, colleagues have shared new perspectives about International Development that have helped me compare and contrast what I am taught in school and how it is applied in the field

Deciding to experience living away from home for the first time in a developing country has had its challenges, but by working through those challenges I am left with a feeling of the highest autonomy I have ever felt in my life. I have responsibilities like doing my own groceries, except with the added hurdle of food I have never cooked with before, and doing my laundry, except in the rainy season when I have to hang my clothes on the line outside to dry, and using public transportation around a city I have never seen before. Just these small minuscule hurdles have helped me learn that I do have the power within me to embrace new challenges and adapt to a new way of living. Living independently has also given me the opportunity to feel like I can sustain myself in my future and upon my return to Canada.

Malawi has made this new found autonomy a smooth transition with first and foremost the friendliness of their culture! Everyone in Malawi is always wanting to stop and have a conversation, and the community is so tight knit that you may be surprised at how much you are still welcomed into it, it truly is the “warm heart of Africa”. I have taken advantage of all that the Malawian culture and day to day living has to offer including: learning to speak Chichewa (their national language), frequenting the local vegetable market for my fresh produce, eating popular Malawian food such as nsima, and riding the mini-bus to work every day.

Malawi also has many traveling destinations that have brightened my stay here! I have gone on a true African safari in Liwonde National Park where I saw so much of Malawi’s beautiful wildlife, and I swam in lake Malawi while enjoying my time at the beach! Overall, this experience thus far has reassured my plan for a career in International Development in my future!

It’s not goodbye, it’s tionana (see you later)!

January 6, 2020 | Elliane, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Uniterra Malawi - WUSC Malawi, Communications Officer

As I’m sitting here staring out of the airplane window, thirty six thousand feet in the air, I’m reflecting on the past three months. It’s incredible to think that the time flew by so fast. I feel as though I was just stepping out of the plane in Lilongwe to the blazing hot sun, full of uncertainty.

Three months. How can I recap three months in a simple blog post? How can I put into words all that I witnessed and on my action-packed daily minibus commute and trips to the market? How would I be able to properly describe all of the intense conversations I’ve had with my Malawian peers and friends, impassioned by the state of their country and worried about what the future holds? How can I put into words what my eyes saw while walking home gazing at the fiery sunset in front of me and the silhouettes of all the hustling commuters hurrying home to their families? These are only some of the moments that will be forever etched into my mind.

While properly explaining my experience in Malawi in a mere blog post is nearly impossible, what I can tell you, however, is that my time here has been truly indispensable to me.

Working as a Communications Officer at the WUSC Malawi Country Office exposed me to the realities of international development and allowed me to see the potential professional opportunities I have going forward. It also allowed me to learn immensely about different ongoing programs and projects in Malawi, and how they are helping or hindering the population. One of the greatest things, however, is the improvement of my cross-cultural communication skills, allowing me to communicate and work efficiently in an international context.

Having to build my social circle from scratch showed me that I’m capable of making a home for myself in such a foreign environment. I’ve made lifelong friendships with inspiring people, and plans to return to Malawi to visit in the near future.

Doing an international internship in Malawi was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was a grand adventure and incredible learning experience that I will take with me wherever I go. Thank you to everyone who made this a possibility, and to my friends and family who supported me along the way.

Zikomo kwambiri Malawi — it’s not goodbye, it’s tionana (see you later!)

This was my first time here but not my last

November 26, 2019 | Carla, International Development and Globalization- PAP minor, Uniterra Malawi - Girls' Empowerment Network, Communication and Social Media Officer

With rainy season just starting and only one day left before my departure back to Canada, I can’t help but reflect on my past three months here in Malawi.

I won’t deny that these last few days have just been a refusal to acknowledge that my time here is over. I am not ready to leave yet, I am not ready to face Canadian winter yet. It is kind of funny how a few days ago I was discussing with a friend how weird things will be when I get back since I got so used to life and my routine here. It will be weird not walking 1 hour daily or taking the minibus, it will be weird not seeing people selling mangoes and other fruits, veggies, or food in the streets, it will even be weird to have power all day. I don’t think I have experienced reverse culture shock before, but I have a feeling that in a few days I will, along with a terrible jet lag.

At the start of my mandate I was feeling a little lost and didn’t know where my contributions would lead, and even though I have seen results, there is only so much you can do in three months. Things are really just getting started when suddenly time is up, and you have to leave. Since before arriving I knew three months is not a time frame that allows for radical impact, since in the international development field patience is the key virtue that you must possess because change takes time and effort. Even if this is the case, three months does allow for learning, sharing, growing, reflecting, questioning, knowledge exchange, and small changes that will later lead to bigger ones.

I really enjoyed working with GENET and how active they are, with team members always busy in field activities, writing reports, attending conferences or meetings, preparing budgets, or preparing grant proposals. It was very interesting to experience the day to day of a local non-profit lead by a group of extraordinary women and that has been doing so much since 2008 and will just continue growing in the years to come.

“Will you come back to Malawi after?” is one questions that my coworkers and friends haven’t stopped asking, and all I can respond is that they can rest assured that this was my first time here but not my last.

Running out of time in amazing Malawi

October 17, 2019 | Elliane, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Uniterra Malawi - WUSC Malawi, Communications Officer

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while. Mostly because my days here are slipping by too quickly, and I’ve been in denial of this. Still, the fact remains: I’m running out of time.

Since arriving in Lilongwe, Malawi’s political capital and my home for the duration of my mandate, I have been seeking out everything this country has to offer and soaking it all in. My weeks since getting here have been jam packed; working hard every week day at the WUSC office and every weekend to see the country.

With my days being busy from the moment I wake until the second I lay my head down on my pillow and fall asleep instantly, I have found a certain comfort in the chaos of it all. From the bustling markets, to the lively compact mini bus rides, to the dusty walks avoiding unwanted attention and “sista! sista!” calls from the other side of the street—I have noticed that I am both incredibly in tune with my surroundings and simultaneously somewhat detached.

I guess I could say that since I got here I have been floating. Floating through my busy, testing work days where I just wish I had all the answers to tough questions. Floating through the moments of unease when I witness something devastating and have to turn away. And through the moments of joy—laughing with friends, coworkers, and the lady at the market who couldn’t contain herself when I obliviously repeated her Chichewa “how are you” right back to her, having absolutely no idea what I was saying. In reality, I am floating but afraid to finally land and face the harsh truth: that I am running out of time in all aspects of my life and work here.

Although it has taken a degree of separation to cope with the paradoxes of wealth and poverty, the ripples of patriarchy vibrating through every aspect of Malawian life, and the political instability that has rattled the country over the past year, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I am extremely grateful to be here in such a beautiful country filled with passionate, kind and genuine people. Especially at a time where there is such a visible push for change nationwide.

Working alongside such incredibly knowledgeable people and having those tough conversations about the political state of Malawi, as well as development and aid work’s impact on the country, has already taught me so much more than I had ever imagined. I can only hope and try to leave a positive trail behind me in return.

From the vast landscapes to the colourful markets and clubs, Malawi is an amazing place that I already know I will be missing deeply when I am back in Canada. With only half of my mandate left, I will try my hardest to invest myself fully into everything, and hope that I will accomplish all that I set out to do.

Now I can totally validate the saying: “time flies when you enjoy what you’re doing”

October 16, 2019 | Carla, International Development and Globalization- PAP minor, Uniterra Malawi - Girls' Empowerment Network, Communication and Social Media Officer

I have officially been in Malawi for 6 weeks, marking half my time here. I am scared of just how fast my time here is going by and how much I have yet to do and see. I am based in Blantyre, the commercial city of Malawi, where I am working with Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) as a communications and social media officer. I had never been to Malawi before, or the African continent in general, which is why I had no idea what to expect when coming here. Neither was I certain on what my role would be within my host organization and how I was going to be able to provide a meaningful and sustainable input in such a short period of time.

Things started off pretty slow when I first arrived in Malawi. Between a weeklong in-country orientation, settling in Blantyre, and learning about Malawian culture, I had yet to discover the workings of my host organization before fully starting my mandate. As I got to learn more about the organization and developed my workplan, my role became clearer and I had a better idea of what was expected of me. With GENET, I have been working on improving and further developing communication tools (internal and external communication included), working on a social media strategy, capturing success stories, supporting activities in the field, and helping with reports or other tasks needed. Working with such a dedicated team (of which 30 out of 32 are women) has definitely been a learning experience. I have had the opportunity to accompany some of my coworkers to field activities such as visiting schools and attending the National Symposium on Child Marriage, and that has exposed me to the realities that girls and youth face in Malawi. It has helped me further understand the issues affecting the country such as child marriage, high school drop out rates, and gender-based violence. I believe a deeper understanding and getting an insider perspective of pressing issues is key in any role and it has allowed me to further understand the mission and goals of my host organization. As for the work environment, my coworkers have been the most welcoming and helpful people, plus the most patient as they have had to deal with all my questions and have also provided advice and tips which made my transition into Blantyre easier.

Life in Malawi somehow feels very comfortable and I enjoy it. I enjoy my routine and my daily walks and minibus rides to work, I enjoy the food, I enjoy the music, I enjoy the weather (sometimes not so much) and my now very evident tan, the sunrises and sunsets, but above all, I enjoy the tranquility. I have never felt insecure or threatened when walking around the streets in Malawi, always keeping the general precautions in mind of course, and not exposing myself to risky situations.

The natural beauty of Malawi I have also been enjoying, with its diverse mountains and beautiful Lake Malawi just a few hours drive away from the main cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre. The weekend getaways around the country have been a way to relax and clear my mind.

My mandate here has not yet finished and even though I only have other 6 weeks left, I am looking forward to keeping learning as much as I can and to the final outcome of this experience.

Truly unforgettable

July 29, 2019 | Celeste, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Malawi, ArtGlo, Partnership and Networking Officer

I am finishing the last week of my internship in Malawi and these past three months have been absolutely incredible. I have never been so grateful for an experience and for all the people I have met. I am especially thankful for the organization that I had the pleasure of interning at which was the Art and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo).

This organization uses participatory arts and innovative methods to create social change in the field of gender, health, youth and human rights. I am amazed by all the employees as they are young, passionate and hard working. I have never been in such an interesting and dynamic workplace where I am constantly learning from my colleagues and the work that I was fortunate enough to partake in. I am so thankful for this organization and how it brought me such amazing people in my life and gave me an opportunity to do work that I am so passionate about. I was fortunate enough to have done fieldwork, which helped me better understand the context of Malawi.

One of the workshops I attended worked with healthcare service students and we discussed the importance of the impartiality of healthcare services and how marginalised groups, such as the LGBTI community, should be provided the same healthcare. It was really interesting to hear the discussion and the different opinions of the students through a political, legal and cultural lense. Some of the tasks that I completed throughout my internship was developing a gender equality policy, creating a partnership assessment framework, and throwing a partnership and networking event to build relationships with organizations that worked in similar fields.

I am extremely sad to leave Malawi as I have developed a life and routine here through the friends I made and the places I go. It has become natural to me to go to the market to do all my groceries, getting AirTel and eating nsima all the time. I also feel that through this experience I have developed independence and confidence in my abilities as I have faced several obstacles that I had to overcome. I feel that this experience has helped me become more resilient and I am so grateful for all that I have been able to encounter.

I am worried about going home as the past three months has changed my habits, my traits and certain things that I am used to and I wonder how this will fit in to my life at home. As I am approaching the end of my internship, I also realize that I may not be able to have a position that I am so passionate about for a while. I truly treasure the experience and look forward to the next time I enjoy a job as much my position at ArtGlo. I know it will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to all the friends I have made knowing I may not see them again. My time in Malawi has been short but truly unforgettable.

A passion to make change

June 10, 2019 | Celeste, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Malawi, ArtGlo, Partnership and Networking Officer

I landed in Malawi on May 6, 2019 and everyday there has been new challenges for me to face and reasons for me to be extremely grateful to have the opportunity of being here. I first landed in Lilongwe, which is the capital city of Malawi where I spent a week going through the WUSC training and familiarizing myself with Malawi. The capital city is busy and filled with life, as well as easy to navigate. One of my biggest fears travelling as a woman, is the different contexts that woman disproportionately face in different countries. However, I was immediately put at ease as I felt extremely safe in Malawi and everyone I encountered was kind, welcoming and extremely helpful. For example, if you asked somebody for directions they did not just tell you but they would stop what they were doing to help guide you to where you had to go.

My experience so far with Malawi and its people really has lived up to the name of being the Warm Heart of Africa. Majority of people also speak English so it is extremely easy to get familiar with the city and find your way around. Within my first week of being in Lilongwe, I was able to take public transit and walk around by myself.

After my week in Lilongwe, I moved to a Southern region of Malawi that is more rural called Zomba. It is known for it’s beautiful mountains and the lush nature. It is a lot quieter and is a slower pace. This move was actually quite difficult for me, as I have always lived in cities and am extremely familiar with the settings of a city. I was also sad to leave all my friends behind, as I would only be moving to Zomba with one other Canadian intern. It was worrisome for me to lose my support network and start over after adapting and familiarizing myself with being in Malawi, and having to start all over again. The first week being in Zomba, was extremely difficult as I had to learn and re-adapt and I felt as though I experienced culture shock to a certain extent. However, once I met with my partner organization I was quickly relieved and knew I made the right decision being in Zomba.

The Art and Global Health Centre is one of the most incredible organizations with the greatest staff. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be surrounded by such driven people that have a passion to make change. It is extremely empowering, and the different projects that they have in place are innovative and ground-breaking. ArtGlo truly wanted me to have a great experience from the start and be able to learn as much as I can. They care a lot about my interests and passions and tried to cater my mandate around that which I am so grateful for.

Consuming myself in work and enjoying my everyday work tasks helped make the transition a lot easier. I quickly felt as though the organization became a new support system for me, which helped me quickly adapt. I truly believe if it was not for ArtGlo my experience in Zomba would have been really different. Therefore, I urge future interns to choose an organization that aligns with their passions and interests to gain the most beneficial experience.

Best of both worlds!

February 15, 2019 | Robin, Honours - Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Malawi, WUSC, Student Refugee Program

At this point I am approaching the half way mark of my journey here in Malawi, and I am already feeling the pressure to cram in as much as I can into this wonderful experience. It takes time to settle and by the time that you do, you realize just how short your three months is.

My experience hasn’t all been roses, but I am so grateful for all my trials and tribulations along the way. I came into my internship feeling overconfident in my abilities to adjust to life in Malawi and underconfident with my capabilities in my professional role. To my surprise, I found my confidence was a little skewed.

After living in Tanzania previously, I expected to have a relatively similar transition into life in Malawi. That was not quite the case! I expected my journey of adjustment to be like the smooth sailing I had in Tanzania, but I was met with challenges when it took longer to adjust to my environment and the people in it. Eventually I found my stride in the foreign environment, and I found my support system as well!

On the other hand, I was definitely feeling some imposter syndrome coming in knowing that I would be responsible for preparing refugee students to come to Canada. How could I possibly teach 23 young people about all they need to know about living in Canada in three months? Where do I start? Do I even know enough about Canada? I’m not a teacher, am I even qualified to teach? These anxieties are relatively normal when starting a new position, but I battled with my anxieties and trusting my capabilities. As I began lesson planning and teaching, I have found my groove and realized that I am not an imposter and that I am doing the best I can with my available resources. My time with the students has become my favourite part of my experience here in Malawi. They are bright young adults, who are exemplary examples of living resilience. My time with them has only solidified my career choices and maybe even altered my future employment aspirations.

In my short time here, I feel as though I have already grown immensely. With my previous internship in development, I was just thankful for the opportunity. As I continue in my role as an SRP intern, supporting office staff and getting to know other peers working in refugee services, I have come to realize that those dreams of working full time in development are not so out of reach. I can recognize my capabilities and the skills that I am developing everyday.

I find my experience extra special, as I get to not only immerse myself in Malawian culture, but I also get to experience a wider East African culture at Dzaleka, the refugee camp. I was overjoyed to find that I could enjoy the chipsi mayai and chapati that I had loved in Tanzania back at Dzaleka! I’m getting the best of both worlds!

For the rest of my time here, my hope is that I will continue to grow with my students, continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, and improve my Swahili and Chichewa!

Stepping out of your comfort zone

August 2, 2018 | Rebecca, Specialization - International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Economics,WUSC Malawi, Student Refugee Program, Intern

My internship experience in Malawi has taught me not only about who I am as a person, but has also opened my eyes to what I am truly capable of accomplishing. Going to a new environment without knowing a single person and being able to turn it into my home has taught me about the power of relationships. Doing a difficult job, being constantly busy and overwhelmed, but still enjoying every minute of it and making the work everyday count to a positive result has taught me about the power of hard work and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Going out into a foreign city and trying new things with people who are excited to share their customs with you has taught me the power of respecting other people’s culture, and seeing a world outside of your own.

When I applied for this internship 7 months ago, I was terrified. The thought of living in a foreign country, with foreign cultures, and people I did not know made me so nervous. It is so strange to think that now after 3 months here in Malawi I am surrounded by people I consider family and have built friendships that I will carry with me throughout my entire life. The friends I have made, stories I have heard, relationships I have built have all crafted me into a humbled, and aware human being. I see the world with new perspectives outside of my own. Malawi has taught me the power of human relationships, and the way they can make you feel at home no matter where you are in the world. Actually, most of Malawi’s economy runs on relationships, it is all about who you know. Your car is broken? You call your friend who fixes cars. You need a ride? You call your taxi friend who drives you each weekend. You are standing in line in the store? You talk to the person beside you like you’ve been friends your whole life. You arrive in the office in the morning, you greet EVERYONE. Malawi has taught me what taking the time to talk to people, know them, and genuinely care about what is going on your lives can do for you and also what it can do for others.

A friend I made here in Malawi told me, “maturity is seeing things in different perspectives” and I can’t think of a more true statement. This internship has showed me that experiencing new environments, learning how other people live, and truly looking at the world from a new perspective can mature you in a way nothing else can. Understanding that there is a world outside of your own, and there is more than one right way to do anything is essential to every aspect of your life. Malawi has showed me that things I always thought were right because they were normal to me, can be argued from a completely different perspective. Malawi has showed me that everyone in the world knows something that you don’t know, and you can learn from every single person you meet. Opening your mind to this concept will set you free to a endless education and a truly better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

The last life lesson I have learned in Malawi is that i am CAPABLE. I don’t know how many times I thought I wasn’t going to be able to pull something off, or finish the work I needed, or properly organize an event i was trying to do, but at the end of the day I did it. I accomplished things that if you asked me I could do six months ago I would have laughed. My internship in Malawi has taught that if you push yourself as hard and far as you can you really can accomplish anything. Stepping out of your comfort zone can truly show you your abilities and how capable you are as a person, no matter what you previously believed.

I am so grateful for the growth I have experienced throughout my internship in Malawi. I will value the knowledge, friendships and skills I have acquired here for the rest of my life.