Archives - ‘Malawi’

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

6 janvier 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

26 novembre 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

17 octobre 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”

16 octobre 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

29 juillet 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

10 juin 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!

15 février 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

2 août 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.

I fell in love with Malawi

30 juillet 2018 | Samantha, Specialization - International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Arabic Language and Culture, Malawi, Uniterra, Art and Global Health Centre Africa, Youth Leadership Officer

In less than 72 hours, I will have left Malawi. Wow, how quickly these three months have gone by. As I wrap up projects at work, say goodbye to friends and stress about how I am going to fit all the things I’ve accumulated into my suitcase, I can’t help but look back at these three months and think about how immensely grateful I am to have had this opportunity.

Malawi had never been on my radar and in fact, neither had this region in general. Although the international internship was one of many things that attracted me to uOttawa’s international development program, when I pictured myself going on one, it was always to Nepal or India, as I’ve mainly been interested in South Asia throughout my studies. However when the time finally came to apply, only one internship really stood out to me. It was with ArtGlo as a Youth Leadership Officer, in Malawi. Like I said, Malawi (or even Southern Africa) had never been on my mind but as I looked at the organization and their work with youth I definitely felt like that was where I needed to spend my summer living, working and learning. Spoiler alert: that was the position I ended up getting and I have not regretted it for one second.

One of the best things has been my internship itself. Art and Global Health Centre Africa (ArtGlo) uses participatory arts based approaches to health issues and I have found myself learning so much about HIV/AIDS prevention, program development, the trials and triumphs of funding raising for a small organization, theatre and a different approach to youth leadership than what I was used to back home. Speaking to youth engaged in ArtGlo’s programming about their dreams, talents, passions and strengths was so eye-opening for me and I am excited to continue to watch from afar and see what ArtGlo and it’s students will continue to do! And when people ask what I miss most about Malawi? My co-workers will be top of the list. Whether we were meeting to work out the next steps on a project, drinking tea on the porch in the mornings, dancing in the office on a Friday, laughing over chips and eggs, exchanging languages (French and Chichewa!), talking about music, driving and chatting during long days in the field or grabbing a drink after work, their energy, talent, humour and warm welcome is something I will never forget. Today we picnicked at the Botanical Gardens and had a staff talent show as my goodbye party and danced in the park; so fun, so ArtGlo.

Besides my work, I was surprised how quickly I fell in love with Malawi itself. From the beautiful landscapes to the colourful chitenge fabric to the economy based on relationships and connection with the people you buy from, to the kids who walked with me each day on my way to work, the culture, people and land of Malawi pulled me quickly. Specifically, the small and quiet town of Zomba has become a kind of second home, with it’s dominating plateau view and a community where you can’t leave your house without running into someone you know! I have definitely fallen in love with this place and the people I’ve met here. A few weeks ago, after a weekend visiting the capital, I found myself so excited to get “home” and I had such a feeling of peace and contentment when I first saw the Zomba plateau come into view! The first month I was here I really struggled with loneliness and some homesickness so it’s a bit of a relief and especially rewarding to now feel so connected and at home here.

As I leave this week with a now overflowing suitcase and a phone full of pictures and numbers of new friends, I know that from now on, Malawi will always be on my radar. And maybe someday, I will come back to this home again. Until then, I am excited to hug my loved ones, eat some food I’ve been missing and go for a long walk along the canal.

Canada, I’m coming for you!

My Life in Blantyre, Malawi

30 juillet 2018 | Nicole, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Malawi, Girls Empowerment Network, Knowledge Management Officer

Hi all!

As July comes to an end, I am just now realizing what a busy month it has been here in Blantyre, Malawi!

The month began with a long weekend, which I took advantage of to go on a safari. I have always wanted to go on a safari and I decided I needed to appreciate the natural beauty of the region. I’m not sure what I expected when I went on the safari, but it definitely blew me away. We saw animals that I never expected to see in person and natural landscapes that I’ll never forget. Sometimes I felt like I was there looking at the cool trees rather than animals!

I went right from the safari to the capital city, Lilongwe, where I spent three days in my organization’s northern office. I was giving trainings on Excel, knowledge management, database management and file sharing systems. We also had several meetings about the work I have been doing and how we can integrate that in the northern region. It was a great way to learn more about the projects because teams came from all of our district offices in the North. I had given a similar training in the South so it was also nice to see everything come together for the whole team.

After my time in Lilongwe, I spent the next weekend climbing Mount Mulanje! We made it to the highest peak, Sapitwa, which literally translates to “don’t go there” as it is a somewhat notoriously difficult climb. Well, we went there. It was very challenging, but so worth it when we reached the peak! There is also a famous race in Malawi called the “Porters Race” where participants run up and down the difficult mountain path! By chance, we happened to be on that very route on race day. While it was a little nerve-wracking having to jump out of the way of the porters, it was cool to get the “inside look” of one of the biggest events of the year for the region and experience it from the porters side!

A little sore, I came back to another week of life in Blantyre. Life here is routine, which is so nice. I spend Mondays at Chichewa lessons, Wednesdays at a spoken word open mic poetry night, Fridays at Rotaract meetings, Sunday mornings at church and Sunday afternoons drinking coffee and reading in the sun. I meet up with friends, try new foods, drink a lot of coffee and meet lots of new people.

This last week, I spent 3 days at a girls leadership camp for teenage girls run by my organization. The theme was “empowering girls to stay in school and resist child marriage.” I was able to take photos to help with communications, which allowed me to observe a lot. There were so many lessons on leadership and empowerment, mixed with lessons on issues affecting girls in Malawi and advocacy. The girls were so engaging and determined to empower other girls and end child marriage in their communities.

As my life here comes to an end, I can’t help but be excited for my return, as I am sure I will be back soon. I am so thankful for everyone who has helped me over the past weeks and especially to my organization for taking me in and teaching me so much.