Today I am sharing a post specially written for you by my dear friend and former housemate, Alisha (crouching by a bike in the picture below). It is hard to believe that it has already been four months since she graced the land of Malawi with her presence.
Once upon a time, I was 7,839 miles from my home in the capital of Canada living in the capital of a small landlocked country in Southern Africa, infamously called the “Warm Heart of Africa”. It sounds like a fairy-tale because it now feels like a fairy-tale, but it happened in a flash (or 3 months to be specific). Before I went to Malawi I had never travelled overseas, and as many first-time travelers find, I am filled with wanderlust
The “Warm Heart of Africa”, or Malawi, is home to almost 16 million people. While Malawi faces many challenges as one of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), there is also fascinating potential for change. A deep desire to improve the quality of life and boost community development can be found everywhere you go. Deeply set cultural beliefs may allow harmful practices such as early child marriage to persist, yet there is a vibrant and growing resistance demanding a fair chance for those historically disadvantaged. Transformation is taking place, and I feel honoured to have met some of the Malawians demanding that change.
My work with the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi (FAWEMA) was the most inspiring work I have ever done. Not because my own work was particularly impactful (I did try my best—don’t get me wrong), but because I was able to work with Malawian women and men who demonstrated remarkable commitment to fighting for girls’ education. Many of the dedicated people at FAWEMA worked extremely long hours yet still struggled to get by. I would often try to convince my counterpart to go home, take a break, and let myself and the other intern pick up some of the workload. Despite all of our begging, she always refused emphasizing that the girls needed her to be there. She was right. Without adequate cultural knowledge and connections, there are tasks that a foreigner can simply not perform on his or her own. Without all my colleagues’ willingness to put in the extra time, I would have been unable to accomplish my mandate. It was a type of altruism I have never personally seen before. One to ensure the every girl in Malawi had a better education and a brighter future.
Like my colleagues at FAWEMA, education has always been the passion that drives me. When I say education now, I don’t necessarily mean formal education (although I am privileged to have had access to a Canadian education). I mean education under the shade of tree, education between community members, education in the local market, or education wherever and in whatever form it may appear. My time in Malawi taught me to appreciate the nuances of this diverse learning process. It taught me to be patient. Because there is nothing worse than an impatient development worker expecting another society to function the way he or she wants it to.
So my final advice for anyone reading Katiana’s insightful blog is to move with the Malawian current, not against it. Recognize the transformation that is currently taking place and provide as much support to those change agents as you can during your stay. Make an impression on the people you meet, not because of your alternate skin colour or blonde hair, but because you exemplified an unprecedented interest in the lessons they have to teach you. Appreciate each moment, because like all things, this too will pass.
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Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.