Hi all! For those who have been following my adventures, I wanted to provide a quick update and show you some photos of my new home! So yes, I have a new home and a whole new village. It has taken me awhile to write about the change, but in June, I left Maganga and moved to a new district. It was sad to leave my wonderful counterpart, my Rajah baby (who Gift has adopted as one of his sons) and other friends, but I am 100% satisfied with my choice. I won’t get into the details of why I left, but I am in a much better place – literally and figuratively.
The past few months have proved to be very busy for me. I have been implementing an after-school club at the primary school twice a week that covers topics such as self esteem, puberty, pregnancy, HIV, healthy sexual choices, goal planning, etc. While attendance hasn’t been great, I have a small group of dedicated students that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and helping them learn. In two weeks, they will finish the 24-lesson program!
I have also been visiting a youth group in a very rural village to implement Grass Roots Soccer, a program that combines HIV prevention and soccer. This has been my favorite activity so far, as the youth LOVE the games we play and always ask me to stay longer. Right now, we are planning an HIV Testing Day for all the youth in their area which will encourage
Another activity I’ve been doing is building cookstoves. These stoves use less firewood than the typical method of “three stone” cooking (setting a pot on three bricks with an open fire underneath). The rate of deforestation in Malawi is one of the highest in the world so although I’m not an environment volunteer, I was eager to do this secondary project. I’ve been flying solo (counterpart-less) on this one and building them with an awesome female chief in the village next to mine. While the language barrier is still tough, we have slowly become friends by visiting different families and helping them construct the stoves. The chief is very hardworking, caring, and always trying to give me food! I feel lucky that I get to work with her.
In between my weekly activities, I occasionally help my counterpart with his health center work, going to outreach clinics or leading health talks. For example, last month we taught women how to make porridge that contains all six Malawian food groups.
So, what’s in the works for the future? After the aforementioned HIV Testing Day, the same youth group will have a graduation in which the whole community will be invited to watch them perform about what they have learned the past three months. My counterpart and I would then like to implement the same GRS program with a different group since it has been so successful! I will also be starting a Malaria Outreach Club at a nearby secondary school that I’m really excited about! After some detailed lessons, the plan is for the students to spread malarial knowledge in the community through various mediums (possibly dramas, radio shows, murals, marches, bed net demos, etc). I will be working with a wonderful female teacher who I have been getting to know over the past month and am eager to start. So, that’s my work update!
In terms of my personal life, I have been very content since the change of villages. Two other PCVs have previously lived in Kasinje before me so I believe that has really helped integration. Additionally, my neighbors are very kind and the girl who carries my water (the borehole is way too far for me…) has become a good friend. Everyday we check out my garden together, noting any new growth. She also planted a little pumpkin patch in my fence, which we harvested for the first time on Sunday! I’ve been running and doing yoga everyday which has also been great for my mental health. Of course there are challenges (ie HOT SEASON, being even farther away from my boyfriend, living in an NGO-saturated area, drunk men, etc etc), but life here is pretty good! Next month, I will be hiking Mt. Mulanje which I’ve heard is beyond beautiful and in November, I’ll be doing a four-night hike in Nyika National Park for Thanksgiving. I can’t wait!
P.S. Only 7 months left of my service!
A now some photos while I have wifi:
This is my Harriet, the girl who fetches my water
Our pumpkin patch
Chief Jamu (left) and her sister in front of their newly built cookstove.
My back stoop, where all the cooking takes place! Notice my two little flowers in the bottom right corner which just blossomed this week
Solar panels (how I charge my phone), sweet potatoes growing on the left, and two garden beds in the middle that have okra and zuchini
My bathing area
Selfie in my chim! It’s actually the coolest place to be on my property
One of the women at our cooking demo declaring the peanut butter as “zokoma!” or “delicious!”
Cookstove demonstration… how many azimayi can you fit in a tiny kitchen?
My cozy living room. The last two volunteers left a lot of furniture. (Thanks Beccy)
My even cozier bedroom. Just enough space for my bed…
My kitchen, fully stocked with spices and utensils from the last volunteers!
Members of the youth group that I meet with to implement “Grass Roots Soccer”