Monthly Archives: June 2015

Dialogues

By Marten Sealy (Bishop’s)

dialoguesI would like to take this opportunity to share examples of some situations and conversations that I’ve experienced here. I’ve had both of these conversations with several people on different occasions, and the exact replies are varied, so they’ve been left out.

I will be glad if this post helps to ‘personify’ some of the portraits found in each issue of National Geographic.

CONVERSATION #1

Myself: I’m sorry, I’m not handing out anything material, nor can I promise you any grand solutions.

Friend: *Disappointment, occasionally mixed with confusion, as if to say, “but you’re from Canada.”*

Myself: You see, I could hand out 100 dollars right now, and I’d be fine, but I’d never see that money again. I know that it would be received gratefully, and it could help feed or clothe many people today, but it would do nothing for future generations. It’s tempting, but I have other plans for that money. If I invest that money in Canada, in my education, then someday I may be in the position where I can really help the people of this country.

This brings understanding, but I have to be careful not to make specific promises. It’s definitely one of the most difficult things to communicate.

 

 

CONVERSATION #2

Friend: *questions about Canada*

Myself: *honest (and modest) answers*

Friend: Canada is a blessed country

Myself: Hmm…I’m fortunate to have been born in Canada, yes, but a blessed country? That depends who you ask. Do you know the history of Europeans coming to Malawi/Africa?

Friend: Yes, they came from the UK, Portugal, France, etc. Wealthy white people.

Myself: Well, if millions of those Europeans had decided to move to Africa, bringing their families in such great numbers that they crowded the black people off of their original land, would you call Africa blessed?

Friend: Ah, you’re from Canada, but you’re not proud of that?

Myself: That’s a hard question to answer my friend. I live a comfortable life, but wealth isn’t everything. Everyone should be proud of their roots.

Friend: That is true. Thank you. [occasionally: I’m proud to be Malawian]

This often concludes with a head nod and a moment of silence.

 

A Whole New Meaning

By Katie- Alana Schouten (Trinity)

katieToday we ran an After-school program collaborating with the Education students based on hygiene and hydration. We showed the children the technique of hand washing to the song of the Macarena. We were then challenged with the option of providing an education outlet for children with disability. Instead of focusing on the school system of education it was proposed to start a temporary program where we can act as aids for the children during the lessons.

I felt unsure at first because a temporary program can end very quickly in Malawi. I thought it wasn’t sustainable as in this area there may be no teachers or no teachers to care to follow up the education that has started for people with disabilities. I also deeply felt that I didn’t have the skills to support these children, to meet their ever- changing needs. I felt and feel inadequate in doing something from my own mind that I couldn’t witness and criticize. Becoming the do-er instead of the audience was really a threat in this instance.

The role of the nurse became so much clearer in such a short time. This outlet of education wasn’t only for these children, but for us too. I hope it allows us to be holistic and focus on all the person’s needs. From a quick visit to the community we had during the week I could already see the need for the children with disabilities to be happy and fulfilled in experiences. Instead here, they are forced to stay at home due to the discrimination they face in the schools and in the villages.

I had an experience as a student nurse in practice where I found it difficult to participate in real communication with clients. I was always better at writing and doing physical work than communicating properly. A senior nurse told me that I could get anyone to participate in anything if I did it with love and kindness. Likewise, if I communicated with kindness I could achieve anything. This means meeting peoples individual needs in their current situation.

I liked her advice.

For someone with intellectual disability it can be difficult for some children to interact and communicate as directly as we would and that’s where my love for this role comes from. Individuals with a disability teach us to listen, to care and have patience, which is so difficult for me to do. I remember in school always being taught and talked at. We never had a conversation with our educators and our opinion wasn’t allowed because of being incorrect to the textbook. This created tension in me as a person because I didn’t feel like I was being listened to or understood.

Having the opportunity to create a space where individuals can reach their own achievable potential in Chilanga is amazing. Being able to focus on ability rather than what the individual may not be able to do is life changing. In an ideal world it should be an aspect of all education and not just for our children with individual differences.

‘Education recognizes energy and potential within each person and each community, and tries to empower them to make their full contribution to the process of building a new society in which it is possible for all people to meet their fundamental human needs.’ (Hope,Timmel &Hodzi, 1984).

References

Hope, A., Timmel, S., & Hodzi, C. (1984)  Training for transformation : A handbook for community workers. Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press.

Technology in Malawi

By Kate Newhouse (Bishop’s)

technologyOn Saturday we went into town to do some shopping and to go to the Internet café. We left after lunch and started our hour and a half journey. The walk went by quite quickly as we had lots of people to chat with and we even stopped to enjoy some sugar cane.

As we left after lunch we arrived into town later than we had planned, everything was closed. They kept the Internet café open just for us and we tried to contact home; Many of us for the first time. This Internet café was not what I was expecting and so unlike home, unlike the Western world. I had typed up an email and had it ready to send, but when I sat down I realized the state of these computers. They were so old. I couldn’t believe it. This was almost exactly like our first family computer we got just starting the millennium and here we are 15 years later and I feel like I have gone back in time.

One of my fellow Praxis Malawi peers is studying adult education here and  he took the locals he was working with to the Internet café just the other day. He said for many of them it had been the first time any of them had been to the café and none of them knew what to do with a computer.

While I was reading the Betrayal of Africa I came across this quote, which inspired me to write this blog. “While travel in Africa is both difficult and expensive, communication is not. Email and the Internet have created links that have not been possible in the past. Out of many small groups emerges a large continent-wide, even worldwide movement.” (Gerald Caplan, 2008, p. 118)  I agree that technology and the Internet have helped the problem of communication, but my short experience here has made me believe otherwise. I know that I am in a rural area where poverty is an issue and therefore Internet and even power isn’t a priority by any means, so then how it this helping?

 

References

Caplan, G. (2008). The betrayal of Africa. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwork Books.

Things That You Can Live Without, But You Still Miss

By Kirsten Dobler (Bishop’s)

missJune 11, 2015

Over the past week and a half I have been thinking about the things that I took for granted at home. I’ve compiled a list with the help of some others to express a couple things that I would be able to live without, but still pop into my mind every once in a while.

 

  1. Porcelain: I recently had a little bout of food poisoning (don’t worry mum, I am very okay now) and there were many hours that I wished to feel the smooth cool of a familiar toilet as I lived through cement and a plastic seat. An honor mention to this is flushing. This flushing is in opposition to the general abyss that is our compost toilet.
  2. Tap Water: The drinking water is definitely sufficient, but I have actually dreamt about drinking tap water and never feeling satisfied. There’s something about sticking my head under the faucet that gives me fond memories.
  3. Clean feet: No matter how hard I try there is always red dirt on my feet. Even when I’m wearing socks. I have even given up on dumping out my shoes too often.
  4. Couches: I have this thing where I just love couches. We have a lot of common space, and we totally do not need a couch, but the inner potato in me would love to lounge and make lesson plans. I have discovered that if you push some of our table chairs together you can get a couch like feel, while napping under the table. This is not favorable when people want to be productive at the table.
  5. Useful Junk: It’s so often that we are told ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’, but there isn’t even scraps that are up for grabs. Materials aren’t always in abundance so it gives our term ‘resourceful’ a different meaning.
  6. Google: We have it so lucky. I now understand why people bought encyclopedias.
  7. Blissful Ignorance: This one travels with anyone who has been exposed to any sort of difficult knowledge. Once naïve thoughts are so easily crushed as we face the challenges of self-expansion and worldly understanding. Every day we are challenged with many new things, and ultimately we will grow and prosper.

M’panda Dimba (Our Garden)

By Jessica Fobert (Bishop’s)

our gardenThe Experimental Farm is coming together a lot faster then I was expecting. The women arrive each day at 9am and work strenuously until noon before the sun gets too hot. I am constantly amazed at the hard work that these women engage in on a daily basis. Creating a compost pit and building a garden has been an exhilarating adventure. While I teach the women about composting and experimental farming, they teach me of the diverse ways of gardening here in Malawi. For example, because of the heat from the sun, gardeners cover their garden beds with hay so that the water is not evaporated and the garden remains moist. Also, the women have used trees as poles and tall grass to make a fence to protect it from animals. I have noticed that Malawians are very creative and innovate people; they make use of as many resources as possible. My co-learner said that we needed to purchase a hoe for the garden so that we could construct the garden beds and dig up the ground. When I was given the hoe it was just the metal part with no handle attached. Malawians search for a piece of wood to make their own handle and custom design their tools to their needs.

I am learning new techniques and skills each day that the women return to the garden, and in return I am showing them some interesting and diverse ways of experimental farming. For instance, I gathered the women around me as I took 4 toothpicks and poked the side of an avocado seed and then suspended it over a cup filled with water. The women were amazed at what I was doing, and I informed them that this is a different way of planting an avocado tree. Let’s just hope that it grows! We are also experimenting with growing tomatoes upside down. Yes, you’ve read correctly… upside down. We have placed 4 tomato plants each in a separate bucket and cut a hole at the bottom of the bucket. The rationality is that it prevents bugs from eating the plants and that no sticks are needed to support them. I think just about everyone thinks we’re a little crazy, but we are experimenting and I hope that we achieve some success.