Category Archives: Makupo

Madzi, Agua, Eau, Uisce, Water…The Essence of Life!

By Emily Parker (Bishop’s)

Pumping water

Pumping water

How long are your showers? Do you let the water run while you brush your teeth? Simple things some of us are not careful with, while Malawians and ¾ of the world are struggling to have access to clean drinking water everyday (Caplan 2008). If this makes you feel bad, it probably should! In all seriousness though, I chose to write about water as a reminder and a form of awareness for us all, including myself.

Without water we would not only be in trouble, but dead-to put it bluntly. Now that I am in Malawi and the water is so restricted, I realize how much water we use for drinking, bathing, cooking, washing, electricity, construction, you name it! Not only that though, when we use it, we use extremely large quantities. Meanwhile, 80% of Africans do not have access to running water (Caplan 2008).That being said, the villages in Africa that actually do have running water are considered privileged, if not wealthy. While even these villages with running water are dangerously restricted, so it seems unimaginable what other villages are going through.

Moreover, even the process of getting water is a tedious task. I have seen countless women pumping water and then transporting litres of water balancing on their heads and some with babies on their backs all at the same time. Meanwhile, back home we simply turn the tap and Voilà, water for everyone! The strength and time difference it takes to access one of life’s necessities from one place in the world to another is huge!

Showers/baths consist of a bucket of water-boiled over the fire and a small cup for rinsing off. Personally, I enjoy bucket showers and I find it incredible how little water I do need to get clean while at home we/I let the water run the entire time. The difference in water consumption is simply unbelievable. However, does this make us bad people? No! It just means that we must use water more responsibly and the first step is awareness then doing it and finally sticking with it! It is not enough just think about it. We need to make the daily decision with a clear goal in mind of reducing our overall use of water; even small changes can make a huge difference.

Balancing water

Balancing water

Remember, actions speak louder than words. Water is for most parts of the world an extreme luxury because of its rareness and vital-ness whereas at home it has become a “luxury item”. We have sparkling water, pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzi baths, and we all know the list goes on and on… The worst part is bucket showers are in fact, so lovely! I want one in Canada!

All in all, I do understand that the realities back home and in Malawi are completely different; I just wish we could help in any small way possible. I also find myself wondering a lot why we, as Westerners are so privileged. This issue will most likely be addressed soon enough when I go into greater detail about reverse-culture shock upon my return to Canada.

References:

Caplan, G. L. (2008). The betrayal of Africa. Toronto: Groundwood Books.

Our Home Away From Home

By Clare Radford (Bishop’s)

Moni

Moni

When we pulled up to the house we now call home in Makupo village, we were greeted by all the members of the community who were waiting outside of the hostel singing and clapping with the biggest smiles on their faces. It was a strange feeling as everyone hugged us and asked our names. I’m still not quite sure what the emotion was but it was definitely overwhelming. This feeling stuck with me for the rest of the night but when I woke up to the sound of the women’s voices in the kitchen, singing and laughing, I couldn’t help but smile. I have never been an early riser but the sound of their voices made me excited for the adventures the day would bring. I now spend most of my mornings journaling and creating a checklist of what needs to be accomplished that day. As I hear others starting to wander into the common room, I leave the warmth of my sleeping bag to join them all for breakfast and coffee and start the day.

Today, Themba, one of the co-learners, gave us a language lesson. I am still having some difficulties with the pronunciation. In regards to this, all the kids find it hilarious when I speak with them in Chichewa, but they are the best motivation as I want to be able to communicate with them.

When we visited the campus, it was nothing like I had expected; it was better. The land has been untouched except for two buildings: the Standard One (Grade 1) classroom and the teacher’s house, both a work in progress. When I first walked into the classroom, even with the unfinished floor, I started to imagine all the ways the classroom could be set up. As we walked back from the campus, a wave of excitement poured out of me and I couldn’t wait to start working on the Standard Two curriculum.

Over the past few days, I have gotten to know the members of the community. Getting to know the village members of Makupo has given me a better understanding of their needs and hopes for the future of Praxis Malawi.  This is helpful to us in developing curriculum for the Standard Two classroom as we are better able to understand the importance of subjects and skills that can help lead to a healthy and successful life style.

Time Flies

By Xiaoting Sun (Bishop’s)

A few days after arrival

A few days after arrival

Today is the seventh day since we have arrived in Malawi. Time flies. Malawi is really the warm heart of Africa. All the people have been so nice and friendly; they always smile at us. I still remember the first day we arrived in Kasungu village, the people welcomed us with dancing which was so amazing. We have tried our best to learn the local language to show our respect. I like it when it is night time in Kasungu; every night we can see a lot of stars in the sky, and also it is very quiet. It is making me feel better when we get through a whole tiring day.

Every morning the chirp of birds and bark of dogs wake me up. It is a very different experience and I really like it. The weather in Malawi is not as hot as I thought it would be. However, the weather in the morning and evening is a little bit cold, but in the afternoon it is hot. Three days ago, we climbed the Kasungu Mountain. It took almost 3 hours; everybody was tired but no one gave up. I am so proud of us. It was totally worth it when you saw the gorgeous landscape on the top of mountain.

Today we had a big meeting with the senior chief as well as 19 other village chiefs and some villagers. They were all very supportive of our projects. The Praxis Malawi project includes, a chicken co-op, a health clinic, school education, micro-loans and many more. After the meeting, everyone became even more excited about their projects.

Muli Bwanji

By Shayla Baumeler (Mount Allison)

The smiles are contagious

The smiles are contagious

The warm heart has truly exceeded my expectations. All of my preconceptions of the country have either been confirmed or denied in the most positive way possible. When we arrived at Makupo village, the children greeted us on the street and ran alongside our bus until we parked in front of the building which we would be calling home for the next five weeks. The villagers gathered around our bus as we all offloaded. The children danced and the local women sang in Chichewa, the vernacular language of Malawi. The locals acknowledged us one by one with the phrase “Muli Bwanji,” meaning “how are you”. I attempted to respond in their language, but inevitably struggled.  Even so, I was graciously accepted.  At the risk of sounding cliché, it was an unforgettable experience.

Within the past few days, I have seen immense progress in every capacity. Our Praxis Malawi team began as a number of individuals, but now resembles a family. Our research projects have developed in a similar manner; we originated with personal goals, but we are now working as a cohesive unit, using collaboration as a method to maximize impact. An important factor of the Praxis Malawi initiative is the use of co-learners. These are individuals in Makupo Village and the surrounding communities that are interested in one of the realms that are being pursued, and wish to contribute to the development of that component. This premise emphasizes the importance of a reciprocal relationship, with ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ occurring between all participating parties.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to gather with our designated co-learners. Dale and I met with Grace and Lonjezo, both of which are Makupo villagers, and commenced our research on the condition of local health. We spent hours discussing a variety of prominent local health needs including Malaria, Diarrhea, Coughing, Parasites and Malnutrition, just to name a few. Near the end of our conversation, we touched on a few sensitive topics, the last of which was rape. We were told that rape of women is suspected to be a very common occurrence in this region, yet it is rarely reported. A recent case, reported on the radio, consisted of a six-month-old baby girl being raped by an older relative of her family. In any context, this kind of action is unacceptable, but I found myself extremely alarmed by the news of this six-month-old girl. This was not out of ignorance; instead, it was because of my observations of the Malawian people. I respect the nature of the relationships that I have witnessed while on the ground. There is genuine devotion to family and siblings. There is immense support between neighbors and community members. There is hospitality beyond belief.  There are many qualities of the local Malawian society, which I truly admire, but this story, among others, has emphasized the need for modifications of the current system.

With this in mind, I think that my time in Malawi will prove to not only enhance the development of the Chilanga region, but also my own knowledge and hopefully the communities that I return to in Canada. The concept of a co-learner has never been so clear. Malawians have much to learn from Canadians, but the opposite may be even truer. No one person is ever perfect and the same goes for countries, regions and communities. Whether we care to admit it or not, we all have something to learn from one another and there is always room for growth.

People Are People

By Rita Morley (St. FX)

One witness of my fall

One witness of my fall

Yesterday I fell off the top step of our outdoor latrine in the village of Makupo. I had just walked out of the bathroom when the door handle detached from the door. I promptly lost my balance, fell backwards off the 1-meter platform, and landed with a thud on my rear end, door handle still in hand. It was one of those moments when you feel like crying, not from injury, but from sheer embarrassment.

There was a large group of ladies going about their day’s work in the kitchen area behind me and I quickly realized that they had witnessed the whole event. All I could think was “Oh my goodness, they’re all going to rush over here full of concern and make me sit down and rest – they’re going to be so worried!” However, what happened next pleasantly surprised me. One lady came over to see if I was all right and as soon as I said with a smile “I’m ok”, she started to laugh! Then I started to laugh and then all the other ladies started to laugh at the whole scene. I laughed until my belly hurt and I couldn’t speak anymore!

This small instance got me thinking about cultural differences. Who am I to think that these women have the time of day to worry about coddling someone who clearly isn’t hurt? Unlike in the West where people seem to spend a lot of time worrying about the frivolities of life, here in Malawi it seems to me that most people can’t afford to worry about being nit-picky about the quotidian. In Makupo Village the children are allowed to play barefoot outside, the chickens and goats roam free-range, and the women prepare meals made mostly of food grown here in the village, sans the latest health food trends from the likes of Planet Organic.

I’m not saying that this village is a perfect utopia where injuries are healed with a smile and harsh economic realities are remedied through a wholesome meal. What I am saying is that the people here seem to have learned which things are worth worrying about and which things aren’t. I’d certainly have to agree that the comic scene of a naïve Canadian student falling off the bathroom step is worth a laugh!

So, now I’m off to start my research and community development projects in this Malawian reality that is so very different from that of my own home. I am not unaware that while some of these differences will be refreshing, others will create challenges. However, I do know that it will be the similarities that will propel me forward and motivate my research. People are people, whether our complexions reveal the beautiful deep hues of a Chewa of Makupo or the freckled fairness of a Nova Scotian, and it seems we all want similar things in life.