By Barbara Hunting
Why is this exciting? Well, first let me give you a little bit of background about myself…My professional responsibility as an educator is to be a gardener of life experience; conversation, walking, talking and collaborative learning are significant forms of dialectical learning. I am a proud member of Praxis Malawi, believing that social justice and developing praxis (connecting practice and theory into ‘doing’) are part of knowledge creation. My teaching in Gender Equity Studies has led me to explore HIV/AIDS Awareness through creating alliances and building social agency in a classroom/community collaboration model of Participatory Action Research (PAR). In 2011, I became a PhD Candidate at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. I have been traveling to Malawi as part of the Praxis Malawi team with undergrad students for four years now and the last two years have laid the groundwork for my doctoral studies of encouraging co-construction of a health policy initiative. I am a visual sociologist/educator who uses the technique of photovoice (picture taking & interpretation) to express personal narratives about everyday life in rural Malawi. Experiential Learning is a valuable stepping stone that encourages students to develop field research skills while examining knowledge transfer within multiple frameworks.
I am not your typical doctoral student. I have come to my education later in life and have combined experiential learning, and bringing two populations of people together (youth and seniors) to dialogue about their health concerns surrounding HIV and AIDS. I also enjoy working with undergraduate students to encourage them to enter the research field.
I have some significant mentors who have been instrumental in helping me figure out my learning trajectory. Therefore it is not unusual that I would do the same for the students who travel and research here in Malawi each year.
Now that you know a little more about me…back to the mountain experience. I attempted to climb Mount Kasungu on a previous trip and only made it one third of the way. The view was magnificent but I was not able to surpass my mental and physical challenges; the altitude is a challenge from a breathing standpoint. So, this year, June 1st, 2013 I and ten students as well as many people from the rural village where we are staying, climbed Mount Kasungu. There is a plateau where we ate lunch; whole wheat bread, lovely sweet bananas (nothing like them at home in Quebec) and peanut butter. A bit more water and a bit of a rest and up we all went to the final summit where the view was/is fabulous!! I will leave you there at the summit only to say that it was worth the four hour trek…and yes, I brought up the rear with the Chief of the village. So Google Mount Kasungu and check out Malawi!