I climbed Mount Kasungu!

By Barbara Hunting

Azalea bush in Makupo Village

Azalea bush in Makupo Village

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!

3 thoughts on “I climbed Mount Kasungu!

  1. Susan van Gelder

    Your comment about being a gardener of life experience made me think of a presentation by David Warlick for the K12 Online Conference http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=734 He spoke about cultivating learning and used the metaphor of gardens. I’m interested too, in your technique of photovoice. I have been taking photographs and writing regularly in a blog as are a number of other educators. It has been a big influence in my thinking, in my way of seeing and in my experience of story. I would love to know more about this technique.

    Congratulations on your climb. It must have been a wonderful feeling!

  2. Barbara

    Thanks Susan for your comment! I noticed your reply today. Photovoice (taking and interpreting pictures) is a technique created by C. Wang (1999) who took pictures with a group of women in China and the women told their narratives of health issues through the pictures. I work with Claudia Mitchell, from McGill University and she has written a number of publications and uses this technique to enlighten people about Girlhood Studies and Girls education in South Africa. See Culture Lab at http://www.mcgill.ca and search for Claudia Mitchell. Thanks for the information about academic gardening; it is very organic for me; I have always been a gardener and draw similarities b/w education and gardening. It was an exhausting and great feeling to reach the summit of Mount Kasungu. It made me realize all of the support that I have around me– we achieve so much more when we acknowledge those around us.

  3. Susan van Gelder

    Thanks for the information. One of the workshops I give for teachers is about digital storytelling. Although storytelling can take many forms, it is powerful personal narrative that really interests me. I’ll check out Claudia Mitchell’s site. This is a site that I have found useful http://www.storycenter.org/ I’m looking forward to more of your reflections.


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