By Lia Grant (McGill)
June 16th, 2014
As I sit here on this quiet night (11:50 pm – quite late for Malawian time), only a few of us remain awake. Aaron is sitting on the sofa in the “living room area” reading (though rapidly falling asleep), as I sit at the dinning room table determined to keep going. Clare and Megan are awake giggling and packing in their room for our quickly approaching departure tomorrow morning for Zambia.
I have been thinking of what I would like to write about for over a week now. Things, however, have been extremely busy and the blog writing became a priority put on the back burner until I could make use of an efficiently-working computer and gain the confidence that everything was going well and steady with my primary and secondary focuses while here.
Despite the fact that we have just returned from Livingstonia only a mere 30 hours ago, as I stated earlier, we leave for Zambia within hours as well. Fortunately, today has been an extremely productive day. The other Education ladies, Kim, Emily, Clare, and I, as well as Max and Francis, have managed to fully complete three full units out of our eleven, while nine of those eleven have been well drafted. Moreover, I had my second meeting with the children in the village beside the Praxis Malawi Campus today. Above all, these visits are what I have been thinking of most in the last few days.
I have to say, prior to leaving for Malawi, and even while here, I have held onto some fear in regards to the play that I hope to put on before our departure. It being in many ways my solo project, I am certainly feeling the pressure to perform and succeed. Like all things though, I believe that a balance of deep care along with recognition that flawlessness is not needed is key. Shortly after a good talk about my plans and worries with Dr. Stonebanks, I got both Max and Francis on board with the play. Within very little time we put together a group of children aged 10 to 14 to take part, and met for the first time this past Thursday.
Thursday and today – both being days before heading away to very different endeavors away from Makupo – have been very successful meetings, full of learning and reflective opportunities. I am thrilled with how the pieces of this puzzle seem to be fitting together and happening organically. One example of this came on Thursday as we walked to the campus to meet the children; I asked Francis to tell me a Malawian tale as we went – one that carried with it the message that ‘working together is fundamental’ (Francis has previously explained to me that almost all Malawian tales had morals). After a few minutes of contemplation, Francis began to tell me a Malawian tale that suited this particular message flawlessly. All of a sudden, a foundation was laid for our story.
I have enjoyed so much the time I have spent already with these children. Of course, I wish I were better able to communicate with each of them as most only speak Chichewa. Thankfully I have two wonderful co-learners and translators in Max and Francis, and despite the language barrier we were able to get to know each other a little bit, share some laughs, explore some characters together, and sing some songs.
Since Thursday’s play meeting, two other conversations from that same afternoon have also been on my mind. For one, Max asked me the question: “what will be the motivation for the children in doing the play?” I was quite taken aback by this question, to be honest. I asked him, “Like what?” He smiled and said, “Well… I don’t know…” I then reminded him that one thing I’d made sure to do was ask each child if they were truly interested in taking part, ensuring that their motivation was solely intrinsic. He expressed, however, that several parents had asked what kind of benefit or compensation their children would be getting. Being a totally different culture, where extracurricular opportunities such a play are not common (and where outsiders often just come in to give monetary aid), I suppose this question should not have shocked me. Regardless, I must remember to forge ahead and have faith that those who are truly interested will stay the course in this creative learning experience. This conversation and occurrence in general only reminds me that more opportunities need to be given to young Malawians – and hopefully the school that we are in the process of building and developing will be able to lead this motion.
The second thing that has been on my mind often in the last few days is a young boy in the village by the campus who I thought looked badly injured. I encountered him Thursday after our play meeting with Max. He was limping (at first I thought he had sprained or broken some part of his foot or ankle), but what in reality he has is a flesh wound on the back of his ankle which he sustained from falling off a bicycle two months ago. Before my departing for the day, the boy’s mother approached me and asked if I could please help him. Without a doubt I wanted to reply that yes I could. Unfortunately, all I could do was take a look at the open gash (which is not bandaged and looks badly infected), ask about the care that was already given, and bring the information back to our team working on Health. Upon returning to Makupo and discussing with the team, however, I realized that there is actually very little that any of us can do – even the nurses, as they are not certified to practice nursing here in Malawi. I am still feeling a deep sense of guilt, feeling responsible and wanting to do something for this boy. Through the help of Dr. Stonebanks, I have been able to remember that in fact it is the mother’s responsibility to bring her son back to the hospital or clinic – and we can’t assume she’s powerless. It is more likely than not that what she was seeking was money. After all, why is it that the white girl would know how to help her son? What qualifies me? Within this, there is a lot to think about. We all here want to help the people of Malawi, but we also want to empower them to help themselves. Many people seem to just associate white people with money, and though I want to help, this is not what I want to continue to perpetuate in my actions. Of course, despite all of this knowledge, I cannot help but worry for the boy. It is very difficult to step back.
Though there are so very many other things going on here that I could write pages and pages about, it seems about time I go to bed and prepare myself for the long drive in the day ahead. While there are many complex issues for us to try to sift through, so much good is going on here and I am learning all the time through the help of the Malawians and my peers. I feel I have made strong connections with people even over these short 17 or so days. I feel myself growing as a person, and I see changes in motion. What more could be desired? I am the last one awake – 1:16 am. Silence and calm all around. Goodnight.