By Shayla Baumeler (Mount Allison)
The last few days have been crazy busy, however, there has been considerable movement forward. The Praxis Malawi project is continually changing and its fluidity is what makes it a truly remarkable project. For the past four years, there have been groups of Canadian students and professors contributing to this initiative in Malawi. This past week has made me realize my role in this endeavor and the work that has been done in past years. I am privileged of beginning my contribution atop a solid foundation.
Individuals in the community that have previous experience with Praxis Malawi are more invested in the initiative now than they ever have been. The reason, I suspect, is undoubtedly the strength of groups of students and professors that have come in years past. The local community members understand that our group is not going anywhere and that although this is a long-term plan, we are committed.
Last Wednesday, we had the opportunity to meet with the chiefs of many of the villages in the Chilanga region. Our afternoon began with a 30-minute walk through the Malawian vegetation, on dirt roads and grassy paths, until we reached Chief Koamba’s house, the senior chief of the Chilanga district. We stepped through the door way and to the side of a transparent white cloth, with beaded details, hanging from the ceiling. The room was furnished with green carpets and turquoise walls. Couches and wooden chairs boarded the perimeter of the room upon which we sat. First, the Chief’s wife entered the room and we introduced ourselves to her individually. She shortly exited the room and the Chief returned 20 minutes later to greet us himself. Soon, we left the room through the same door which we entered and gathered on the lawn across from his house. There were already many local community members assembled on what looked like large bamboo and canvas mats. We soon realized that the community members already seated were local village chiefs: individuals carrying the highest statuses in the region. The meeting commenced with words from Chief Koamba and continued with many others adding their thoughts, including the Chief’s wife, Dr. Stonebanks, and other villagers. One by one, we all introduced our research initiatives. As our meeting came to a close, the village chiefs expressed their concerns and excitement towards the project.
I must express my gratitude towards those students and professors that have come in the past, because they have established relationships with many of the Malawian people. While I can appreciate the contributions that have been made in the past, I also recognize that there is much yet to do. In the history of Praxis Malawi, there has never once been such a meeting of the Chiefs of the Chilanga region. I am confident in saying that this meeting was another step forward in the development of the campus and the area.