The Experimental Farm is coming together a lot faster then I was expecting. The women arrive each day at 9am and work strenuously until noon before the sun gets too hot. I am constantly amazed at the hard work that these women engage in on a daily basis. Creating a compost pit and building a garden has been an exhilarating adventure. While I teach the women about composting and experimental farming, they teach me of the diverse ways of gardening here in Malawi. For example, because of the heat from the sun, gardeners cover their garden beds with hay so that the water is not evaporated and the garden remains moist. Also, the women have used trees as poles and tall grass to make a fence to protect it from animals. I have noticed that Malawians are very creative and innovate people; they make use of as many resources as possible. My co-learner said that we needed to purchase a hoe for the garden so that we could construct the garden beds and dig up the ground. When I was given the hoe it was just the metal part with no handle attached. Malawians search for a piece of wood to make their own handle and custom design their tools to their needs.
I am learning new techniques and skills each day that the women return to the garden, and in return I am showing them some interesting and diverse ways of experimental farming. For instance, I gathered the women around me as I took 4 toothpicks and poked the side of an avocado seed and then suspended it over a cup filled with water. The women were amazed at what I was doing, and I informed them that this is a different way of planting an avocado tree. Let’s just hope that it grows! We are also experimenting with growing tomatoes upside down. Yes, you’ve read correctly… upside down. We have placed 4 tomato plants each in a separate bucket and cut a hole at the bottom of the bucket. The rationality is that it prevents bugs from eating the plants and that no sticks are needed to support them. I think just about everyone thinks we’re a little crazy, but we are experimenting and I hope that we achieve some success.
As the second week continues, I find myself more interested in learning as much as I can about Malawian culture and their traditional ways of doing things. I learned that Malawians have a unique handshake when they meet new people, their favourite meal is Nsima, a type of maize flower and water that is usually served with either rice, potatoes and/or pumpkin leaves. We have had lessons on their language of Chechewa and each day I try to learn new phrases that will be useful while working with the people here. It is imperative that we engage in dialogue with the locals in order to fully understand their wants and needs. Especially when working with the After-school program.
Before coming to Malawi, the Transformative Praxis: Malawi group read a chapter by Easterly called Planners versus Searchers. In the chapter, Easterly states that, “let’s call the advocate of the traditional approach the Planners, while we call the agents for change in the alternative approach the Searchers” (Easterly, 5). The Transformative Praxis: Malawi (TPM) group planned and discussed our objectives for our projects so that when we arrived in Malawi we would be prepared. Before coming to Malawi, I engaged in research based on curriculum development, gardening in Malawi and how to compost efficiently. Now that we are in Malawi it is time for us to expand on our research and try the alternative approach suggested by Easterly by searching for our answers. “Searchers know if something works only if the people at the bottom can give them feedback” (Easterly, 15).
The second week’s goal was to engage in more dialogue with locals to distinguish what Malawians wanted out of the after-school program, and to inform others about the benefits of composting. I shared with my co-learner some traditional and nutritious crops that I had researched and was planning on trying to grow here. I soon found out after being here that what I had researched had to be adjusted. Because I have started a compost pit, my co-learner suggested that we try and grow vegetables so that we could educate the women that our vegetable scraps can be used as compost.
I am very grateful to have a co-learner by my side so that I am aware of what the communities would like to try and grow at the TPM campus. She has provided me with five women, each from different villages, to work on the garden so that they can return home and tell the other women in their villages about what is taking place here on Campus. I am planning with my co-learner now to travel to each village and inform the women on what we are doing on Campus so that they feel included and a part of the program. Later this week the Education students have arranged to meet with local villages to discuss what the parents would like out of the After-school program. Engaging in dialogue with locals is imperative for change and success so that we accomplish our project goals in Malawi. Tionana (see you later).
Easterly, W (2006) The white man’s burden: why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. London, England: The Penguin Press.
I woke up bright and early this morning to hack away at the moist red soil from last night’s water. My hero Kirsten woke up at 6 am to assist me with digging up the 1 metre deep compost pit. The soil here is not like it is back in Canada. It dries up in the winter seasons and lacks essential nutrients and therefore needs a lot of fertilizer to maintain certain crops. Most of you probably don’t know much about Malawi, but a large number of the population relies on agriculture as a source of income and necessity to life. For that reason, I chose to base my research work around agriculture and to provide a sustainable way of farming for the people of Malawi. My plans are to educate the people in the surrounding villages about the benefits of composting while experimenting with fertilizer versus compost. I hope to inform Malawians about the benefits of composting so that they can learn to live more sustainable.
As Kirsten and I hacked at the moistened soil for 2 hours we finally began to see some progress being made. Chief Makupo came to the Campus around 9 am and walked right to the compost pit. He gave us a hand and what Kirsten and I had accomplished in 2 hours, the Chief had completed in 10 minutes! I was astonished at the hard labour that the Chief performed, but as more helpers arrived I noticed that most Malawians are used to this type of work. It seemed much easier to them than it was for Kirsten and me.
Malawians are hard working people! Even the children are constantly helping out their families by taking care of siblings, collecting water and working in the fields planting and harvesting crops. Being in Malawi has allowed me to appreciate the easy, laid back life that we live in Canada. I’ve never experienced collecting my own fresh water or walking an hour and a half to reach the closest town; however, this is a part of the daily routines for Malawians. Each day that I am in Malawi I am constantly amazed at the skills and the strenuous work that Malawians perform on a daily basis. I can see that the Transformative Praxis: Malawi group is working their hardest by collaborating with locals to provide a more sustainable lifestyle for Malawians.
We arrived safe and sound off the plane and landed in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi!! I met two wonderful women on the flight over who had shared their stories of returning home to Malawi. We stepped off the plane and one lady we had spoken with took a deep breath of fresh air and spread her arms to capture the beaming sun’s rays. After clearing customs we took a two-hour bus ride to the village of Chilanga, in the Kasungu region. On the drive here I was immediately struck by the poverty and the lack of transportation used by locals. Everyone seemed to be walking somewhere.
When we arrived at The Campus we were greeted by the locals and the women sang a beautiful song and welcomed us. We were all overwhelmed at the beauty and grandeur of the hostel. Similar to Aboriginal cultures, the people of Malawi unloaded our bags because they believed we were tired from traveling all day and suggested we rest while they unloaded our luggage. I was not sure whether I should sit back and let them do the work, but I could not stand around and watch, so I tried my best to help the women carry in our luggage.
From the moment we arrived, I noticed the gender role differences. The men were working hard clearing the fields, painting the buildings and taking part in the construction of the hostel. The women took care of the children, prepared the meals, and collected the water. They often placed heavy buckets of water on top of their heads for extra support. I asked the site overseer, if I could try and collect water. Thankfully, Dr. Sheerin spearheaded a fundraiser to build a well approximately 50m from the hostel, so I did not have to go too far to fetch the water. Some women in Malawi walk up to a mile to collect water, and sometimes it has to be for the whole day! When I was told this I had my first break down. I couldn’t help but think of how much water we waste in Canada, flushing 6L of water down the toilet when people here are struggling to collect fresh water.
It is now my third day in Malawi and I am getting concerned about how culture shock will hit me when I return back to Canada. For now, I hope that team Transformative Praxis: Malawi will bring positive changes to the people here so that they can learn to live a more sustainable life. Goodbye for now, or in Chechewa, tionana (see you later).
My name is Kirsten Dobler and I am a third year Elementary Education Major with a Minor in Music from Bishop’s University. I’ve become very invovled with the School of Education at Bishop’s and I hope that this project will help me to link my learnings to real life. The value of education is something that is very important to me and I hope that by sharing and learning together we can make the world even just a little bit better.
I come from a small town called Powell River, just about as far West Coast as you can get. I ventured east for the first time in 2011 with a volunteer program called Katimavik and soon after I made my way to Bishop’s and I have called it my home ever since. I’ve recently began au pairing in Italy during my time away from school and I have had the pleasure of traveling around Europe on my weekends off. I hope to continue my worldly adventures and making a postitive impact as I do so.
As I mention before I greatly value education, especially in places that have different ideas and ways that we do. I also understand the importance of respecting the people and land that we will be sharing in Malawi. I hope that we can make meaningful connections with the people of Malawi. I am very excited to meet the challenges that we have ahead.
My name is Natchasiri but everybody calls me Froy or full out Froy Choi! I was raised in a beautiful island au tropicale Phuket, Thailand. I lived there my whole life, so coming to Canada is a very exciting step for me! I have been here for my second year at Bishop’s University studying Fine Arts and I am having the best time of my life! I grew up in a British school with amazing multicultural background friends, so my favorite thing to do is adapt and learn new things! My interest circles around from photography, painting, writing, cinematography, science, astronomy, to cooking! I joined Praxis Malawi so I can experience a whole new culture that I know very little about and along the way make a difference for the new soon to be friends. I know that my contribution will count in the long run.
My father, who works as a plastic surgeon, always stresses to me that I am the citizen of the world, and compassion and selflessness is what we do best as humans. I am blessed with the lifestyle I have, enough to eat, enough to use. Therefore giving back and sharing is the wisest thing someone could do, whether it’s knowledge or dreams. When I look back and compare Canada to Thailand, or perhaps any countries I visit, I see one obvious similarity that there will always be people that are enthusiastic enough to lend a hand. My purpose for this trip is not to only find myself, but mainly to bring life into the community as much I can, and I can’t wait to discover everything and to share! I also can’t wait to meet my team!! See you soon.
My name is Alexandra (Alex) Bernier and I am a second year Mathematics and a first year Education student at Bishop’s University. I was born and raised in the beautiful green state of Vermont in a French-speaking home. I chose Bishop’s for its small size, because it’s not too far from home and I have dual-citizenship. I enjoy playing volleyball, road biking, and playing the ukulele (even though I have not come close to mastering it yet). This summer, after the Praxis Malawi project, I will be returning to summer camp for the fifth year as a counselor. Camp has been a big part of my growth along with being a personal care aid to a young girl with disabilities during my last year of high school. I am enthusiastic, open-minded, and my friends tell me it is easy to approach me when they need to talk about things. I believe good communication is key for a healthy relationship and a healthy life style. Through my own struggles in life, I have found that inner-peace is really important to find clarity and to be happy. Ways I have found help me are by surrounding myself with people that challenge me and are respectful, being active, doing yoga, listening to music, reflecting, and meditating.
My Name is Kate Newhouse. I am a third year Elementary Education Major and Psychology Minor at Bishop’s University. I am from Oakville, Ontario, which is about 8 hours away from Bishop’s. I love to be involved here at Bishop’s and so from first year on I have joined many different clubs and I am now a Dance Club Coordinator, Competitive Dance Team Choreographer and Dancer, Fashion Show Choreographer and Dancer, A part of Big Buddies and a Stage Manager for plays in New Plays and TheatreActiv festivals, I am part of the BU Blog Project as well. I am organized and up for the challenges that this opportunity will surely present.
Howdy, My name is Marten. I was born in Ontario, but I’ve never lived there. I was raised on a trapline on the Alaska Hwy, near Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m not scared of bears, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable driving on a freeway. A pivotal point on my timeline was at age 5, when I was introduced to soccer. The next landmark was at age 9, when my siblings were born. Since then, my story has been a combination of the great outdoors, soccer, and trying my darndest to be a real role model for each person I meet, particularly the young ones. These days I’m a player/coach/team manager for the Bishop’s Men’s Soccer Club. Bishop’s is treating me well, but it is by no means a final destination for me. I’m really motivated to indulge in this project in Malawi. I know it’s going to be transformative. Hopefully we can contribute to something more long term as well.
My name is Victoria (Vicki) Miller and I am in my 3rd year at Bishop’s studying Elementary Education and minoring in French. I am originally from Holliston Massachusetts, which is about 45 minutes outside of Boston, so as expected I am a die-hard Bruins, Red Sox and Patriots fan. I spent my junior year of high school studying abroad and living with a family in the Alps of France and was able to travel a bit around Western Europe. It was amazing being immersed and learning so much about another culture and life-style. I speak fluent French and it is a huge part of the reason why I am here at Bishop’s and in the province of Quebec. In my free time I like to read, skate, listen to music and practice karate. I love working with kids and meeting new people. In fact, I am going back to a camp in Central Maine for my third summer after our Malawi trip. I am so excited to meet everyone and go on this amazing adventure together!
Hello everyone, my name is Jessica Fobert and I am a second year Education student at Bishop’s University. I spent two years studying in my hometown at St. Lawrence College in Cornwall, Ontario. I loved the feeling and opportunities that small schools provide, so I chose to come to Bishop’s University. I have a major in Social Studies (history and geography) with a minor in Psychology. If I could choose, I would continue to add more disciplines because I have a passion for learning. That is one reason why I want to teach is because my students will continuously be providing me with new knowledge and secondly, I am passionate about helping others out. My mother comes from El Salvador, a third world country, and she never got the opportunity to get an education. I want to provide learning experiences for those who do not get that chance. As a future educator, I plan to travel and teach, so that I can learn more about other cultures and how other groups of people live. I plan to share my experiences with my future students so that they can learn about and respect the diverse world we live in.
I am very proud to say that I have the privilege of returning to Malawi for a second year. My name is Ryan Moyer and I am attending Concordia University in Montreal to continue my studies in sociology at the graduate level. As last year’s trip was extremely motivating and transformative, I am very excited to return to Malawi and I am looking forward to building on past relationships in order to get things done.
It is really exciting to be returning the year that the new campus is going up, as it seems metaphoric of opportunities for new meaningful change to arise. I am enthusiastically beginning to work in the field with the concept of adult education/life-long learning. University was the most transformational experience of my life thus far, and I would really be honored if I could add any input towards making adult education accessible in Kasungu.