Tag Archives: Karen

The Malawian Sun

By Karen Jeffery (Trinity)

The Malawian SunEveryday at 14:30 Malawian time, the Community Centre on our Campus is full of lively children eager to learn. The Education students are putting together an excellent curriculum for the Praxis Malawi Charter School and the After-school program is a chance for them to give it a trial run. Today, for the first time, three children with intellectual disabilities were included.

My friend and I had previously met with the children’s mothers and they agreed unanimously that Education was the biggest concern they had for each of their children. Some of the children had begun in local schools, but failed to stay there long due to bullying and exclusion. The children’s response to their new classmates today was natural and as expected. There was a level of discomfort, a quiet giggle, and curiosity; all feelings that can be altered by promoting inclusion, exposure and education about disability. These together lead to a richer society where all are valued and everyone is given the same chances.

In the class today, the children learned about their national flag and the meaning of their national anthem. The Malawian sun shone through the windows and the children stood together, all with different abilities, all with their hands over their heart singing the beautiful melody of the Malawian anthem. The anthem is a prayer to God, and I hope a glimpse of the future here;

Join together all our hearts as one that should be free from fear.

Bliss?

By Karen Jeffery (Trinity)

Our hostel

Our hostel

Accompanied by plenty of stares we departed the airport at Lilongwe. After our journey was much longer than we expected we were relieved to be on the final stretch of our journey, a 90-minute car journey to our home for the next five weeks. I couldn’t hide my fascination as I observed everything along the roadside. Everything was unfamiliar, but exciting and full of character. I smiled at the goats and the pigs roaming freely, the children helping their parents sell fruit at the side of the road, the people saluting our car full of white people and the bikes traveling from one village to the next – most loaded with two passengers. The names of the shops amused me most and almost all were in English; “Up Up Jesus” was a personal favourite.

Since arrival I have congratulated the contractor numerous times for our impressive hostel. It is far more than I expected, almost reminding me of a Mediterranean villa. At the same time, I’m acutely aware that this is far from the living conditions that our co-learners and workers return home to.

In the same way that there are five stages of grief, there are five stages of culture shock. The outlined phases are the honeymoon stage, the disintegration stage, the reintegration stage, the autonomy stage, and the interdependence stage (Stonebanks, 2013). Culture shock is something we’ve all been reading about and preparing ourselves for. I think experiencing culture shock is a crucial part of this project, a part that will allow me to become more realistic about health actions that can be taken by the locals, whom I have already become fond of.

Even after one day here I am questioning how I can experience the full depth of this culture shock when I am sleeping in a bed more comfortable than what I have at home. I’ve already been served three meals with chips amongst other western foods, we have electricity when we need it and the toilets and showers are much more glamorous than what I had been trying to prepare myself for. This state of bliss is not how Malawian people live. Honeymoon bliss this may be, but with such feelings of confusion, guilt and frustration with the unfairness of it all, could I be experiencing parts of the disintegration stage even after one day of being here?

This project aims to be a collaboration of people. A collaboration of different cultures, different skin colours, but all equal and all people. I can’t help but question how we can achieve this when so far all we’ve been provided with is stereotypical to the image of the superior western white person which is an idea we’ve come to try and break down.

Introducing the 2015 Group: Trinity College

Karen Jeffrey

Karen Jeffrey

I’m Karen – one of the few Irish students from Trinity College travelling to Malawi this year! I’m a third year Children’s and General Nursing student and I’m enjoying every aspect of college life! I’m from the medieval city of Kilkenny and I try to get home occasionally to visit; but the buzz of Dublin city is addictive and that’s usually where you’ll find me.

Nursing is a wonderful vocation and it’s such a privilege to care for people when they are at their most vulnerable. I love nursing, but even more than that I love people and their uniqueness, flaws and stories. The conversations patients allow me to engage in is definitely the highlight of my training. Putting others before myself and making them feel loved/appreciated is something I strive to do, on my days off just as much as the time I spend in the hospital. I know I will struggle to withhold myself from directly helping the community in Malawi. I must keep reminding myself of the mission of our trip; rather than providing help through utilising OUR skills, we can help people more through empowerment and pushing them to see their own ability. A supportive collaboration which leads to an independence is possibly the best definition of “selflessness.”

I know this Summer is going to be incredible! The Summer is usually my busiest time of the year as I fill it up by volunteering at kids camps. I’m a leader at different activity camps for children and teenagers that are connected with my church, and I volunteer at respite camps for disabled teenagers. Many similar events run weekly in my church and helping out with all that goes on is something I love to do and I happily allow to take up a good chunk of my free time! Working in Africa is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time; I’ll soon have an actual adult university degree and will be forced to find a job, so this big adventure is a now or never kinda thing. I’m excited to explore and learn more about the world and myself, I hope to get stuck into every aspect of the culture, make plenty of memories and hopefully take a few quality Instagrams.

 

 

Katie Schouten

Katie Schouten

Hi I’m Katie Schouten, I’m a second year intellectually disability nurse in Trinity and I’m 20. I would describe myself as a fun person and aim to look on the bright side of things. I’m enthusiastic and can see the positive in nearly everything. I am good at listening and have a great caring ability as part of my nursing training. I have no previous experience in volunteering but I’m out-going and am looking forward to having a brand new experience in Malawi.