Seeing Malawi through a first time Visitor

Since we have not had much times where we have had reliable internet connection, we have not had much opportunity to upload recent blogs.  Today, we post a reflection from Jacinthe Dion, an 18 year old student from the Eastern Townships (Chambly) in Quebec.  It is her first time visiting Sub-Sahara Africa, and she is on this trip to observe, learn, take notes for us, and negotiate how to contribute to WHI/ICC in the future.  This reflection is from after our third day in Malawi.

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Earlier in the week, we went to visit an orphanage called “Rainbow’s Community”. To reach this community, we had to drive through the countryside of Malawi, out of Lilongwe, the capital city where we had mostly been since arrival. Truly, when you step out of the large cities, is when you really see what Malawi is all about.

In the big city, I witnessed a different culture with different ways of life and customs. I saw mothers carrying babies on their backs held by fabric, women carrying fruits, beans, rice branches of wood; basically anything they carried was on their head. I saw in the city street beggers but I didn’t make much notice of them as there are also a lot of them in Montreal. I smelled charcoal of the nearby fires and it was in the city that I ate my first Malawian meal: Chambo (type of fish), with chips.  On the other hand, the suburban areas of a city reflect the daily lives of the majority of the civilians. This life in Malawi is very different than the suburban life of Montreal.  Although I did have an idea of what that lifestyle was, to see it is something totally different:  Small homes that are breaking apart, no electricity, no washroom, no playgrounds, no toys. Barely any clothes, barely anything really.

What I expected to see in association with this poverty were sad faces on children and discouraged expression on their parents’ faces.  Although I have not yet been in a village, this reflects what I have seen from outside and and with the children walking to their village, I have been surprised to see the opposite.  Children have smiles widespread on their faces, caring about their younger siblings and showing them the way, mothers are hardworking doing laundry, drying clothes or cleaning and taking care of their little homes. Regardless of the hardships of their daily lives, Malawians find things to be about and still find the motivation to take care of what they do have.

Afterwards, I reflected on what I have and imagined myself to have nothing of it. Would I have that same glow I see here in the children? Would I be as dedicated to working hard like those women? Honestly… probably not. I would be so tempted to just fold my arms and give up. So why don’t they? Help is always said to be given to those deserving of it and here, in Malawi, I could not meet more deserving people.

I want to bring them my help more than ever before but now that I am here, it seems harder than ever. What do they really need? Is my being here really helpful? Malawians are bringing so much to me, and it is now that I am questioning: am I really bringing them anything? How is my presence her making a difference?

The most disappointing thing for me would be to go back home and realise: whether I am there or not, has it made any difference?

I am not on the board of WHEAMS, nor am I on the board of WHI. Yes, I am travelling with two board members of WHI who are here to continue their charity’s mission and progress.  Am I an addition to their team or just a weight?  Do they see value in me being here?

I want my presence here to be useful. This trip has already brought me so much that it has already been worthwhile for me to be here. Now, the focus for the remainder of the trip will be on what I can give and how can make my presence worthwhile for everyone else.Image

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