Returning home

Written by Amelia Birch

Well, 10 days in Malawi has come and gone, in no time at all. I write from the plane between Nairobi and Amsterdam, as I listen to music, unable to sleep, and reflect on our trip. Of course, anytime in returning home, there are many mixed emotions and thoughts: what went right? What was disappointing? I’m excited to see my family, friends and loved ones! I’m sad for leaving my friends and contacts in Malawi! Did we accomplish what we aimed to do? Or, are we leaving with little effect?

I can say “yes!” To all of that… Every single one of those things are true. 10 days is a very little time, to experience such a influx of thoughts, emotions, and times of learning.

These are the facts:
– we spent 1/3 of the trip travelling, 1/3 meeting with organizations and learning, and 1/3 of the trip relaxing/doing tourist activities.
– we had our most negative experience with a white European, not with any Malawians.
– most likely, the most disappointing aspect is that we were unable to actually set foot in the village that WHEAMS, our partner, has established their programs.
– in total, we met/visited with one American run and Malawian staffed orphanage program, one Malawian run, Malawian staffed, multidisciplinary program for children and youth, nurses at Kamuzu college of nursing in both Lilongwe and Blantyre, one man who is Canadian by citizenship, (but has only ever lived in Kenya and Malawi) to be mentored in partnership initiatives, one American run short term Christian mission training program, and visited/toured the primary psychiatric hospital in Malawi.
– we spent countless hours building relationship with and learning from Rodrick Banda, the founder and director of WHEAMS (our Malawian partner).
– we learnt and were challenged.
– we provided financial, human, and intellectual resources for WHEAMS to take a step forward in their growth.
– we learnt about the difficulties that WHEAMS has experienced in maintaining projects in Thukuta village.
– we did not get sick with any Malawian infectious disease, nor for we experience any unsafe or uncomfortable conditions. No one cried, ever.
– we uncontrollably laughed a number of times.
– we updated our “about us” page on the website, and reviewed current projects.
– we leave Malawi committed to maintaining partnership and to returning again in the future.
– we left books, IT supplies, clothing, and other small tokens with Rodrick to use as he sees fit.

This trip was a realistic view of what is currently happening in Malawi, with WHI/ICC’s primary partner, WHEAMS. Of course, there are many ups and downs of the trip. The aim is not to be tied into the “emotional” side, but rather to take an objective look at our time there, in the days, weeks and months to come. The main question is how does this trip contribute to the growth and development of small community based organizations in Malawi? How does this trip lay a foundation to the work that WHI/ICC is currently doing in Canada?

I leave Malawi with optimism and renewal in my heart.

It seems to be that a theme that we frequently experienced in conversation was the need for patience, persistence, and on going dedication. The need that when things are tough, or when grassroots organizations take “longer than planned” to achieve goals, that the western partner does not “give up and go home.” Creating change is neither quick nor easy. Influencing, mentoring, and obtaining knowledge does not happen over night; is that obvious? I think so… But sometimes it is very easy to forget!

For me, the main this is that this trip re-confirmed the thoughts that I have about that nation. That it is indeed a place that had strengths and bright aspects that can be built upon. That Malawi has citizens that are welcoming, committed and interested in the growth of their own country. And that I am happy to be committed to those citizens.

So, I ask you: how can you also be impacted by this trip, even if you were not there? What do you want to learn, and experience from WHI/ICC?

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