Malawi, Africa! The physical environment is so different; palm trees and mountains seem in direct contrast to what I had expected. For example, I thought there would be plains on the savannah. Some of the residents are small, others quite large and clearly belonging to wealthy families. Many places, including Annie’s Lodge where we are staying, have guarded entrance gates and brick walls surrounding the estate encircled with barbed wire. Many of the buildings are constructed with concrete or brick in the city, Blantyre.
The social environment is also quite dissimilar than what I anticipated. While the city has more than its share of poverty, the residents are rich with smiles and laughter. The thrumming activity within the community is a refreshing surprise. My own biases of an exhausted, exploited, incapable society were eradicated within moments of my arrival. The interactions I’ve experienced thus far have been with kind, thoughtful, considerate people, alive with passion and purpose. This country is beautiful; my life has already changed significantly, and the trip has barely begun!
Meeting the children at the Malawi Children’s Mission (MCM) is the truest blessing. Receiving their smiles, hugs, and laughter affected me far greater than I could have dreamed. Meeting women of the rural villages was an incredibly personal honor and privilege. As a single mother, I especially related to one of the issues a villager shared—wanting a source of income and pride to nourish independence.
Why does it matter that Africa was not how I expected? My individual mission within this group is to learn. Through experience and education, I have learned that “swooping in as the great white savior” or “the great white hope” does not sustain, nor does it necessarily succeed. With this in mind, working to educate individuals in my home country about the things I’m learning in Africa seems paramount. Through information sharing, I intend to enlighten the inner circle of people I know in regards to the massive exploitation of the continent and the inexcusable and inhumane treatment.
The next step, now that formal introductions are out of the way, is to harness the love, hugs, and joy of the children. I aim to bond with them, play with them, and help them identify what they value, hope and dream. I hope to connect with them deeply; enough so that they believe in themselves as much as I believe in each and every one of them. After some basic assessments, I look forward to taking them out to see what the city has to offer.
The combination of debunking myths associated with Africa in America, and the creation and maintenance of social bonds and networks with the community members of Malawi and the MCM officials—and most especially the MCM children—are my immediate goals. I intend to share with as many people as I can how wonderful the program is and encourage educational sponsorship for MCM’s youth.