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Beyond The Classroom – Global Opportunities – Malawi

MALAWI 2016

When we were asked to write a piece about our time in Malawi, the 2016 team felt this would be both a simple, yet a very challenging task. Simple, because any opportunity to speak about our time in Malawi is more than gladly taken advantage of; yet challenging, because no amount of words can ever do justice to the inspirational people of Malawi that we met, or the life-changing experience in which we were so lucky to have taken part.

On 28th June 2016, our team left BRA bound for Malawi, via Dublin and Ethiopia. We were both excited and nervous for the next two weeks, where we would be put out of our comfort zones and where we would grow into a very tight-knit team. The team was divided into smaller groups: those who would be spending time in the school, both teaching and learning from the inspirational children in Mulanje Mission Primary and Secondary schools; those who would be working with and learning from the doctors and nurses of the mission hospital and those who would be gaining an insight into the world of business inside the factories in Malawi.

In each area of work experience, the team felt that there was one common characteristic, the drastic contrast between everyday life and work in Malawi and everyday life at home. One example of this was noticed by every member of the team during our tour of the mission station on day one, where we were very warmly welcomed with songs and high-fives by thousands of excited children. It was only later that we learned that these small children would walk for up to forty-five minutes every morning along dirt roads simply to get to school. They followed us, held our hands around the vast area of the mission station all day, far away from their homes and families. We had never seen anything like this before and I don’t think we’ll ever forget that.

Each member of the team was lucky enough to have the incredible opportunity to teach in the schools in Mulanje Mission at least once. We taught a variety of subjects to range of different age groups, each lesson rewarding in its own way. One aspect of the teaching which struck the whole team, however, was the enthusiasm to learn and the respect which we received from every child, despite the bareness of their classroom and devastating lack of school supplies. The amazing children were also very eager to tell us of their dreams and ambitions for the future, of becoming pilots, teachers and nurses. The team found this difficult to hear, as at the end of the day, we knew that most of them would not be able to afford the small fees to go to university. The Malawian teachers were also so welcoming and grateful to have us in their classroom; yet we soon realised that we were the ones that should be immensely grateful to them.

The work experience inside the hospital was equally as eye-opening and rewarding. Our team members working with both the dentists and the doctors were struck by the lack of much-needed, sterile medical equipment and found it hard to watch patients who needed treatment and antibiotics walk away with nothing, simply because they could not afford it. This drastic contrast is something that would never be seen at home, and something that will stay with the team. However, even despite this, the patients and people of Malawi continued to smile and welcome our future doctors and dentists, which ultimately made our experience so rewarding and inspiring.

The business group was also very interested and inspired by what they saw over the two weeks. What they loved most about the business was the variety it offered. No day was the same. One day they were helping to pick bad beans out of a wicker basket in a porridge factory and the next they were standing on the border with Mozambique, learning about the different economy and culture there. They were also given a tour of a new, modern hotel and learned about the difficulties of running it in the midst of devastating poverty. They were also the only group to avail of the bike taxis, witness working conditions and try interesting Mozambican cuisine. Overall, it was a very well-rounded and beneficial set of trips.

The house-build was another hugely rewarding experience. Not many seventeen year olds can say that they helped build a house within ten days after all! The house was built for a woman named Irene, her four children and her grandchild. The house in which she originally lived was made of mud, with a straw roof and wasn’t big enough for a family of six to stand in, let alone sleep in. After a week of stacking bricks and piling mud on top, the team were able to hand over the new brick house to Irene and her family, her only words being, “God has answered my prayers, for now I have a house.” The team are still filled with an immense sense of pride when we think about the house build. In just ten short days, we had changed a family’s life for the better.

The final weekend of our Malawi experience was spent enjoying sunrises, sunsets and safaris at Mvuu Camp. We were taken out on boat and night safaris, where we saw wild animal including crocodiles, hippos and elephants in their beautiful, natural surroundings. These idyllic, natural scenes were however a stark contrast to the immense poverty which surrounded us on the way to the Camp. The safari weekend was a perfect way to end such an incredible trip.

Our two short weeks in Malawi were an unforgettable and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This life-changing opportunity to teach and work with such inspiring and welcoming people is one that will stay with us forever and one that ensured a completely different team landed back in Dublin on the 13th of July than the team that set off in June. The whole team would like to thank the amazing staff, Mrs Morrison, Dr Springer, Miss Kyle, Mr Forde, Mrs Cummings, Mr Warwick, Ken Knox, Sarah McGrath and our fabulous medic Moyna Bill for everything they did for us over the two weeks, for giving us the opportunity to be part of such an incredible team and for allowing us to have an experience that will truly never be forgotten.

The Malawi Team 2016