This Time for Malawi

These past two weeks I was in Lilongwe, Malawi for a training on Stepping Stones with Children hosted by Salamander Trust and the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi (COWLHA). Stepping Stones with Children is a transformative behavior change curriculum for children, ages 5-8 and 9-14, affected by or infected with HIV and AIDS and their caregivers. It was a long and intense training, where we were pushed to work hard, but I learned so much about facilitation, training, and working with children on sexual and reproductive health.

Outside of long training days I had the opportunity to reconnect with some amazing friends, including GHC Fellows in Malawi and a fellow Tar Heel! It was so interesting, because after spending a few days with my Tar Heel friend she traveled to Zambia to meet her family for adventures in Livingstone. Upon arriving in Lusaka, she sent me her thoughts on Lusaka vs. Lilongwe and the comparisons between Zambia and Malawi.

I felt like I was seeing Zambia through new eyes. Just before I left for Malawi I was in a frustrated mindset. I could not understand how anyone could be productive in Zambia, writing off all processes as slow and inefficient. This was after spending an entire work day in drawn out meetings, not being able to find a printer with color ink, waiting hours for printed materials after finding a printer, and going to 3 different Wi-Fi zones only to find none of them worked. I was missing America with its paved roads, high-speed internet, and developed luxuries. I felt like a brat, but it was just one of those days.

My friend reflected on how big and developed Lusaka was. Before her reflections, I always naively assumed that Malawi and Zambia were super similar because of their geographic proximity and because languages, food, and culture were so similar between the two countries. Because the training was so intensive, I also didn’t have the chance to explore Lilongwe and decide for myself. But after talking with some of the GHC fellows in Lilongwe, I learned that they felt the same way. They said even the roads in Zambia were better, and that is one thing I never expected.

Even though my perspective is mainly influenced by my time in Kitwe, which is a little less developed than Lusaka, I felt humbled to see Zambia in a new way. I also began to feel much more appreciative of the luxuries I had in Zambia. It was a great wakeup call!

I even learned more about other Southern African countries, as participants were from Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. We also had trainers from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and the UK. All in all, it was a great trip filled with lots of lessons and warm cuddles and snuggles with my favorite people from the Warm Heart of Africa.

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