So, Having nearly finished my final blog update, a friend of mine here accidentally took away my nearly finished draft (along with the photos) to Mozambique with her on her memory stick. She won’t be returning till Tuesday, so I will bore you with my Thesis then. Until then, I will force a wrath of poorly articulated prose upon yourselves for some re-assurance regarding my little African venture….
Rusty bike with the pedals falling off, soft tyres and a saddle that can only support itself, no suspension – just the forgiving soft sand of the disjointed tracks that lead you to where you want to go; in that second of that hour of that day, under the hazy sun in the heart of rural Malawi in Africa.
I am living with wonderful people, people living Malawian.
Living Malawian is living now, feeling the warmth of the sun, searching the words of a friend, feeling the hunger of your belly, working from dusk till dawn for the 30pence to spend on what seems best that day, and praying to god to give thanks for it all.
“Joshua! Joshua!” – My name is not Josh I am told, I am Joshua Like in the Bible. “Joshua! How are you?” Every child calls out running from random bushes I pass, all dressed in the clothes they have found and worn till the last thread falls, Boys in girls frocks, Girls in Boys tee’s.. It doesn’t matter here.
Crickets mask the silence that this place boasts; through day and night. Night where the sky drowns everything in a tint of blue light from the expanse of stars that span the sky, concentrated in a cloud – the Milky Way that stretches from opposite Horizons.
I am teaching in a school, a kind lady’s house she has donated for education, built by herself alone from the bricks sourced from the dusty clay outside. No electricity, no kitchen, one chair, one door – three doorways, no cooker – just a fire, no bed – just mat made from bamboo.
Dozens of eager smiles all focused on my every word… all ready to listen, ready to play, ready to learn. Mischievous, undisciplined, slightly selfish (You would be too with what they have) but wonderful and innocent children. Amused for hours by as little as a leaf on a stick to act like a form of impeller, or an old tyre rolled by a stick. English, maths, geography – The children love geography; the enlightening nature of knowing ones location, when before you only knew what village you live in and that sometimes a white man (mzungu) might come to visit.
My guitar draws crowds.. I’m not even a campfire guitarist (I dont have a big repertoire) Even so ‘The lions sleep tonight’ (that is easy for a malawian child to grasp) can entertain indefinitely and over a matter of minutes gather a crowd of near a hundred people of mixed ages all dancing and singing.
People are alive here, they don’t know about fashion, they don’t know about Facebook, they don’t know about the latest scandal by what ever celebrity. They don’t know about the tyrannic nature of corporations around the world that help perpetuate their living conditions and influence their endeavors and potential demise. These people don’t care, but as they learn more about the ‘West’ they want to know more, and they want more of that ‘more’, they want to advance, which I can only assume is natural and inherent in Mankind. We can try and help, but we can also implement; these people are/were self sufficient, but making life’s priorities about commodities that one can not afford can be potentially damaging to the sacred and fragile way of life here in Malawi. It is something I have learnt here; I am ambivalent.. I want to help, but to help these people I think is to help them help themselves. It is very hard to do it in the right way, and to not go with my initial assumption about what things are done ‘wrong or right here’. One thing is for certain, these people need money, they have gone beyond a point of living without it. So they need it to build their lives in the most productive way possible. I intend to raise this – whatever it takes, people in Malawi, people in Africa need Aid.
So far I have designed an outdoor oven that can be constructed for as little as £5.
I Have been teaching in a school called Hayo School.
I Have been contructing a Website for the organisation which is currently unfinished and will be completed upon my return.
I created a notice board for the community that is based near the main dirt road. Here announcements best reach the community.
I have been painting Murals on the schools which make them more appealing.
I have been painting the organisations logo on various buildings aswell as other artwork, and getting involved with whatever I can.
Everyone here is doing so much, everyone helps, everyone is buying, talking, teaching, fixing, building, cooking, and helping. Its a team effort.
Since I have arrived Tikondwe has starting building a local orphanage, an education centre, a new volunteer residence. It has hired a new Malawian Headteacher for all seven schools, it has a woman empowerment group to improve sexual equality, it has an HIV awareness program, it has a business education program, it takes the sick to hospital, it serves the community with whatever aid it can given the funds it has.
That is why it needs your help, it needs you to volunteer, it needs you to donate, it needs to grow, to reach more of Malawi.
It is as little at £150 to build a homeless person a house, or £1 to feed a child a month.
This organisation was started by Joshua Mbozole, a family man, a very clever, and very kind Malawian. Its base is here, in the rural village of Napwanga.
Soon it will have a registered associated charity in the UK. It will be possible to donate straight into its Malawian bank account. SOON.. I will have pictures, more information and eventually a website all about it. So if you don’t trust me to donate now (through my donations page – the paypal button, that I will be able to give in cash before I leave) then please consider when the website is set up. I will have the full blog posted soon…along with photos.
Thankyou – “Zikomo” for reading.
I am sorry for my expressive anger in this post.. But I have finally given up trying to update the blog for today, otherwise I might put my fist through this computer screen. Four hours of trying to update one post and repeatadely losing the same thing again and again is a definately a good test of patience.
SO…I’m hoping this will get up there on to this forsaken blog! Unfortunately this post should be the most poignant one on my blog. Carrying the main objective of having a blog in the first place for my trip to Malawi; that being to show the people who contrubuted donations where it was going to. It is shame that i thas been so hard for me to post this artcile, or the article it was, as I had some good descriptions of the oprhans that were donated to, and the experiences we had distrubuting the material. However, I intend to persevere, and will include such information when the technology here permits me to.
So yesterday, after much anticipation and four weeks of organising. Kat and I, along with the help of some of the other volunteers had managed to sort through the donations you gave to us to bring over for those who need it. Deciding to whom it should be given and where they were located in Domasi. Domasi is a large region in Malawi that contains many villages in which these people are located – it spans over many square miles.
So yesterday, Kat, Myself, wyson and peter (local volunteers) dispatched on some bicycles to distrubute this material around Domasi. It was a very exhausting experience, and sometimes very upsetting, some of the people here literally have nothing. We gave out the things to those of all ages, male and female. They were very appreciative, so thankyou very much for your contributions.
I had linked all the images of the people donated to (holding what they had received) But as you know already, I lost this post many times. So to view the images, you can just go to the Gallery page, and look at the most recently added images (the last pages) To see the hands in which your contributions fell. Thanks again!
Train journeys are often something taken for granted in the western world… the convenience, the direct routes, the ability to go pretty much anywhere you want. In contrast to travel in Malawi it seems they lack character, danger and even less personal space…
Travelling from Reading to Lewes was, to say the least, an interesting experience. The hustle and bustle, the fast moving trains, all co-coordinated so precisely in order to move the a great abundance of human cattle. Everyone with their own direction, motive and ambition. The transition from being such an avid participant to what I felt to be an enemy of the crowd was not an easy challenge. People do not take kindly when having to dodge a scruffy looking guy with four massive bags that he can barely carry on their way to work!
I thought patience would be the answer, I thought that waiting to get my bags off the train at the end of the journey woud deem a more admirable gesture. But it seems that this attempt would just mean that the train conductors would have to resort to throwing my bags onto the platform for me. Kind intentions, just a job and late train!
For me, this experience has proven to be very important towards my initial interpretation of Malawi.
The heckling, the complete abandonment of safety, the hundreds of eyes on the dollar sign floating above your head and the many other extreme twists on culture, safety and hygiene that I never would have expected all seem so trivial when the warmth of the Malawian people is taken into account.
The plane journey to Addis Baba involved a great deal of trust in the airline (Ethiopian Airlines: which I note are very hospitable) after seeing the sorry state of the chassis on plane entry. I could have sworn I saw duct tape, but then duct tape does hold my van together pretty well.
The journey was very long, seven hours. It seemed so much longer when presented with Jack Black’s latest attempt at acting in a bird watching movie. Both Kat and I were so tired, fazing in and out of lucid sleep the whole way. At one point woken by what I thought as the most impressive in-flight meal I have ever had, though apparently my standards for plane food are not that high.
The seatbelt light finally came on, we were landing! But I only became aware of touchdown as the impact woke me from my final sleep as I shrieked and grabbed the arm-rests. Grabbing attention from the whole plane. I guess this experience would put a whole new twist on falling dreams.
Addis Baba airport expressed an instant difference to any other airport I had been to. Not only was it quiet, but it hosted the most exquisite and eclectic shops that you would only usually expect down a side street in London somewhere. After three hours of lying down for the first time in what was probably over a day we then got on the plane to Lilongwe, only three hours… It passed quickly.
Lilongwe airport was buzzing with motions from diplomats, police, travelers and tourists. A mix of people all crammed into the smallest arrivals area I’ve seen. After writing down my travelling intentions on a piece of paper, we then had to wait for our bags to come through on a decrepit conveyor belt that seems pointless as it is only a small distance from the plane. I believe it is only there for Lilongwe airport to compare to other international airports… I think they should allow people to retrieve their bags straight from the hold, as this would only add to the charisma that Lilongwe airport possesses.
If you do ever fly to Lilongwe please be prepared to wait for a long time for your bags to come, i thought one of mine had gone forever… The one with all my personal belongings. At the time my mind was running through all the possible solutions, one being how I might fit into age nine clothes from the donations bag I had already retrieved. Having two 23kg bags for hold allowance is great benefit, especially for the Thikondwe organization. But it can be a mental burden until at least one of them gets to their final destination.
Funnily enough, they do actually check through everyone’s baggage after you have retrieved it (I can only guess this might be incase the bag has been planted with something along the way) But if you state what you are doing to the people checking, they let you through pretty quickly.
The poor taxi driver must have been waiting at least two hours since our original arrival. We left at 9.00pm from Heathrow on the Monday and arrived in Lilongwe at 12.25pm Malawian time. We didn’t meet our taxi driver until around 2.30pm. So expect this if you are ever to land in Lilongwe.
The taxi driver was very friendly, and was to be our initial guide to Malawi. After cramming all of our baggage (probably about 120kg in total) into the back seats of a banged up Toyota saloon, not facilitating the empty boot whatsoever, and after I struggled to refrain from giving into any of the tipping requests off the numerous men who kept trying to scale my bags..I mean ‘help’ with my bags; we finally set off on what was probably one of the most nail-biting journeys I’ve ever had!
After his kind introduction and unveiling of a very British music taste (lil’ Wayne, Craig David, M&M) The taxi driver took us into Lilongwe (the Capital, but not oldest city of Malawi) To a shopping precinct to get our food and our money exchanged. The money Exchanging in Malawi deserves a whole article written about it in itself, foreign money is often changed by an ‘independant foriegn exchange bureau’ you might call it; often involving sitting in a car with a gentleman who will discreetly pass you a chunk of cash – so large in size, in exchange for your very valuable British pounds. This kind of transaction is not unusual in Malawi and at first may seem very conspicuous. You just have to remind yourself that you are in Africa, and that if you want to get any kind of decent and realistic rate this is normal practice – In the current political situation here anyway.
Politics are at a penultimate stage here in Malawi as you might already know, many things are changing and a lot is happening. The exchange rate is something that will hopefully soon be truly reflected by all of the legitimate organizations. Free trading and alternative markets are crucial to the lives of the Malawian people. Without these trading methods, people would not have any way of affording to buy or sell.
“BOILED EGGS, FIFTY KWACHA!”
The style of trading in Malawi is present in all areas of consumerism, transport, and tourism… It’s not really possible to be an introvert in Malawi. People are very personal and will approach you with confidence. In some situations you may find yourself swamped by many traders trying to get you to buy their products or services (sometimes with accompanying beggars!) This may seem overwhelming at first, but is really a normality here and inevitable if your are a ‘Westerner’. Most people assume you have lots of money.
However, it is not necessarily a negative aspect of Malawi. From my observation, it appears that people here are very warm and sincere in some respects. Although not always honest, you can be assured you will always be treated fairly if you know the price. You can barter and people will negotiate; often laughing and joking as they go. This country has an un-systemized, organic and very humanistic attitude towards business, commerce and life in general. This of course can be chaotic and inconvenient. Sometimes people can be aggressive towards other traders, but generally it’s all very trivial. I have not seen many incitation’s or acts of violence whilst I have been here apart from a few domestic incidents in the village.
The famine however, is very apparent – especially in Lilongwe. What I saw after leaving the shopping precinct evoked many emotions in me. On one road I had to look away… I’m not going to describe what I saw, as most already know about the terrible living conditions some people in the world endure. But I can tell you that these places existed with a severe lack of hygiene, nutrition and general resources. The smell was terrible. However, fortunately I have not experienced anything that bad since I have left Lilongwe and have been told that is known for being that way. Lilowenge holds title as the Capital of Malawi, but not the oldest city. It was built with trading motives, and has adapted various western attributes; some of which have no doubt had a negative effect on poorer classes in the area. Blantyre (the oldest city in Malawi) Where I am at time of uploading this post appears to be much more civilized, affluent and cleaner.
So if you do visit Malawi, or want to Volunteer, please do not be put off by Lilongwe if you land there. Malawi is a VERY beautiful country with beautiful people.
ROADS – please wear you seatbelt
If you like adrenaline, then you will like being on the road in Malawi. The buses, Matola’s (pickup trucks containing as many animals and people that can be squashed into and onto), and taxi’s all drive at ridiculous speeds, barely missing pedestrians and ‘Jingers’ (People on bicycles; often carrying other people or luggage) along their way. This is very hair-raising. However after while of being here I have now realised that this is a normality, drivers and Jingers alike seem to maneuver each other like ambulances do traffic in the UK. Most of the time not showing any cause for concern or loss of control (there are occasions).
The Taxi took us a very long way. On the M3, a road that spans most of Malawi, crawling its way through one of the most luscious, green and interesting environments I have ever seen. Planes that escaped the limits of human vision, mountains that broke the clouds, rivers and lakes that shone like needles on the green infinity that sung its presence underneath the Cliché looking African sun falling slowly behind the ever so hazy, pulsating horizon.
After many stops to trade with locals and go through police barriers, the driver got us to the Village of Domasi. The road to Domasi was very bumpy and barely a track, it ripped off the taxi driver’s exhaust (which he shrugged at). It shook us up a bit, but if anything was beneficial in waking us up to be ready for the welcoming we were about to receive.
Not having any idea where I was, in the middle of the African bush the car came to a halt. Still half sleepy, the door opened, I was surrounded by 20, 30 people of all ages. Eyes and smiles gleaming in the dim light that shone from nearby residence.
“Welcome to Malawi! Welcome to Malawi! Welcome…. to Malawi” They sung.
It was possibly the warmest of welcome’s I have ever received.
We got shown to our room, kicked away the cockroaches, and set up our mosquito nets. We briefly said hello to everyone and quickly got to indulge in a video of the project organizers wedding, being shown on an old cathode television run off a car battery. Being absolutely exhausted from our journey, both Kat and I went to bed pretty early. Not really allowing much socialising. The days after and up until now have been very for filling, and a lot has happened. I have alot to copy from my journal to the blog, but my hands are tired along with everything else. So I will take advantage of the technology in this town whilst I am here and complete my updates tomorrow.
And that storm hopefully being the most epic adventure…
I never ecompassed how much would be involved in getting everything ready for this trip. I have spent just over three weeks gathering resources, donations and purchasing supplies. Seemingly much more preperation than needed for my hitchiking trip across Canada a few years back!
For my last night in cardiff, to what was meant to be a quick farewell to some friends turned into a near nightmare. A brief stop at Buffalo involved my initial goodbyes followed by hours through the night searching for my car keys; eventually leading me to the conclusion that I had locked them in the boot!…45 minutes later, in 3 minutes flat with a long rod and door pump, me and the recovery mechanic quickly found out they were not in there.
So after another few hours amongst phseudo-zombie like customers; some very considerate and some completely arrogant…scraping around on the floor, gathering help of fellow Buffalo bretherins… I had no luck. So I used the bed sheet to cover me in the chill of the night in the little Ford Ka, and attempted to sleep.
Literally seconds after the initial dissapointment of realising my short slept dream of finding my car keys appeared untrue (mostly due to tha fact that I didn’t lose them in the car with me, and in the dream – thats where I found them) I heard running footsteps coming over to my car. They had found them! Heather’s face beaming with Joy! I could not of been more relieved!
Thankyou for finding my keys Guys (Will G especially) it turns out that on my intended quick drop in visit to Buffalo I had walked back to the bar with my keys to say Goodbye. Dropped the keys in a box used to switch the glasses from glass to plastic at that particular time of night!…
This box gets taken down to the cellar… and BEWSH.. I’ve lost my keys. Forces beyond work in mysterious ways, I guess I was meant to be there all night.
Now on to the frantic last moments before I leave, trying to ensure I have everything with me that I will need to stay alive in the land of Africa. Can’t wait to get on that plane, to ride the storm!…
A very spontaneous decision….
I’m Josh..and I’m going to Africa on the 16th April, to volunteer my services…Hopefully I can help a little and not end up being the one in need of aid!
Echoes of melodramatic tension created by the ones we trust, blurted out through the ever so rapidly developing technology we indulge in day by day. Anger and war, sadness and struggles alongside the sublime nature of the western world’s blasé attitude towards what we call life. So frivolous in consuming our planet around us through an economically bias system, yet completely aware of how ultimately UN-resourceful and inevitably UN-sustainable this practice has to be. I am to be one of these poor souls trapped in such a temporary phase of our existence, though probably much more fortunate than many of those who have been, who are or who will be. Those who suffer the most.
Change of these cruel burdens that fall on such lives will be through many forms of action. Freedom, justice and well-being will be achieved; whether it be physically, economically or spiritually. I have realised what it takes to acknowledge these needs, and it is not easy. It is overwhelming, our lives are hard enough without having to worry about anyone else. However, my life is flexible, I don’t have the same commitments and duties as others… and I have gained a better understanding of our world over the years. So here is the time for me to attempt to make a dent…or a scratch at least!
Maybe you’ve thought about it doing it before – I have many times, but never followed through. This site might give you some good insight into the life of a volunteer, then you can come out and join me!
Next stop…Domasi, Malawi..AFRICAAA
About the Volunteer program and its background (The Volunteer organisation’s website – www.originalvolunteers.co.uk):
Tikondwe operates from Domasi Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba. The organisational goal is to promote the welfare and empowerment of its various members. Tikondwe has taken on a number of initiatives whose central aim has been to initiate growth and self-dependence among its local communities. We work to teach the men and women in the rural areas to collectively manage their resources and govern their groups, and help build confidence in our youths. We are deeply committed to improving the lives of poor children and orphans through basic education.
Education is central to all and especially to youths in the fight against poverty. However, their access to education in Domasi is low. This is because of several reasons. Among the reasons is poverty itself. The poverty level in Domasi is at an extremely high level. Children are not allowed to attend school in some cases because parents want/need their children to be engaged in household routines and farming duties that generate income for the family.
Tikondwe has offered its services to hundreds of youths across Zomba. Due to the help and support of foreign volunteers our class sizes have more than doubled since the starting of the schools. Through education Tikondwe is pursuing a mission to ensure that youths are tapped on various economic empowering activities that enable them to be independent and in the future become as asset to Malawi.
We choose to focus particularly on children, because we know that youth’s empowerment is an essential resource for social change and a prerequisite in the broader fight against global poverty.
Joshua Mbozole, the founder of Tikondwe Youth Organisation, a fifth born son to a family of seven. He grew up in a rural village in Domasi Malawi. Living with his large family in basic housing conditions, those being without electricity or indoor plumbing, as is the case in most Malawian villages. Although he was poor he made the choice to pursue education in hopes of having a better life for himself and his family.
He completed his primary education at Domasi Government Primary School to standard eight (grade 8). He was selected to Nsondole Day Secondary School, however unfortunately he couldn’t manage to attend due to lack of funds to pay for the school fees. Joshua instead went to live with his older sister in Kasungu, a district in the central Malawi. He moved so he could attend Secondary School with the funding support from his sister. The money raised from the sale of some of her household items was just enough to take Joshua to form two (second year of high school) and obtain a Junior Certificate of Education. After this certification he then faced another financial hurdle for the coming year of school. Unable to find the funds again, his older sisters husband applied for a loan to pay the school fees for him but it was only enough for two years whom they all hoped that Joshua would do well to complete.
Indeed Joshua lived up to his sister and brother-in-laws expectations. Joshua did quite well in secondary school, not only did he achieve the best results at the school but at the age of 17 he was also the only student at MAST Private Secondary School selected into the University of Malawi. Everyone thought that by being selected into University, the Government would sponsor his school fees as it did to most of the students, but unfortunately that was not the case with Joshua. The same year he was selected the government introduced a new system whereby all students who wished to be sponsored by the government had to apply for a sponsorship program to the University Management. Joshua was one of the students whose application was denied because at that time there was a greater number of students applying for funding which the government could not afford to sponsor all of them. This denial meant that he had to pay all University expenses including fees by himself, which for him, was financially impossible.
Joshua was heartbroken and felt as though his dream of university education had ended, but he didn’t want to give up hope. He was determined to pursue higher education opportunities, however government university was no longer an option so Joshua looked into the private section which he found was even more expensive. Due to the high expenses of the private education Joshua made the decision to take a step backwards and look at applying to two year government universities (Malawian colleges). He decided to start a small business with the computer that his sister had received as a gift. With the little knowledge he had in computers he opened a café in the District of Kasungu. For seven months the business was prospering and he was earning money which was enough to pay for an accounting course at a two year government university (technical college) for a year though the course comprised of two years. He did not attend any classes the second year but did manage to get a Diploma in Financial Accounting after writing the exams as he was studying from home.
Joshua’s struggle to find funding for his education had planted the idea to try and help other students pay for school fees and further their educations. He wanted to devise a trust fund, which, with donated funds would be able to support government school fees to the needy students from his area.
He then decided to take his vision of the trust fund a step further and made the plan to construct a school whereby all orphans and needy children could receive basis education and basic necessities like food and accommodation so that they would be able to have full concentration on education. Joshua wanted to ensure that future students were not denied the right to education due to poverty and make sure that the future generations in his local areas do not have to go through the financial struggles that he and others have gone through.
In 2000 he had the complete vision and so then took it to the local community. The community found it hard to understand Joshua’s vision and what he was trying to achieve for the local youths. He was starting the project with no funds and to the locals in the villages most of them weren’t concerned with educations because the majority of them didn’t have basic educations themselves. Now after over 11 years of hard work in the villages, through Joshua’s dedications, and now the incoming of foreign volunteers and support, the local communities are seeing the benefit. The local people now believe in Joshua’s vision and understand how important education is to helping put an end to poverty.
Joshua now lives in Blantyre Malawi with his wife and son. His mother, father, and most of his brothers and sisters still live in Domasi in the rural village which he grew up in. Joshua lives and works in Blantyre to afford to maintain Tikondwe Youth Organisation and fund the educations of not only his younger brothers and sisters, but also other youths in his local community. Joshua’s dream is for Tikondwe to be self funded so that one day he will be able to move back to the village and work directly with the local communities again.
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