Caught in the Web of Development
Malawi — Student Volunteering
My second week in Malawi flew by. I got to spend most of the week in the field, observing monitoring and evaluation in one of the rural districts of Lilongwe for a project ending this September. Being out in the field with some of COWLHA’s local volunteers I also got an opportunity to talk with them and begin to form new friendships here.
Being in the field this week I saw a lot more poverty. Despite not having much I found we were greeted warmly in each of the villages. Some even performed a song and dance and others invited me to eat lunch with them after. Meeting with the local groups I heard many testimonies of the project’s success. The project focused on reducing gender based violence and economic empowerment. It was really uplifting and inspiring to hear how the project benefited people’s lives by improving couples, families and communities relationships. As we visited more groups I also began to see gaps, the biggest one being sustainability. Since the project is ending many of the groups have stopped meeting and disseminating the knowledge into their communities. Initially I was confused; how could they not want to make the effort to share knowledge that had greatly benefited them? However I understand it is not that simple. Unfortunately living in poverty, infrastructure is often weak or non-existent and survival comes first. Therefore something as simple as lack of transportation to meetings but may require large infrastructure change becomes a huge barrier. I hope to focus some of my research on this issue.
This week was also my first week alone and when reality started to hit. I began to settle in and feel comfortable in the house. The house went from feeling big and eerie the first night alone without power, to more like home.