Back in Chikwawa

Nearly three months after we left, we’re back in Chikwawa, Malawi supporting DIN Malawi. Getting here was an epic three-aircraft, multiple-delays, chaos-and-double-booked-seats journey from Uganda via Ethiopia and Tanzania. Landing in Blantyre 14 hours after we started was a relief and the following 2-hour hunt for an ATM that would accept our cards reminded us that some of the simplest things are made difficult in a developing country like Malawi.

Having between us travelled through 14 countries in this continent we can honestly say that Malawi is one of the poorest financially. The ATM hunt is just one example; fewer cars, more rudimentary building materials, less variety in food stuffs, lack of basic services and lack of hygienic sanitation are others. Malawians are rich in other things though; love, happiness, friendliness, peace and a beautiful country to name just a few. That richness was evident on our arrival back in Chikwawa where we were met with wide smiles, big hugs and warm welcomes. We got our old room back, bought a blanket because relatively speaking its freezing at night now, and we settled back into the routine of village life in Malawi.

It is great to be back. It’s great to see Anderson, the founder and exec director of DIN Malawi, and his family again. It’s great to see the team at DIN Malawi again where the positivity and professionalism of Joshua and the team has paid dividends; they have just secured funding from an international organisation for improving girls’ education in Chikwawa. It’s great to see the flow of international volunteers has not stopped; DIN Malawi is hosting not just us but a Scottish woman and two Japanese students. The students are both on a placement year in the same university in Denmark, both studying long-term in Osaka, and neither knew that the other was going to Malawi, let alone DIN Malawi, until they turned up and met each other again here! Small world.

It’s also been great to see how your amazing donations have been spent. We visited Jacks (We’ve reached our target!) again and saw how hard they had been working their farm, clearing and then turning nearly two hectares of land by hand. We also saw the water pump, piping and seeds that will turn that land into a profitable enterprise that will grow high value crops, creating a sustainable livelihood for the farm club and in turn the local community.

We also took the time to say hello to our old friends at the youth club, how nice it was to be again welcomed with huge smiles, hugs (not to be underestimated in a reserved country), and fist bumps. To be remembered with such affection is humbling, to see them still going strong is encouraging. There is a desire for change within the youth here and their drive has such promise – there are so many people working hard (and smilingly, positively) to bring about change – it is elevating to witness this.

It’s not all been field work though, we’ve been working through a detailed schedule with Anderson and Joshua which has been designed to help make the next steps easier for DIN Malawi. We have looked at rebranding, communications, staff skills, resource gaps, donor opportunities, and financial management, with plenty more to do next week.

We head off from Chikwawa in a week, head to Zomba to see the famous plateau, then onto Cape Maclear (interspersed with job interviews hopefully) where we started this journey four and a bit months ago, for a short holiday, but more of that next time.

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