Friday, April 3, 2015

Volunteer Day: Malawians Supporting Malawi

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Though said by John F. Kennedy, these words do not uniquely apply to Americans, and this week we have been fortunate enough to work with some outstanding Malawians who embody the spirit of giving back. Today was Volunteer Day and the wrap up for Camp Sky. Students and counselors spent the morning planting trees with Sir Stu Jones at the hospital just outside of Kamuzu Academy and discussing The Giving Tree and volunteerism with Madam Gina Althoff. It was a great lesson, because volunteering is not as prevalent in Malawi as it is in America. To see the students take pride in their own country by planting trees and helping out a local village was a new and refreshing experience. Goal setting, presentation of certificates, and a disco helped to wind up the afternoon and evening for the students. Lunch included a surprise, beautiful cake decorated with the Peace Corps logo created by the Kamuzu Academy kitchen staff, which brings me to what I want to talk about for today’s post. In Saturday's post, Alex talked a bit about the background for Kamuzu Academy, but what we didn’t yet know was how phenomenal the staff was. This week has been smooth sailing, far beyond our expectations as a direct result of the accomodating staff here at Kamuzu Academy.

Lloyd, who was one of our contact with housing at KA this week, comes from humble beginnings and has gone above and beyond to help us in a myriad of different ways, even on his days off. 

The food has been some of the best that I’ve eaten during my time in Malawi (and definitely the best food I’ve had at a Peace Corps activity), and the staff has done some pretty spectacular culinary work, even customizing our desserts. This, on top of delicious breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinners… I’m pretty sure we’ve all gained a few Kgs during our time here. The head chef, Maxwell, is incredibly artistic and all of the kitchen staff have been asking about our program this week, wanting to know about the students and where they are coming from. They have also been incredibly accommodating, letting us in the dining hall from in the morning until at night-long days for all of us.

Last but certainly not least is Dave. He is self-taught on computers, but is now one of the individuals in charge of the computer lab here at KA. If you checked out Devyn’s post yesterday, you can see that some of the students used a computer for the first time this week because of the facilities available to us at KA. He worked with me in planning computer lessons so that we were able to not only get students on computers, but that they were also able to print a composition of their own to take back home with them. That was an incredibly huge deal to the students, and a giant favor that Dave helped us with! 

I’ve staffed a number of camps, but because of all the hard work and willingness to help displayed by these staff members, this has been the logistically smoothest event I’ve worked at.  Of course the PCVs played a big part in making all of this possible, but it is inspiring to me after almost two years of being here to see that Malawians are indeed hoping to better their country. Often there can be a sentiment of what can this NGO do for me, or how can this government help us, but the staff here have shown a passion and desire to help our students, the bright future of their country. I’m writing this, watching high school students be high school students at a “disco” while some of the kitchen staff look on and laugh as we dance to some vernacular music. As one staff member was leaving, she said “Tiwonana, see you next year!” I do hope that Camp Sky continues to be as lucky as we have been this year, working with such amazing host-country nationals. I’ve been blessed to work with the staff, PCV and KA alike; everyone’s had a heart desiring to give back to Malawi. Yewo chomene; zikomo kwambiri!

Post written by Susan Stancampiano.

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