The first few weeks of my Malawian Adventure!!
I’ve been in Malawi for just over two weeks, and in some aspects it feels like I’ve been here so much longer! The first week was the ICT (In-Country Training) with another five new VSO volunteers, where we learnt all about Malawian culture, tradition and safety, as well as having Chichewa language lessons, which is very widely spoken; both in the office and out and about in town. Hopefully by the end of the 6 months I will have built up a vocabulary as I’ll be speaking it on a regular basis! The week of the ICT, us volunteers were quite sheltered, as we were driven around a lot and staying in VSO accommodation together. On first impressions, Lilongwe is a capital city like no other! It is still in development, so everything is quite far spread out and it is quite a sleepy city – although that might be partly because I’m still finding my bearings! I moved into my apartment after the first week, and it’s slowly starting to feel like home! The next stage is to figure out where everything is in relation to my new home. An immediate observation is that people are very friendly and always willing to help out if possible. Walking home one day during orientation, we were offered a lift home by the lady who was responsible for bringing Madonna into the country, which was really random!
During the ICT, we had a surprise visit from the first ever VSO volunteer to come to Malawi in September 1959, Tony Hart. It was lovely to meet him and hear about his experience in Malawi (or Nyasaland as it was known back then), and his view on how much it has changed and developed since. It also confirmed for everyone the year VSO began work in Malawi. It was nice to see how he was so warmly welcomed by everyone at the VSO Malawi program office.
Last week was my first week in the VSO program office as a member of staff, and not as a volunteer in training, and it was a week of induction and figuring out where to find everything. VSO Malawi is quite a small team, with an office of just 16 people. I’m starting to get to grips with the many projects that VSO are so heavily involved with here in Malawi. I think they have even more acronyms here than at GSK, which I didn’t think was possible! I also attended my first field trip to the HIV/AIDS volunteer peer review meeting, which was held at Senga Bay along Lake Malawi. Professionally, it was great to meet the volunteers involved in the HIV/AIDS program and hear how their work relates to my assignment, as well as the tourist in me being able to get my first glimpse of Lake Malawi, which is absolutely stunning! I’m sure that this was the first of many trips around Lake Malawi!
I’m looking forward to making a start on my assignment this week, which will involve setting up an M&E System for the VSO Malawi office. The first stage is to help decide the indicators that need to be monitored and evaluated for each of their programs here; a great way for me to start learning all about the different programs. A steep learning curve, but exciting times lie ahead, I’m sure!