Malawi first month !

I have been walking through the “Warm Heart of Africa” for a month now.

I am completely under the charm of this blue sky, these wonderful landscapes dotted by beautiful baobabs and little mountains. The lake is so large that the borders cannot be seen.
The people are very poor but kind and smiley. I like to see the noisy and colorful crowd walking across the city each morning. The temperature is always around 30°c but the wind of the lake is there to refresh us.

a fisherman on the lake

Mission

Amref Malawi team

So, I am an IT. I was assigned to the new Amref Health Africa office at Lilongwe. We are a small team of 4 project managers, an accountant, a secretary, a cook, a gardener/gatekeeper and me.

My main project is to help Amref to put in place an e-learning platform with the aim to accelerate the training of nurses and midwives who have technician status now.  The pilot phase is spread over 2 years and 90 students will be trained.  I’ve begun to learn myself the open source e-learning software that the Amref HQ has already deliver in some African countries with success. Fortunately, the main principles are similar to those I used to employ in my (past) daily job at GSK.

Sport and medical material delivery

Then, we have to verify that each college or hospital defined in the pilot phase have the minimum infrastructure requirement in domain of hardware, security, network and human resource for local IT support. Identify gaps and try to solve them. Students have to start their training in January so there is a lot of work to do.

Another mission assigned to me is to help Amref in communication domain and enhanced their visibility on the web. During a two days trip in Mangochi, a district at the south of the country, I had to act as witness of the delivery of sport and medical material to the district hospital. These materials were offered by Amref Health Africa Netherlands. I filmed the delivery and the interview of our local project manager and the district health officer. I’ll post the video’s link in my next article.

 

On the road

No highways here but 2 ways surfaced roads that link all the big towns. Visiting the different colleges and hospital is a great opportunity to see the country. Roads go through villages, goat herds and markets. You can see cooked mouse sellers brandishing their game on skewers. Not tried !

Bicycle, the poor man’s truck

Bicycle, the poor man’s truck

It is extraordinary all the things that a Malawian can bring on his bicycle: people, trees, soda, wood, charcoal, corn flour bag, live chicken etc…  There are no limits to their imagination.

 

Transport

At Lilongwe you have a lot of choice:

Bicycle’s back seat for 0.50 €
Tuk tuk (imported from india) for around 1,00 €
Minibus
Taxi for 2 to 4 €
Bus to reach other cities
Executive coach 12.00€ for 360km

I bought a bicycle so now I am free to move, but in the evening you have to take a taxi. Riding a bicycle by night is too dangerous.

Bricks oven

Bricks oven

DIY

To build a house is very simple in this country. You take the garden’s ground to make your bricks. You stack them to make a pyramid of 2 meters high and 3 to 6 width. You put fire during one night by the holes you made, then you leave it closed during 3 days. Your bricks are fired!  Then, you can start to build your house. You see these kinds of oven all along the country’s road in this season. Unfortunately, the trees are being victims of this process less ecologist.

 

Some prices

  • Bread 600gr : 0.40€ (no VAT on bread and meat)
  • Soda : 0.45€
  • Bier : 0.55€
  • Meal at restaurant : 4.5 to 10.00€
  • A nice house : 20,000.00€

Alcatraz

All the big houses and also my office have a 2-meter high wall all around the garden. A huge iron gate open to the road. Windows are secured with welded iron bars and doors by grid. Sometimes I feel like in jail! Carjacking is also a common fear. But I’ve never felt myself unsecured.

Sadness

I am sad to see that each time I enter into a nice building shop, the owner is Indian, Pakistanis or Chinese. When I brought up the subject, colleagues told me that every one of them has started from scratch but whereas Indian, Pakistanis and Chinese invest in their business, a Malawian would spend all of his money for his pleasure and for his family. This is a mindset problem and it will take time to change it. I think it is possible to change the children’s situation but for that school should help them to broaden their educations.

So, it is what I can share with you after one month. I have to say that to be a Pulse volunteer is not easy everyday but at the same time, I feel more alive than ever.

Mangochi road