Tionana Neno

As I sit here on my homeward bound flight I cannot believe my 6 months in Malawi is now over – I know people said it would pass quickly but really ……..😟

I am feeling so many emotions, sadness at leaving all the new friends I have made, gratitude for all they have shown me but also excitement at seeing my family and friends again and coming back to GSK a changed person, hopefully for the best😀
I remember arriving in Neno on 31 st July not knowing what to expect or even if I could help an organisation like Partners in Health – APZU (what would a mature women with 35 years in a corporate environment possible be able to offer in this healthcare NGO in a remote and rural place) and thinking ….am I mad at my time of life leaving my family, including my lovely husband and all the creature comforts of home and GSK – and now I say definitely, everyone should try it!!!
I was so nervous that my assignment was based around procurement and warehouse supply chain – a discipline I left behind 5 years ago but how quickly the skills and memories come back. I was sure when I started out I would plan my weeks and be sure to allocate my objectives accordingly so there would not be a last minute rush – and guess what – I was rushing to finish everything off right up to late yesterday as there was so much for me to help with!!

So what were the highlights?
For me the wonderful reception I got from everyone at APZU from Malin & Jospeh who between them sort everything from immigration to hospitality, the fleet of drivers transporting staff and patients while navigating the difficult roads in the most dreadful conditions, to my office colleague who desperately tried to teach me Chechewa ( sorry I only mastered rudimentary phrases) the cleaners who look after the guesthouse so well, but a special mention must go to the procurement and warehouse staff, Faith, Ivy, Vincent, Peter, Davey, Chrispin, Gladston and Isaac who patiently worked with me and were so open to my ideas (some not so great but they were ever gracious) and will, I am sure carry on all the good work

The wonderful scenery, the market with local fresh produce, and the way everyone , and I mean everyone, greets you or wants to stop and chat, including the groups of children who openly stared and collected behind me wherever I went shouting BoBo (Hi)  and finally the netball, from umpiring in the southern region league in Blantyre to helping at the local school
I will forever remember my field trips and the memories of the hugely motivated, patience and tenacious community programme teams making such a difference in the challenging and difficult circumstances, with so little budget and so many people in need and have pledged to help them continued their fantastic work even from the U.K. (more on that later!!)

Low lights? The lack of utilities obviously , water, internet, 4 days without electricity and having to throw all the freezer and fridge contents away, especially when there are people here living on less than $1 a day , the bugs – mosquitos, camel spiders 🕷 (look them up yuk) cockroaches, flying hornets ( although apparently these are a delicious delicacy 😟), endless discussions, especially at dinner, about operations, snake bite treatments & bodily fluids (the downside of sharing with doctors and nurses), wanting to accomplish so much more but time running away with me and of course having to leave behind my guesthouse co- sharers Kelly, Maria, Esnath, Katie, Jodie and Myness with whom I would not have survived😊but whom I have promised to stay in touch
However even the lowlight have positives, endless days on the patio talking & reading, as there is no internet or electricity( no TV or radio) finally getting use to bucket baths and finding you are using them even when the water and electricity are on, finding alternative ways to cook dinner and cakes when 2 gas rings are your only option and generally experiencing a slower more mindful pace of life.

Looking back Malawi was every thing I expected and so much more and reflecting  on my key objectives before I arrived around how I wanted to make a sustainable difference and be an ambassador for GSK, I only hope I have achieved this and that I leave PIH- APZU with wonderful memories ( for me) and I hope some small improvements (for them)

Here is the final photo of my short cut walk, impossible to use now as the maize is so high compared to when they cleared it all in November

Thank you to everyone for following these blogs, providing words of encouragement and support, 6 months ago blogging was something other people did and now this is my 14th blog -almost an expert!

I would encourage people to visit this beautiful and safe but poor country, as the people here are hugely welcoming, scenery is stunning and I strongly advocate the saying that Malawi really is ‘ the warm heart of Africa’ until next time I visit – tionana


  1. So proud of you and what you have have achieved in the last 6 months. You’ve made such an impact to lots of people, but time for you to come home mummy, we’ve missed you! xxx

  2. What an amazing journey you have experienced in the last six months. It has been wonderful to read your adventures, projects and get a real feel for your day to day living. Looking forward to catching up with you once you have settled back home.

  3. Lovely to read your thoughts Sylvia; glad you had a successful and enjoyable time. As you know Malawi also has a special place in my heart. As you say it really is ‘the warm heart of Africa ‘.

  4. What a journey!! While I am sad for you and sad that this amazing journey has come to an end, I am excited to have you back at GSK and to work with you again. From the blogs I’ve read, I know that you’ve made a tremendous impact! Welcome home!!

  5. Well done Sylvia – great reflections. I still have 2 months left here in Nairobi – not sure if I’m achieving my objectives but still trying to get as much out my experience as possible. I agree with you that it’s a fantastic opportunity for self discovery……

  6. Such a pleasure to read Sylvia – an amazing adventure. Memories and new friends who I am sure will stay for life. We are so excited to have you back home with us though – can’t wait to see you Monday 🙂

  7. Great post, feel we have lived your assignment with you! Looking forward to seeing you next week. Safe travels x

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