Population: 21 million
Languages: English, Chichewa
Independence: July 6, 1964
GDP per Capita: $1,200
Highlights: Lake Malawi, Liwonde Park, warm-hearted people
Cost: Very cheap
*Fact taken from CIA World Factbook in 2020
Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. I had the opportunity to live in Malawi for 4 months in 2010, volunteering with Engineers Without Borders. I was selected as a Junior Fellow to represent my University Chapter at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
I completed 8 months of pre-departure learning, including a week long workshop in Toronto, before travelling to Malawi in September 2010. My placement was based in Thyolo, which is small district in the southern part of Malawi that primarily farms and exports tea. I worked at the local government Water Office and lived in the village with my host family: Mr. and Mrs. Nzengo and their 3 daughters.
During my time in Thyolo I worked with the Water Office to develop a database of all of the water points in the district, their operational status, and rural population near each water point. This enabled the office to make evidenced based decisions on where to site new water infrastructure in the future and a way to prioritize maintenance on broken water points.
While the majority of my time in Malawi centered around my work placement, I did have the opportunity to travel around the southern half of the country. The Capital is located in bustling Lilongwe, which is where I arrived in the country, but Blantyre is the largest city in the southern half of the country.
During my 4 months, I had the opportunity to visit other volunteers in Zomba and to travel to Mangochi, which is located at the bottom of Lake Malawi, for a weekend music festival called Lake of Stars. I visited Lilongwe several times and travelled to the lake town of Senga Bay for a team retreat. Lake Malawi dominates much of the country and is known for being the most diverse freshwater lake in the world. It is an important part of Malawi’s ecosystem and economy as many fish as a livelihood.
I explored extensively around Thyolo, which is a beautiful hilly region filled with sprawling tea plantations. I regularly bused in to Limbe or Blantyre to shop and use internet cafes and I once visited the neigbouring region of Mulanje to go hiking on the mountain. Finally, near the end of my stay, I travelled into Zambia to go on a safari in South Luangwa National Park. Liwonde National Park is popular in Malawi for wildlife viewing, but because of population density in each country, wildlife is much more abundant in Zambia.
It is my trip to Malawi that originally inspired the creation of this blog. Check out my BlogRoll for a plethora of information and stories about my time there!
Welcome to my blog! I will be using this blog for the next 4 months as I prepare to go overseas, and for the following 4 months as I complete my Junior Fellowship placement in Malawi on behalf of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada!
Yesterday I returned home from pre-departure learning in Toronto. It was a pretty intense week, but I loved every second of it! There were 12 other JF’s staying in the EWB house and after a week of living together I feel as if I’ve known them all for much longer than 7 days.
One thing that most JF’s find themselves doing at some point throughout their placement is interviewing people who work in the field. In our workshop we discussed the importance of thinking about the questions you ask and framing them in the right way. If you ask too many leading questions, it is quite likely that … Continue reading Pre-departure learning – Part Two
After 10 months of preparation and excitement I am finally on my way to Malawi! I left St. John’s yesterday morning at 6 :10 and I am currently in the EWB house in Toronto. I am spending 2 nights in Toronto and then tomorrow I leave for Malawi. I am flying through Washington, on to Ethiopia, … Continue reading Malawi Bound
Well, my shoes are caked in red dirt, I’ve gone through most of the clothes I’ve brought, and I’ve got sunscreen everywhere! That’s right, I am finally writing to you from Malawi! I’ve been in the capital, Lilongwe, for about 3 days now and so far I really like it; Malawi is pretty chill place. … Continue reading First Experiences
If you decide to head off to a developing country such as Malawi, there is one word you are sure to hear! In Malawi it is Azungu, but it changes of course depending on the local language. Azungu means “white person”. I was told I would be referred to as Azungu quite a bit, but … Continue reading My new home – Thyolo!
I’ve been getting lots of emails asking me about what life in Thyolo is like, so I think it’s time I filled you all in. I am currently living in a village called Nchima which is just outside the Boma. All district capitals are called Bomas in Malawi. I have currently been living with Mr. … Continue reading Simplicity
The most common water points that you can find here in Thyolo include AfriDev and Malda handpumps, taps connected to Gravity Fed Schemes (GFS), and shallow wells. It is the responsibility of the District Water Office to manage these water points and water point committees, oversee repairs and installations, and act as a consultant for … Continue reading Water is life
I couldn’t decide on one topic to write on for this week, so I decided instead to write a few short stories for you. They’re all pretty random but I hope you enjoy them! It’s a long way to Lilongwe Two weeks ago I spent the weekend in Lilongwe for a team meeting with the … Continue reading Short Stories
I feel like it’s been a while since I last blogged, but my last few weeks have definitely been eventful! Things are starting to get pretty busy at work, I’ve set up weekly training sessions with 7 people in the district for the water monitoring system and hopefully we should be collecting some data on … Continue reading Ups and Downs
To begin, I just want to clarify a point that I made in my last blog about some of my culture frustrations. I’ve been getting a lot of emails and questions about it and I don’t think I phrased things right in my last entry. When I say that me and my family disagreed about … Continue reading Cultural Differences
I got a great question last week from Ian Froude; I’ve been thinking about it all week and I want to share my insights with you. The question was “What are the major barriers to the development of the community in which you are living? OR if it is already on the road to development, … Continue reading The Road to Development
Everyone seemed to like my short stories entry, so here I go with Short Stories Part 2: Zambia After spending 90 days in Malawi on a visitors visa you are required to leave the country and then re-enter it. So this past weekend me and my fellow JF Don headed up to Zambia to take … Continue reading More Short Stories
I think it’s time I shared some of my religious and spiritual experiences here in Malawi with you. As I’ve mentioned before (I think) Christianity is the majority religion here in Malawi; approximately 70% of the population practices Christianity. I’m not sure what percentage of Canadians associate themselves with Christianity, but I imagine that whatever … Continue reading It is better to give then to receive?
Well I am now officially finished my work with the District Water Office. It’s weird to have finished everything up and to be in a position where I actually feel comfortable walking away from the District. I feel really good about the way everything has clued up; if you’d asked me three weeks ago about … Continue reading Nearing the End
Today is my last full day in Malawi; I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon. I can’t believe that 4 months have gone by so quickly! I’ve had a very eventful last week though. On Monday I went to live in a remote village that’s about 2 hours away from the Boma. I stayed in a small brick … Continue reading Last Thoughts