Here we go…
Eight months ago, the thought of spending my summer in rural Malawi with a group of strangers seemed completely rational. As I sit here, eight days before departure, my room a scattered mess of things I’ve bought to take with me, things I’ve dusted off from old travels that I don’t want to leave behind, and things to take care of before I leave home for two months, I am struggling to remember my rationale.
My name is Jillian Nichols and I am a third year law student at the University of Manitoba. I have dreamed of travelling to Africa my entire life. When I first learned that this trip was being offered by the U of M and CPAR back in August, I remember the feeling of sheer desperation and desire for the opportunity to go and see for myself what life in a developing country in Africa is really like.
This trip was a huge motivator to get through another year of law school, and on Friday, May 7, I will commence a six week long Service Learning Experience with Eric and Lauren (both also students at the U of M) and another mystery travel companion that we have yet to meet.
The challenge is straightforward: work collaboratively and across cultures to produce narratives that depict what Malawians’ want Canadian’s to know about what they are doing to build healthy communities.
For friends and family who still don’t know exactly what I’m doing and where I am going, here is a brief overview of CPAR, Malawi, and the work that is being done by local staff in the country:
CPAR works in partnership with vulnerable communities and diverse organizations to overcome poverty and build healthy communities in Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi).
Malawi is a small independent republic with a democratic government. It is landlocked, bordered by Tanzania to the north, Mozambique to the east, and Zambia to the west. Currently, Malawi faces many challenges including rapid population growth, a high HIV & AIDS infection rate (about 14.9%), limited natural resources, and environmental degradation. It is one of the least developed countries in the world.
Today, CPAR-Malawi undertakes initiatives related to income generation, natural resource management, food security, water and sanitation, primary healthcare and emergency relief.
It has been said that Malawi and Manitoba have three things in common- 1) they both start with the letter M; 2) have massive lakes; and 3) most people fly right over them (and unless from around one of these places, probably have trouble identifying them on a map).
It is my goal to present an honest look at the successes and challenges of development work in Malawi, and give everyone at home an idea of what everyday life there is really like.
My only expectation is to be surprised. I hope to leave any preconceived notions behind and enjoy what is sure to be a once in a lifetime adventure.
Please visit this site frequently to stay in touch and keep up with us on the road in Malawi!