We are Mari-Liis and Denis and we spent eight months in Malawi, working at National Headquarters (NHQ) in Chilangoma, a village between Chileka airport and Blantyre town.
In Malawi there are a lot of NGOs but few of them are as rooted as DAPP-Humana People to People on the area they operate. This fact made our job much easier because people in the community and in towns recognized our organization and its achievements as well.
Our job embraced several projects, all of them belonging to the school sector: African Library Project (distribute books to libraries in rural areas and checking and supporting libraries' activities), We Do More Teachers Projects (supporting teachers in rural-area primary schools with materials and training sessions) and Solidarity Schools Projects (connecting Malawian schools with Baltic countries schools).
The experience we got from all these projects can be hardly described because we were involved in all the stages of the project-managing cycle: administration, distribution, quality check and support.
I think that besides the description of the job we did in Malawi, the best things we can share are advices about what it takes in order to have a meaningful experience and a good result:
• Know who you are, where you are and what you do; the context you operate in must be as clear as possible to avoid hard situations. Keep in mind cultural, lifestyle and relational differences between you and local people because sometimes the concept of politeness and appropriateness shifts from our own.
• Sustainability; start and take responsibility for the things you do and remember that what you do should continue after you; be aware as well of the consequences of your actions and be ready to face them whether they are good or not and to act accordingly.
• Evaluation; every action must be evaluated on the short, mid and long term. If you don't conclude, you skip the most important part of a project because you can't understand the impact you have made.
• Persistence; most of the times, things never go smoothly or according to the plan; it is up to you not to give up nor to give in, find in your mates the necessary push to go further and let them find in you theirs.
• Ownership; you are not working for your sake but for helping a country/community improve. Your results must be their results and the presence of so many NGOs does not help because people expect you to do the job otherwise, in their opinion, someone else will come and do what you have not.
Being eight months in such a different country is not an easy task; on the other hand it will give you an unforgettable experience that will teach you a lot if you are ready to learn as much. You will miss your family, your friends and the comfort of the country you come from but you will come back a different, enriched person.
Denis Bozzi (Italy)
Mari-Liis Kalvi (Estonia)