HELP Volunteer Journal: Katharina Petrak 4/8/2011
Many people in Malawi are living with less than 1 USD per day; only a few of them are supporting their children enough to complete primary or even secondary education. Universities seem to be far out of reach – especially for girls. In the last few months alone three girls opted to drop out of school and get married in order to be less of a financial burden on their parents.
Some children don’t have proper clothes to visit school; others lack soap to wash their clothes. Still, many of my students have the dream to one day become a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, a mechanic, a teacher, a nurse or even the president! What those children need most is somebody who believes in them and supports their dreams (the perfect role for me).
To get a better understanding of my students’ living situations, I visited some of their families. On those afternoons time passed too fast. I could hardly make it home in time before it got dark outside. The families welcomed me warmly in their homes; neighbors came by to tell me how happy they were that I came that far just to see them. Families, who rarely have soap to wash their clothes, stuffed my bag with eggs, maize and pumpkins! Others cooked lunch or bought biscuits and coke cans for my visit! Some are even sending pumpkins or cucumbers to my house days afterwards!
Their desire to share everything might be one of the most impressive parts of the Malawian culture. In my experience, many Europeans feel that they work hard for what they have and are therefore not willing to share their few luxuries – especially not with somebody who has more! Here it is different. Malawians are always ready to share.
I figured out that one of the best ways to show them my thankfulness is to come again for a visit! In order to not only be fed during my visits, I am going to spend my holidays harvesting in their maize and cotton fields. I enjoy spending time with my students outside of the classroom, especially with their whole family! And this time I am coming prepared with soap and candles (so that I can stuff their bags)!