Much More Alike Than We are Unalike
My trip to Malawi, Africa, was singlehandedly the best experience of my life. I knew I would come home with a million stories to tell, but what I was not prepared for was that I would come home a completely changed person. I learned more in that one week in Malawi than ever before. For those seven short days, we traveled to five different villages, interacting and learning with the people that live there. Learning about programs such as Theatre for a Change, Star Circles, SKILLZ, the Graduation Project and Emergency Livelihoods, I was given a whole new perspective on our world and my own circumstances.
The one specific program that stood out to me was one we visited on Thursday (7/26). The organization was called Theatre for a Change. Theatre for a Change (TfaC), is a newer program working alongside Concern to empower women and girls in impoverished communities around Malawi. TfaC’s main focus is around adolescent girls. Some targets of the organization include sexual/reproductive education and menstruation. The statistics shared with us, about the weeks of school girls are missing because of their menstruation periods, were extremely upsetting to me. Listening to the young girls talk about the issues they are facing so openly, was devastating.
Using theatre and movement, TfaC is helping young women and girls to gain self confidence and learn in depth about Gender Based Violence, reproductive rights and other issues facing them. We were able to be a part of the activities for the day, interact with the girls, and experience firsthand how much Concern and organizations like TfaC are helping children in low-income areas.
My emotions were all over the place by the end of the week. What I saw and experienced every day was eye opening, making it extremely difficult to process. Only now, weeks after I returned home, am I fully recounting what I experienced.
I always thought I would travel at some point in my life, but I never thought my first trip out of the country would be to an Sub-Saharan African nation like Malawi. As I think about it now, I can’t imagine having it any other way. What amazed me most about Malawi and its people, was the pure joy I saw every single day. There are absolutely no words to explain how full of love and gratitude each person I met, was. I always thought “The Warm Heart of Africa” was a pretty wonderful nickname for a country, but after spending a week there, I realize it really is the most fitting name.
Most people would say Malawians have so much less than we do here in America. Materially, that may be true. But what I immediately noticed, was that the people there have something that here in the United States, I feel like we’re often missing. They had a sense of community, and an inspiring dedication to learn and grow together. It was difficult once we hit our last day in the beautiful country. I had left with a newfound love for the beautiful culture, incredible people, and important lessons I had learned while being there.
I could have never fully prepared myself for this trip, but what I did see and experience, was so much more than I could have imagined. It is now my job to share what I have learned with my community, and to inspire others to take action. A few weeks ago, only a few days after I returned home, I was able to share my photos and some of my trip with students in a Model UN/Global Issues class at PCC, a summer enrichment program in Easton, MA. This fall, I will be offering a class for kids at our homeschool co-op, which will focus on global issues using theatre and other artistic methods. I hope that by sharing what I have learned with young kids, I will be helping educate the next generation; one that will hopefully be full of determined, hungry, active global citizens. I hope that others will take an interest in unfamiliar cultures and other people, even people they may think of as different than themselves.
Because in the end, we’re much more alike than we are unalike.
Anna is GCC leader and rising high school senior living in Halifax, MA. If you would like to read more about her experiences in Malawi with Concern Worldwide, click here.