Village of Luna: Trip of a Lifetime

I remember getting out of the car at our first stop of the day – visiting a village in Mchinji, Malawi. All of us toppled out of the car with battle scars brought forth by hitting our heads on one another and the windows. Inevitably we all started hanging out with the children despite how continuously we were warned about being distracted by them. As time went on, we were exchanging fist bumps, singing simple songs, dancing hilariously and demonstrating hand games in front of the with the kids.

I began to see a trend in which if I jerked my body at a certain speed, in a certain direction and with a certain face, they would all squeal and clap. Needless to say…I kept doing that. I fully believe there is an art to doing so and I had mastered it pretty well. Pretty soon we found ourselves gathering in a circle. The mother’s from the village started singing and dancing for us. I remember this particular man cut into the middle of the circle every song or two in such an elegant manner to bust some highly impressive moves. He stuck his tongue out and moved his hips as though that was his god given reason to live.

Every single one of us around the circle 18 or younger screamed with excitement and after that song, the Irish students decided we should sing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. It was clear they had practiced an arrangement meant for choir so I chimed in with my monotone and worried singing voice. It fell attentively silent, we were dancing and the kids were staring with awe as the mothers stood, smiling at us widely. I couldn’t help but think how terribly boring and underwhelming our songs were in comparison to theirs. We went back and forth exchanging songs about five times. Looking back, there was not one element of warmth that I don’t feel when looking back on those moments.

In Malawi, stunting has been a very reoccurring problem due to the insufficient amount of nutritional needs being met for children in their most important stages of development. There has been a lot of improvement as time has passed with stunting rates as a result of it being in the forefront of the most relevant issues to tackle. The most critical stages of development are from conception till the age of two. Often malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women can also greatly affect their child’s development.

We visited one of Concern’s programs that brought awareness to behavioral changes that can lead to less sickness and stunting which ultimately improves a child’s general health and well-being significantly.

In the village of Luna in Mchinji, we visited a group ran by Leader Mothers that included women with children under the age of five, lactating women, and pregnant women. The Leader Mothers were the chosen by the community to work aside their male healthcare promoter who was beaming with passion and joy. There were only two men out of 36 women! The Leader Mothers gathered the group together to use picture books in order to lead discussions and awareness as opposed to literary visuals. The lessons discussed covered healthy hygiene habits, healthy diet examples, food groups and more. The group enthusiastically said that Concern’s program has completely changed the well-being and health of the children in the community for the better! The children sat off in the distance and giggled when spoken about. We asked them how they felt about the program its impact. They all responded that they have seen change and they like the food.

We parted ways as the women and children stood around our cars and sang. It was the first moment I cried during the trip. Looking back to then, I know that was when I finally began to understand that the vibrance of life some people long for during the whole course of their lifetime surrounded me at age fifteen in Malawi. So there I stood outside of the car, tearing up with a smile on my face and unable to make sense of my damp cheeks.

Only now I am making sense of those tears.

Jillian Igoe is a junior at Falmouth Academy in MA. She was part of the GCC program during 2015-16 through an after school club, Students Without Borders. Jillian was selected to participate in the GCC Field Visit in July 2016 to Malawi along with her teacher, Pauline Nassif. She was featured in her local newspaper and has documented her trip experiences through her blog, Destination Malawi.