04 April 2012

.give and take.

Despite it all: time, history, change, it’s still the same. We are still dependent on them…

I had one of the most refreshing, disheartening, authentic conversations today since I’ve arrived in Malawi. (note to self: once again this is further proof that when I open myself to life the uni-verse rewards me.) I was sitting enjoying some nsima (corn porridge) and nyemba (beans) my go-to Malawian dish (there’s not really many other choices but seriously I love beans!!). When Moffat, a familiar face invited himself to sit at my table (remember Malawians are friendly. Haha!). Moffat works with Save The Children in Machinga District before that he was working Family Planning International, he knows how “the system” works. We had a friendly lunch chatting about America vs. Malawi, America vs. UK, Malawi’s challenges, the fuel crisis, lack of rain…the “cruise control” convo as I like to call it. 

His cousin lives in the UK, a college educated man but makes his wages working at an assisted living house now. It’s not good work he says but his cousin was able to buy 3 trucks, and a Mercedes Benz for his wife (here in Malawi). That’s making it (right?). He then began to compare his cousin’s work (although unattractive and someone demeaning for an educated man) to his work professional, esteemed work within his field of expertise yet in the same sense demeaning and challenging in its own right.

Let me explain, Save the Children is currently working in 4 of the 14 TAs (traditional authorities) in Machinga District and this year will be expanding to 7 TAs. Yet, there’s no plan (budget) of expanding the labor force. It’s still just Moffat working in more areas with more results (numbers) tracing behavior change (are you kidding me?! Is that even possible?). Donors are patting themselves on the back with the year end reports of increase numbers. We are SAVING Africa!! But what’s the reality behind those numbers? It’s just Moffat running around the district managing too many projects to actually be impactful, forced to live in a town 6 hours away from his family, and trying to collect numbers of behavior change. I then understood the appeal of the job at the assisted living house, at least you would have something to show.

Despite it all: time, history, change, it’s still the same. We are dependent on them…

The donors come in (and there are a lot of donors. Honestly without donor’s there wouldn’t be ART, Gloves, Testing Supplies, vehicles, basically you can name it…) with these “wants/motivations” to “help” and yet it’s still the same mentality. “This is MY money. I’ll give you MY money but you have to do x,y, and z! I know how to SAVE Africa.” So what happens? Malawians become dependent on donors, on them. Are you really helping or is it just modern slavery? I’m sorry if this is coming off harsh or radical but honestly I aggravated, I’m outraged, I’m sadden by the reality that I am coming to face. I sincerely don’t know how Malawians do it. How do they keep the hope that “maybe tomorrow”. But then is there a choice for the voiceless? 

I’ve been so shallow and overflowing with privilege to get upset when a random person comes up to say/ask “give me my money”. What more do they know? That’s what we’ve taught them. Sit, stay, be nice, and maybe someone will help you out. 

Where do we begin to change this? Have we so quickly forgotten the capacity we hold inside, that we, humans are all uniquely made beings with more abilities than we can grasp? 

Some days (most days) I just want to run home because it’s exhausting facing/living/understanding these truths of the motherland, but not today. Today I went to the grand opening of a Guardian Shelter (where families stay when loved ones are in the hospital). It was funded by USAID, the Ambassador came and of course Peace Corps wanted me to go wave and do a PR tour with them. Fine by me! It was my first time to go to an authentic village. The village women were performing traditional dances and singing for hours. It was a beautiful all encompassing moment. I could feel the energy. Malawians haven’t lost hope in the human spirit, but we have. Maybe tomorrow things can change. Maybe it’s time to stop giving and take a little bit.

Take a little hope. Take a little Love. Take a little community. Take a little time. Take a day with no schedule. Take a chance on someone else.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erik said...

wow beautiful beautiful post
<3 it

Finding my path said...

I agree we need to learn something from others and a give and take relationship is essential.

I hear ya and am so happy you learned from their positive energy.

cyn said...

awww what a beautiful reflection on Malawi and foreign aid. your are absolutely right in your outrage. People/groups/orgs like to give economic help so they can pat themselves on the back and feel justified in their priveledge, and then have the nerve to have these stupid stipulations and expectations that are generally entirely culturally uninformed.