By Chikondi Andrew Kamvazakazi
I will never forget that overwhelming feeling of joy and accomplishment that my team and I felt as we were launching an E-learning center at Chirimba secondary school in Mbando village. I have been a volunteer for Abundance close to a year now and the journey thus far has been a mixture of rich learning experiences. From being an online volunteer, I got appointed as an acting secretary for Abundance. I have learned through this experience in particular that helping others can be just as rewarding for the individuals receiving the services as those per forming it.
My visit at Mbando village was worthwhile experience, that will remain in my memory forever. The community were very friendly and supportive especially our host family was incredible and made our stay comfortable. From interacting with youth that are benefiting with an E-learning center, the experience with them was very enriching and full of learning. I was so inspired seen how youth have been empowered by learning through videos on best agriculture practices and applying them in their gardens. The have learnt how to make soap and re-usable sanitary pads that they can sell at a local market. Through a discussion on climate change and access to information that I facilitated, I realized the potential that these young group have in as far as solving of social-ecological problems in their community is concerned.
I experienced Malawi’s hospitality for one month and a half, welcomed warmly by Abundance, for my volunteering adventure.
When I left France to Malawi, I was aware I had very little volunteering experience. Especially because I combined my volunteering with tourism, spreading my time between volunteering at Mbando village and travelling around Malawi. I had to find the right balance between both, and thank to all the people from Abundance, I succeeded!
Abundance worldwide is a non profit organisation started in 2016 thank to the dream of Deepa Pullanikkatil. It’s a friendly team of colleagues and friends who came together to improve the way of life of a village called Mbando.
All the people in Abundance are volunteers so are not paid for their work. They all come from different background and careers. It’s a team which grows and grows as the team meets more and more people, because everybody wants to be in the team at the end ;)
The financial aids come from friend’s donations or also come from the own pocket of abundance team. I was the first international volunteer to knock at the door of Abundance. Several projects emerged since then.
When I came to volunteer, we were finalizing the e-learning center project. This project was set up at a Secondary School at Mbando with eight laptops, solar power, an offline server with learning resources and 150 keepod devices for 150 users.
I like the way every project from Abundance is thinking. They have a long term vision and don’t just give without thinking. The goal is to above all, give responsibilities to the people from the village to empower themselves, and encourage them to follow the projects till the end. It is a true empowerment process. The importance of sustainability is what I feel so interesting in this NGO.
My stay in Malawi with Abundance :
When I arrived at the airport, I was welcomes by Stewart Paul, one of the members of the team. Then I get to Zomba, Ruth Mumba drove me everywhere like a real gentle mother. I thank her from the bottom of my heart for having been so present and attentive to me when I was in Malawi.
Then I went to Mbando village at Moses Phulusa’s place, Moses in Abundance’s Community Coordinator. I was welcomed as a real guest, in the simplicity of their house, and warmly pampered by everyone. I want to thank him and his daughter Tadala, Maria and Benadeta for having been real angels for me. I can still feel the love they shared with me.
Mbando is a village in Machinga District with about 360 families with almost 6 children in each. To get there, there is about 18 km on a rural unpaved road and travelling on this road on the motorbike with Moses was so funny.
I learnt a lot about these people’s life who are all sweethearts ready to love at the first smile. And as I very often smiled, I received lots of love ;)
I went to preschool, doing paper garlands and sharing the classroom time (“I know calendar” song is amazing singing by all those lovely kids).
For the rest of my stay, I participated in all the family’s activities. I was delighted to go farming with Moses to pick beans, tomatoes and cucumber and to go to the river with Maria to do the laundry with all the children playing around. I enjoyed playing with children (hands and songs games, dances), riding the motorbike to see all around the village and say hello to friends and cycling to church
Quickly, I understood that this volunteering experience was not to dispense pure help but just to share moments and speak about our culture differences. I was integrated into the village life in a very tolerant and friendly manner with the community being so proud to welcome me. That can seems nothing to some, but really it meant a lot to me.
When I wasn’t at Mbando village, I hiked Mulanje mountain, which was an incredible experience. I also stayed in Zomba where I was lucky to participate to the event “Run For Reforestation”. It is one of my best memories. A wonderful event where everybody came together: children, adults, people of all colours, local people, expatriates and tourists. I found it so amazing to run for this cause and to see the wide-eyed workers in the forest barefoot carrying wood on the head at the same time that we were running.
My last stay at the village was very intense. I met other people from Abundance : Clifford and Andrew, and also two partners from Glasgow university. They came here to celebrate the new e-learning center at the secondary school, and also, thanks to Mbando chief’s authorisation, to fly a drone around the village to see how big is the forest damage, in order to replant trees in the future.
At night, we were a big group eating and sleeping at Moses place. We were happily sharing this blessed evening all together, and later in the night we sang and danced with the children and Clifford’s guitar. It’s such a nice memory.
Next day, in the morning, the ceremony took place with a member of Government, the teachers, the Chief, Ruth, Moses, Grace, Clifford, Andrew and some children from secondary school. The speeches came together in Chichewa, and I was feeling so lucky and inspiring to be part of this.
I liked the importance given to the world and to the meaning of donation. There was several symbolic acts which were so powerful and beautiful, like dancing to enter the classroom (Kwa George song, of course!), the little play of the youth, to picture of the computers and trees donation. I felt lots of excitement from all those people, and the dynamic is very encouraging for all of us.
To mark the end of my stay here in Mbando and to thanks all the youth, I had an idea to play an intersex football match, in which the girl’s goals were counted as double points. It was lots of smile and fun (and perspiration)! The group picture time arrived soon, and a little rest for all of us, well deserved.
Then I had to say goodbye. I was sad to leave Moses and his family, and all the Mbando community. Unfortunately, France is not close enough to Malawi to come and visit easily each other. That’s a part of the beauty I guess.
I keep an amazing memory of all this adventure and I thank deeply all the people who participated to make this trip so beautiful, powerful, and unforgettable.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which began in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. The Fellowship provides outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return back to their home countries.
Fellows engage in Academic and Leadership Institutes, meet with U.S. federal, state, and local government officials, participate in community service, visit organizations to gain professional development, and make friendships and professional contacts with Americans. Here Ruth Mumba, Abundance Malawi's Director describes her journey.
By Ruth Mumba, Director, Abundance, Malawi
I read somewhere, “Volunteers are love personified”. I think that phrase truly defines what volunteering is. It’s a service beyond self. A journey that cannot be summed up in financial terms but with immeasurable returns. My volunteering journey led me to be part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2019.
Someone once said, “Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Pay attention to them.”
Sharing with you all three little miracles that recently helped Abundance scale up its activities (without any additional funding).
This blog post is by Samuel Diekert (edited by Bobita Subhir) on Samuel's visit to Mbando Village where Abundance works and Sam launched a library at the village during his visit......
This blog narrated by Deepa Pullanikkatil, talks about her meeting with Andrew Khonje in a Malawian Airlines flight in early May 2016. The discussions between the two during the 2.5hr flight lead to something good for Mbonda village, the village in southern Malawi adopted by Abundance for helping communities improve well-being and nurture nature.
This blog is by Ruth Mumba, who started volunteering for Abundance and experienced many miracles of her wishes coming true which she attributes to the power of will or intention.
This blog talks about messages from various places that the founder of Abundance received on becoming fearless. Bizarre, but true!.
Reflections and Blogposts by Abundance members and friends
The blog posts here are a collection of reflections by people who have supported Abundance,or visited Mbando village where we work.