After our IWitness trip to Malawi many impressions, sounds and pictures are buzzing in our heads.
“The most touching moment for me was when all the learners from Champagnat School sang for us and we went right through the singing pupils. Their song made me tremble, I was magnetised and overwhelmed at the same time. What an honour for us!” says Belinda.
Laura is deeply impressed by the people’s willpower to make a change in their lives: “Their joy, their solidarity and their incredible hospitality nearly overpowered me,” she says.
Sabine’s head is full of laughing kids when she thinks about Malawi, while Pamela is still singing the welcome songs.
Many small things, which cause anger at home, seem so unimportant compared to the challenges which have to be tackled by the people in Africa. Pam says: “It is quite luxurious just to open the tap to get safe water. Water in Africa is a rare and valuable resource, which has to be fetched with huge effort and used very economically. Only now I understand how that affects daily life for Malawian people.”
Christina thinks about what is still to be done: “I take with me the difference between Banda Hill Primary School (which unfortunately has not been reached by UNICEF’s support yet), and the other schools, where the child-friendly school concept is used. A scantily equipped classroom without a proper roof and walls – that’s not the way schools should look.”
Belinda adds: “What looks kind of romantic are just hard-core conditions for pupils to learn in. We came so close to them, sat directly behind the kids and felt the same sun burning down on our hands, had the same dust constantly blown in our faces – only for some minutes. But these are their day-to-day learning conditions.”
Laura now sees how everything is connected: “After the most impressive week of my life I’m back at home. I learned that education is not just about buildings and teachers but it takes a holistic approach. It’s about toilets, clean water and food. It’s about a network of pupils, mothers and community officials who have to work together so that every child can go to school.
“By our visit we encouraged the people of Malawi and showed them that their great work is recognised all over the world,” she says.
Today Pam found it nearly impossible to do her job. She says: “All the time colleagues are coming over, asking about what I saw and experienced. It’s so great to see all that honest interest.”
Even in private circles, something has changed, says Christina: “I now believe that I can show what’s going on in the world, as well, just from being an IWitness. Suddenly people around me open their eyes and ask questions about Malawi about what it is like for the people who are living there. For the first time I realise that many of my friends think about Africa and education and what that means for them personally.”
She says: “Everywhere we have been the teachers, mothers and learners try to make the best of their situation. And if all schools have something in common, it’s the pupils, who are eager to learn and have a clear vision about what they would like to do in the future.”
Laura adds: “In the future I will appreciate more the small things in my life. I have learned that even the most minor help can make a difference.”
Sabine agrees: “I have experienced what UNICEF can achieve for so many people with the funding of the Soft Toys for Education campaign. I felt their gratitude and I want to continue to talk about it. Even small donations can achieve something great in the country. I want to encourage everyone, since every single soft toy helps.”
On behalf of the whole group, Belinda says: “I was proud to be an IWitness. All of us opened our hearts. That made it easy for me to feel safe and welcomed. I always knew that we would look after each other. All of us were touched by what we saw and experienced and it will influence our future lives. And, therefore, we don’t say ‘farewell’ but ‘Tsalani Bwino’ (Goodbye)!”