Poverty with dignity
Corinne and Mattia are from South Sicily and are relatives. They decided to do this programme together.
They just came home from Malawi, where they have been volunteering at DAPP Amalika Teacher Training College for 6 months.
Here you can read their experiences and see videos where they talk about their reasons to come to Lindersvold to take part in Take 10 volunteer programme.
Corinne had just finished university and wanted to travel and do good. Mattia had a 9-5 job and was bored and fed up. He didn’t feel he’d fit into this world.
“The experience was very different from what I expected,” Corinne says.
“It was so much better in real life.”
She had expected to miss her comfortable lifestyle from home, but it was never a problem. “There was no running water, so I had to shower by pouring a bucket of water over me, but it wasn’t such a big deal. When we ran out of electricity, I just read a book.”
Even meeting poor people was very different from home. “In Europe poor people are sad and miserable. In Malawi everybody was smiling. They are not outcast. They are still members of the society.”
Mattia had his prejudice challenged in another way.
“Everyone is so friendly. I thought people would try to steal from me, but nobody was stealing. Nobody was crying. They had so much dignity.”
“And it was not dangerous,” Corinne says. “I always felt very safe. Even when I went out alone. Sometimes people got too curious, but then other locals told them to stop bothering me,” she adds smilingly.
“Here we treat poor people with distance. But not in Malawi. They were in this together,” Mattia says. “Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. And we were in the poorest part of Malawi.”
They both agree that life in the cities are very different from the life in the rural areas, where they were volunteering. Even if it was only 40 kilometers away. They were sometimes treated too well, and it made them uncomfortable. They didn’t want to take anything away from the children by – for instance – having better food.
To Corinne it was also an eyeopener to face the low value of a woman. Men talked to Mattia – not to Corinne. One time they went to a music festival and a man came to ask Mattia how many cows he wanted, so he could marry Corinne. “And this was even in the city,” Mattia explains. Corinne elaborates: “He was surprised I got angry. He thought I was offended by the price, not the bargain.” And they both agree that had she lived there, she was not in any position to say no. That is completely a deal between the men.
When asked what they appreciate more now, they are not in doubt: WATER! “And also, the variety of food,” Corinne adds. “We had really good food, but the many choices we have in Europe are so nice.”
And what will they miss the most? “The forest,” Corinne says. “It was very beautiful, but far away from everything.” “I will miss the motorbike,” says Mattia. “We used to go shopping on it.”
Another big difference for the two volunteers was time.
“We are both from Sicily and showing up half an hour later than agreed is not being late. At the school in Denmark, you should meet at the agreed time. But in Malawi we were once told to be back in 20 minutes. We got lost and showed up after 35 minutes … and then waited 2 hours for the others.” They both laugh. Punctuality is not an issue in Malawi.
Both Corinne and Mattia are very happy with their experience. “It was the best choice,” Corinne says. “I grew a lot. I discovered myself. I am tougher than I thought. I can manage.”
“I already knew I was able,” Mattia says. “I have been volunteering before. But to me this was the best, because the project is a success. Even after I left. People embraced it. I feel more certain of myself.”
But they found it tough to break the cultural barrier. Men and women are not friends. At least not in the rural areas. They didn’t really make friends there. “They all want something from you,” Mattia explains. “Bring me this, buy me that, find me a girlfriend.”
They have some great advice for future volunteers:
“Be flexible. Be patient. Find your own way. Be comfortable, and let others be comfortable too. Let it be.”
“And don’t get pissed,” Mattia adds before we wrap it up.
DAPP Amalika Teacher Training College
The project idea builds its philosophy at training local Malawi male and female youths to become primary school teachers for the rural areas of Malawi, teachers who are dynamic, trained and highly motivated in teaching children as well as the community and are professionally well founded to energetically think that learners in primary school all have the potential to become skilled and productive members of society.
Video about Corinne telling why she chooses to participate in this project.
Video about Mattia sharing his reasons for taking part in this programme.
INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
VOLUNTEER AND FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Long term volunteer programs consist of 3 periods
3 months in the Learning Center in Denmark preparing yourself for project time. Knowing more about issues of the world, learning about cultural differences and a lot more. Helping to run the school.
6 months in the projects in India, Malawi, Zambia or Mozambique working in various fields like Child Aid, Agriculture, Education, Community Development.
3 months back in Denmark in the learning center to conclude and reflect on your program time. You will share your experience with the world by making presentations and written materials of your time here.
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