Today started off the same as any other, but for some reason it still had a new and unreal feeling to it. I think every day I woke up, I had to remind myself that I was half way around the world, living and learning in a completely new and different country. I had never even done a sleep-away camp, and here was my first adventure living away from home; I decided to go big by spending a week on another continent, with people I barely even knew at the beginning of the week. Fast forward 7 days, and we were all so close we were probably getting sick of each other :)
Our wakeup call was 6am and we left the lodge with Jane, Lazarus and the rest of the group before 7. Breakfast was delicious per usual, and the coffee here is the absolute best. After another long, fun car ride, and another 12 times of listening to Tiny Dancer, we arrived at our second school visit of the week. The warm welcome we received here was once again so overwhelming, and to date, there is nothing that compares to that feeling. We started off with the usual introductions and overview of the program, before making our way into the schoolroom.
Theatre for a Change (TfaC), is a new program working alongside Concern to help and support the people of impoverished communities in Malawi. TfaC's main focus is around adolescent girls. Some of the targets of the organization include sexual/reproductive education and menstruation. One of the most heartbreaking things to hear was that in this village, as well as surrounding ones, girls tend to skip school when they are menstruating. This is simply because there is no bathrooms or changing stations for them to use during the day, causing them to walk an average distance of 12 kilometers back home, to use the bathroom. By then, it is easier for them to just stay at home and skip the rest of the school day. If these girls are missing full weeks of school every month or so, they are falling behind and missing out on classwork. These statistics were extremely upsetting to me, and listening to the young girls talk about the issues they are facing so openly, was devastating.
The workshop/lesson we were able to sit in on, included girls and boys ages 11-17. The lessons focus mainly on topics already being discussed in the classroom, such as School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV), and Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The Student Council group we interacted with, had many different purposes and roles within the school community, all extremely important to the success of the program. While talking with some of the kids, we learned that abuses are often reported to the Student Council, in which case the students would approach the Head of the school and explain the situation. The Head would then decide (depending on the specific case), whether to contact the police or the Village Head. I thought it was absolutely incredible how involved the students were with the activities. Using theatre and movement, TfaC is teaching young girls and boys to interact with one another, gain self confidence and learn in depth about Gender Based Violence, as well as other school-related issues facing them. We were able to be a part of the activities for the day, interact with the girls, and experience firsthand how much Concern and organizations like TfaC are helping children in underdeveloped nations.
The Agents of Change are responsible for managing the program and helping to implement it within the community, eventually seeing the outcome. Agents of Change go through special training in order to be a part of the community's schools. Yami was the AOC we met with when we visited. She was extremely inspiring and so passionate about what she was doing.
Another group we were able to sit in on, was the Mother Group, in charge of school-related issues, as well as the radio station network. The radio station discusses important issues in the area, and ways in which to combat these issues.
A few facts:
- Azunga in Chichewa means "white person"or "native"
- Most students walk an average of 12 kilometers to school each day
- Fathers are taking a stand alongside their daughters, hoping to provide them with a bright and successful future through education
After leaving the field, we made our way to Cassa Rossa, an Italian restaurant, for lunch. The restaurant was on the top of a mountain, and the views were beautiful. The food was fantastic, and I even tried crocodile:) The best part was definitely the coffee! We all loved it so much, a few cups didn't seem like a lot at the time, but poor Jane had to put up with our obnoxious caffeine high on the way to Mangochi.
We arrived at the Mangochi hotel, and after checking in, showering and debriefing, we ate a beautiful dinner outside, overlooking the beautiful lake. Today was by far my favorite day. Each day we've seen and experienced a different program, and each day has been eye-opening. But today, the program we saw had such an impact on me. Theatre for a Change was so incredible in the way they taught young girls about such important issues through theatrical and artistic methods. Getting to interact with the girls and ask them questions about themselves, their lives, and some of the problems we share, was amazing. The potential in each one of them was so easily recognizable, making it so difficult to see firsthand, the problems they are facing: problems that for us in America, seem so avoidable.
After returning home, I was able to get in touch with members of Theatre for a Change (TfaC). I learned more about volunteer opportunities in the United States and am hoping to become involved in some way in the next few years.
For more information on Theatre for a Change, follow the link below.