Updates from Malawi: Week 2

AK Parker is an Art Director from BBH London who is currently on TIE in Malawi. She’s working at Joshua Orphan & Community Care, a grassroots organization that supports community-driven programmes assisting HIV/Aids orphans, vulnerable children and their families in Blantyre. Since the first week of her placement, she has been sending her agency back home some updates on her experiences on the field – and they are awesome! It’s always exciting for us to get to know the everyday learnings and insights from our participants, so we thought you might enjoy them too.

1 mountain, 2 weeks, 3 cold showers and 4 power cuts later, things seem to be going pretty well.

I’ve written the story for the schools, set up an Instagram page for the charity, started planning the website, building a bank of photography, and climbed Mulanje mountain.

Most of the week was spent clinging on to the back of a truck, driving along treacherous roads to the rural villages, wondering what kind of health insurance I have. The point of the trips was to photograph and research the villages for the educational material I am producing, which was successful.

But I of course learnt a lot of other things along the way. The Maths teacher in Solomoni dances around stomping his feet playing the harmonica. The official Weather teacher wears a skirt covered in umbrellas. And the Chiefs don’t want to meet me. Who knew!?

The bad news is I have to rethink my colouring book of Village Chiefs idea, the good news is I’m no longer at risk of offending a Chief who could potentially cast a witchcraft spell over me. …I wonder if my health insurance covers ‘witchcraft’?

The hardest thing I can’t forget, was seeing a young child laying on the ground in the corner of a class with Malaria. The teacher’s said he would recover thanks to the medicine they got from the clinic which is miles away. Let’s hope he does and is dancing around the class with Mr Harmonica in no time.

Kids here love having their photo taken. When you show them the picture, they scream with laughter. I imagine they don’t see their reflection very often and certainly don’t have cameras or smart phones. Which leads on to the Instagram idea.

Charities are always showing the life of people they are helping from their own perspective. We want to reverse this and put the camera and power into the kid’s hands, so they can show us life from their perspective.

Every time we meet the children, we give them a camera, teach them how to use it, and let them take the photos for our feed. Of course there are fingers over the lens and funny angles, but it’s leading to some really interesting images and the kids are learning at the same time. You can follow the Instagram feed here or search for ‘joshuaorphanandcommunitycare’.

Finally, last week I introduced you to some of the wonderful kids names, this week it’s the shop signs. We’ve got Rashy Motors, Fish Connection, Praise Tailoring, 31 girls take away, 4 Way Shop and 3 Way Shop, (it’s a relief to know they have most ways covered). I also passed through a town called FOMO, with a FOMO Clinic, and Never Give Up Shop, which looked like it had closed down.

But best of all is ‘God Save us Tours’, who drive around town in a dilapidated old mini bus, with a wheel practically hanging off. I know which company I’m going with when I finish my project.

Love, AK


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