Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Rain has finally arrived…the silence is broken…

Like the sudden clap of thunder last Sunday that signalled the beginning of the rains to come this is the sudden beginning to a long overdue update and blog.

Maybe I needed the rains to shake off the veil of silence that has crept in since I arrived here in Malawi (although truthfully it didn’t rain much). Albeit unintentional I must apologize for my long silence and will try my best to keep updated in the coming months. I won’t promise to keep up with the same frequency as the rains as I have no idea what the rainy season will have in store and don’t want to get too swamped (no pun intended).

As a start I’ll try and set a bit of context…

I have no idea whom said it and despite the risk of sounding too cliché and painting the whole continent with one wide brush I must agree that ‘Africa gets into your blood’. From the moment I stepped off the continent following my volunteer placement with Engineers Without Borders in Ghana last year I have yearned to return. To return to the rhythm of the life, the music, the laughter, the pride, the humbleness, to return to learn, to grow, to share, to teach, to return to the rhythm this continent seems to posses but most importantly to return to fighting the biggest and most unacceptable injustice in the world, extreme poverty. It is slightly strange to me and not wanting to lump over 50 unique and individual nations into one basket I’ll leave it at this – I needed to come back.

I have once again returned as an Engineers Without Borders Canada volunteer but this time as a long term volunteer and will be based in Malawi for about a year. I arrived in Malawi on June 30th, 2006 and am working with the William J. Clinton Foundation on a new project called the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, a program that incorporates Education, Health Care, Water and Sanitation, and Agriculture. My role within the project will mainly be focused on the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) sector building on the knowledge and experience that I have built up in Ghana.

For now I am based out of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, but our project is focused in three different districts – one in the north, central, and southern region (but more to follow on project specifics in a subsequent update). One of the best parts of this placement thus far is that my wife Erin has been able to join me and she is now volunteering at a local primary school in our neighbourhood.

To find out more on Malawi check out the link to the right. But as a very brief summary: Malawi is a landlocked nation in southern Africa and is ranked as the 13th lowest country in the world according to the most recent Human Development Index. The life expectancy at birth is only 39 years old. It is estimated that 1 in 7 Malawians is infected with HIV/AIDS and as a result of this, chronic poverty, and preventable diseases such as Malaria and TB there is also a very high orphan population. The economy is also predominately agriculturally based, with about 90% of the population living in rural areas. Although these are stark and cut and dry facts I know there is more than the numbers represent and if there is one thing that I have learned from my experience within EWB it is to ask questions, to have an open mind, and be prepared to learn and this is exactly what I intend to do.

Malawi has also received a lot of international press recently as a result of a visit from Bill Clinton in July, the cancellation of $2.9 Billion USD of international debt at the end of August, and most recently a visit from Madonna. But what I wished we were getting press on was the countless farmers, individuals, women, and entrepreneurs that are fighting for themselves to break the cycle of poverty. Although I have been here for a short time I have already met many individuals that would make great role models and front cover pieces of any newspaper anywhere in the world. What I feel we need most in term of press are these types of reports and how we can all work together in breaking this cycle.

If you would like to be emailed every time I update my blog, send me a quick note and I'll make that happen. Also, check out some of the links to the right- you can find out more on Malawi, EWB, and the current weather where I'm staying.

Thanks to everyone for your support and contact and I’ll send out another update soon.

Take Care,