Before you leave for your first week out, pack like you’ll be gone for 3 weeks, even if you are told that you’ll be back in 3 days. Plans change every evening.  It’s true. Not showering for 3 days isn’t so bad. As long as you have your deodorant and you don’t wear the same clothes for more than 2 days, you’ll be fine. After awhile, your hair just sticks in place. 🙂

Jennifer Forte, 2007 Volunteer

Jennifer Forte, 2007 Volunteer

Like Tom Logan tells you…when a Malawian says stop, stop first then ask questions. There is probably some maintenance man by a tree or off the side of the road wearing a purple shirt waiting to be picked up for the days work.

When Jim McGill tells you not to drive in the rain, don’t drive. Most likely the field officer you are with has never driven a car before and they don’t know what four-wheel-drive is. Their dirt bikes can drive through mud easily, so a truck with four wheels can do anything right? There’s a lot of mud out there!!

When you think that you can’t fit any more Malawians in the bed of the truck…you’re wrong. More workers – with their bikes! – can fit.

Don’t plan on eating breakfast. Unless you have a powerbar with you. You try to leave as soon as the sun is up because there are many miles to drive and you want to get in as many wells as you can. Preferably trying to beat your number of wells built from the previous day.

After a few days, you start looking forward to your coke and biscuit for lunch with the rest of the workers around 2 o’ clock. I would love to go back to those times when a coke and a biscuit would satisfy my hunger for the whole day. There is something about giving people life that makes you forget about food and what your wants are. Water is Life, the more fresh water you supply, the more lives you save. That was more than enough to keep me going strong for 3 weeks.

I never dreamed of the relationships I would come across with the MMM Malawian workers. I remember being so nervous the night before leaving for Africa thinking of how I was going to be able to communicate with people that live half way around the world and speak a totally different language! My first day there, every Malawian I met greeted me warmly and always asked how I was doing. I left Malawi with more friends than I came with and pen pals I look forward to writing to. I thought three weeks was going to be a long time in Africa, but I wanted to cry the day I left because I could have spent three more weeks there, easily! I am really going to miss the friends I made there.

Universal things:

  • Laughter. Even though I couldn’t talk to the children, chasing them around and hearing them laugh let me know that they were having fun.
  • A smile. Even if the women were in the middle of doing something, they would stop and come down to the well to meet us. Their huge smiles let me know that we were definitely not an inconvenience to them. Just seeing the villagers smile made me more confident at each well to reach out and shake everyone’s hand to let them know that I wanted to be there for them and I wanted to meet them all. They mean the world to me.
  • Singing. I have no idea what the women and children were saying, but I could tell by their dancing and laughter that it was a good song and they were very happy that we were there. If the well took 45 minutes to install, the women did not stop singing once and eventually would make me dance with them. Talk about a white girl not being able to dance and now having to dance in another country! I relaxed after a while.
  • A hand shake. The grip of a child, a woman, a head man, an elder were all strong and filled with gratitude. A hand shake reminded you that we were all there to work together no matter your race, gender or status in society.

I realize that you don’t need electricity or a shower everyday to get along in life. You need your family and friends and the faith in others that you will take care of one another and that you will take care of a stranger that needs you. That’s the way life should be.