Posts Tagged With: FOMA

End of Service

“End of Service” is the phrase VSO uses when a volunteer completes their placement.

This is what I’m currently preparing for because I am completing my placement and going home next Sunday! A few months ago, after a long think and chat with family and close friends, I decided to amend my placement duration from 2 years to 18 months. I need to go home for family and professional reasons. The UK private sector recruitment cycle is traditionally buoyant between January to June and very quiet between July to December, due to budget freezes. So it makes sense that I go back now as opposed to October. Unfortunately I cannot extend beyond October because I also have family promises to keep.

So, I’ve been trying to let go of all the things which have been an integral part of my life here in Malawi. From the trivial elements to the critical ones and the very reasons I came here in the first place:-

  • The iHRIS project
  • Breakfast Club kids
  • All the bonds and friendships I’ve made, some of which I will keep on of course.
  • All the phones, clothes and other stuff my friends have kindly donated still need to be given away!

On the other hand, I am very looking forward to seeing my family and friends, plus riding my motorbike again! I’ve often said that I do not miss any material thing from my first world life. No flat screen TV, fancy car, gadgets, mod-cons etc. The only exception is my first and only motorbike.

Honda CBR600 F-Sport. Valentino Rossi 2001 livery.

Honda CBR600 F-Sport. Valentino Rossi 2001 livery.

As part of the End of Service pack, VSO have a document called Preparing for Reverse Culture Shock. It describes the 5 pre-departure stages, which I initially laughed at (and actually still do). Some of it does resonate though:-

  1. Recognition of feelings
  2. Accept feelings of loss
  3. Prepare for separation
  4. Review the experience
  5. Prepare for reverse culture shock

18 months have really flown by quickly. From not knowing anything about Malawi and Lilongwe to actually being invited to events and not being the newbies. From very slow progress on iHRIS at the beginning (no office!) to having a full project team working full time on it now. From just occasionally handing out the odd sweet and not knowing any of the kids’ names, to feeding and teaching up to 30 kids every week.

Thank you kids! Part of the report for the FOMA grant we received.

Thank you kids! Part of the report for the FOMA grant we received.


Life is like a toilet roll. First bit goes slow, then after half way it just speeds up till the end!

Thanks for the quote Nat! 😉

I know for a fact that I will miss Malawi. I also know that I will be back!

Categories: Malawi, Motorbikes, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

25 Letters in the Alphabet?

As part of the Breakfast Club, Thursdays are “class days”. Depending on whether I get home from work late, it usually runs from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

Using the whiteboard and stationery bought with FOMA funds, we do simple exercises like spelling, mathematics, IT and most recently, learning how to use a dictionary.

Yesterday’s exercise was translating Chichewa words into their English meaning, which we’ve done once before – see post. I began the exercise by writing a Chichewa word beginning with A, then B, then C. Then I went to help each kid individually.

Junior, one of the eldest kids, has learnt how to use the dictionary very quickly. He finished the first 3 words before anyone else. So I asked him to take over as teacher and write more Chichewa words on the whiteboard. Resuming from D etc through to Z.

When he completed this, he turned to me and said: “Finished!

I sceptically looked at the whiteboard, saw only 25 words and replied: “Junior, how many letters are in the alphabet?

Junior confidently responds: “No X… ” and then shows me with dictionary that there are indeed no words which begin with X in Chichewa!

Well done Junior!! 🙂

Junior, the teacher.

Junior, the teacher.

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

WOTD: Mtanthauziramawu

Chichewa word of the day: 1.mtanthauziramawu\mi-; 2.dikishonale\ma- (Chingerezi); 

Meaning: Dictionary

Sorry I haven’t posted a word of the day or about the kids for a while. So this is two birds with one stone!

I mentioned in my previous post that the Area 11 Breakfast Club was lucky enough to be awarded funding from FOMA and that some of the funds have been used to purchase dictionaries for the kids.

Well, on Saturday after breakfast, we used the Chichewa Dictionaries for the first time! “First time” is more poignant that it sounds because for the kids, it really was their first time to use a dictionary, ever. Using a calculator, reading a map and knowing where most countries are*… these are example of skills which we “first-worlders” take for granted because it was an integral part of our education.

*My own night-guard still thinks I’m Japanese (Ok, my German first name doesn’t help!). Because to him, there are only JICA volunteers but no Chinese ones that he’s seen or heard of in Malawi. Just to really push this point home, when we bought a new combination padlock for our outside storage room and I told him the combination so he and others can access it for tools, he looked at me blankly. Because he had never seen a padlock with no key!

Anyway, I explained the 2 (Chichewa to English and English to Chichewa) sections of the dictionary and the objective of the exercise (find the word on the whiteboard and write down the Chichewa or English meaning), at least twice. Some of the kids understood it, which was great. “It” being how the dictionary is sorted in alphabetical order. First by the first letter, then second etc. But some kids, as I discovered mid-way through the exercise, did not. They were just turning every page in search of the word!

This turned out to be a much more difficult (and fun) exercise than I expected. I was left very exhausted to be honest but will definitely do it again.

Thank you to Dr Steven Paas, the author of the dictionary, for allowing us to participate in the Free Distribution Programme, which is normally reserved for much bigger quantities and, of course, for writing the dictionary in the first place!

Class time!

Class time!



Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friends of Malawi Association

Every year, a UK based charity called the Friends of Malawi Association (FOMA) donate to numerous small projects. Mainly those started and managed by serving VSO volunteers.

The Area 11 Breakfast Club was lucky to have received some funding from FOMA in late 2013 – link to their website here. It’s very interesting to read about all the different projects currently happening all over Malawi.

So far, we’ve used some of our funds to purchase educational materials like a whiteboard, calculators and dictionaries for use in the weekly classes every Thursday. With the remaining funds, I’m currently working on building a small library for all the local kids. So they have easy access to suitable children’s books, which I can’t explain just how rare and precious they are here.

Thank you FOMA - Area 11 Breakfast Club

Thank you FOMA – Area 11 Breakfast Club

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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