In about eight hours I will leave my comforts of home for something more rugged, more adventurous, more audacious. No longer will I be ensconced in the familiar world of southern hospitality where “y’all” is the standard word on the street. Instead, I will seek to live my life by a different beat where the spoken vernacular is foreign to my own. In eight hours, I leave for two months of volunteering in Blantyre, Malawi.
I began planning this remarkable opportunity back in October when I applied to a program called DukeEngage, which sends Duke students all over the world every summer to engage in some form of community service. For me, this service will involve tutoring high school students and helping to establish a child advocacy program for AIDS orphans living in and around Blantyre. By working with children who bear the burden of what AIDS leaves behind, I hope to contribute an outsider’s opinion on how education policy can be reformed in one of Africa’s poorest nations. Through my work with Joshua (my NGO partner), I hope to apply my public policy education in the service of society.
In thinking about the principles behind DukeEngage, it seems fitting that it is advertised as a way for students to use their knowledge outside of the classroom; it is imperative we learn how to appreciate and adapt our education to fit the needs of the 21st century. However, I hope my time in Malawi is more than just an opportunity to reinforce and reconsider lessons previously learned. Instead, I anticipate the next two months to be an education in and of themselves. Meeting new people, adapting to a different way of life, and learning a new language are sure to bring educational experiences that can only be truly appreciated outside the confines of a classroom. It is these experiences I wish to harness.
For the next two months, I will try to keep you updated on my progress as I take time to reflect on my time with Joshua. I feel reflection is important, not only as a means of communication, but as Confucius believed, as a means of learning. Only by reflecting will I be able to draw on past experiences and incorporate them into lessons learned in Malawi.
It is with great sadness but also burgeoning anticipation that I leave you today. Please feel free to follow my adventure and keep in touch! “Moni” Malawi, my new home away from home.