Reaching partners: photo of roadside fruit and vegetable market in Malawi

Reaching partners: a cricked neck and overloaded senses!

Signal’s International Programmes Manager, Karen Goodman-Jones, writes of the start of her monitoring visit to Malawi with Andy Kerr, CEO of Sense Scotland, this month. Sense Scotland is our long-term partner on our programme in Malawi’s Northern Region.

The road to Mzuzu

Reaching partners: photo of children along the roadside in MalawiI know what a privilege it is to be able to visit our local partners in the field and observe the direct work with the people we support: deaf and hearing impaired children, their families, teachers, schools and community leaders. But I often forget the journey to get there and what a spell it casts…

The 28 hours of travelling, flying and hanging around in airports is soon forgotten. In the national capital Lilongwe, you could be in any city. But, once you hit the road, you are reminded that you are in Malawi, Africa. Here, sensory overload is the norm and a cricked neck a happy price to pay, as you try to see everything in every direction all at the same time!

Once under the spell of a country, you never forget it. A few hours on the road heading north to the base of our local partners in Mzuzu, the capital of the Northern Region, provides the opportunity to remember exactly why…

Is it the colours of the land – whether the lush greens during the rainy season or the parched landscape which still shows flashes of colour and a rich red earth?

Reaching partners: photo of children selling roasted small birds in MalawiIs it the sheer ingenuity of the ways of making money? From the honesty of roadside tables offering fruit, vegetables and charcoal, to the iron and metal dredged from rivers linking with Lake Malawi, to the offerings of roasted rat kebabs or small birds sold by children who should be in school.

Or is it the creative displays of fruit and vegetables which would challenge any UK supermarket?

Is it the courtesy of drivers who use both right and left indicators to show whether or not it is safe to overtake? Or the use of large branches, placed in the road either side of a broken down vehicle, to warn other drivers of the dangers ahead?

Reaching partners: photo of small truck overloaded with goods and peopleOr is it the different traffic hazards which charm? Goats, chickens and monkeys crossing the road cause vehicles to hit the horn and yet slow down nevertheless.

Is it the small children carrying even smaller children on their backs? Or the bustle of outdoor markets, which sell everything from clothing, music, animals (both dead and alive), fruit, vegetables, electrical goods and everything else you could feasibly need – and the miles people walk to get to them?

Is it trying to guess how many people are crammed onto one lorry or how large a load can be carried on a bicycle?

Reaching partners: photo of rural landscape in MalawiIs it all of these, or the views of plains, mountains, villages and small holdings or the people themselves? Is it the beat of African music playing in the background?

Whatever it is, I am so fortunate to witness it, and this is just on the journey to reach our partners. Read more in our news section over the coming weeks about the life-changing work our local partners are actually doing in the field…

Karen

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