Off the plane we stepped, into the dry, menacing heat that we would come to love over the next 10 days. Having lived in Scotland for the last 7 years, any glimpse of sweat came as a welcome surprise. So it began, our journey into the heart of Malawi. Our agenda – painting schools, visiting an orphanage, touring a maternity hospital, then travelling to Zambia for a safari.
The day after arriving, it all began. Armed with Malarone, bug spray, and plenty of sanitizer, we visited our first school. The school was a LEAP School (Lilongwe Education Assistance Project) and was exceedingly underdeveloped. We worked in one of the ‘classrooms’ and completely altered the inside – painting the walls, cleaning up old posters, and giving the children a foreign surprise. We weren’t the first school trip to travel there, but the reception we were given was exhilarating. Every child wanted to talk and learn where you were from, then quickly after they would take you out to play soccer or dance in the large sprawling fields. We returned two days later and were greeted in much the same way, but the real pleasure was on our side, not theirs.
The other school we visited was the Bunda School, a significantly more developed school, but nonetheless, far below an acceptable level. We helped to set up their library, held a soccer camp for the children, and integrated with the kids in any way we could. Yet, throughout all this excitement, two life changing experiences were implemented in the schedule. The first was our visit to the Bwaila Maternity Hospital. It, like the schools, was inadequate for the number of people that went through the doors everyday. Fortunately, with the donations from our school and others, a new hospital is being built that rivals that of a western one. The second experience was a visit to the Sisters of Charity Orphanage in Lilongwe. Many of the children had AIDS but it seemed so trivial when it came to playing with these kids that have so little. That was the single most gratifying experience of my life.
After days of hard work and completely new experiences, we started the 6 hour trek to Zambia. After horrifically potholed roles, fake yellow fever certificates, and border control interrogation, we arrived at the Wildlife Camp in South Luangwa National Park. I had never been on a safari either, so it was yet another event that I will never forget. Driving yards away from fully grown elephants and stalking hyenas at night was awe-inspiring. Sleeping in mosquito nets while giant Geckos traversed them and hearing the rustling of hippos mere feet from your lodge was an extremely matchless situation. If I could do everything on the trip again, I would do it in a heartbeat. Nothing can compare to the feelings we experienced during our ten days in Malawi.
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