A 19-year-old Fairlie woman spent six months teaching at a school in Malawi earlier this year and was amazed by the difference in day-to-day life.
Estelle Arundell spoke about the extreme differences between life in New Zealand and Malawi at an assembly at her former school, Craighead Diocesan School, New Zealand.
“Here, everything’s so accessible … my life there [in Malawi] was very different to my life here,” she said.
Many things Arundell took for granted in New Zealand, such as electricity, a bed, a shower with running water and a wide selection of food to choose from, were absent during her trip.
“I’d gone from having things to not having anything at all,” she recalled.
Arundell was living in a building made of concrete blocks, using a long drop toilet and had to walk to collect water from a local borehole.
Heat was another factor she had to adjust to. During the day temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius were the norm.
People in New Zealand are always rushing to get things done, Arundell said. But in Malawi, things are done a little bit differently: no one runs or rushes.
“In Malawi nothing ever is rushed. I literally never saw anyone run.”
“People made sure they set aside time to spend with each other, which to them was much more important than working,” she said.
Members of her community made her feel welcome immediately and played a huge role in helping her adapt to life in Malawi.
“[They helped] me with everything, get water, cook meals, showing me how to do things,” she told the assembly.
The only food available from her local shop was what was in season. Some of the only western food available was bread and peanut butter.
“I became obsessed with peanut butter sandwiches,” Arundell said.
Nsima a thick starchy dish made from maize crops, was the food staple, she said.
“In Malawi you only eat food to survive,” she added.
As the meal was pure carbohydrates, she said many of the volunteers put on weight.
While members of the community did not look really skinny in photos, Arundell said they were actually really malnourished because they were missing out on nutrients due to a lack of fruit and vegetables.
Arundell taught 100 students in each class in Malawi, and was teaching students who were between the ages of 12 and 16.
“Rooms were so crowded there were often pupils standing because not everyone has a desk,” she said.
Arundell, 19, was in Malawi between January 1 to June 28 2016.
She will study health sciences at the University of Otago this year, and hopes to study medicine so that she can work for Doctors Without Borders in the future. – KOREN ALLPRESS For The Herald