Greetings from Becky Raymond in Blantyre, Malawi

The following is an excerpt from a recent email from longtime RPCVs of NENY member, Becky Raymond. Becky is currently serving in Blantyre, Malawi on a Peace Corps Response assignment.

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All is well. We arrived 2 weeks ago, 8 Peace Corps Response volunteers; 4 “older” and 4 “younger”, all women. The group includes 2 PhDs, 1 MD, 1 former Associate Peace Corps Director (me) and four out of 8 are former PC volunteers.

We had a 10 day orientation/training at a hotel/conference center in the capital Lilongwe, focusing on Peace Corps admin policies, Malawian government structure, district level structure and resources (or not), cross-cultural orientation, and Chichewa language (I am having a harder time learning a new language this time around.)

We met with USAID and Embassy officials, got fitted for bikes, went to the market on a crammed mini-bus and bargained as best we could, all in the first week.

Then our Malawian counterparts (District Directors of Planning and Development) arrived for two days of collaborative orientation. It focused on understanding American and Malawian work styles, helping recognize cultural differences that might create barriers, reviewing District Implementation Plans and beginning to develop a work plan for the next 12 months. The work plans will be further developed over the next weeks as we do an organizational assessment, attend many meetings, and learn the assets and challenges of the district council to which each of us is assigned. HIV and AIDS prevention is under the National AIDS Commission and implemented through local district or municipal councils. (It’s always HIV and AIDS here, not HIV/AIDS)

We left Lilongwe on Wednesday the 19 with our counterparts and were driven to our assigned sites. I have been assigned to Blantyre, the second largest city. It’s the commercial capital of the country, so think of me as living in the New York City of Malawi!  I live in a house vacated by the previous PC Response volunteer. It has 2 bedrooms and a large yard with fruit trees and, get this – a garden!!! At the moment my furniture consists of a bed, a table and 5 chairs. Peace Corps provided us with a medical kit, water filter, bike, helmet and mosquito net. We also were given a “settling in allowance”, the equivalent of $290 to purchase supplies and get through the month. Budgeting is challenging, there are many initial expenses. Our monthly “salary – living allowance” is $212. We are expected to live at the level of our counterparts.

I have purchased a mini stove/oven (like a large toaster oven with two burners on top) and a small dorm-size refrigerator, plus many kitchen and cleaning items. For food there are two large but expensive grocery stores; Shop Rite and Game (South African). There are smaller Malawian groceries throughout the city, one not far from my house. In addition, I purchase many staples at the local market. The variety of vegetables and fruit is just wonderful. The market also sells used clothing (you know those bags of clothes we all donate to Goodwill, etc.) plus hardware, cloth for whatever article of clothing you may want to have made by a local tailor, and beautiful local crafted baskets, wooden furniture, etc. The wood products are an issue because Malawi’s forests have been largely depleted due to cutting for firewood – over population. I am trying to get used to the vagaries of water and power outages, washing my clothes by hand, city noises, walking or biking everywhere (good for my health), not getting run over because they drive on the left side like the British, and how to look “professional” while sweating. The only air conditioning I’ve experienced was at a bank.

I am enjoying being in Malawi. The people are friendly and welcoming. They appreciate that we make an effort to speak Chichewa, however badly we mispronounce. My first day of work is tomorrow, so expect much more detail about what I’m doing the next time I write.

-end-

RPCV Starts Language Learning Library Project

Ray Blakney (Mexico 2006-08) has begun a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the PC 3rd goal office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost.  Ray has created a sub-section on his website with all the information gathered to date. He has currently close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios and even some videos.

The next step for this project is to get the world out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV’s or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site. There should be something there for almost everybody.  It is all 100% free to use and share.

Any assistance in getting the word out would be appreciated, whether it be by mentioning it on your website, in a newsletter or just word of mouth in your group.   Here is the page:

http://www.livelingua.com/peace-corps-language-courses.php

Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success.   And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, you can email it to Ray directly at raymond.c.blakney@gmail.com.

Call for Input on a Library Project in Sierra Leone

Via Beth Deitcher:

Sewie Pujah, a friend of Beth Deitcher (Namibia 2007-2010) is looking for input and assistance for a library project in Sierra Leone. Sewie was born in Bondea, Sierra Leone, grew up in the United States and is now living in Albany, NY.  She has been collaborating with the chief of her village to develop the idea for this library project. Sewie is not affiliated with an NGO and is trying to figure out the best way to fund the library.

Some planning documents are available to view. For more information or to get involved, email Sewie at speppah@yahoo.com or Beth at cinnbin@aol.com.

 

We want your country content

You many have noticed that our website has a map of the countries where our members have served as Peace Corps Volunteers. You may also have noticed that most of the country balloons have no content.

You can change that.

Next time you’re browsing our site, click the balloon for your country of service. If it’s empty, think of some links, photos, and other content you can add. The content should focus on things you want people to know about your country of service including on-going projects you want to promote. It can highlight your peace corps service and your time there too.

Send your content to rpcvneny@gmail.com.

Multiple submissions are fine. We’ll post it all.

Thanks!