Volunteer Occupational Therapist Sibongile has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.
Going to volunteer in Malawi, Africa with RIPPLE was the best experience of my life. I grew so much as a person, learned so much, and gained a heartfelt appreciation of life itself. It was an eye-opening experience to emerge myself into the villages of rural Africa and to compare the standards of living there to my life in the US. The Malawian people were so happy, friendly, and welcoming—taking nothing for granted. It was truly a humbling experience to be able to go there and serve those communities.
As a volunteer of the Disability and Rehabilitation program, I worked one on one with an amazing Malawian field worker, named Matilda. She taught me everything I needed to know to navigate the area and to communicate with the locals. We shared so many smiles and laughs together and I will hold my memories of my first trip to Malawi forever.
Being able to use my knowledge and background as an Occupational Therapist was so rewarding when treating the children in these villages. There are so many things that we take for granted that are non-existent or not easily accessed in Africa. I really felt that my work there was much needed and appreciated by the communities!
It was so inspiring to see how the people of Malawi could make something out of nothing. I found that people there were so resourceful with the limited materials available. During my stay at Mwaya, I learned to use what I had to build makeshift materials that were much needed for treatment sessions. I was able to make soft splints using toilet paper rolls, soft balls, fabric, and foam. I even made a positioning wedge with some superglue, cardboard, foam, and material. I certainly got better at hand sewing!
Aside from the amazing experience of being a part of the Disability Program, the volunteers and workers that I met at RIPPLE made a lasting impact on my life. I was able to meet people from all over the world who shared their ideas and insights with me. I had fun learning how to pound peanut butter, cook some local recipes, make bracelets, and—of course—gather all the delicious mangoes. I cannot wait to go back to Malawi and experience it all again.
Sibongile – October–November 2017