The Other Side – Tionana

Tionana means “We will see one another” in Chichewa, the indigenous language in Southern Malawi. It is the language that I spoke with my host family, the Bandas, as well as the other people in my village all throughout my summer working in Malawi.

For me, tionana encapsulates my sentiments as I left my Malawian family and home to return to Canada in August of 2010.

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The Other Side – First steps off the plane

I’ve meant to write this post countless times. I’ve spent many hours thinking about it, sat down to a computer to start typing it, wrote a sentence here or there but never a full entry and certainly nothing to post. Somewhere along the line I fell into the trap of leaving your blog behind when you step off a plane and back into Canada. Well, starting now, I’m climbing out of that trap.

This is the first in a series of posts of the other side, the experience of being in Canada after working overseas.  Continue reading


I’ve had a hard week. The kind where you keep thinking that things have to take a turn for the better soon and then take a turn for the worst, the kind where you are tired beyond needing sleep, the kind that makes you want to go home. I wanted to go home this week – what I didn’t realize at the time was that home did not have to mean Canada. Continue reading

Half Formed Thoughts

A collection of musings I have been having over the course of the summer but have not yet formed into full on opinions but are nonetheless important observations. I would love to start a discussion and share thoughts and experiences on any of the following.

On Hierarchy Continue reading

The Moments I Remember I am From Another Culture

There are times in Malawi when I feel completely at home and even forget that some of the things I am doing are strange compared to what I would do at home in Canada. For me this is a part of integrating into a new culture. Before coming overseas, all of the volunteers coming with EWB are asked to think about the importance of integration. Although integration looks a little bit different for everyone, the overall goal is for our volunteers to develop a little bit of understanding and empathy for the lives of the people we are trying to help. Continue reading

Where is Laureene??

“Where is Laureene?” is a question Mr. Banda fields almost every day. Although his answers vary – she is at work, at the market, at the lake, in town, they always contain the same ending: she will be back soon, but the time is coming when Mr. Banda will have to answer “Laureene is in Canada” without the assurance that I will be back soon.

The time is coming when my life in Malawi and all the people in it will become a memory. Continue reading

Beware the Buzzword

They exist in almost every industry. Words that are used to describe something of importance to everyone within a specific industry or group but mean something different to anyone outside of that group or words that have adopted strong meaning to all who hear them across groups and situations. I like to call these words buzzwords and they are especially pervasive in development.

These words like gender equality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS pull on heart strings, open wallets and generally evoke reactions in those who hear them – but like all buzzwords, the reactions they evoke may not represent the true meaning of the word or program they are describing.

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Are we Poor?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled “Mr. Mbenderana.” At the end of that post, I shared that Mr. Mbenderana finished our meeting by asking me a question “Why did I think that his community was poor?”

At the time I answered somewhat vaguely that I thought it was a combination of dependence on inconsistent rain patterns and systemic shortfalls at the District, Regional and National level related to infrastructure and essential service provision, planning and maintenance. It was more or less a generic answer that I drew upon in a moment of surprise and doesn’t answer the prerequisite question to answer this one – are they poor? Continue reading

Three Tales of Development – Chikalumpha Youth Club

This last tale in development reminds me of what is possible. It starts when 14 members of a youth club all contribute 20 MK (about $0.15 Can) to buy mustard and rape plant seeds and continues as a vegetable garden flourishes at the base of a borehole. Continue reading

Three Tales of Development – The Playpump

The play pump for me highlights so many aspects of what is wrong with development. I will not reinvent the wheel, another EWB volunteer Owen Scott already wrote a brilliant series of posts highlighting some the main problems with the playpump, so check this out and then read on

Now that Owen has brought you up to speed, I want to share with you a story about the installation of a play pump at a school in Chikwawa. Continue reading