By Meaghan Moylan
There are months, weeks and days of preparation that lead up to every trek. Those who have traveled with The Sonder Project before try and prepare you: “There’s nothing like the welcome ceremony!” “Your life will be forever changed.” “You’ll want to take the children home with you!” They are exactly right.
When our van pulled up to the village of Makakani, Malawi, we were immediately surrounded by the members of the community. They were singing, dancing, and giving us the famous Malawian welcome.
The children of Makakani were traveling almost 9 miles round-trip to school every day. Young children were drowning in the rivers during the rainy season, and adolescent girls were getting sexually assaulted on the long journey.
The entire village showed their gratitude to The Sonder Project for bringing Aphingo School to Makakani; a gift this community has been waiting for since the 1980s.
That evening, I was introduced to my host family. The Masaya family has eleven children spread across two homes; they are the kindest people I have ever met. My host mother spent her days getting water from the well about ¼ mile away, cleaning the children’s clothes, preparing meals for her family, and making sure her homes were spotless. I spent my nights under the African stars with my brothers and sisters, dancing to Malawian chants and playing Jenga.
Sanoya and Jafari were two of my brothers; 10-year-old twins. Jafari suffered a stroke at the age of three months and lost full function of the right side of his body – he has been unable to attend school while his brother is in grade 4.
This September, Jafari will attend Aphingo School with his brother. Stories like those of Jafari and Sanoya will continuously remind me why it is so important to do good.
The people of Makakani are hospitable, kind, inspiring, and incredibly hardworking. Working side-by-side with the members of the village is something I will never forget. The women were in their “chitenges” (long, patterned skirts) digging the foundation, while the men laid bricks and dug latrines.
The community repeatedly told our group how thankful they were for Aphingo School and reminded us each and every day that they will never take this gift for granted.
I grew up with a swimming pool and was dropped off to school every morning by my mother. I traveled to Malawi with hope that I could change the lives of the people that I met. What I didn’t expect, however, was the way they changed me. Since leaving the village, I am reminded that even the things in life that seem thoughtless (electricity, running water, primary and secondary education, etc.) to Americans, are luxuries to most of the world. I am forever grateful to the people of Malawi for giving me the gifts of love, compassion, and mindfulness.