Recent volunteer Elise Graham 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.
My first glimpse of Mwaya after finishing a long night bus journey was of the sun rising over the lake. It was obvious I had arrived in a pretty special place! With a warm welcome from the other volunteers and staff members, it did not take long to settle in and call Mwaya home.
Living at Mwaya was different to anywhere else I’ve been. I became a morning person and enjoyed the morning ritual of a Mzuzu coffee while watching the sun rise every morning from the beach. I got used to being greeted everywhere I went by friendly locals and children waving as we rode by. I also got my bicycle legs and got used to cycling to work each day, navigating sand patches and mud puddles past all the beautiful scenery.
As a physiotherapist I was lucky enough to be working on the disabilities project with Matilda, a local special needs teacher. She was invaluable in helping me navigate through the village ways of life, finding my way through mazes of village tracks and communicating with all our clients.
It was such an interesting experience for me to be working in people’s homes, which gave me a real feel for the challenges that our clients face. We also worked together on setting up centrally located support groups for clients with disabilities. These were a great way to connect parents or clients facing similar challenges, and also assisted us in identifying new clients in the area who could drop in after hearing about the service through word of mouth.
In comparison to working back home it was amazing what some of our clients could achieve with such limited resources available. We had to think outside the square with some of our treatments- making temporary seating out of sacks of sand, and becoming wheelchair mechanics after learning how to change a bike tube the previous day back at Mwaya! It was also interesting to see how some clients had adapted to their disabilities and were coping with deformities that at home would be very limiting.
Whilst at Mwaya I was also given the chance to experience some of the other projects that RIPPLE is involved in including the tree planting projects and attending the signing ceremony of the new fishing bylaws. It was great to see what RIPPLE is doing with the community on a larger scale and also to meet other members of the local team.
Lastly, the people I have met and friends I have made throughout my time at RIPPLE made the experience the amazing time that it was. The local staff and other volunteers were all so welcoming and it was lovely to come home each night to our little community. I enjoyed my time at Mwaya and hope to stay involved in the future to keep on hearing about the inspiring work that is happening there.
Elise Graham (May – June 2017)