I have served as a volunteer for Chisomo Idea for four years, and in March, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi with a small group of Americans for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with the people and the culture. While I was looking forward to visiting a part of the world I had not seen, I did not realize that it would be a powerful, life-changing experience. Two observations stood out to me as being of the highest importance: (1) the resilience of the Malawian people and (2) the effectiveness of Chisomo Idea and the vision that is becoming a reality, step by step, every day.
Each person I met was strong, resourceful, motivated, and passionate about how their lives could be better—by their own efforts. They were not looking for a handout. They were looking for opportunity that they could transform through hard work. But even more exciting to me was the pervasive attitude of expectancy that I felt among the Malawian people and especially among the Chisomo Idea team in Malawi. There was a passion and vibrancy and anticipation that everything was possible and within their grasp. The energy in the team was electric and had spread to the community members who embraced the possibility that their lives could be better because someone was showing them how.
Chisomo Idea’s philosophy of developing the people through education and training so they can effectively identify their problems and craft solutions is a critical piece in making lasting and sustainable improvement. This is the only strategy that is going to unlock the problem of poverty in Malawi. Malawians have so much to offer in how to collaborate in problem solving and how to negotiate conflict; these are skills that are badly needed in the western world. The human capital and the human potential that are being wasted is detrimental to the wellbeing of us all.
I have been an educator for 33 years at both the high school and university levels. As a result of my experiences, I can read people quite well and I can accurately assess the strengths and predict future results of organizations. What I see with Chisomo Idea is the beginning of something great. I am so thrilled, excited, and honored to be included at the inception of a movement that I believe is going to change Malawi and create a community development model for use with emerging nations worldwide.
History shows that millions of dollars have been poured into African over the past several decades by nonprofits and governments all over the world. History also shows that when the money dried up and the nonprofits turned their attention elsewhere, the programs and projects disappeared. Until the African people are extended the dignity to define their problems and propose ways to solve them—ways that work in Africa—money will continue to be wasted on bandaid solutions. Chisomo Idea has keyed into this.