Volunteer Report. "What I gained from living in Malawi - this is JICA Volunteer all about"


Name: Akiko Nishimura
Specialty: Pharmacist

I set foot in Malawi in Africa two years ago, and now I have only about one month left in my two-year JOCV programme. During my stay in Malawi, not only did I concentrate on my official activities, but I also had the opportunity to experience various Malawian traditions, culture and events. For exanple, I was invited to my colleagues' engagement parties, weddings and Christmas parties; I attended funerals that were different in style like of children and adults. I was moved by the dancing that was performed before some events and when entertaining visitors. I was encouraged to have better discussions before and after meetings. People are always praying for a safe journey before driving. Traditional sorcerers still exist in the village and people still believe in them. There were some customs that were different from Japan and some that were similar to Japanese customs, all of which were very interesting.


Engagement Party of a colleague


Members of Dancing Queen

One of the most memorable experiences was being allowed to participate as a Dancing Queen to grace the bridal shower of my colleague, before her wedding. Only women were invited to the party, and the brides are given advice by the elderly women of the village about their future married life. We dancers danced our way through the crowd, wearing matching hairstyles, costumes and shoes, and everyone was delighted to see me, a Japanese, in traditional Malawian costume and dancing Malawian styles. I prepared for the day by rehearsing with my colleagues to master the unique Malawian rhythms. Whatever my skills, it was a great experience for me to be part of the preparations and not as a spectator but as one of the organisers.


Starting Point of Mzuzu half-marathon

I also remember participationg in a challenge in Malawi; I was able to complete a half-marathon with other JOCV members and Malawian runners, which was very enjoyable despite the hardships. I am also planning to climb Mt Mulanje, Malawi's highest mountain, before returning home.

I never thought I would be able to learn and experience so much from living in Malawi. For this to happen, I thank all Malawians, especially my colleagues for their warm, welcoming and kind personalities. I have made lifelong friends and visited favourite places. One of my colleagues named her newborn child AKIKO after me. Working together with my colleagues, living the local life, going to various places and broadening my knowledge were precious, moving and very meaningful two years in Malawi. I could have never gained such experience, if I had only visited Malawi on a trip or if I had only concentrated on my official activities. I believe that this experience and connection gained in Malawi will continue to expand in the future.



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