The first time I heard about Wells for Zoë was during my time studying in the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), a college in Ireland. I had heard of previous groups travelling to Malawi with the NGO. I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel here and it wasn’t until I left college and was employed by DIT to run a newspaper that I met the organisers of the trip. I had just finished my four year degree in Journalism and French and was working as editor of DIT News.
I didn’t take the decision to apply lightly. I thought about it for some time and discussed it with my family and friends. Finally, I chose to go for it and see what happened. I found out a week after a panel interview that I had been chosen to go with Wells for Zoë to Mzuzu, Malawi. In the weeks and days before the trip I felt a mixture of emotions, excitement, fear and anxiety.
The main reason that I initially applied was the sense of adventure and the prospect of travelling to a sub Saharan country was too good to pass up. However, I soon learnt about all the projects that Wells for Zoë work on in Malawi and realised that I could actually make a difference in someone’s life.
I raised the money for my flights to Malawi through various events. The most successful was a coffee morning in my house where I invited all the neighbours, family friends and relations to come to my house and have tea and coffee. They had the opportunity to offer donations and I raised nearly €600 that day, which is around 126,000 Kwacha. I also took part in cake sales in DIT and a student night.
Finally the day came when we arrived in Lilongwe. We were taken on the five hour journey to Mzuzu. Although we were tired and hungry, we were all full of enthusiasm and drive to start working.
Our first day was spent going to visit the different projects that Wells for Zoë are involved in such as Saint John of Gods, Zolo Zolo secondary school and Lusangazi farm. In the coming days we had the chance to visit various communities, identify needs and visit various schools.
My initial impression was shock at the level of poverty. In one village, Aaron Soko, the water pump had been damaged and the people were drinking from a dirty stream. The children, although full of smiles, barely had clothes on their backs. We also visited Mzuzu Hospital where we went to the maternity ward and distributed clothes.
However, above all else, I had a sense of hope. I could see the good work that was being done and realised that I could genuinely help the people of Malawi. My favourite project was working in Zolo Zolo with form four students. We took them for a two day journalism workshop and taught them everything from news values, how to write a good news story and all about online journalism, such as blogs. They completed assignments within class and had the opportunity to work with our camera equipment to make short videos.
During my time here I have also taught an English class to adults. They are women ranging in age from 24 to 55. Although they are still grasping the basic language, it is encouraging to see that anyone can improve their lives and further their education no matter what age.
Mary and John Coyne, who founded Wells for Zoë, are true inspirations and I hope to work with them in the future. I will never forget my time in Malawi.