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From Minneapolis to Maji Zuwa

Three CBS students traveled and volunteered as part of leadership program in Malawi

CBS students Anthony Fleck, Anna Wojcicki and Jenna Christofersen were among a small cohort of U of M undergraduates to volunteer in Malawi as part of the Global Undergraduate Leadership Program. The program encourages cross-cultural communications and leadership development.

Mambo, habari za leo? 





Just a little Swahili good morning from Nairobi, Kenya. On their way to Malawi, Fleck, Wojcicki and Christofersen spent a largely sleepless night in Nairobi’s international airport. “I tried to use my iPad case as a pillow on a cement floor, then gave up on sleeping and played charades with everyone for a couple hours,” says Christofersen. “I discovered jet lag is real that day.”

Making it to Maji Zuwa

The students lived and volunteered in Maji Zuwa while in Malawi; a part of the country with an active  goat-lending program that’s helping women gain an economic and social footing in their community. “Maji Zuwa was beautiful both in community and aesthetics,” says Wojcicki. “It was integrated into Sangilo village in a way that kept us from isolating ourselves from the outside world.” 

Encouraging gender equity 

As part of the program, the students led classes with local high school students on the values of gender equity. Together with their classmates from Australia and local Malawians, the group created presentations and encouraged discussion on the topic. “It was incredibly empowering to be involved in leading discussions on gender equity,” says Wojcicki. “I was both inspired and motivated by the girls that we met, and I hope that this exchange was mutually beneficial.

Picking up lessons from the people

From life in Malawi to how to play games like Bao above, the students took away many personal lessons from their time abroad as well. “ I learned that we often forget to simply say ‘hello’ and get to know others,” says Christofersen. “The sincere hellos and smiles that I got from strangers on the streets every day are something I will forever remember about Malawi and try to integrate into my life.”

From the lowlands to the falls
Another key element involved in this leadership program was travel. Here, Christofersen, Fleck and Wojcicki pose for a quick picture behind Manchewe Falls after hiking up a mountain. “All of the natural wildlife and plants around me at the moment were truly breath taking,” says Christofersen. “I remember learning about the medicinal trees around the falls which people often go to for natural healing remedies.”

From hikes to a hammock

From hiking the falls up to Livingstonia, a village in the mountains, the students were able to see many parts of the country. Here, Fleck relaxes in a hammock overlooking a valley near Manchewe Falls. “I loved the mountainside hammocks we found at The Mushroom Farm Lodge on our way to Livingstonia,” says Fleck. “Once you got up into the mountains the temperature dropped, and the terrain reminded me of Northern Minnesota.”

Studies and sunrises

While traveling to and hiking in the mountains, the students also spent a lot of time near Lake Malawi. Here, the students were able to see the sunrise over the lake before heading out for the day. “I didn't mind the roosters waking me up early when the view was this incredible,” says Fleck.

Long-term impact

While only in Malawi for two weeks, these students not only made an impact on the people they met, traveled around the country and saw new things, but they were also changed by their time abroad. Here Fleck and Wojcicki smile with one of the leaders from Maji Zuwa. “Traveling to Malawi caused me to have a lot of cognitive dissonance,” says Wojcicki. “While in Malawi, I wrestled with the idea that my worldview is not the ultimate truth and that objectively something like that does not exist."