Young Observer

Making a difference in Malawi

  • Deneca Zuill Ė Senior Community Support Worker at Family Centre
  • Dean Simmons
  • Domain Rabain
  • Lejae Nisbett
  • Alvin-Ae Landy
  • Andre Woollery
  • Zaire Williams
  • Kaleyo James
  • Kevon Douglas

Seven years ago, BOM developed a partnership with Family Centre, which continues to provide opportunities for young people to participate in this everlasting experience.

Through this partnership, young people have travelled on build trips to Bolivia, India (twice), Paraguay, and Malawi (twice). Bermuda Overseas Mission recognises the importance of, and is committed to, exposing young people to this once-in-a-lifetime transformative experience, who would not normally get this opportunity.

Once again, Bermuda Overseas Mission Group provided the young people participating with the Beyond Rugby Programme (Family Centre), Youth Leadership Academy (Family Centre) and a new programme with students from the Ministry of National Securityís High School Programmes. Deneca Zuill, senior community support worker at Family Centre and Darren Woods co-ordinated this experience through fundraising with the support of BOM to take nine young people to Malawi last month. They would like to thank the sponsors, Validus, Axis, Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, Bank of Bermuda Foundation and various individuals who supported the young people in this initiative.

Twenty-two volunteers travelled to Malawi, Africa on July 12, to begin a life-changing journey. During their 17-day experience, they built six houses from the foundation through to structural completion in two different villages in Mulanje, Malawi.

The team was welcomed with open arms and immediately immersed themselves into the local culture and built relationships with the amazing people and families.

Darren Woods

This is my third BOM build with students from various programmes and my second time in Malawi. This trip is such a powerful life-changing experience for the young people participating building houses, and is equally as important for each vulnerable family that we support.

The experience this summer really solidified and reiterated the importance of this partnership and why its invaluable to the students we select to participate. I am so proud of each of them; it was amazing to watch them give all they had on the worksites, embrace the local residents, and immerse themselves into the landscape and culture. Taking young people outside of their comfort zones, to a place where there was limited internet, unfamiliar foods, and a different type of poverty to that which they had never seen before, provided us with the space to talk about life and to reflect on their family and personal situations.

Each young person came back with an expanded world view and new-found light in which they see the world.

Deneca Zuill ó senior community support worker at Family Centre

First of all, I want to once again say thank you to David Thompson, Bermuda Overseas Missions and our sponsors for continuing to provide such a life-changing, amazing, selfless, once-in-a-lifetime experience for the young people that we service at Family Centre. During my tenure at Family Centre, I always wanted to witness first hand this wonderful journey that our youngsters experience, and this year couldnít have been better timing. Embarking on a journey such as this, you go with one goal in mind and thatís to give of self, helping the villages and families in need. However, what we experienced was so much more, that words, pictures and videos, cannot begin to capture.

Malawi gave back to us in ways that we couldnít have imagined. It forced past life experiences to resurface and healing to happen; it caused our young people to step outside of their comfort zone and dive into the lifestyle and realities of the families we were building for.

Everyone had to be open-minded and sensitive to the culture around them. To watch everyone immediately adjust to what was happening and their desire to learn and see more, was nothing short of amazing.

Kevon Douglas, 16

Three words to describe yourself:

Visionary, determined and confident.

Three words to describe your experience in Malawi: Unexpected, life-changing and eye-opening.

What were your expectations if any, leading up to the trip?

I was excited to have the opportunity to travel to Malawi and didnít really know what to expect. It was my first time travelling that far and had always wondered what it would be like to go to the homeland. I had an open mind and was open to a new experience.

What was most memorable or eye-opening?

Connecting with the families and building relationships with the children in the villages, Even though we couldnít speak the same language, we still made strong real connections.

The most eye-opening part for me was the living conditions of the villages. We witnessed residentís sleeping on dirt floors, living inside houses with their livestock, and without sufficient roofs which leak when it rained. I really thought about the families on the nights it rained while I was there. I knew they were standing up all night trying to stay dry.

How has this trip impacted you?

It has helped me appreciate the smaller things life has to offer. This experience really showed me that thereís always someone in a more challenging situation and really struggling. It put my life challenges and situations into perspective. I learnt that in life itís the simple blessings that matter the most and to be for ever grateful and appreciative for what I do have.

As a result of this experience, what would you say is next up on your list of possibilities?

I would like to return to Malawi, Africa with Bermuda Overseas Missions next time. I feel as if I have way more to give the people of Malawi.

Alvin-Ae Landy, 18

Three words to describe yourself:

Creative, intellectual, innovative

Three words to describe your experience in Malawi: Fulfilling, advantageous, powerful

What were your expectations, if any leading up to the trip?

Due to travelling to India last year, I learnt that having expectations when travelling to somewhere new, especially to an underdeveloped country, can go two ways: either you experience what you expected, or you experience something completely different. And, in my opinion, Google only shows you what it wants to, not the reality. With that in mind, I went into this experience doing little to no research so that it allowed me to be completely open to what this experience had to offer.

What was the most memorable or eye-opening?

My eye-opening moment was one morning after it had poured down raining. I remember arriving to the village and thinking about how I had a secure roof over my head during the down pour, while the families had to sleep standing up, if they had any sleep at all, because of leaking roofs. I found it saddening how much I witnessed the people of Malawi suffer. Although we went to Malawi to build houses, I canít help but feel that we could do so much more.

How would you say this trip impacted you?

Knowing that I helped give someone the gift of a home, that here in Bermuda we take for granted, puts a smile on my face. I canít ever forget the villages and families I built for. As I sit here right now, I canít help but to reminisce about the time I spent with the children. A piece of my heart truly belongs to Malawi!

This trip has opened my eyes to so much more. I have become more open-minded and am at peace with myself. I was taught how to live in the moment and most importantly, I now appreciate the smaller things in life that I once took for granted. Something as simple as being able to eat three times a day and have a bed to rest my head on at night shows me how privileged I am.

As a result of this experience, what would you say is next up on your list of possibilities?

This experience gave me drive I didnít have before. Any opportunity that is placed in front of me, will be taken advantage of. I plan to take on the world and do as much as I can to help others in any country I visit.

Andre Woollery, 17

Three words to describe yourself:

Driven, outgoing, multitalented

Three words to describe your experience in Malawi:

Heartwarming, delightful, enjoyable.

What were your expectations, if any, leading up to the trip?

I didnít have any expectations leading up to the trip. I viewed it as more of a goal that needed to be accomplished. The goal was to provide support and assistance in anyway possible to build the houses.

What was most memorable or eye-opening?

To me the most eye-opening was seeing how the people of Malawi were living, their sense of community, how much they appreciate what little they have and the fact that they donít stress about what they donít have.

It hurt to see the lifestyle they are living, but what stood out most to me, was their ability not to fuss and fight or be saddened by it.

The strength the people of Malawi embody is tremendous. We take so much for granted. People living in the Western world would have gone crazy not being able to eat when we want, having limited access to food, electricity briefly shutting off and wi-fi being too slow.

In Malawi, they donít have electricity. For the villagers to have light, they must collect bundles of wood during the day to burn at night. Most Malawians did not have phones, let alone wi-fi. And to see that they are happy with just waking up in the morning to see another day with their family and friends, really hits the heart differently. We have it all and yet weíre still unhappy, what does that say?

How would you say this trip impacted you?

I would say this trip impacted me heavily. Physically, it showed me how our lives in the Western world are so much easier and comfortable, compared to others around the world, especially in Africa. But most importantly it showed me that there are always people worse off than us.

As a result of this experience, what would you say is next on your list of possibilities?

I would say that moving forward, opportunities to give back to the community and help improve otherís lives presents itself, I would love to participate. I am also looking forward to other future opportunities with Bermuda Overseas Mission.

Domain Rabain, 17

Three words to describe yourself:

Motivated, responsible, determined

Three words to describe your experience in Malawi:

Life-changing, interesting, empowering

What were your expectations if any, leading up to the trip?

I was excited leading up to this new experience. I prepared myself mentally to complete the hard work it takes to build houses which I knew would require me to push myself through the pain, tiredness and negative thoughts.

Also travelling to a new country that is so far and culturally different from any other place I had ever visited really had me thinking a lot before I left. I wondered what the food, people, culture and poverty be like. I prepared myself to be open to different experiences.

What was most memorable or eye-opening?

The people of Malawi really stood out to me. They were kind, appreciative, had amazing spirits despite hardships, and demonstrated inner peace. I especially admired the women of Malawi. Their strength, bravery, determination, resilience and fighter mentality was something I will never forget. They are the glue that holds the families and villages by any means necessary.

How has this trip impacted you?

It changed the way I approach and look at life. The people of Malawi really showed me that weíre all the same, just from different backgrounds

As a result of this experience, what would you say is next up on your list of possibilities?

Itís showed the importance of expanding my world view and experiencing different countries and cultures. I plan to be more mindful, open and appreciative of things whilst ensuring I take advantage of every opportunity that I am given.

I hope to participate in this experience again or join a similar programme to help those who do not have access to the same opportunities that I am. I would like to thank Darren and David for giving me this life-changing opportunity.