The two previous posts only covered the first morning of our visit to Malawi, we have been doing something very interesting in the afternoons each day this week. World Vision has come up with this fantastic idea they call “Sponsorship 2.0″, where basically instead of publishing just photos from volunteers like myself, we have selected 9 children from a local school and are training them to use a digital camera and take photographs from their perspective. On the afternoon of day 1 we met the children and were each assigned one child and a translator to teach the children the basics of a digital camera, including actually taking pictures, viewing the pictures, composition techniques (portrait, landscape, other perspectives, etc.), and using the zoom feature. After the children were comfortable with the mechanics of the camera we take them out and take pictures. On day 1 they will simply take pictures of things that interest them, on the 2nd day they take pictures of things that mean a lot to them, day 3 they are taking pictures of things they would like to change and so on. Throughout the week, each child selects their favourite 3 photos, and we will each pick several more that we like from the child we are partnered with. On the evening of the last day arrangements have been made in Lilongwe to have all of the selected photos printed and on Friday we will be having a photo exhibition where the children will get to see their own pictures displayed, these pictures will end up on the World Vision site where people can see this area through the eyes of these children.
Unbelievably Unselfish Children
It is important to note that this technology is as far from these children as it can possibly be, they have never held anything like this in their hands before. This process has allowed us to get to know these children a lot more than any others that we are meeting on this trip, and we are absolutely stunned by some of the behavior we are seeing. As an example, every day these children each lunch with us; our lunch general consists of rice, chicken, goat, some very good tomato sauce that is poured over the rice and these corn meal cakes (I think they are called “semis”, but I could be wrong) that are a staple here. One of the highlights every day is that the children come in and eat lunch with us. This photo is one of the children showing off her lunch as she is bringing it into the classroom.
Something quite amazing, and heartbreaking happened during lunch the first day, shortly after the photo below was taken; the room was arranged in a square pattern, and the children sat with us scattered about the room. The girl with the sunglasses on her head is Joanna, our guide from World Vision Canada. She had finished her lunch and the little girl (Felesite) sitting beside her was trying to communicate something to her by motioning to Joanna’s plate and speaking something to her in Chichewa. Joanna didn’t know if she wanted something from her plate, or her fork, so she just moved her plate towards her so she could take what she wanted. It was at this moment that Felisite took her spoon and proceeded to take rice from her own bowl and put it on Joanna’s plate – Wow, we were stunned to say the least! But we didn’t realize just how amazing this gesture really was until the drive home later that afternoon. One of our guides/translators from Malawi, an unbelievable man from Malawi named “Wezzie” (goes by “Wez”)was asked by one of the other volunteers something about the amount of rice the children ate at lunch. He informed us, to our mutual astonishment, that rice is considered “special”, and the children only get it once per year at Christmas time! So even though it is considered a very rare treat that they get at most once per year, she wanted to share it with Joanna! We keep seeing this kind of evidence every day from these unbelievable people. It is also important to realize that all they usually eat, every day, is the corn meal cakes I described above.
I am happy that these children are being spoiled every day with us (spoiled by their standards), not only do they get this once/year lunch, but we have brought in cases of Fanta pop (which they also never see), and they get one of these at lunch and another one at the end of the afternoon after our workshop, with a small box of biscuits of some kind. It honestly is the most unbelievable thing to watch. One other funny thing they do is they watch for us to finish a bottle of water and they take the empty plastic bottle. These things are gold to them for a lot of reasons that I will highlight when I talk about the school visit we had this morning.
I will talk more about the photography workshop as we progress with it, and I will post something on the photo exhibit that we will do on Friday. The plan is to do something like a party atmosphere for them including balloons and lots of gifts, as well as letting them see their work in print.
This is a photo of my student “Flora” (pronounced “Florra”, with a sort of a rolling “r”) showing a photo to some of her subjects. They have copied this behaviour from us, it is something we always do because the kids love to see their image and quite often they have never seen themselves like this. We did it with them when we first met them, and for all we know, they might think it is the proper etiquette when taking pictures. On day one of photography workshop, the children were to select 3 of their favourite pictures that best represented the theme of “things that mean the most to me”. Once again they, in this case Flora, stunned me by selecting 2 of the 3 photos that were pictures of me.