The last couple of days have been quite emotionally challenging for us. While every day we are aware of and acknowledge discrimination and poverty, on Wednesday evening we were confronted with this is in a more explicit way. Up until then, it didn’t feel as though we had truly processed the extent of poverty and struggles faced by many.
A young gentleman who is studying to become a clinician (and who we have come to know quite well in the compound where we are staying) described challenging circumstances in accessing education and the financial toll this has taken on him and his family. He described how difficult it is for him being away from home and the financial struggles he encounters. As we mentioned previously, the shame people experience as a result of financial struggle appears to feature heavily. Despite this, everyone has maintained a high level of integrity and respect towards us.
Being confronted with this overt discrimination and poverty has been difficult in the context of our privilege and got us thinking about our role and how we can possibly begin to influence change through the relationships we have developed with clinicians in Malawi.
Yesterday, we spent the morning at a Day Centre set up for adults over the age of 65 (who are referred to as ‘agogos’). We are told that this was initiated following concerns for the wellbeing of the aging population. They are often excluded and ostracised from their communities as there is a common belief that aging adults are ‘witches’ and a burden to society and their families. We spoke to many of the service users who described abuse, bullying and loneliness as a result. We heard how much they value a forum to build skills and share experiences with other older adults. We were serenaded by attendees who wished to share their gratitude for the service and how much they value it.
The centre also offers education as part of an outreach service to the community in an attempt to reduce abuse to older adults. All the staff we spoke to described how important they felt it was to nurture, respect and care for older adults in society.
While we were there we helped in the preparation of lunch, by chopping vegetables and making nsima. We’re pleased to say it was a success!
In the afternoon, we were again drawn to attend the music lesson with the Street Children Project and again were struck by the power of music and dance in uniting children and teachers and the influence of this on psychological wellbeing.
Today, we delivered our third workshop to staff and clients who access the Institute of Vocational Training. Oswald, the co-ordinator, asked us to present on ‘self esteem’. With the aid of staff as translators, we discussed the importance of being true to one’s values and asked students to reflect on their relationships with others and themselves.
Below is a picture of ideas generated by the students of things they value. Due to the intermittent internet, we have been forced to think on our feet and have done several impromptu role plays when access to online videos has failed!
Next week, being our last week, we plan to see as many of the remaining services we have not yet accessed. We will also be delivering a final workshop at the House of Hospitality on psychological formulation and factors influencing mental wellbeing.
On a completely random note, I have just received news that my Service Related Project has been published in this months Clinical Psychology Forum so we will be celebrating with a glass of vino!
For now, tionanenge
Kelly & Hayley