What do visiting teams do?
Love a village and our teammates are often asked what project we’ll be working on while in Malawi. It's a great question, especially if you're considering supporting a team member, or our work, financially.
HISTORY OF LUHOMERO
Luhomero is a community spread out over 120 square kilometres in Northern Malawi, with a population of over 5000 villagers living in extreme poverty. This means that the average daily income for a rural villager rings in at around 50¢. These families are a part of the 85% in the country living in similar conditions. Families survive solely on whatever they manage to grow in a year. They are dependent on good weather, good seeds, and able bodies. If even one of these fails, they can be left with little or no food for the following year.
They are dependent on good weather, good seeds, and able bodies.
Our villagers don't worry about what what to wear, what to buy, or where to shop. They don't make plans for travel, for savings, or for the future. They don't have outside sources suggesting the newest fashion, or the next reno. Instead, they are concerned about things like whether their children will live or die before they turn 5, whether their grass roof will leak in the heavy rains while they sleep, or how they will grow enough food to feed their families. Our community is dealing with sorting out the basics of life in order to survive. This is why one of the main goals of Love a Village (LAV) is to come alongside and support them in learning how to personally attain the basics of life for themselves and their families, and work towards an independent future.
LOVE A VILLAGE'S APPROACH IS KEY
LAV has the most widespread presence and footprint in Luhomero, with other larger organizations assisting with smaller, individual projects. There is very little foreign aid flowing into our community. The reasons for this are numerous and complex. To address this vast, base need, LAV is using a wholistic approach of Clean Water, Food Security, Safe Shelter, Health & Hygiene, and Education (with a Focus on Girls).
Love a Village has the most widespread presence and footprint in Luhomero.
We feel that if we are able to surround the villages with a full, wholistic support system, and help the people attain the basic needs of life, that they will become self-sufficient. In this case, self-sufficient can be defined as follows: able to feed their families, stay healthy and safe, and earn income.
CLIMBING THE VILLAGE LADDER
There is a saying that refers to "climbing the corporate ladder." A ladder is a great analogy to describe what LAV is doing. Villagers already have the ladders. They’ve made them from the trees around them. But there isn’t anything for them to "lean" their ladder against. LAV is providing the support necessary to do this. Projects that target education & training, health & hygiene, or that bring in things like goats & chickens, toilets and more, all can be the building blocks for this support! Once the supports are implemented, people are able to safely and securely lean their ladder against it, put their foot on the first rung, and begin the steep climb out of extreme poverty. The rest is up to them.
BECOMING A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS
Silenced by the chasm extreme poverty has thrown them into, our villagers are left with no platform to stand on, speak out, and be heard. They are voiceless and we deeply desire to help them be heard. Our teams spend long days in the community actively engaging with the villagers, gaining an understanding of how and why they are often not heard in our world.
... advocating often comes best from experiences and stories.
As team members return to Canada, they become a powerful voice for the voiceless. They tell others about what they’ve seen and how we can make a difference together. Our villagers need advocates, not workers. They need their voice to be heard and for people to actively respond. While it’s possible to advocate based on thorough research on an issue, we’ve found that advocating often comes best from experiences and stories.
"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO 'DO' THERE?"
The word “do” for humanitarian trips often carries with it images of building wells or houses, fixing problems, and essentially rescuing people out of their context. Since the goal is self-sufficiency, it’s important that our teams don’t go in with a mindset of being able to “fix” or “save” Luhomero. If we are the ones “fixing” or “saving”, we imply that we are the only ones who bring any solutions to the table. This is not the case, and so we try to avoid feeling like we go to “do” anything lest we fall into the trap of feeling like the heroes of the story.
In fact, there are many ways in which the people in our community are already skilled in areas that we have no expertise. We are often being taught by Malawians, as we assist them with a vast array of "smaller" projects, like helping dig the pit for their toilet. Rather than taking the lead on these physical tasks, we can offer support where needed, or take on the position of a learner. For example, Malawians have been building mud and grass homes for generations. The skill of building out of available natural resources like dirt and grass is not a task wherein we can offer expertise. LAV believes the solution lies within the people, their resources, and their capabilities. The best thing we can do for our village friends is to come alongside them as learners first.
Love a Village believes the solution lies within the people, their resources, and their capabilities.
Over the years, this approach has allowed us to build relationships with Malawians and other locals who have skills that can be taught to the villagers in Luhomero. No matter the situation, it is these people, not foreign Canadians, who bring their skills and training into the villages to equip Luhomerians in their journey out of extreme poverty. LAV is partnered with an incredible Malawian organization that uses creative methods of educating and training, along with supplying certain resources, that support this aim of self-sufficiency. We dream of a day when this self-sufficiency will allow those living in Luhomero to look beyond daily survival to a brighter future.
The goal of our team trips is not to “do”, but to observe, interact, and assist in the projects being implemented that month. We jump right in, coming alongside, as a way of support and assistance. What is learned in the process is invaluable. Connections are made, relationships deepened, and hearts and minds are challenged and changed through our experiences together. We believe this can be achieved without bringing in Canadians to do the work, like building a house. We don’t want to take a work opportunity away from a Malawian. It is such a joy to hire a Malawian and assist them, knowing that they will then be able to put food on their table. Investing in the people is so much better than a pat on our back for doing the work ourselves.
Supporting Love a Village projects and team members, means that you are investing in the future growth and independence of a community of people who already have the solutions, and capabilities. And once our village friends are no longer focused on day to day survival, they will be able to work together and figure out how to add things to their community like schools and health facilities. But basics first.
LOVING OUR VILLAGES
Love a Village is a small grassroots organization, dedicated to changing the face of extreme poverty. We exist to empower Malawian villagers to live independently. Not through handouts, but by coming alongside our village friends and assisting with basic needs. We believe in engaging local leaders, partnering with Malawian organizations, teaching the importance of working together as a community, and cultivating hope one village at a time.