Entering “The Warm Heart of Africa”

As I walked off the plane, I was greeted with unfamiliar faces, smells and landscapes. My first mission trip was about to begin and couldn’t be more excited to be in such a foreign land. Over the past few years, my love for philanthropy work grew as I actively became more involved with various nonprofit organizations. This past spring, my passion became a reality when I decided to pursue nonprofit work full time and began working for Villages in Partnership. This is a nonprofit organization that does development work in Malawi, Africa. After three months, I was invited along on my first mission trip I’ve been dreaming of for a long time. After landing in Malawi, I grabbed my suitcase, exchanged dollars into kwacha, and met up with my team. We then ventured off into Blantyre, Malawi also known as the “warm heart of Africa”.

Our team piled into the Land Cruiser with one of our first destinations being a market. Before entering, our team was told there would be high pressure to buy from the venders. The group was also given a crash course in Malawian greetings we should memorize. Quickly, I jotted down “zikomo” (thank you) and muli bwanji (how are you) as I tried my best to nail the pronunciations in the car ride. We were also told that negotiating the prices of the items was a common practice in Malawi. As we pulled up, about a dozen young boys in tattered clothing and no shoes swarmed our car. I was confused at first until I was told they want to be our bag holders who are given tips after providing their services. Our group selected a young boy who helped carry the groceries in the past and was familiar with our group members. The stands at the market were lined in an array of brightly colored foods and produce including fish, live chickens, meat, vegetables, fruits and the most surprising assortment of insects that are considered part of the Malawian diet.

As we strolled past the stands, venders eagerly approached us with their asking prices for their food and produce. Staying focused on the items that we came for became difficult since so many options were being presented to us during our visit. Our first stop was an apple stand. After some back and forth, we agreed on a negotiation for some apples. Our group selected 20 apples and then continued on to buy pineapples, oranges, and peanuts. The venders took great pride in how they presented their foods. Every piece was perfectly stacked into a triangular shape with nothing out of place. For many of the vendors in Malawi this was their main source of income. Our teams prefer to shop with local venders to provide them with business. My first glimpse into the Malawian lifestyle was unlike anything I’ve seen before.

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