Henry: My first year with Join My Village

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When change is taking place and you are one of those people who influence that change for a good cause you can’t hesitate to shout it loud. I am very proud to be a Join My Village officer. Yes! With my own eyes I have seen people’s lives changing for the better.
    
I was very excited when the Media Officer position was given to me back in 2010 because I very much wanted to hear and tell stories of change in people’s lives and to be able to communicate our story in Malawi to people in the US, and elsewhere around the world.

That said, it was hard to know what to expect. Will people in the US be interested in our work, and what life is like here in the rural district of Kasungu in Malawi? How can I best explain to people outside of Malawi what it is really like and tell some of the inspirational individual stories that we constantly come across in our work? Also, in those early days in the job I tried to manage my expectations on how long does it take for people to start realizing real change in their everyday lives.

Not long. I am continually amazed at how many lives have been positively impacted by the Join My Village program. Since the program started more than 2,000 families have been involved in our activities, such as Village Savings and Loans Associations, more than 280 girls have been given the opportunity to attend secondary school thanks to JMV scholarships, and the construction of female teacher houses in 15 primary schools are benefiting more than 5,000 students in these primary schools.  Women across the district have established small businesses and together with their families have used loans taken from Village Savings and Loan Associations to buy essential items for their farm (such as seeds, fertilizer and equipment).

So my work has been very fulfilling because I get to witness these great stories every day. However it is not always easy to get these stories to you all. Despite witnessing the successes our communities are going through, weather and infrastructure often get in my way! As you may be aware, Malawi often experiences shortages in petrol and diesel, and it can take several days to get enough fuel to even drive 20 minutes to the nearest village and get photos and stories. Also, Kasungu district regularly has extended power outages, which means we can’t use the internet to post blogs. I have also faced difficulties getting women and girls, who are often very shy, to open up with me in interviews to tell me their stories.

During the past year or so with Join My Village I have come to understand that communities often only need  a small leg up to give them the motivation and driving force for them to effect real change in their lives. Often I meet people JMV has worked with who are amazed at how much they can change their life using the resources available to them, such as through Village Savings and Loan Associations.

I have no doubt that as we progress together JMV will only grow stronger and its impact more profound, with  more girls finishing secondary school, better teaching in secondary schools, role models, such as female teachers, inspiring and giving more confidence to young girls so they can realize dreams.   Of course, Join My Village has also opened opportunities for staff like me and I feel very privileged to be a part of a great program!