Doctor Gabriele Falagiani, an Italian, volunteer of Pang’ono Pang’ono Association, in Malawi for ten times in the last 8 years left Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust, Balaka – Malawi today 4 December 2012 for Cameroun where he will spend 2 weeks before proceeding to Italy. He shared with us his experience before he left.
How has been your experience in Balaka this time?
I felt something new, this year here in Balaka, the sensation of feeling at home more than previous years. An emotion I would be happy to share with my community in Rosignano once I am back”
A volunteer in Malawi, why and how?
Being a volunteer here means having the will of knowing another country, another culture and trying to share our experience with the local community. However, we should have a project, not an imported one, but shared with the local society. We should study and try to understand where we are going, the dynamics, culture and problems of Malawi, previewing that we can fail in our common project and trying to find ways for overtaking the failure. We should also constantly verify that what we are doing is in line with what we shared with the local community.
The project of this year was dedicated to the Comfort Community Hospital. Is there any progress?
I believe we have done an important job together with Doctor Mwale, Jill Claus, the administrative and nursing staff of Comfort Clinics, and with the help of Jessica and Sara, also volunteering in Balaka for the first time, trying to organize the health tools, materials and medicines for a safe and ideal storage, in order to make the preservation and use of these materials easier and efficient for the care of the patients.
What do we still need to improve?
We have discussed a lot about it, and it is clear that we need a clear and efficient communication, between the Cooperative, the volunteers and associations in Italy. We should coordinate ourselves. We need to understand better the local needs, talking with those who have experience in the field and those who know the local reality.
Then we have to trust in those that are competent locally. We should stop also to interfere with the local economy, donating medicines that are not needed but giving money for the local administration to buy on the local market the correct medicines.
Some of these medicines are essential, indispensable for people, and we should find ways of giving them for free to those who cannot manage.
A way of doing that could be an adoption of a local pharmacy by donors that could provide essential drugs.
Health problems also include a malnutrition situation …
For sure, emergency of food is important and the missionaries should continue donating food during scarcity, but we should also try to understand together with Malawians, which are the possible ways to diversify the feeding, fighting the problem of scarcity of water for agriculture and rare opportunity for agriculture investments.
This evening you said we should look after the future: which are the challenges of Malawians?
The challenge in Malawi is still battle for life or death, but there is a big sense of serenity we do miss in Italy, even in front of the death. I remember a 28 years old boy of Balaka, waiting for death affected by a bad cancer, who showed me an incredible sense of peace and able to accept it.
And what’s the challenge for Italians?
To understand that we have a common house and that we live in the house of everybody: the earth. Be aware of that is our challenge, being conscience that we are interdependent, co-responsible of other’s problems because they are also our problems too: poverty, water scarcity, pollution, global warming etc… Any of our actions can affect the earth’s future, in a positive or negative way. Let’s take care for our future. I remember an 80 year old man keeping a nursery of trees, and when I asked him why he was keeping them he answered me, “Look at this desert land over there, after 50 years someone will benefit from these trees”