Lessons From Lilongwe: Concluding an IEDP Internship

Twelve weeks is a short amount of time to spend in a country. It doesn’t feel like long ago that I was arriving for my first day at the office, eager to begin interning with a Lilongwe-based NGO. Now, entering into my final week in Malawi, I’ve been able to reflect on the experiences I’ve had and what I’ve been able to learn. Before I do that, here are some updates on events happening since my last blog post:


Outside of work, I had the pleasure of being visited by Johannesburg-based intern and fellow IEDP classmate Sharanya “The Card Shark” Balasubramanian. We planned a weekend road-trip to Nkhotakhota Bay for camping on the central lakeshore. Without much to do except lounge by Lake Malawi, we spent our days swapping internship stories, playing cards (or, if you are Sharanya, losing at cards), and soaking in the sunshine. Sharanya: I don’t know if you are reading this, but you’ve definitely contracted bilharzia. Don’t forget to take those pills I gave you.

Thondolo Gule Wamkulu 3
A Gule Wamkulu performed during a field visit to Thondolo.

At work, I’ve been spending a lot of time out of the office observing the NGO’s programming in action. Along with being present for community sensitization meetings, school evaluations and school facility inaugurations, field visits have given me a chance to conduct focus group interviews with the NGO’s most important stakeholders (teachers, chiefs, students, PTA members, School Management Committees, Mother Groups, etc.). These conversations have helped me add context to conclusions I’ve included in my external evaluation report on the NGO’s inclusive education initiatives.

Aside from my primary deliverables, my time in Malawi has been tremendously productive. Ive been able to spend roughly half my internship outside of the office while being involved in the following activities:

  • Creating child-friendly materials for use in several of the NGO’s school-based programs.
  • Evaluating partner schools on how well they protect a child’s right to safe and non-violent learning environments.
  • Developing slogans, writing jingles, and designing t-shirts as a member of Malawi’s International Literacy Day Publicity Subcommittee.
  • Providing logistical support during education-related stakeholder sensitization meetings.
Lucy, Lamek and I enjoying some braai.

Despite the experiences I’ve had at work, I can’t help but feel that the memories of Malawi that will stick with me are not the ones I have been making in the office. From day one I have encountered a warmth in people to a degree I hadn’t yet experienced during previous travel experiences. It is my friends and colleagues who have made this summer enjoyable, and for that I can’t thank them enough.

It’s been great, Malawi. Until next time!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Malawi, Check out this blog by Aku Kalizangoma. While I am merely passing through the “Warm Heart of Africa,” Dr. Kalizangoma was born, raised and lives in Malawi. His blog posts describe the country’s history and culture with far more nuance and detail than I have been able to do here.


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