Takulandilani, that's "Welcome" in Chichewa! Janelle here, trying to revive the blog! Hope it's okay for an R2 to commandeer this R3 project :) I can't believe my first week in Malawi is done already, this month is certainly going to pass quickly!
For me, this rotation resides in the context of ongoing relationships with Malawian friends since 2007 that have spanned years and continents that began through an organization called UrbanPromise International (UPI). I had the opportunity to spend 3 months in this country back in 2010, so I have been eagerly awaiting a return to the "Warm Heart of Africa" for quite some time. This trip is different in many ways than my last, most notably the urban setting and medical focus this time around, but it is already proving to be a equally captivating experience.
I have reflected much in the past week on partnership. For myself, it has been especially meaningful to connect with friends again face-to-face, exchange updates about life, and hear about the growth of their youth programs. I am in awe of how things have evolved thanks to their visions and hard work alongside the mentorship and support of the UPI community!
I have also gotten to play the fun role of liaison between my Swedish Medical Center colleagues and the Malawian family medicine team, since we are now about 6 months in to this arrangement of rotating residents. Folks at our lodging facility seamlessly welcomed me as the "next Seattle one" and staff members at Ndirande Health Center are eager to ask how my coworkers back home are doing. In fact, my first conversations with the clinical officers sounded something like this: "Nice to meet you, Janelle, how's Kannie? Do you know Laura? How about Beth?" I think this really highlights the beauty of coordinating our investment as a team rooted in one place that wouldn't be the same if we were doing haphazard individual global health efforts.
For Elizabeth and the Seattle/Swedish-Malawi College of Medicine partnership, this week has actually been quite a challenging one with difficult situations navigating team dynamics, communication, and future plans for this project site. While these things get sorted out, I have had the privilege to witness Elizabeth and Martha (her counterpart on the Malawi COM Faculty) have honest and tough conversations about these challenges. Partnership is guaranteed to be frustrating at times, especially when trying to create change while balancing the values of humility and advocacy in a cross-cultural context. I remember how precious it has been to me to have trusted friends in such situations (looking especially at you, Tinashe and Maggie!), and it is neat to see how that type of relationship has developed between Elizabeth and Martha. It certainly takes a large amount of trust and a bit of faith in each other to journey forward together, and I am encouraged to see that happening at the leadership level here.
I am proud that both the UrbanPromise and Swedish teams in which I have participated choose to focus their energy on the ground in Malawi and across the ocean on investing in people through relationships and education. Both partnership and knowledge are seeds that take time to grow and bear fruit, but seem to have the most genuine potential for lasting change. How great it will be to see what emerges as these partnerships continue this next month and the years ahead!
Thanks for reading, I'll try to figure out how to add photos for next time!