I've spent nine incredible months in Malawi and as I sit down to write this final blog, I begin to reminisce about my first moments in Blantyre last year; the heat, the spiders, the geckos!
Reading over my first blog post and remembering how nervous and unknowing I was about Malawi throws up a strange contrast with my emotions now-I don't think I could feel any more at home here than I do.
Of course, I've had my ups and downs, but I've come to love the heat and the geckos and so many other aspects of Malawian life, although I don't think I'll ever get used to spiders, no matter where I live! Overall, it really has been a blast.
Seeing the difference a simple meal can make has been a highlight of my time here. It's amazing how likuni phala can transform a child's life, and help give them the energy they need to pay attention in class and get the best out of their education.
I've met children who, because of Mary's Meals, came to school to eat, but are now excelling in their school work and have dreams of becoming doctors and teachers and creating a better life for themselves and their families. It's truly inspiring to see such things and is something I will keep close to me when I leave.
The first time I went with the Mary's Meals team to distribute donated backpacks to schoolchildren will remain with me forever. Although I already knew the importance of education, I had no idea how so many children didn't have basic school supplies to learn with. Thankfully, through The Backpack Project, Mary's Meals is bringing so much more than food and hope-it is offering these children an opportunity to really get the best out of their education.
One of my proudest moments with Mary's Meals has got to be when parts of a video I put together to celebrate International Day of Happiness were featured on American TV-talk show, Oprah.
When filming and editing the video, I wasn't expecting more than a few hundred views on YouTube, let alone a broadcast on a major US network! I'm so pleased the real stars of the video-the children and our wonderful Mary's Meals monitors-were featured in the montage along with clips from videos made worldwide to celebrate the occasion. It was such a proud moment for them, too.
My Chichewa has fairly come along since my first day here. Visiting schools, I'm able to chat fairly freely with the teachers, volunteers, and children. I will be making a habit of speaking Chichewa when I'm home in Scotland, even though my friends and family will struggle to understand me!
Although I am leaving the warm heart of Africa, I will return again one day (hopefully soon) and will-without a doubt-be visiting Mary's Meals and the children whose lives they are changing, all thanks to a simple, daily mug of likuni phala.
Tsalani bwino a Malawi, tidzaonananso. Rough translation: Goodbye Malawi, I will see you again.
Jackie Farr's internship with Mary's Meals in Malawi was funded by the Scottish Government through the Adopt an Intern scheme.
As Jackie moves on to her next adventure, Mary's Meals Communications Officer, Jo Lehmann, will continue the Messages from Malawi blog.
Jo will be keeping you up-to-date with news from the largest Mary's Meals school feeding programme and providing a monthly insight into life in the warm heart of Africa.
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