Sunday, July 26, 2009

The group is at Yale

We've received word from the leaders that the group has arrived in New Haven, CT. All of the Global Action Public Health groups have settled into the dorms at Yale University; students are resting up in preparation for a busy day of work on their presentations tomorrow.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lilongwe to Nairobi to New Haven

Hello all,

We are writing you from the Nairobi airport where we have a 6 hour layover en route to JFK. Our last few days in Malawi were fantastic. The group said farewell to our village hosts early Tuesday morning and boarded the bus for an all day journey to Malawi's Northern Region. Along the way we made a few stops. First, we visited Chifundo Artisans Network in Balaka. The group supports several artists doing traditional starch-resist surface design textiles. A former Peace Corps volunteer and friend of Mike's has assisted the artisans network over last eight years. They are producing beautiful products, are providing stable employment for local people, and are preserving traditional techniques. The students enjoyed stretching their legs and buying gifts for people back home!

Our next stop was Lilongwe where we stopped for lunch at the delectable Mama Mia's, a nice Italian restaurant in the city. After eleven days of village food the students were ready for something familiar and delicious. After lunch we set off for Luwawa Forest Lodge where we would spend the next three nights.

The lodge is located 14km off the tarmac into the Luwawa Forest Reserve in the Viphya Mountains. It has lush gardens and overlooks the Luwawa dam, a reservoir and water source for local villages. We were surrounded by a combination of pine forest, introduced by the British and still supporting a fairly large timber industry in the north, and indigenous forest. After eleven days of bucket baths, drawing water each morning, and sleeping on reed mats, the students were absolutely thrilled with their accommodations! Chalets with hot showers, beds with mattresses, and a patio overlooking the water.

The students spent their mornings sitting by the fire in the lodge (it's winter here) working on their presentation for Yale. The afternoons were reserved for some fun and free time. People enjoyed kayaking on the lake, mountain biking, hiking to waterfalls, lounging in the sauna, and just relaxing and chatting in the gardens. The presentation is pretty far along but will require some tinkering once they get to Yale. Everyone feels relaxed, rejuvenated and a little bittersweet about leaving Malawi.

We spent our last day in Malawi in the capital city, Lilongwe, and slept at Korea Garden Lodge. Half of the group returned to the textile market with Mike to get more Chitenje to bring home. This was the same market we took the group to on their first day in country. The students felt much more confident with their Chichewa greetings and bargaining skills this time around! The other half of the group came into town with me for ice cream and a few other errands we needed to do before leaving. We joined up at the end of the day for dinner together and our last team meeting in Malawi.

Everything at the airport has gone smoothly so far. All are in good spirits and good health. We have run into the Rwanda group here at the airport and will be traveling with them from here on out to JFK. The students are having a blast sharing stories about their adventures.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Until Yale,
Marissa and Mike

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zomba Plateau

All is well in Malawi.

Yesterday we hiked Zomba Plateau and ate American-style food (hamburgers and pizzas) in Zomba, the former colonial capital of Malawi.

Everyone is looking forward to today's village farewell and tomorrow's journey to Luwawa Resort in Mzimba. The independent projects in the village have been a real bright spot. We cannot wait to tell you all about our students, and their hard work, at Yale!

-Mike and Marissa

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Update from Domasi village

Domasi Village-Suni Village
Written by students Richard Barakat and Raechel Rosen

We arrived at Domasi Village on Thursday, July 9th after a four hour drive from Lilongwe. When we pulled up to our village house, it was dark outside and chickens were walking around. We walked into our candle-lit house and found out that our headlamps were our best friends. The house consisted of several couches, a boy’s room, a girl’s room, and mosquito nets draping each.

Every night we eat an authentic Malawian meal, lit with candles in a rustic setting. On the first day, we were welcomed by the Village Headman and introduced to our “families”. After our scavenger hunt that Mike and Marissa prepared, the local children performed traditional dances for us. When they were done, we all joined in.

The next day we went to a boat safari in the Liwonde National Park. We then took a boat to a progressive school funded bythe HELP Malawi organization.

The following day, we went to local churches, and ate lunch with our families. Then, some group members hiked to the top of Zomba Mountain. On the 13th we were grouped into five different mini-internships or attachments. The organizations included St. Luke’s Hospital, PCI (Project Concern International), and community-based charity organizations (Macobo, Yoneco, and Village to Village) . Some students were unhappy with their attachments due to the slow way Malawians operate. However, everyone learned to deal with it the best way they could.

As the week went on, everyone got started on their independent projects. The projects concerned HIV/AIDS, environment and other African issues. They range from artistic awareness, to hands-on solutions for medical problems, to setting up a plant nursery. We will be using these projects for a HIV fundraiser on Monday.

Our eleven day stay in a rural Malawian village has affected all of our lives and we will remember it forever.

Liwonde National Park and student projects

Last week the students started their attachments (mini-internships). We have sent them out to various community based organizations, hospitals, and youth organizations in and outside of our village. Some are getting a more clinical perspective on the issues of HIV/AIDS and healthcare while others are going deep into the bush to villages where the CBOs have programs serving HIV positive people, the elderly and disabled, and vulnerable children.

Last weekend we took the students on a boat safari along the Shire River in Liwonde National Park. We were fortunate to see five heards of elephants, plenty of hippos, crocodiles, water buck, lots of brids and other wildlife. After the safari we crossed the river to visit a model school in the village that is being run in partnership by the Malawian Governmentt, Wilderness Safaris, and HELP Malawi (a US-based non-governmental organization). A couple who work with the school as Peace Corps volunteer gave us our tour. The students found it really interesting that they are incorporating permaculture, fish farming, water harvesting, and vocational training into the traditional curriculum. They are also supplementing the government's meager teacher salary with external donations in order to attract well-trained teachers. Eventually, the school plans to be self-sustaining with sales from the permacutlure gardens, fish farm, and handicrafts.

We ended the day with a heated discussion at dinner about Malawian culure and how best to approach development. The conversation started with the question, "What have you observed in Malawian culture that you have a negative reaction to?" Many of the students are very passionate about gender and envrionmental issues and all of them came on this trip with the goal to "help" Malawi. They are quickly learning how complex the issue of poverty is and that HIV/AIDS does not stand alone as its own issue. It is encouraging to see the students being challenged intellectually and emotionally as they are exposed to life in Malawi.

Until soon,
Marissa and Mike

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yale Information

Hello family and friends,

Yale is only two weeks away! This will be the final communication from us before the end of the program, and we hope that it will provide you with plenty of information as you prepare for your time at Yale University.

Presentations and Picnic

The final presentations will be held on Tuesday, July 28th at Sudler Recital Hall at William Harkness Hall, 100 Wall St, New Haven. Global Action students will attend all of the presentations. Please plan to arrive a few minutes early so that we can keep to our tight schedule; your child will meet you there. The presentations are each approximately one hour long and will take place the following times:

10:30 AM: Welcome
11 AM: South Africa
2 PM: Rwanda
4 PM: Malawi

Presentations will be followed by a picnic for families and the entire Global Action community at Timothy Dwight College. We hope you will join us!

How to RSVP

If you plan to attend the presentations and picnic at Yale, please RSVP by email to by Friday, July 17. Please note your name, your son/daughter’s group name, and how many there will be in your party (do not include your son/daughter in that number).

Communication with Putney

All communication with Putney from July 26 to July 29 should be directed to our Yale office:
Office Line: (203) 436-1577
Cell Phone: (561) 504-6325

Travel to/from Yale

Each Global Action group has chartered private buses from the airport to Yale University on July 26. While at Yale, students and leaders will be housed at Timothy Dwight College, 345 Temple St. (at Grove St.), Yale University, New Haven, CT.

We hope that families can arrive to Yale in the morning of July 28 and stay in New Haven that night. There will be group presentations and a final picnic on July 28, though the programs do not end until the morning of July 29. Students should be picked up from Timothy Dwight College on July 29 between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. (Putney will provide transportation to the local airport and train station for students that are returning home on their own.)

In the information we have sent to your digital locker, you will find directions to Timothy Dwight College, a list of area hotels, and a customized map including parking information that you should bring to Yale with you. Yale has also provided us with a user-friendly online map at

We look forward to meeting you on the 28th!

Friday, July 10, 2009

From Lilongwe to Domasi

Hello all!

Below is an update written by our students.

Greetings from Malawi!! We just arrived in Domasi last night.

Our stay with the Bowers in Lilongwe went well. Although we were eager to get to work, our first week was comprised of various visits and meetings with different people and groups in order to understand fully the issues at hand. From a lesson in permaculture, touring through hospitals and clinics, meeting with the National AIDS Commission (NAC), and shopping in the local markets, we got the full taste of Lilongwe.

We spent the 4th at the Ambassador's home. We were lucky to have nightly dinner guests, including teachers, Peace Corps members, artists, journalists, and a USAID representative. We shopped for jewelry, chitenje (fabric wraps worn by women), and souvenirs. We saw a degree of poverty that we are not exposed to in the States. However, the people were friendly & welcoming.

We are excited for our stay in Domasi. Everyone is well.

Putney Group in Malawi