History of the Peace Corps in Malawi

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History of the Peace Corps
Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.

See also:

The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Malawi just prior to independence in 1963. Most Volunteers worked on education and health projects, and numbers quickly grew to more than 350 Volunteers. In total, more than 2,300 Americans have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Malawi. Under the very conservative Banda regime, the program was suspended for several years due to the “non-conformist” role of some Volunteers, but the program was restored in 1978. Since that time, the program has developed a close working relationship with the government of Malawi.

The change of government in 1994 opened up the possibility of re-placing Volunteers in rural villages (under the prior regime, foreigners had been suspended from living at the village level). With the increased flexibility in programming, the Peace Corps began working with counterpart ministries to focus programming efforts and identify more appropriate areas for collaboration at the community level. Currently, there are approximately 100 Volunteers working in the health, education, and environment sectors.

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Malawi

Peace Corps/Malawi focuses on three main areas of vital need: health, education, and natural resource management. These projects have evolved over the years based on the needs of the government and communities with whom the Peace Corps works.

Community Health Project

Malawi ranks among the countries most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and is also severely affected by many other serious health conditions. The Peace Corps HIV/AIDS and community health project (CHP) works in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Program and the Ministry of Health to address some of the health issues in rural areas. Volunteers work in areas of AIDS education, orphan care, home-based care, youth and at-risk groups, child survival activities, nutrition, disease prevention, environmental health, and women’s health issues. A few Peace Corps Volunteers work in nursing colleges as educators for health professionals. For many years, Peace Corps/Malawi had the only stand-alone HIV/AIDS project in the Peace Corps, and HIV/AIDS continues to be the cornerstone for health activities.

The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

Secondary Education Project

Peace Corps/Malawi’s secondary education project (SEP) provides teachers and teacher trainers to community day secondary schools (CDSS), which are community started and supported institutions. Volunteers teach physical science, mathematics, biology, and English. The Malawi educational system has undergone serious stress and deterioration in the past few years. The initiation of free primary education in 1994 has greatly increased the need for schools and teachers. The project emphasizes girls’ education and life skills training and uses community content-based instruction techniques.

Community-Based Natural Resources Management

This project focuses on community-based management of natural resources in protected areas such as national parks, game reserves, and forest reserves. Volunteers work with border communities that want to use protected area resources more efficiently and sustainably. Volunteers’ work is accompanied by the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, income-generating activities, and agroforestry interventions requested by communities bordering parks and reserves. Volunteers work with community groups by helping them to identify and prioritize needs via a community assessment process and then by implementing local projects that address the identified needs. Volunteers also serve as liaisons between parks and wildlife and forestry staff and local communities.

Assignment History

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Agriculture Ag Economics 1989 2008
Ag Education 1983 1983
Ag Extension 1966 2003
Apiculture 1982 1982
Crop Extension 1966 2008
Fisheries Marine 1984 1984
Business Accounting 1981 1994
Archictecture 1985 1995
Business Advising 1981 2008
Business Development 1997 1997
Computer Science 1991 1996
Cooperatives 1981 1990
NGO Advising 2005 2007
Urban and Regional Planning 1989 1991
Crisis Corps Crisis Corps 1992 2008
Education Art Education 1983 1983
English Teacher 1979 2007
English Teacher Trainer 1989 2007
Fisheries Fresh 1981 1991
Gen. Construction 1980 1989
Home Economics 1981 1984
Industrial Arts 1980 1989
Library Science 1987 1989
Literacy Ed. 1995 1997
Occupat. Therapy 1989 1996
Phys. Ed/Youth Wk 1982 1996
Prim-Ed/Teach Trn 1985 1996
Science Ed/Gen. 1982 1989
Secondary-Ed Math 1985 2007
Secondary-Ed Sci. 1982 2007
Special Ed/Gen. 1990 1996
Univ. English Teaching 1986 1989
Voc. Trainer 1985 1990
Environment Environmental Ed. 1990 2008
Forestry 1984 2008
Protected Areas Management 1987 2004
Health Disease Control 1981 1985
Envir. and Water Resource 1982 1992
Health Degreed 1985 2007
Health Extension 1981 2007
Home Econ/Ext. 1966 1985
Hygiene Ed/Sanitation 1966 1987
Med. Technician 1982 1992
Nursing 1981 1995
Physical Therapy 1983 1996
Master's International Masters Internationalist 1990 1995
Other Unique Skill 1980 1997
UNV United Nations Volunteer 1975 1992
Youth and Community Development Appropriate Tech. 1981 1988
Commun. Serv/Deg. 1981 2007
Mechanics 1981 1981
Road Const/Engin. 1974 1995