More than pencils and penicillin

Back at home in Malawi, taking a few days to rest and recover from the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban South Africa, we ran into an old friend from Melbourne on the shores of Lake Malawi. He is having the trip of a life time, touring from Kenya, through the heart of the Sahara and the buzz of African border crossings, down through beautiful lakes and waterfalls, finishing the bustle and beauty of South Africa. His eyes are being opened to the ways of life of people who live in very different circumstances from his own, in terms of culture, language, cooking and wealth. He is also learning about the dynamics of living in a confined space with 15 other strangers, a tour guide, and a driver. No day goes as expected, which is part of the adventure.

The truck is an unusual looking vehicle – purpose built to sit up high, with huge windows, to enable its passengers to look out, and down, on the scenes they are passing through. He described to us how it is set up very much for observation. Safely, on high, from a distance.

The group visits local hospitals and schools as they go, which enriches their experience and creates an opportunity for the well-meaning passengers to give back to the communities they meet. The encounters are brief, the donations more like an after thought, and the moments pass.

He said, thoughtfully, from the confines of his gated campsite, that he wished they could do more than just leave pencils at the schools and penicillin at the hospitals.

That got us thinking. Can we create a new way of combining tourism and authentic experiences of meeting and meaningfully supporting local communities? And could it be combined with another type of event that could also enable local people to have fun and participate in new experiences as well?

We have an idea. Watch this space.

Lucy Stackpool-Moore, 29 July 2016

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