Emmanuel and Solomon are two of over 250 students supported by D2D’s Youth Sponsorship Program. Just this past week, they returned from their first trip outside of Malawi to the United States, where they accompanied Founder and Executive Director Matt Maroon on a yearly fundraising trip. This trip serves as an opportunity for Matt and the students to engage with D2D donors, board members, and organization partners – while also providing the students with an adventure of a lifetime. We sat down with them to bring you the inside scoop of their experiences while in the US.
1. What were your feelings before leaving for your trip?
Emmanuel: I was so excited, we were so prepared to see new things and have new experiences outside of Malawi.
Solomon: It was a very exciting moment when we first learned that we were chosen to go on the trip. We never thought that we would have this particular experience in our life, going to America. It was just so exciting.
2. Which places did you visit? Which was your favorite and why?
Emmanuel: The Cleveland Zoo was my favorite because it was the first time I’ve seen a giraffe and I got to feed it some leaves. Also riding the roller coasters in Cedar Point because it was fun and scary at the same time. We don’t have roller coasters in Malawi so it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Solomon: We visited Cleveland, Dayton, and Columbus in Ohio, as well as Milwaukee and Chicago. Chicago was my favorite because the buildings were tall and beautiful. Seeing the bean was just very cool. Going to the zoo was also my favorite because it was my first time seeing many animals, like ocean fish. I did not like Cedar Point as much as Emmanuel because the rides were very scary and tall with my twists and turns.
3. What was the best thing you did while in the US?
Emmanuel: Getting to meet my sponsor was very memorable because we got to spend lots of time with her. We have been writing letters to each other for a long time and I never knew who she was or what she looked like. She came up to me at one of the fundraisers and I recognized her from her name tag. It was great to meet her and she took us out for lunch and shopping. I’m happy to finally have gotten to know her.
Solomon: Speaking in public was the best thing I did because I was very nervous too and didn’t think I could manage. I spoke at the fundraiser at St. Joseph in front of over 200 people. I don’t know if I will ever have to do that again but it was very cool knowing that I am able to. The fundraising events were tiresome but I enjoyed them because we could really express our ideas and our own experiences and background. We didn’t feel any issues because we were there to share our stories and the people really understood our situations here in Malawi.
4. What would you change in Malawi to be more like the US?
Emmanuel: First of all, education. Before this trip, I thought that everyone lives the way we do in Malawi. Now I know that this is not true. Schools in Malawi need more resources and education needs to be more available for people. Kids in America can go to secondary school for free and have more opportunities because of that. I want a good education in Malawi so Malawians can be successful in life. We limit our goals and ambitions because we don’t know that there are more possibilities out there than the few we have in Malawi.
Solomon: I would like to see Malawians take better care of their properties and belongings because things in the US last longer than in Malawi. They tend to their things and give a caring heart to their homes, schools, cars and other assets in general. If people in Malawi did this their things would last longer and work better. Also, the food! I loved Chipotle and salmon and ribs, and wish we had them here in Malawi.
5. What would you change in the US to be more like Malawi?
Emmanuel: People being warm-hearted and friendly in general. We met a lot of friendly people but in general, people seemed to be less friendly toward each other especially when walking around on the street. I also heard that New York is unfriendly.
Solomon: I would bring more cultural sharing to the US, such as traditional dances like Vimbuza, so people can have more fun. The best thing you can share is your culture and I would like to share Malawian culture with the US because there aren’t many Malawians there.
6. What was the strangest or most surprising thing you saw in the US?
Emmanuel: Some of the food looked very strange, especially since the food in Malawi is limited. I tried food like crab and now I feel like I can say I can eat whatever.
Solomon: It was so surprising to see the tall standing cities like Chicago, the total beauty of the buildings. It was strange to see that people don’t really chat with their neighbors as they do here. People will say hi and bye but not have long conversations when walking like in Malawi.
7. What did you learn in the US and how can you use that back here in Malawi?
Emmanuel: I learned that America is already very developed, but people are still working very hard anyway. In Malawi, we are very behind but we don’t have much to work towards other than development but those in the US are working hard. It shows that there are no limits to success or development, it keeps going. I hope to teach my friends about what I learned, and what to me it means to work hard to lift Malawi and each other up.
Solomon: I learned that education is not only learned in class since I learned other cultural things outside. Like taking care of your things so they can last, and like Emmanuel said, working hard even after you have achieved development. With me, it’s much about committing myself and putting into practice what I have observed and to expose my friends to how the US is so they can understand as well.
8. Anything else you would like to share about your experience?
Emmanuel: I would urge my fellow friends here in Malawi to really focus on their education to get what they want in life. After visiting the US, I can see that it is possible if we work hard since our sponsors work really hard for us to be able to have these opportunities and we are very grateful for them.
Solomon: It is really something unbelievable when you are here in Malawi but in the US we can see that people are really thinking of us and we need to advise ourselves to focus on our academics so we can make our sponsors feel good about how they are helping us.
9. If you could pick one or two things to tell our readers the best thing about D2D, and the impact it is having on you and other students, what would it be?
Emmanuel: The best thing is that youth in Malawi and more people really benefit from D2D, more especially in terms of academic issues because now they are getting a push forward, and we have things like women’s empowerment and more business in the village helping people to rely on themselves which is so awesome.
Solomon: The best thing about D2D for me is that D2D is really changing the lives of the youth here in Malawi because it was something that was not expected, and D2D has lifted me up because now I am living comfortably with access to everything and D2D has only impacted me with good stuff, helping me to learn and get better at English.