Getting up at 0600 has become the norm for me as a trekker. In-country - in my case, Malawi - our days begin around this time because we have morning exercise at 0615. To get ready I have to untangle myself from my Mosquito net, get dressed and be out on the porch and front garden, because that’s where it takes place.
Our exercises differ each morning, so we vary from circuits, jogs, games to even Capoeira (what I’ve been told is a Brazilian martial art). Today we did Capoeira, and although the number of trekkers who attended was low, we all had fun and a bit of a laugh while doing the exercise as it was something none of us had ever really done.
From 6:45 am onwards we head inside and go get ready for the day, have breakfast, get dressed and prepare our bags and workspaces. This morning I was on breakfast rotation duties with Stephen. Being ‘on’ breakfast means that we cook the eggs and porridge and make the toast that everyone in the house eats. We also set up the breakfast space - which involves working out the number of eggs to cook and toast to make, as well as how much porridge to boil. The porridge and eggs are cooked on a little gas stove that we set up in the kitchen. Although it’s not part of the tasks, those on kitchen duty will have to wash up some dishes, and most mornings the duo on will find themselves doing this.
Once everyone else is fed, Steven and I have our breakfasts, finish the clean-up, and get dressed for the day ahead. Because I am heading out to a stakeholder interview today, I put on my Project Everest polo shirt, jeans and prepare my bag.
At 0757 our morning song comes on. This song is used to alert the house that all trekkers need to be heading out to their team huddles where we identify our MITs (Most Important Tasks), how we are feeling, and anything that may come up throughout the day, whether it be task-wise or personal.
Today was slightly different as I am acting as “Team Leader for a Day”. Today this means that I assume the role of Team Leader, undertake their responsibilities, and lead the team throughout the day. This is something that I am quite nervous about, but going into the morning meeting I feel that I have conducted enough preparation.
At the morning meeting, I make sure that my team has identified their MITs, the ‘most important tasks’ that, if not completed that day, will prevent the development of the project. There are both personal and team MITs. As Team Leader, I move onto the next thing, which is the ‘5/5/5s’, where we rate our physical health, emotional health and bowel movements on a scale of 1 to 5. Over the last four weeks, we’ve come to be incredibly open about how everything ‘flows’ and as a result, we are really honest about what’s going on, and can often find a laugh in it when needed. Today we identified that one member wasn’t feeling the best emotionally and have a big team group hug.
Today I have a stakeholder meeting with Project Peanut Butter, an organisation who works in the nutrition space and provides RTUFs (Ready to Use Food) to children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, in order to combat acute malnutrition. I am attending this meeting with my colleague, so make sure that she is across how we want the meeting to go, recapping the previous we’ve had with them, and our intent and objectives for the meeting today. Having attended the previous meeting and completed all our minutes and admin, this was easy to do.
My team member, Bri, and I are stepping off to head to Namiwawa (where the meeting is being held. As Team Leader, I deliver and develop a briefing, outlining first aid, intent, goals, actions and so much other information about the meeting.
I deliver this as we step off with a PEV Senior Leader who is also going to Namiwawa, too. I am nervous attending this meeting but know that Bri and I have the knowledge to effectively pitch the business, the team, and our project.
Bri and I head into our Peanut Butter Project stakeholder meeting. This meeting is really important to our team in terms of gauging what is needed for the organisation to work with us in the future, as well as maintain the rapport that we’ve developed to date.
The meeting is complete! I’m really proud of how both Bri and I carried ourselves, spoke and pitched the project, gathered further information, and identified what was needed to move forward with them.
I’ve returned with Bri to the Namiwawa project HQ where we both get on with the post-meeting admin. This includes updating meeting minutes as well as the CRM and contact details.
We check back in with the team, who asks us to come back to the Sunnyside house (another project HQ) and pick up lunch along the way.
To move between houses and get different places, although it’s nice to be driven, this isn’t always feasible. Today we catch public transport from the Namiwawa house, pick up lunch for the team, then catch further public transport from Blantyre Markets to Forbes road, which is where we walk from.
I’ll always find the public transport in Malawi different to anything I’ve ever seen before, and will likely ever see again. It involves bartering, filling vans, and being sat (in extremely close proximity) with locals.
After Bri and I get back with the team’s lunch, we have an hour dedicated to lunch and taking a break. Usually, for lunch we have things that we’ve bought together or have saved as leftovers.
The tasks I’ve completed today include the meeting in the morning, writing up meeting minutes, maintaining communication with my usual Team Leader about where the rest of the team was at with their work, and have spoken to the others about how they felt the day went. We had some more team members today attending another stakeholder meeting, so we get an update. Beyond the successes that we had at our own meeting, my other two team members also nailed their meeting and were able to establish a pilot test of our project elsewhere.
Although our workday ends at 5 pm we come around as a team at 1630 to talk about ‘sustains’ and ‘improves’ for the Team Leader of the day, what we did and didn’t achieve in terms of tasks and MITs, what we need to do tomorrow, and have a general debrief from our Team Leader.
The team went through my sustains and improves as Team Leader for the day, and I was really proud with how I went, being told that I had really good communication with the team and was always aware of what and where things were being done and going on. As I’ve trekked, I have come to really appreciate and see the value in having my team provide feedback, whether it be as a leader or as a trekker and team member.
In my team, we close each day with a team chant/cheer. For us, this is ‘Team Banja’ which, in Chichiwan, means “family”. I’ve picked up the local language in little bites and phrases; it’s been really good to help me when out in the field, as well as getting around town.
Our workday is finished, so a couple of others from the house and I head out for a walk nearby before dinner. This is nice for us to de-stress and chat, whether it is about the project or not. It also means we get to see and experience a bit of where we’ve been living for the last month, and so we all really enjoy this time spent together.
Before dinner, I complete a list of things to send my Team Leader, Brianna, in regards to what the team got done today. Tomorrow she’ll give me a more in-depth debrief about how I went today as acting Team Leader, where I can improve, and what I did well. I’m looking forward to this, and hope that I was able to demonstrate my ability and desire to lead my team positively and efficiently.
We set up candles, tables and make sure that everyone is present and has something to eat. We don’t cook dinner ourselves, instead, we have Beatrice, a lovely woman who cooks local Malawian food for us such as Beans, rice, sima, cabbage, spinach and veg, lentils, eggplant and beans with a carrot.
We all de-stress around the dinner table, often playing games or trying to solve riddles. I join in with the conversations and card games, but especially after today, am really tired. Working on the project is really fulfilling but also exhausting on days when there is a lot on, a lot of documentation, and if it’s been really hot (most days!).
From 1900 onwards we disperse, hanging out in our bedrooms with other trekkers, or preparing things for the next day. Tonight I make some pasta for lunch tomorrow, which is my way of de-stressing after a long day. I don’t have time to go for a walk, so this is the next best option.
By now, the first of us will start going to bed, having had huge days on projects doing multiple different tasks, both in and out of the house.
I’m now settling in to go to bed. I tuck myself and my mosquito net in, take in my surroundings (it’s surreal to think I’m in Malawi working on a nutrition project and helping improve health outcomes through social enterprise).
I’m now off to sleep, ready to do it all again tomorrow.