Porter Witsell (IBA ‘16) sent us this note from Malawi, where she is living this semester as part of her Goddard studies:
“I am learning tailoring from a bunch of teenage boys at a center that teaches vocational skills to ‘street children’. We use old singer sewing machines with foot peddles and mostly make school uniforms but also big elaborate dresses. I’m organizing weekend seminars for them to teach other people, particularly people not from Malawi, as fundraisers to buy more machines and also to try to perpetuate a dynamic where the kids can be affirmed that they have knowledge is valuable and unique.”
“I’m also doing natural medicine seminars with some other folks, focusing on encouraging people to cultivate and regularly use Artemisia annua as a preventative and treatment for Malaria. Particularly because the anti malaria drug used in Malawi is a synthetic derivative of Artemisin, one active compound in Artemisia annua. By isolating a single phytochemical, as is the case with antibiotics, resistance can be more easily developed as opposed to taking the whole plant medicine which has numerous anti malaria compounds and is far less likely to result in a resistant protozoa.
I am learning an immense amount about traditional natural medicine of Malawi, as well. I feel so incredibly grateful that so many people have shared so much knowledge with me.
It is inspiring how deep and integrated knowledge of the natural world is in the villages. Also how open and generous people have been with me, taking me into the mountains to show and talk to me about plants that they use.
I am gifted with a very specific experience, being taught about trees and plants and the medicine that comes from them. It has allowed me to navigate and appreciate the forest in a new and expansive way, and also develop a handful of wonderful friendships.”