MFRC member’s travels changed lives

Robyn Los cuddles child at Malawi orphanage

Robyn Los cuddles an orphan at the Kondanani Orphanage in Malawi, Africa.

In the city of Blantyre, Malawi, in Africa, Victoria resident Robyn Los found a way to help children in need, and in doing so, created a new life for herself.

Los, an Early Childhood Educator at the Colwood Pacific Activity Centre, took a mission trip in 2009 to rural Malawi. While visiting the country’s universities with 20 other students from across Canada, Los visited Kondanani Orphanage in Blantyre.

“Seeing the work they were doing at the orphanage, I just saw how many of these children needed love and attention. I felt like there was something I could do to help improve their lives,” she says. “The work they do at Kondanani is incredibly inspiring, and I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I knew that I had to go back.”

She returned in 2010, spending a year volunteering at Kondanani and teaching in the orphanage’s school. It was during this year that Los met her to-be husband David, turning what was initially going to be a three month trip into three years.

Moving from Kondanani to a private school in Blantyre, Los got a close look at the education system in a culture that hasn’t traditionally had much use for Western education.

“School isn’t a big deal over there. They didn’t have an education system of their own, so schools would use American curriculums,” she says. “So at some schools, Malawian children would be learning about American history and taking tests on it. It was kind of strange, but it gave me an opportunity to improvise and teach them things that would be more useful to them.”

After that, Los moved on to teaching at an international school, alongside teachers from all over the world. Teaching with a British curriculum, Los was amazed at the age of some of her students, and the work many of them were expected to do.

“I was assigning homework to three year olds. It was amazing what they were grasping,” she says. “The parents that put their kids in school at that age are very serious about their educations, so it was pretty amazing to see these kids being fully engaged in the school work.”

While living alongside the general Malawian population in a more rural area of Blantyre, Los got a firsthand look at Malawian culture. She says while the relaxed pace of life made some day to day activities hard to achieve, the sense of community and kindness was inspiring.

“These are people that don’t have very much, but they are always willing to give those in need what they need and more,” she says. “To them making sure someone is happy, safe and fed is even more important than their personal needs.”

Now living in Victoria with her husband, Los is still doing what she can for Malawi, raising money for an organization called Kid’s World Outreach Society.

Kid’s World Outreach Society is a feeding program that provides food for orphaned children currently attending school. The organization is run by a former Calgary resident and friend of Los, and feeds upwards of 350 children per day in the Southern Malawi area.

“There aren’t many outreach programs in that area that are helping these kids,” says Los. “It’s my goal to bring awareness to these regions and do what I can. Hopefully, by bringing attention to the work of Kid’s World they can expand and help even more kids get the nourishment they need.”

Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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