RMT shares lessons from life in Malawi

Chilliwack's Christa Roby coming back to town from her new home in Africa, to hold fundraising event.

Christa Roby has been living full time in Nkhata Bay

Christa Roby has been living full time in Nkhata Bay

It’s been more than a year since Christa Roby set out on a spiritual and clinical journey. She moved permanently from Chilliwack to Ngata Bay, Malawi to help the people of that impoverished country learn health practices that would change their lives.

It’s not so surprising that it’s Roby whose life and outlook has changed in the process. She’s written eloquently and candidly about the entire process in a blog. It’s the level of change, the slowness of her realizations, and how she’s adapted her own conceptions of what “should be” to fit into a deeply different society.

Through a series of emails recently, Roby connected with The Progress to provide an update since we last wrote about her project, In Their Shoes. While she initially had no power for months (due to refusing to pay the obligatory bribe money), she has now settled into her home, started her therapeutic travelling clinic, and has had a chance to look back on how she’s grown.

“This year has stretched me beyond imagination,” she says. “There’s certain things in life where I feel like, ‘haven’t I learned enough; patience or perseverance or whatever other trait?’ Living here and going through the challenges has made me realize, nope, I haven’t learned enough and well, there’s likely still a long road to go.”

Her character is “constantly being challenged” she says. “And that is likely not something to change anytime soon.”

Roby had many reasons for moving to Malawi. Namely, Africa has always felt like home to her. And while her move there last year is one she considers permanent, she had already been mostly living there for the previous four years.

She chose Malawi because of its terrible health care. She knew she had the power to share her own knowledge as an RMT with people in small villages, so they could in turn care for themselves and each other.

But as she has learned, the layers of cultural differences can be barriers to doing that. Massage techniques don’t work between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law, for example, as they are not permitted to touch each other intimately. The most common social gatherings there are funerals, sometimes several in a week. No one person can sweep in and change a culture. And, Roby knows, nobody should.

“Though wrapped in good intention, intention is only a small piece of the big picture,” she says. “More and more, I need to let go of myself. My understanding, my choices, my desires. I have to move through their eyes, through their perspective and their understanding. This means a very slow process as I need to take the time to hear, see and learn.”

Roby has learned to take things slow, to not push herself too hard. She was forced to take it slow recently, after contracting malaria. Thankfully, she has access to a medical clinic close to her home, and the knowledge of self-care. But getting sick in a country with some of the worst health care standards helped open her eyes even more to what Malawians have faced for generations.

It’s understandable that people want to sweep in and save a community, she says, but it’s also important to invest long term in the problem.

“Often the instant change benefits a few people while many may not receive, but if I can slow down, in the long term more will gain,” she says. “It can be a hard theory to understand or even see but I’m here for the bigger picture. If I go for the instant help, I need to ask myself if it’s to build my savior complex. Is my goal for me to bring the change or to instill the community with the heart and mind to maintain a change which can last beyond myself?”

There have been other challenges, she says, and her in-depth blog offers even more insight into Malawi and her organization.

She does miss the small things, she says.

“I miss chocolate chips, Cheez Whiz and home delivery,” she says. “I miss the feeling of carpet between my toes, the feeling of being wrapped in a sweater on a cool night, of not worrying if the net over my bed has fully covered the corners each night and last, flat land for a nice long morning run (it is either up or down here!).”

Roby will be able to partake in all of those soon, as she’s heading back to Chilliwack this month. She will be talking about all of these issues and more at a special fundraising event being planned.

The Health for Malawi fundraiser is Dec. 4, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Yarrow Community Hall. She will talk about the challenges of bringing health care to her patients, and host a fun Malawian dance competition. There will even be an African craft market, just in time for some ethical Christmas shopping.

Tickets are $15 (children under 12 are free) and available on her website at www.intheirshoesafrica.com.


Just Posted

Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Chilliwack firefighters watch as an O’Connor Towing operator removes a stolen Volkswagen station wagon from the Fraser River off Cannor Road in west Chilliwack on June 13, 2021. (William Snow photo)
PHOTOS: Stolen vehicle dumped in Fraser River in Chilliwack Sunday

Search and Rescue determined there was no one inside the car found upside down off Cannor Road

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read