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The First International YouthMappers Exchange between Malawi and South Africa, Part Two*.

Updated: Jan 4, 2021


Unfamiliar… Yet so familiar.

YouthMappers from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, who named their club Chanco Malawi Youth Mappers (CHAMAYOMA), went through training on OpenStreetMapping (OSM) in late October to early November 2016. One would admit, the training was one of a kind.

The first phase of the training was conducted by Dr. Jamison Conley of West Virginia University. He was accompanied by Mr. Park Muhonda, a former student of Chancellor College, who is currently pursuing his PhD at West Virginia University. Upon arrival, Dr. Conley enjoyed a short tour of the College under the guidance of the club president Zola Manyungwa. He then took the club through the introduction of OpenStreetMapping and interacted with the YouthMappers through the exchange of questions and answers, and experience sharing. What brought about excitement and joy among the young mappers was the fact that it was Dr Conley’s first time in Africa. How awesome was that? He visited our College on his first ever visit to Africa. The Mappers were honoured and overjoyed. After the introduction session, Dr. Conley and the YouthMappers engaged in a fun filled picture taking session. The Dr. and the YouthMappers later said their goodbyes.

L to R: Sean Cullen, Dr. Brent McCusker, Michelle Bester, Zola Manyungwa, Park Muhonda.

Phase two of the training was even more exciting. On 31st October 2016, the Chancellor College YouthMappers welcomed two postgraduate students from the University of Pretoria: Sean Cullen and Michelle Bester. The two were invited to join the Chancellor College YouthMappers to partake in the first ever international joint Youth Mappers training. The thought itself was exciting to say the least. Dr. Conley had already visited the college on his first ever visit to Africa and now the Chancellor College YouthMappers were to partake in the first ever international joint Youth Mappers. Saying the Mappers were enthusiastic is an understatement.

Upon arrival, Sean and Michelle were taken directly to Chancellor College for and introduction and a briefing of what was planned for the second phase of the training. The briefing turned into an hour-long discussion on what the University of Pretoria YouthMappers club has done since its establishment and what advice and pointers they would offer to the Chancellor College YouthMappers. Sean’s great sense of humour and Michelle’s sweet and welcoming character made the discussion very lively.

Michelle (l) and Zola (r) up the ladder to the roof.

The training conducted over the following days was very practical. The YouthMappers opened their first ever OpenStreetMapping accounts. Upon opening OpenStreetMapping, what was presented before the YouthMapper’s eyes was unfamiliar yet so familiar. The mappers were presented with satellite images of places they had seen before but were now expected present them in forms of lines and points. It was a whole new experience. It was like entering a new world, the world of mapping. Mr. Muhonda got the students familiar with OpenStreetMapping and showed them a few skills on how to use it.

Dr. Brent McCusker of West Virginia University later joined the group and took charge of the rest of the training. The YouthMappers were already familiar with Dr. McCusker and were very thrilled to have him back at the College. He had visited the chapter in May 2015 to encourage it as it was brand new at the time. He continued to guide the students in the use of OSM. Michelle and Sean were already familiar with the use of OSM and were thus able to assist with training and provide thoughtful input from their experiences like: saving working frequently because of the unexpected power cuts both South Africa and Malawi are characterised by.

As a solution to the power cuts as well as lack of reliable internet connection in Malawi, Dr. McCusker and Park Muhonda introduced the JavaOpenStreetMapping (JOSM) application for offline mapping and oriented the students of how to use it. Responding to a question concerning the access of GPS data, Sean gave a brief demonstration on free GPS data applications that are available to use on smartphone i.e. EpiCollect+.

Throughout the training, the YouthMappers and training facilitators engaged in a series of fruitful discussions. Dr. McCusker explained how useful the information that YouthMappers are mapping is to decision making, disaster risk mitigation and better resource allocation. The two chapters were also able to share their plans and aspirations for 2017. Ultimately, both chapters want to bring change in their communities through the use of OpeSstreetMaps.

On the last day training, Michelle and Sean, went on a tour around the school with the club president. Sean took amazing pictures of the school, the favourite being one from the top of the school library. The view is simply amazing. Later that evening, everyone enjoyed dinner together. The room was filled with laughter and flashing lights as people took thousands of pictures so as to keep memories of such memorable experience.

First Joint International Youth Mappers training participants at dinner.

The experience was simply amazing and one to remember. It was… an introduction to a new world.

By Zola Manyungwa


Chaper President

All photos Zola Manyungwa.

*Part One was written by Sean Cullen and Michelle Bester and can be found here.

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