A Walk Through the Right Path

Blessings Chagwirampeni in the Valid Nutrition Laboratory

Blessings Chagwirampeni in the Valid Nutrition Laboratory

Blessings was ecstatic when he received a phone call about his internship position at Valid Nutrition[1] in August 2015. At that time, Blessings was a third year student at Polytechnic, a constituent College of the University of Malawi. He was studying a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Technology, majoring in Food Science.  He clearly recalled the first thing he was told when he first arrived at Valid Nutrition, “you have to be quality conscious and strive for perfection with no margin of error in the Laboratory’’ Right there and then he knew he was in the right place as a food scientist.

Blessings was one of the two students that were selected from Polytechnic to do internship at Valid Nutrition for 6 months under the Malawi Oil-Seeds Sector Transformation (MOST) Programme. He was the quality assurance intern with constant work in the Laboratory to assess Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). “I had to always strive for perfection, because I knew the RUTF is meant to save thousands of malnourished children across Malawi”, Blessings said with a glimmer of joy knowing his work made a positive impact.  “I know the challenge of nursing a malnourished child. My mother is a nurse and she tells me stories of some of the cases she face at work”.

Blessings was raised by his mother in Dowa, north of Lilongwe city. He enrolled for primary school at Milore Full Primary School where he obtained the Primary School Leaving Certificate. Later he did his secondary school at Kings Foundation Secondary School in Ntcheu and then at Kaphuka Secondary School in Blantyre for the final 2 years of secondary education. During his first attempt for Malawi School Certificate of Education, Blessings did not do well. However, the failure made him stronger and with parental guidance he re-enrolled to a different school in 2009. He passed with excellent grades and was eligible for the University of Malawi. In 2012 he was accepted into Polytechnic.  During the University orientation, he was introduced to an option of food science major, in his program. “I did not know that one can study the science behind food, therefore I set out to understand that option”.

In his third year of College, Blessings was introduced to the MOST Programme, through the Head of Department.  After interviews, Blessings started placement in August 2015. The first few weeks of placement, Blessings had mixed feelings as he thought it was a challenge to work in the Laboratory everyday.  However as time progressed, he saw the challenge transforming to career development and a path to perfect laboratory experiments. “I can proudly say I know international Laboratory standards including the ISO 2000”, Blessings said with joy.

Blesssings interest for working in the Oil-Seeds Sector grew overtime due to the different experiments he did and the diverse sample results. On a busy day Blessings had 7 tests with long standard procedures in the Laboratory. In-addition, it was remarkable for him to observe the good quality management practices at Valid Nutrition.    “There is no better way to put it”, he said proudly, “the experience has prepared me for the stress, pressure and demands of the real work environment”. Blessings further clarified that the internship program sharpened his teamwork skills, leadership skills and improved his attention to detail.

In December 2016, he was recruited by Valid Nutrition in his fourth year of study. During internship, as the months progressed, he faced the fear of, “what will I do afterwards for this sector to continue making an impact”. Fortunately, Andrew Chinguwo, the General Manager of Valid Nutrition offered blessings a 6 months’ work contract. Mr Chinguwo outlined that, he saw Blessings transform in skills and maturity.

After the employment contract offer, Blessings was promoted to the position of the Laboratory supervisor. He inspects RUTF before customer collection. He is now able to assess Laboratory work. “Now I look at the other employees as equal colleagues”.

Blessings described his internship experience as “worthwhile and fulfilling”. He smiled as he said “I don’t think I could have had a job at this point in my life without the internship program”. Blessings said proudly, “I was able to meet Mr Dyborn Chibonga through the program; he is my role model. He is the Chair of the Oil-Seeds Products Technical Working Group under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism”. Blessings recalled Mr Chibonga saying that, the internship program is the work of DFID implemented through Adam Smith International. He said smiling “I can say I was able to travel to work because of them”. He continued smiling “As a food scientist, I continuously need to acquire knowledge in food quality management and MOST has provided that platform”.

[1] Valid Nutrition is an Oil Seed processing company, which produces Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). The RUTF is produced from groundnuts and other reagents, for malnourished Children and Adults.