The A Team!

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer, Nikki Luxford

The Changu Changu Moto A Team!

After all the planning, the training week for the Kitchen Performance Test (KPT) has finished. I’ve spent the week with the managers, assistant managers and coordinators, training them to learn to use the various equipment and fill in the data for the next three months of the KPT testing. It’s been a great experience for all involved and I’ve had a great time getting to know them and, as well as me training them, I’ve learnt plenty too.

So why are we doing KPTs? The locals traditionally used a three-stone fire but RIPPLE Africa have introduced the Changu Changu Moto stoves which are fuel-efficient, therefore not only beneficial to the environment as less wood is needed and used, but it also saves the householder time as they don’t have to collect as much wood.

Over the next few months, numerous villages and householders will take part in this testing, and the data collected will then be submitted to see the overall carbon saving. These carbon credits can then be sold – and, fingers crossed, provide funds to continue the projects which RIPPLE Africa support and run.

The testing involves weighing the bundles of wood over numerous consecutive days, measuring the moisture of the wood, recording the GPS reference points, taking photos and communicating with the householders. You might think that much of the equipment is relatively simple to use but, for many of those we are working with, they’ve never seen a moisture meter before – come to think of it, neither had I!

Weighing the wood bundles and recording data

It’s incredible how these women work. Dedicated to both her job and her baby, Tryphine brought baby Leah along to training – and did she get in the way? Absolutely not! Another demonstration of women multi-tasking!

Jessie showing the householder how to use their Changu Changu Moto cookstove

The A Team, as I now refer to them, picked everything up quite quickly and by day two were confident enough to train two of the office ladies, which was great practice for them as they now have to go away and train their own coordinators and community volunteers.

On one day, the team pulled together to help a lady clear her collapsed kitchen. She was meant to be part of the test but because her kitchen had collapsed, she hadn’t been able to use her Changu Changu Moto. It was explained to her that it wouldn’t take long to clear the kitchen, and within five minutes the first part was done. We returned the following day to see how she was doing, but no progress, so we worked with her as a team and within 10 minutes the kitchen was cleared and she had access to her Changu Changu Moto again – this has saved the homeowner at least eight hours each week collecting wood.

Teamwork – clearing the collapsed kitchen

Now my fingers are crossed that when the team are out in the field on their own, they’ll remember all the training!!!

If you’d like to read more about life in rural Malawi, Nikki has posted a number of blogs on her website.

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No “I” in Team – John’s Story Continues

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer, Nikki Luxford

The story of John continues. I said we might have had a ‘light bulb’ moment and to continue to read the blogs – well, this is the happy ending to John’s story.

For those who haven’t read the other blog about John, in brief he is a carpenter for RIPPLE Africa, had a stroke and lost the use of the left side of his body. From physiotherapy with Claudia, one of the volunteers, he has made remarkable progress. He can now walk unaided, can ride a bicycle and our ‘light bulb’ moment has seen him pick up his tools again as he got back into being a carpenter.

Now what John has achieved is special for a number of reasons. Firstly it demonstrates that he is progressing well and has regained enough usage in his left hand that he can get back to being a carpenter, but it’s also special because the item he was making was a wooden walker for Zione, a little three-year-old girl with cerebral palsy.

Zione lives in Kande and before John had the stroke, he’d have had no reason to meet her, but set to work on making her a walker along with Matmati, another carpenter; he created her the walker within two days as per Claudia’s design. Once completed, John came with Dan, Claudia and myself to deliver the walker and for him to see how he was helping someone else with a disability in the community.

John still has a long way to go until he is fully recovered from the stroke, and has many challenges ahead of him but this is yet another positive step in the right direction. Zione too has her challenges ahead of her, learning to use the walking aid which will give her a brighter future in her village, enabling her to be more mobile.

The generous support of people back home has also made this happen as money donated by MOFTAG in Calpe has been used to buy the materials for John to make the walker for Zione.

Teamwork at its best! There really is no “I” in team.

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 87

This blog is written by Isabel Pearce, a Nurse who volunteered with RIPPLE Africa from April to July 2015.

Chintheche Hospital

RIPPLE Africa has been instrumental in refurbishing parts of Chintheche Hospital. Among these are the mortuary, power house, laundry, X-Ray room and the operating theatre suite.

When I arrived in April 2015 the theatre area was totally uninhabitable and full of disused hospital equipment. It was not practical for use and needed doorways filling in, windows and lintels refurbishing and plastering. The building team needed encouraging as every few weeks work slowed down!

The deadline for use was 22nd June as a specialist surgical team was due to arrive from Blantyre. They assess patients and perform fistula repair surgery.

Women in Malawi may get a fistula (tear or hole) as a result of prolonged or traumatic labour. Access to caesarean sections is unreliable. This fistula results in continuous leaking incontinence of faeces or urine from the vagina. These women are often isolated from their communities. Offering surgical repair is life changing for them.

When the team arrived on 22nd June the facilities where ready. There is now a reception area for staff to eat and leave their outdoor shoes and bags. There’s a changing room, scrub area with sinks, toilets and the large theatre room itself.

The team consisted of a specialist surgeon, four nurses and an anaesthetist. Surgery was under spinal anaesthetic. The team brought the sterile packs (instruments, gowns, etc.) and were at the hospital for two weeks.

Conditions were very hot despite an air conditioning unit. I observed the first day of surgery with two operations taking about two hours each. The team undertake the complex cases first to allow the maximum follow up time. At the end of their visit I met Bernard the anaesthetist and he reported that they had operated on a total of 14 women. They were very pleased as they hope for a success rate of 70-80% but all 14 women had had successful repair surgery.

A theatre now means that caesarean sections will be possible at Chintheche hospital rather than women having to travel to Nkhata Bay which is 60km away. The upgrade of the facilities at Chintheche hospital by RIPPLE Africa donors have enabled all this to happen.

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Claudia, the Miracle Worker, and John, the Determined Patient

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer, Nikki Luxford

Claudia is the newest volunteer to arrive. A physiotherapist from Portugal, Claudia was keen to get out into the community and see where she could help.

Recently, one of RIPPLE Africa’s carpenters, John, had a stroke which resulted in him losing a lot of the movement in his left side.

When he was discharged from hospital, Charlie and I went to collect him, and it was upsetting to see how much the stroke had affected him. But then the thought crossed our minds that Claudia was arriving within a week and potentially John could be her first patient.

It isn’t often, though, that volunteers or supporters back home hear about or meet people like John as they work in the background and aren’t interacting with volunteers, but people like John are equally as important.

John is 52 years old, only a couple of years younger than my dad, and has worked for RIPPLE Africa for 11 years. When I found out how old John is and that he could be my father, I thought about what life would be like if my dad had a stroke and couldn’t access any physio to help with the rehabilitation. One of my close friend’s father also had a stroke last year and, without physiotherapy, he wouldn’t have made the progress he has made either.

Claudia visited John and his family with Dan, the volunteer coordinator, and, after the first initial assessment, Claudia devised a work plan and arranged to go to John’s house every day to carry out physiotherapy with him.

At the end of the first week I asked Claudia how John was getting on, to which she replied that he was making great progress. Now it’s hard to know what constitutes as great progress and, although I didn’t admit it to Claudia, I was a little sceptical at how much progress John could actually have made considering the way he was when we’d picked him up from the hospital. I asked if I could accompany Claudia on one of the sessions and watch-in so I went last Tuesday, and he isn’t just making great progress, he’s making amazing progress. Claudia is working miracles – she really does have magic hands.

The session lasted just over an hour and, during this time, Claudia worked primarily on his left arm and leg. John is also set a number of tasks to practice when Claudia is not there, and at the end of the session he even went for a little walk. It really is incredible.

So John is a carpenter, but will he ever be able to go back to work? Claudia and I had quite a talk about the extent of the stroke and the damage it has caused when a lightbulb moment happened. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’ll hopefully be another positive post on John and his progress really soon!

And that means you’ll have to keep reading the blogs to see if John gets back to work!

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Dining for Women Raising Money for the Changu Changu Moto Project

This blog has been written by Kay Yoder, Director of Operations for RIPPLE Africa, Inc., in America

The DFW Asheville, North Carolina, chapter embraced the Changu Changu Moto project so enthusiastically that they even built their own!

This past spring, the Changu Changu Moto fuel efficient cookstove project sent ripples all across America, as thousands learned about its many benefits and raised $45,000 to provide an additional 3,000 stoves in Malawi!

RIPPLE Africa was selected from countless applicants to receive funding from Dining for Women (DFW), an organization with 430+ chapters that meet monthly across America to share an ethnic potluck meal and learn about U.S. charities working in developing countries that benefit women and children. Money that otherwise would have been spent going out to dinner is pooled together by chapter members and is collectively used to fund monthly projects.

The DFW Asheville chapter cooking on their Changu Changu Moto

I first learned of Dining for Women over two years ago and became a member of my local chapter here in Florida shortly afterwards. Not only have I found the meetings extremely informative, but I have also developed a real sense of community amongst my fellow members who share my same concern for global issues and desire to do something to help. Although it was not my motivation in joining the group, I almost immediately realized that RIPPLE Africa’s Changu Changu Moto project would be a perfect candidate because of the many ways in which lives are positively impacted by the cookstove. After a very arduous application and vetting process, I was thrilled to learn that the project had been selected and would be featured to the DFW membership during May of 2015!

During the May meetings throughout the country, DFW members were educated about the mission of RIPPLE Africa and specific details surrounding the cookstove project. Two excellent videos were produced by Geoff and his team (see below)—the first demonstrates Malawian women utilizing the Changu Changu Moto while cooking some of the very recipes that DFW members were themselves enjoying and the second outlines the environmental and health-related issues associated with use of the traditional three-stone fire.

As an added bonus for many chapters, a number of U.S. based RIPPLE Africa volunteers and devoted supporters attended nearby DFW chapter meetings to advocate on behalf of the organization and the cookstove project. Personal accounts of time spent in Malawi were shared by Will Adams, Ali Gaskell, Duncan Allison, Kelly Rose and me, putting a face to both RIPPLE Africa and the Changu Changu Moto project. It was a wonderful opportunity to share our experiences with such a like-minded audience and we really appreciated the warm welcome each of us received throughout the country!

Will Adams sharing his experiences with a San Francisco DFW chapter

Will Adams enjoying some Malawian cuisine during one of his many DFW presentations

A very special thank you to Dining for Women for believing in the merits of our cookstove project and to the RIPPLE Africa team who so enthusiastically shared the great work of the charity with DFW members! If Dining for Women sounds like a group you’d like to explore, I strongly encourage you to visit their website to find out more.

A co-ed DFW chapter located in Sarasota, Florida, that began as an extension of a Rotary Club

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A Tribute to Collins Chanika, RIPPLE Africa’s Disabilities and Rehabilitation Project Coordinator

Following the sad news of Collins’s sudden death last week, we have put together the video above as a tribute to him and we have also set up a JustGiving fundraising page and a FirstGiving fundraising page for US donors to raise money to help support his family. He left behind a wife, a son who has just started a three-year electrical engineering degree course at the Polytechnic in Blantyre, a daughter at secondary school, and three children at primary school. We hope as many people as possible will make a donation in memory of this wonderful man.

Thank you for your support.

The RIPPLE Africa Team

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The RIPPLE News – Summer Newsletter 2015

RIPPLE Africa’s Summer Newsletter 2015 is now ready for you to download and read – just click here. It’s got news about our projects in Malawi and a recent visit to Mwaya by two of our wonderful donors, news about James Hughes who is running in the New York marathon to raise money for RIPPLE Africa, and other interesting snippets of information. We hope you enjoy reading it!

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Hands Up for Kapanda!

This week’s blog is written by Graham and Annie Boon following their visit to RIPPLE Africa’s base at Mwaya in Malawi in April 2015

It’s official. In February 2015 the World Bank declared Malawi the world’s poorest country. The economy is based on subsistence agriculture so cash rarely changes hands with the result that very little money reaches the government through taxation. A government corruption scandal in 2013 led major donors like Britain to end the provision of bilateral aid. What better country to help through charitable donations through supervised expenditure?

If it hadn’t been for RIPPLE Africa, Graham and I would never have visited Nkhata Bay District in Malawi. Why would you visit part of the poorest country in Africa with none of the ‘big five’ and an unspectacular landscape? We went because we made a donation towards the building of a girls’ dormitory at Kapanda Secondary School.

Although an acceptable proportion of girls start secondary education in Malawi, a decidedly small number complete. Teenage girls are more useful at home looking after younger siblings, cooking and generally helping the family survive. So they start missing days, fall behind in their studies and then just stop attending altogether. The provision of a dormitory will address this problem by providing a safe supervised environment where the girls can spend time studying in the years in which they sit their school certificate examinations negating the need of up to an 8km walk to and from school each day. It was very exciting visiting the construction site.

Graham got ‘well stuck in’ helping to lay bricks and put roof trusses together. I walked down the long central corridor imaging I could hear giggling happy school girls discussing career opportunities now that those dreams were a step nearer becoming reality.

Not part of the visible construction, but laced between the bricks, was the feeling of hope. Visiting the children in their rudimentary classrooms, growing up in an increasingly overcrowded and inadequately governed country, I was struck by the fact that the girls all had dreams of being doctors, nurses, teachers and accountants. They all had hope for a better future and maybe we were helping them take a step towards those dreams by providing the dormitory.

RIPPLE Africa is also involved in fish conservation and reforestation projects all based on the underlying aim of helping the Malawians help themselves. An impressive network of local coordinators working in the villages and in the countryside demonstrate the principles of saving the local fish stocks and replanting the depleted landscape with trees to satisfy the almost insatiable need for firewood.

Here again RIPPLE Africa have pinpointed a problem and developed a cooking stove, the Changu Changu Moto, which uses appreciably less firewood than the old three-stone fire. An extra benefit is the removal of a fire hazard from the kitchen and many children being saved from dangerous burns.

We met some wonderful people in this friendly country, particularly Mr Longwe, who runs a public library at Mwaya Primary School. He has about 4,000 books in his care, all meticulously catalogued and managed with a basic handwritten lending system. I donated a copy of my novel to the library and was considerably humbled by Mr Longwe telling me that he would have to read the book himself to make sure it was suitable material to join his illustrious shelves. Should a member of the library fail to return an overdue book, then Mr Longwe will get on his bike and visit the perpetrator personally. If the borrower is a persistent offender, then the penalty of being struck off the library roll will be applied.

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Kapanda School Trip

This week’s blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer teacher Hannah Humphreys

I have been volunteering at Kapanda Community Day Secondary School for a month so far, and this Saturday I was invited to join them on a school trip. The students had been told to arrive at the school for 8:00am as we were meant to be leaving at 9:00am. As with most things out here, though, time is not very important, and we eventually set off at 10:10am. Fifty five students and six members of staff climbed on to the back of a truck and two other teachers and I sat in the front (luckily!)

Fifty five students and six teachers on the back of the truck

We drove for an hour and a half down to Ngala, in Nkhotakota District, for the students to learn about the effects of deforestation. One of the teachers spoke to the students first about the lack of trees left in this area before the students were introduced to some of the locals to ask them about the effects deforestation is now having on their lives. One family told us that two of their family had gone out to collect firewood at 6:00am and were still not back yet (it was nearly midday at this point) as they have to walk a long way to collect enough wood to last them two or three days.

A local family we visited to discuss the impact deforestation is having on their lives

We then went to speak to a local farmer who said his crops were failing because there is not enough rain anymore in the area, and he cannot afford to install an irrigation system. Although the lake is very close, it requires a lot of manual labour (which he can’t afford to hire) to water his crops. The students are going to continue discussing the effects of deforestation, and possible solutions to it, in their Geography lessons next week.

Then we drove back to Kasitu where football and netball matches had been organised against their local secondary school. Kapanda had been training very hard all the week before for these games and many locals had come along to watch the matches. When we arrived, the other school had not turned up yet so the students, and staff, were given some free time to go to the local trading centre (the hub of the village with some shops/stores) to get some lunch or snacks.

The little kids wanting to be like the big kids!

Kasitu’s football team were running on “African Time!” so although the game was organised for 1:30pm it didn’t start until 3:45pm. However, this gave everybody a chance to watch the netball games first. Kapanda’s Team B played first and unfortunately lost, but then Team A won. There was a lot of dancing to celebrate!

Kapanda Netball Team (Team B) scoring

Kapanda Football Team before the game

By the time the football game started, there was a very large crowd of spectators to cheer on both sides with the netball teams doubling up as cheerleading squads. Some of the locals were selling popcorn, sugar cane and ice-lollies along the side-lines and there was a great atmosphere. The football game itself was made slightly more hazardous by people dancing on the pitch, children running across and chickens on the pitch but this didn’t seem to faze either side. The first half ended 0-0 but Kapanda had had four shots on target whereas Kasitu had only had one.

Within the first few minutes of the second half, Kapanda scored! This sparked dancing in the middle of the pitch and lots of vuvuzelas being blown. About 15 minutes later Kasitu scored an equaliser, although there was some speculation that they were offside! However, five minutes before the end of the game Kapanda scored again, making the final score 1-2 to Kapanda! It was very late by then so we had to make our way straight back to the truck, but with lots of singing and dancing along the way which carried on the whole way home!

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Jo Fa-Ha … The Reluctant Blogger!

This blog is written by Jo Faulkner-Harvey, one of the RIPPLE Africa team in the UK office, following her recent trip to Malawi.

Timonene! Chitonga … the most counterintuitive dialect I have ever tried to master! But I gave it my best shot and had some success, much to the amusement of my Malawian colleagues! Sorry, Arnold!

I have been back from my trip to Malawi for two weeks now, and I’m still finding it tricky to adjust but probably not in the ways you would expect. After weaning myself off the scarily ingrained “desperate need” to hook up to Wi-Fi, download emails, check in on Facebook, send photos via Instagram, write a blog, add photos to Pinterest, I found myself in a place of complete wonderment accompanied by very harsh realities. We’ve all read the statistics … Malawi – one of the poorest countries in the world, extreme poverty, and high rate of deaths due to Malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition.

Yes, take it from me all that is true, but I was introduced to the most peaceful, generous and welcoming people I have ever met. People who are really up against it on a day-to-day basis (we really don’t have any idea and, do you know what, for the most part that’s OK) but who would give you their last bit of nsima if they thought it would help (hmmm, nsima … an acquired taste!).

Next week I will have been working for RIPPLE Africa for one year, a year that has been truly inspiring – ah, you would say that, I hear you all shout! Well, yes and no. I’m not a starry eyed innocent (ho hum, I remember those days!) – I have been working in the not for profit sector for 15+ years – I’m a hardened fundraiser. I have worked for a variety of organisations, all doing amazing work, but I have never before worked for an organisation like RIPPLE Africa.

RIPPLE is different in so many ways; it has fun (always, even at the most challenging moments and, believe me, we do have them), it’s very enthusiastic, it loves playing table tennis, the team I work with both in the UK, USA and in Malawi are amazing, hardworking, knowledgeable and so loyal but, most of all, it is how effective RIPPLE Africa is at grassroots level in Malawi. We have found the most effective way of encouraging communities to change for the better; to protect their surroundings for future generations. How? Via the people it affects – as the saying goes … Simples!

Throughout my 3½ weeks, never a day went by that I wasn’t blown away by the courage of the local people, adults and children, by the dedication and knowledge of my Malawian colleagues, by the tireless energy and enthusiasm of one of the charity founders, Geoff, and most of all by the huge impact RIPPLE Africa and all our supporters are having on the lives of people who really do look to the Western world for the way forward. Put aside the corrupt Governments, the Cashgate scandals, these are the people who really matter.

OK, back to my story … Having arrived in Lilongwe the obvious thing to do is relax, take in the surroundings, have a little rest maybe? Oh no, not a chance (this is truthfully how it went) – dump bags in hotel, quick freshen up and … off supply shopping! Many plumbing bits, 10 brooms (flat packed!), food and lots of onions later – sleep!

Next day – all packed up with the onions and ready for the 4½ hour journey to Mwaya. Do you know what struck me first? Apart from people everywhere, walking both sides of the road, goats wandering, cows grazing, the odd chicken crossing the road (!) … the lack of trees. The land for miles was almost bare, the hills were brown and severely lacking in forestation. The closer we got to Nkhata Bay District, the more trees started to pop up – actual forests in comparison. This is where our conservation project is based, and the difference was incredible. Greenery everywhere, hills covered in lush vegetation; I had started to witness the impact of RIPPLE Africa.

The first view of the lake was unforgettable; the fishing villages nestled on the shores and people selling fish on the side of the road. We were moving into our Fish Conservation project area.

So there I was after a journey of 23+ hours, exhausted, covered in mossie repellent, tucked up in my mosquito net in a quaint bamboo chalet with my new best friend, Barry! – Barry the Bug. Barry then decided to move in a friend, Gordon the Gecko (film reference, sorry), so it was just the three of us … in the pitch black (no electricity – head torches a must!), wondering how we were going to get along. Well, on the whole, it was a mutually beneficial kind of thing – Barry and Gordon took care of the flies and bugs, and I …well, I let them stay!

There were so many highlights during my visit, too many to mention or to do justice to in such a small blog! There were many sobering moments too.

RIPPLE Africa has a very holistic approach to its projects; every project is an integral part of daily life in the local community, every project impacts on all areas of people’s lives from food production, resource conservation, and education to healthcare. All the pieces of the RIPPLE puzzle fit together to form valuable help and support to the people in the surrounding areas, not only for their here and now (which is crucial) but also for their future and their children’s future.

Like all my colleagues, I am very proud of all our projects. I am proud that people choose to support the work we do because they can see the long term impact our work makes.

This is Collins. Collins is my colleague in Malawi who runs the Disability and Rehabilitation Project. I went out on visits with him on several occasions – once on his motorbike! Not quite the Easy Rider experience I was hoping for! Collins is an extraordinary one man band. Unlike the other projects, there aren’t other members of staff to support him. Why? Funding; pure and simple.

On one of our trips, we went to visit a family living way off the beaten track hence the motorbike. This is Daniel; he is 3 years old and has cerebral palsy. Daniel was recovering from malaria and had been very poorly – if he hadn’t got enough to deal with!

I sat there on a chair that Daniel’s mum brought outside for me, and I watched Collins go to work. I was transfixed as Collins gently and patiently did exercises that stretched Daniel’s limbs, increased his circulation and basically made his little contorted body more comfortable.

Collins visits Daniel and his family every week, ensuring that his parents complete the exercises with the aim of Daniel being able to sit up on his own. This is not impossible – Collins has worked with other severely disabled children who are now at school, playing football, playing outside with their friends, leading independent lives. But it does take time.

I was so moved by Collins kindness and gentleness that I quickly realised I was watching something very special and unique. Collins has around 50 clients on his books at any one time. Due to funding constraints, he has to grade the severity or urgency of each client – something he finds very hard to do as he wants to help everyone, and he knows many of these families personally as he lives in the same community.

This is Mummly. Mummly is nine years old and has Down syndrome. Collins worked with him and his family for 10 months, enabling Mummly to become mobile and independent. Before Collins started to work with him, Mummly sat in a corner staring at the ceiling with no prospect of things changing. Wow! Quite difficult to imagine having met him!

He was a great boy, full of fun, and he gave me a really big hug – which made Collins laugh as I gave him a real Mummy-type hug in return, and you could tell I was a Mummy by my hug according to Collins! Mummly made me feel incredibly home sick for my nearly nine year old, Ollie – you do realise how blessed you are sometimes.

Way, way back at the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that I was finding it tricky to adjust to being back. I hope you can understand why. I could go on for pages and pages as I would really like to share every minute with you but it’s not possible. I hope I have given you a flavour of my incredible visit. I will be going back. And I know it’s my job, but I am very lucky to be able to work with amazing people and to be able to help some amazing people.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Tawonga ukongwa!

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