Tom’s Volunteer Story

Tom Ridley, boyfriend of recent volunteer Natasha Mladek, has written a story about his time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

My Malawi Story

So I left London Heathrow while it was 5° and arrived in Malawi with it around 23°. After almost an hour spent sorting a visa, grabbing luggage and changing money I headed out of the front to find my taxi driver. As soon as I walked out I was bombarded by 3 offers of a taxi. I kindly declined and headed towards Chico holding a sign with my name on it. Chico is a lovely, chilled out and friendly chap who helped me with my bag to the car. And we’re off on our four hour drive from Lilongwe airport to Mwaya Beach on a sandy and pot-holey dirt road.

After being worried the roads would be the same the whole way for less than 10 minutes, I relaxed as we hit the smooth tarmac. This was enough to help me drift off to sleep after two sleepless flights. I woke a few times to watch the scenery fly by as Chico pelted us along the road, not even slowing for other cars, trucks and goats or people on foot and on bikes. Despite a few near misses I managed to keep slipping into dreamland. [Editor’s Note: You can ask him to drive more slowly if you’d prefer!] We pull off the main road onto another sandy road and I know we must be close. Five minutes pass and we pull around a corner arriving at a small brick building and patio area covered by a tin roof. I see many smiley faces heading over to greet me. I met lots of people at this point, all of them lovely and friendly.

The weekend began very relaxed; sunrise at around 5:15am and we’re up and in the lake. A great start to the day, although a little cold. Let the slow, two hour breakfast begin before ambling into the rest of the day which comprised of exploring the local area, swimming, reading, a little drinking and eating, meeting new arrivals, Mark and David, and sleeping.

Repeat this for Sunday, minus the morning swim (and meeting new arrivals) and adding a lovely evening of drinks down at Lowani, where we spotted a hippo swimming by in the lake. The locals were making lots of noise and we thought it may have been a crocodile until the characteristic yawn gave it away.

  • Preschool
  • Preschool

Monday; David, Mark and I head out on our newly acquired, squeaky bikes, led by Dan (Volunteer Projects Manager). Dan is a kind, relaxed guy who is very passionate about what he does. Dan took us to Mwaya Preschool, the local library, Mwaya Primary and Kapanda Secondary School. The preschool kids were extremely cute. They were learning the alphabet and practising their greetings (in English), followed by some singing and dancing in Chi Tonga (the local language). All three of us introduced ourselves and also ended up showing off our terrible “Dad Dancing” skills. After being torn away from the little terrors, we climbed back on the saddle. Next we explored the small local library, run by a man called Burton and a few of his helpers, one of which was called Scorpion. We never found out why…

  • Library
  • Preschool

Mwaya Primary is right next to the library. Hung over the Headmaster’s office is a board that reads “Teach the girl child and teach the nation”. This resonated particularly with David who relished the idea. We then proceeded to be introduced to a few different standard classes ranging from ages 6-18. The first class had around 20 students, which they call learners, all sat on the floor being taught songs about body parts, in English. The following class was a class of 201 learners, again sat on the floor. The classroom was about 10m2 and was full, with just enough space for the teacher at the front. All the children are always so happy to see you as ‘Azungu’ – white man, especially when you have a camera.

We also saw a class lucky enough to have desks and benches. As we entered they all stood up and we were greeted politely. “Good Morning Sir”.

 School

Our day then took us up and out through Matete to another school, Kapanda. On our way there we stopped for an impromptu lesson on how to crush dried Cassava. A lovely lady showed us how she uses the giant pestle and mortar, and then gave us a go. After this mini workout we spent the next hour or so at Kapanda; meeting classes, seeing their boarding accommodation, water pump and new, half built kitchen, a great addition to the school.

 Pounding casava Pounding Cassava

Our morning ended with a cycle back to camp via the local grocery store for a cold Fanta in a glass bottle. My favourite is the Passionfruit flavour. Due to lots of cycling in the hot and sticky weather a dip in the lake was the next activity on the agenda, after lunch. Swimming in the lake became a regular thing, despite the hippo sighting we had over the weekend, as well as waking up to watch the sun rise.

Another thing that became regular was the drinking of Gin and Tonic in the evenings; an enjoyable, refreshing beverage to be consumed before and during a dinner in the dark, a concept that worried me a little as you can’t see what you’re eating. It turned out this isn’t an issue when everything on your plate tastes fantastic! Martha, Geddes and Fabiana did such an amazing job with the food they cooked. Pumpkin burgers were a particular favourite of mine.

The rest of the week was full of cycling from school to school in the scorching 30-40° heat, as we had been given the task of collecting personal profile information from all teachers and taking lots of film and photos. We were collecting this for RIPPLE Africa to start a school twinning programme with schools in the UK and USA. Towards the end of the week, Tash came with us on one of our trips. We all managed to get a little time, alongside collecting information, playing with the children, teaching them songs, kicking a ball around, doing magic tricks and more. All great fun and the kids loved it.

We were also shown the tree conservation area and taken around a few local villages looking at Changu Changu Motos. This shows you how the majority live, a real eye opener for living conditions. Some houses made of brick, but most made from wood, sticks, mud and tin roofs. Cooking on fire everyday cannot be easy. Just a different world.

  • Children
  • Football
  • Changu Changu Moto
  • Classroom

Being so busy and having so much fun, made the week fly by, ending with another nice drinks session at Lowani. Before the drinks, Nikki and I headed down early to see Esther and her family, who live at/run Lowani. We took her Grandson for a bit of a swim and some playing in the sand. Building a sand castle is not very easy when all the little one wants to do is pretend to be Godzilla!

Before we knew it, it was the weekend. On Friday Tash and I had booked ourselves into Kachere Kastle, an amazing hotel right on the beach. A beautiful setting for some relaxation. The owners were a lovely couple from England; they made us feel so welcome. We explored, swam, drank and laughed all before dinner. Dinner was amazing. I had a pea soup and a Thai style stir fry, Tash had chicken pâté and an Italian pesto pasta. We were so full after dinner that we had to go for a little walk which, surprisingly enough, ended up at the bar. We sat and talked the night away with the owners, learning all about their journey and how they came to build such a beautiful place. Fun fact: They used just over 802,000 bricks to build the castle.

The next morning we woke at sunrise, again, a little groggy. The sunrise was a little disappointing due to a little cloud cover, but stunning nonetheless. A return to bed for a little more sleep rejuvenated us and helped with the slight hangover before the rest of the volunteers came up to join us for lunch. We had a lovely rest of the day and enjoyed a brilliant tapas style lunch. A short cycle back and it was almost dinner time. G&T’s poured, food eaten, bed climbed into. An early start tomorrow.

  • Library
  • Preschool
  • Library
  • Preschool

Sunday 4:30am. We woke early to all bundle into the truck and be transported to the foot of the local mountain about a 40 minute drive away. I won’t go into detail as Tash has pretty accurately described this activity in a previous post. It was a very tough climb up and even tougher to get back down, but we survived, just. Back to camp for our famous post-activity swim. The rest of the day was very chilled. The perfect end to an unbelievable, packed full, insightful, inspiring, intense, fun-filled, adventurous visit to Malawi. I left early Monday morning and arrived home early Tuesday to a cold and wet England. Back to reality.

Thank you to all those who made my experience what it was and thank you to Tash for going out in the first place, and inviting me out.

Tom

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Natasha’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Natasha Mladek has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Mladek in Malawi

Well what can I say, the past few months have been eye opening, exciting, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable. I loved settling into the Malawian way of life and I am now more worried about heading back to the UK and the way of life there than I was about coming to Malawi. The staff at Mwaya Beach are friendly and helpful and there is never a dull moment. If the Jenga is still around they absolutely love playing, so challenge them to some matches from time to time. I never got over how beautiful Mwaya Beach is and the morning sunrises were something very special. If you are not a morning person, the longer you stay the more likely you are to become one!

 Morning sunrise Morning sunrise

I arrived with another volunteer, Ilka (who quickly became known as Kate due to the confusion between the letter R and L for Malawians) and we were shown the ropes by a previous volunteer who was visiting for a month as a guest. By the end of the first week we were able to find our way around easily and source anything we needed locally. The local language, Chitonga, was easier to pick up than any language I have learnt before and the locals really appreciate the Chitonga interaction. You will greet everyone you pass and the smiles on their faces are contagious. The children will walk with you wherever you go, holding your hand and grinning from ear to ear. A short walk down the beach to Lowani and the same happens. When we went swimming in the afternoon you were more often than not joined by a group of children who just wanted to play with you in the water. We used to teach them to swim and float as very few locals can swim properly.

 Swimmin g in the afternoon Swimming in the afternoon

I came out here with no presumption about what I was going to do or how it was going to be. I did not know what to expect while living at Mwaya Beach or where I would feel the support was needed most on the volunteer side of things. After an interesting and thorough introduction by Dan it was clear to see the effect RIPPLE Africa had on the area it works in. I have not volunteered for charities before but I could tell that this charity was different. “Giving a hand up not a hand out” is very important and if you come you can clearly see the benefits this has on the people in the area.

It took me a while to find exactly what I wanted to do. As a middle school teacher I was comfortable working in both Primary and Secondary, though some of the mathematics they learn is of a much higher standard than that in the UK at the same stage. I worked in Secondary and Primary schools and was able to support teachers in a variety of different subjects. After a month or so I decided I wanted to see more of the Primary schools as we were beginning to develop some resources to help support the classes which do not have teachers. I continued to work with one of the teachers at Kapanda and on Monday mornings we would create PowerPoint presentations together, adapting information on slides into activities so that the lessons did not turn into lectures for the students. IT lessons are always welcomed with teachers and students.

Both Ilka and I knew we did not want to spend our time teaching in the classroom as this is not sustainable as when we left we would leave nothing behind. The teacher will often ask you to teach for them but it was important for us to explain to them we were not there so that they could have “time off”. We explained that we wanted to help support the teaching and help the development of the learners. We ended up observing some of the teaching, giving feedback and then letting the teachers watch some of the methods we thought might help. After this we developed some activities that would support the independent learning of the pupils and would mean that the children could continue to learn when a teacher was not present, which is more common that not in some of the schools.

 One of the classroom blocks One of the classroom blocks

Life on the bike is great. If you are into fitness and fancy getting up early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, there are two good cycle routes; one heads south for 25km, turning around just after Kwiri Mountain (50km in total) and the other heads north for 15km turning around at the Makuzi Lodge sign (30km in total). Sunrise is spectacular and the mornings are one of my favourite times of day as you really could just appreciate the beauty of the region of Malawi. As well as cycling you can set the challenge of hiking up Kwiri Mountain which is the highest hill you can see from Mwaya beach when you look south. It doesn’t look too much but when you combine the constant steep terrain with questionable paths and the October heat, it can be challenging. It was a great morning out and I would advise asking Dan about it if you are interested in hiking.

 Beautiful cycle to work through the cassava fields! Beautiful cycle to work through the cassava fields!

After a few weeks lots more people started to arrive and if you have some time when Geoff is here you get some really wonderful treats, meat being the main one! As a big meat eater I was concerned I would crave it while I was here but the food is so good that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t eating it! Geddes, Fabiana and Martha really are amazing cooks and love showing you and telling you how they make all their dishes. You may choose to go to Kachere Kastle for drinks and lunch; it is a good distance to cycle to and Kate and Russ are very welcoming.

Mwaya Beach dinner deck Mwaya Beach dinner deck

In the middle of my stay I got the opportunity to go down south with Nikki (the Volunteer Coordinator) to see some of the projects she worked on before working for RIPPLE Africa. The contrast between the north and south is huge and it was very sad to see how little food was available for the rural communities around Zomba. The day I spent in the Domasi area was one of the best days I had in Malawi; I learnt a lot about the culture of this area and even saw some traditional Malawian dancing performed by a group of men from the village. Afterwards they gave Nikki and I a short lesson, you need a lot of coordination to perform the dances that we were taught!

Having never been to Africa before this has certainly given me the Africa bug. Four months at Mwaya Beach is just not enough time to experience everything you want to experience and I feel I could get to know the people here even more if I stayed longer. Malawi really is the “Warm Heart of Africa”. I have felt safer here than I do at times in the UK. You greet everyone you pass and the Malawian smile is contagious! The appreciations and gratefulness shown by everyone I have worked with has been overwhelming.

I have felt like part of a family while I have been here; a family who accepts each person for the individual they are. The Malawian sense of humour is contagious, everyone loves jokes and you rarely go through a day without hearing uncontrollable laughing from various members of staff. Being at Mwaya Beach has exceeded anything I could ever have imagined, the understanding of the Malawian culture and why it is considered the “Warm Heart of Africa”. I cannot praise RIPPLE Africa enough for the work they have done and the way in which they do it. They have empowered and educated the local people, giving them the confidence to work hard to help improve their country.

Some small things to do while you are here:

  • Have a cold fizzy drink in Matete while talking to the locals
  • Dance outside the shops in Matete with some of the local children
  • Eat mandazi- Kandi mandazi are the best!
  • Cycle at sunrise
  • Cycle through the Cassava fields along the track by Mr Longway’s house in late afternoon
  • Use the library (a great resource) and read to children if they are hanging around
  • Visit Kachere or Kandi market
  • Swim at sunrise
  • Visit the Lowani sewing group with Esther

 

Home - Chalet 2 Home – Chalet 2

Matete shops Matete shops

Natasha (September 2016 – December 2016)

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School should be safe

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa Project & Volunteer Coordinator, Nikki Luxford

Going to school was fun. I used to love seeing my friends every day, going into class where the walls were filled with colourful drawings and information relating to the topics we were studying.

And all the while I took for granted the actual structure, the fact that it was safe and stable – and the luxury that we had desks to work at.

Matete primary school is located in the rural village of Matete in the Nkhata Bay district in northern Malawi. And structurally, this primary school is the opposite of the Vale First and Middle School, the school which I was lucky enough to attend from the age of 5 to 11.

Built some 15 years ago, Matete primary school has received very little support, and worrying many of the classrooms are now unstable as termites have eaten the wooden beams supporting the roof.

There are holes in the flooring, damage to the walls and windows and none of the classrooms have doors on them either.

Not only this but the school only has six classrooms yet there are eight year groups. Two of the year groups have their lessons outside under the trees.

The school also only had three teachers too. Three teachers taking eight year groups!

 Termites have eaten the beams, and the walls are cracking Termites have eaten the beams, and the walls are cracking

 The broken beam outside the classroom, no longer strong enough to support the roof The broken beam outside the classroom, no longer strong enough to support the roof

 A storage facility A storage facility

 Holes in the floor Holes in the floor

 No doors, no window bricks and broken beams! No doors, no window bricks and broken beams!

How has RIPPLE Africa helped? How can you help?

Firstly RIPPLE Africa has provided an additional four teachers to the school. This enables each teacher (except one who works with two year groups) to focus on their own year group giving the children more consistency and stability.

And now RIPPLE Africa, thanks to receiving funding, is building another classroom block. This will enable the children currently sitting and learning under the trees to soon be taught in a classroom.

 One of the make-shift classrooms, common at rural schools One of the make-shift classrooms, common at rural schools

 The foundations of the new classroom block...The foundations of the new classroom block…

 ...the progress of the new classroom block …the progress of the new classroom block

 Two of the builders, Andrew and George Two of the builders, Andrew and George

Whilst the RIPPLE Africa team were at the primary school, looking at where the new classroom block would be, they were shocked by the extent of the termite and structural damage.

And this is where you can help.

To improve and make the classrooms safe for the children, we need to raise the funds to carry out all the repairs. There is a lot of work involved with removing the iron sheets on the roof, removing the timbers and replacing with new ones – which have been treated – plus repairing the floors and walls, painting the classrooms, putting on doors, creating storage and supplying desks too!

The community themselves are involved with improving the school by building teacher houses. If they can finish the houses it gives the school more standing and attracts more teachers.

 Staff house built by the community Staff house built by the community

So whilst the community are doing their bit, we equally need your help too – it’s your chance to be involved.

If you’d like more information on how you, your place of work, school or local club/society can help please email info@rippleafrica.org.

Alternatively, if you’d like to make a donation please follow the links:

(Donating from UK and rest of the world)
(Donating from USA)

 Thank you! Thank you!

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Alyson’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Alyson Klausing has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Alyson’s Story

A friend of mine introduced me to RIPPLE Africa earlier this year. While I was unsure if it would be a good fit as I am not a medical, environmental, or educational professional, it turned out to be an amazing experience. I am so thankful for the chance to have come to work with RIPPLE Africa. My time was spent working at the Under 5 and malnutrition clinics and conducting research on various projects. All of which have provided me the chance to prepare for graduate school this fall.

This was not my first time in Malawi, but it was my first time in this region and I could not get over the beauty. Mwaya Beach offered amazing views of gorgeous Lake Malawi with the surrounding of lush hills.

Research first took me to interview community members and chiefs of a few forest conservation projects. Did you know that trees are essential for rainfall and fires are set in order to smoke out mice so they can be caught and eaten? The facts were not the only interesting part, but the heights and intensely vertical incline of the hills we hiked were amazing!

I then ventured into fishing villages where I interviewed chiefs, community members, and fishermen. Having the opportunity to learn about fish conservation and the ways in which it has positively impacted the community was motivating. It was encouraging to see the impact that has been made through RIPPLE’s dedicated work in the local communities. Both projects are making big strides due to RIPPLE Africa’s approach and interest to empower the local community.

  • Forest ConservationForest Conservation
  • fish conservationFish Conservation
  • Happy with the Changu Changu MotoHappy with the Changu Changu Moto

My time spent at the local clinics was also very eye opening as I had the chance to understand not only about mother and child, but also what everyone living in the villages experience if they are ill. I had my trusty translator and friend Esther with me during most of my time at the clinics. She was always more than willing to explain anything I did not understand. She is a beautiful person inside and out and I am extremely grateful for her friendship and the way she always looked out for me.

Malaria testing never seemed to end and neither did the line of patients coming in for all different reasons. I was astounding to learn that women typically walk to the clinic in the last month of their pregnancy, which could be miles away from their homes, in order to sit at the clinic and wait to give birth. Those women were so strong, not only to walk such far distances, but anytime they were examined they always had a straight face, nothing made them grimace. Even when the midwife would poke and prod, these pregnant women would show no form of discomfort.

I happily helped with simple tasks at the prenatal and family planning days; taking and documenting blood pressure, weight, birth control methods, and scheduling follow ups. These clinics only have one or maybe two, if lucky, trained medical professionals. There are countless volunteers from the local communities which come on rotation to help out. These individuals are typically chosen by their village chief after they see what hard workers they are within their own community. Although they are not paid for their work, it is really an honor to be chosen.

The children were absolutely adorable at the Under 5 and malnutrition clinics. Even though it was difficult to see some of these moms and babies very malnourished, it was very encouraging that these clinics were there to support them via food distribution and education. The best part, aside from holding or playing with the children, was right before food distribution at Kachere clinic as the volunteers would lead a session of song and dance which reminded the moms of the importance of feeding their children nutritious food and practicing a healthy lifestyle. It was a time to laugh, sing, clap, and dance which brought welcomed smiles to all.

  • Changu Changu MotoChangu Changu Moto in use
  • Under 5 ClinicUnder 5 Clinic
  • Kapanda Secondary SchoolKapanda Secondary School

After spending six months in central Malawi last year, I wanted to see more of the country this time around. The funny thing was that Mwaya Beach was just too beautiful and full of fun to leave. A couple trips up to Mzuzu and one very adventurous trip to Vwaza Marsh were more than enough time away from the gorgeous beach we were so blessed to live on. Plus the delicious food that our amazing cook staff provided could not be beat! Although I do not miss cycling in soft sand or sleeping under a mosquito net, I would more than happily return to Mwaya Beach in order to work alongside the fantastic staff, experience the beautiful and warm people, and experience more stunning sunrises. I am forever grateful for the opportunity RIPPLE Africa provided me and I only hope to one day return!

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The results are in!

You have probably been aware that we have been running a photography competition as we wanted to create a calendar for 2017. We wanted to involve all past volunteers and visitors in order to feature their amazing photos taken during their time in Malawi with RIPPLE Africa.

The prize? The overall winner would receive an inspiring two-week stay at RIPPLE Africa in Malawi for two in 2017 (which included accommodation and food but excluded flights and in-country transport) plus a calendar and the runners up would each receive a calendar too.

We had a fantastic response and a great selection of photographs were entered.

We invited three independent judges to come into the office to make the difficult decision of selecting the best 12 entries to feature in our 2017 charity calendar.

We were honoured that Jake McNulty (Freelance Photographer) John Credland (Buckingham Camera Club) and Helen Shaw (Buckingham Art for All) agreed to be judges, providing their expert opinions on the photographs and making the difficult decisions on choosing the winning photographs.

The judges deliberatingThe judges deliberating

The decisions have been made!The decisions have been made!

Eventually the judges agreed on the final 12 and we are pleased to reveal that the winning photograph was entered by Kieran McCabe!

Kieran's winning entry Kieran’s winning entry “All work and no play”

The runners up are:

Sam Ernest-Jones, Vanessa Skelton, Tine Westerdahl, Linda Vardy, Patrick Ford, Megan McGarry, Peter and Alison Miller, Kieran McCabe, Caroline Weber, Shaney Abra and Eileen Searle. Well done to all of you.

Thank you to everyone who entered. There really was a great selection of photographs and these final twelve will all be featured in the calendar.

Watch this space for news on when the calendar will be available – it looks like it’s going to be a good one!

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Jenny’s experience at the Pre-School graduation

Volunteer Jenny Hamerstadt writes about her humbling experience at one Pre-School in Malawi.

I was invited to the Mwaya Preschool graduation ceremony on 11th July, 2016. I didn’t realize how important the event was until I heard a parent stand up and give a speech. I also didn’t realize that I was an honoured guest because I was a volunteer with RIPPLE. I was very humbled; after all, I have only been in Malawi for a month. I have done so little in the scheme of things, yet here I was representing RIPPLE Africa. It impressed upon me that everything I do while I am here, every action I take, every word I say, is a reflection on RIPPLE.

The parent went on to thank RIPPLE for everything that they do for the community and the children. He was very aware and appreciative of the fact that his child would not have a preschool to attend if not for RIPPLE. He knows that every child in that room will have better opportunities in life because of the education that they are receiving at this young age. I wish every volunteer and employee of RIPPLE could have been there.

After the ceremony, the teachers served a meal to the parents, guests and pre-schoolers. I was again humbled when I was handed a full plate of rice and vegetables. I sat on the bench with the large serving of food and looked around at the room full of children. My eyes then gazed on the scores of hungry primary students who had gathered at the windows and doors to watch the festivities, all hoping to get a taste of the food that had been served. I had been honoured with this gift of delicious food and knew that it would be disrespectful not to eat it, but everybody in and out and of that room needed it more than I. I made myself eat about half of it and then sat there wondering what to do. How can I possibly choose who gets the food when there are so many who need it? How can I give it to only a few when there are so many?

I waited for the crowd to dwindle and finally went out to the kitchen and held it up to Rebecca, one of the preschool teachers. She looked at the plate and then looked at me. I said, “I can’t do it. There are so many children.” She looked around at the children and then back to me, and I could tell that she understood my struggle. She said, “So many children. What can anyone do?” I knew that I, the white woman, could not be the one to give the food away, so I handed the plate to her and walked away. As I turned, I saw her get a spoon and tell the children to line up. I wish I could help them all.

That memory, as well as many others, will remain with me forever. RIPPLE Africa is not only impacting the people of Malawi, it is also changing the lives and viewpoints of all of us who are lucky enough to get involved.

Take a look at Pre-School Education; what we have achieved, how we work and the project’s future.

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The world’s most stylish wooden bicycle and planting trees in Malawi

French boat builders Wooden Widget have just launched their latest design, the world’s most stylish wooden bicycle. You can buy the designs and build your own wooden bicycle in less than ten days and no specialist equipment is required.

They also have a range of plans to build your own dinghies which are easy to build, lightweight and foldable.

For every set of plans that Wooden Widget sells they pay RIPPLE Africa to plant 5 trees in Malawi so their success is our success.

Have a look at Wooden Widget’s great designs on their website and who knows, you might decide to build your own wooden bicycle or dinghy in the near future.

If you are really interested in the Hoopy wooden bicycle, you can take a look at their video here.

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Kieran’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Kieran McCabe has written a story about his time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Kieran’s Story

I was introduced to RIPPLE Africa by my friend, Marc, when I mentioned that I was thinking of volunteering in Africa. I will always be grateful to him for providing me with the opportunity to visit such a beautiful and friendly place and to live and work with such an exceptional group of people.

This was my first trip to Africa and will not be my last. From the moment I arrived at Mwaya, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of the staff there.

As part of my induction, Dan brought me to see the District Health Officer (Dr Albert Mkandewire) who recommended that I spend most of my time at Chintheche Hospital. As a doctor, I have to agree that I felt more useful there than I would have been at the local health centres. I travelled to Chintheche by minibus most days, often nursing infants or chickens en route.

 On the minibus with the chicken En route with the chicken

While I attended the Outpatient Department a couple of times, I found it much easier to get involved at the general ward. I attended (and sometimes led) ward rounds on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, carried out minor procedures such as thoracocentesis, paracentesis and incision and drainage of abscesses. I also assisted the nursing staff with phlebotomy, IV cannulation and dressing changes.

Blood transfusions are required at Chintheche on a daily basis so I donated blood during my stay there. I recommend that future volunteers also consider doing so. While hygiene standards in the hospital in general are inadequate, Moses, the lab assistant, performed the procedure under perfectly sterile conditions.

 Chintheche Hospital Chintheche Hospital

As this was my first experience of providing healthcare in the developing world, the culture-shock was enormous. During my first week, Geoff helped to counsel me through my reaction to the gulf between the facilities and resources available in Malawi and where I have worked in Australia and Ireland. Despite an ever-present shortage of daily necessities, both the staff and patients at the hospital were incredibly welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

In addition to the masses of patients with malaria, many of whom were very sick, I was involved in many fascinating cases. A young girl who was seriously injured in a crocodile attack, a new mother of twins who developed eclampsia as well several patients with advanced HIV and malignancy are a few that immediately spring to mind.

I do feel that a longer placement of at least six months is required to help implement any systematic changes in the healthcare setting although, two german surgeons, Karl and Gabi, have started performing minor operations during my final week in Malawi and hope to expand the services provided by the hospital as well as generally improving hygiene standards.

I also spent a week working with the District Health Officer at the newly opened district hospital at NKhata Bay. As well as attending ward rounds, I assisted in the operating theatre with laparotomies and tumour resections, all relating to pathologies which had presented at very advanced stages. As the only qualified medical doctor in the entire Nkhata Bay region, Dr Mkandewire is charismatic and eager to teach and I would recommend that future medical volunteers spend a few days with him if the opportunity arises.

Mwaya dispensary re-opened during my last week and it was a nice place to spend time with Gift, the medical assistant there. He tells me that he hopes to expand services to include an antenatal clinic as well as diabetes and hypertension clinics within the near future. These will provide further opportunities for RIPPLE volunteers to assist in the local community.

 Mwaya Clinic Mwaya Clinic

Mwaya is a spectacular place to stay and it was made all the more enjoyable by vast amounts of delicious food, an appropriate amount of inappropriateness and a steady stream of gin and tonic. I look forward to returning in the future for a longer stay.

 The children love cameras Intridgued by the camera

Slan go foill,

Kieran McCabe

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It’s a hard life being a schoolgirl in Malawi

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa Project & Volunteer Coordinator, Nikki Luxford

“It’s still dark outside but time to get up and do the chores before school. The list of chores is quite extensive: washing plates, sweeping the front yard and house, going to the garden to collect vegetables to make relish for dinner, bathing and if time, light the fire to make breakfast. This list of chores has to be complete by 4.45am so I can begin the three hour walk to school.”

This isn’t an elaborate story but the reality for Esnat Phiri and Susan Mwale, 15-year-old cousins from the rural village of Chisasila. These two teenage girls have been selected to attend Kapanda secondary school.

It’s an amazing opportunity but one that is made difficult not only because of the responsibility on their young shoulders but because of where they live too.

 The family home located in the remote village of Chisasila The family home located in the remote village of Chisasila

Both girls regularly turn up late for school and are keen to leave early as they are not only tired from the chores and their long walk, but also feel a responsibility to help their elderly grandmother look after their other siblings and cousins.

Esnat’s and Susan’s parents have passed away. Sadly they’ve also lost all of their aunts and uncles except one and their elderly grandmother is left to care for all of her grandchildren.

It is this reality that sees so many girls drop out of school as they have to help at home but fortunately Esnat and Susan have been given another lifeline to succeed at school in the shape of a bed each at the recently opened girl’s dormitory at their school.

Spending the afternoon with the two girls, the trek up to their house was a clear indication as to why they’ve been late so often, and tired too.

 Esnat and Susan with their grandmother, remaining aunt and cousins Esnat and Susan with their grandmother, remaining aunt and cousins

Their grandmother is extremely grateful that two of her granddaughters are being given the opportunity to attend school and be sponsored to live at the girls’ dormitory, which will give them the chance to spend the time that they would normally spend on chores and travelling to school studying for their exams and securing a better education for themselves.

She said, “Thank you. You have relieved a massive burden from all of our shoulders. I hope both Esnat and Susan make their sponsors proud.”

The girls are currently finishing their first year at secondary school, with a remainder of three years to go. Both girls have great aspirations for when they finish with Esnat hoping to become a nurse and Susan an accountant.

Sadly though, these girls are not the only ones experiencing such challenges.

RIPPLE Africa also met 17-year-old Gertrude Nkhoma and her 15-year-old brother Moses. Both siblings are in Form 2 and are fortunate to still have their mother and an elderly grandmother but despite their best efforts to earn an income, they couldn’t afford the boarding fees for Gertrude to stay at the girls’ dormitory.

Gertrude and Moses had to walk 12km each way to and from school. It was only when one of the teachers from their school, Bright Banda was visiting his grandmother in the same village that he noticed two of his students walking to school.

Bright said “They were walking for three hours each way to school and I remember that when I was young and was faced with the same situation, I began to dislike going to school. I didn’t want these two students to feel the same way, and to potentially drop out so I spoke to their mother and offered both students a room in my house. Gertrude now has a sponsor to enable her to stay at the girls’ dormitory while Moses continues to live with me allowing them both more time to study and have the same chance of a successful future as their fellow students.”

 Gertrude and Moses Gertrude and Moses

Bright is in many ways an exceptional teacher as he was the one who alerted RIPPLE Africa to the plight of all of the students mentioned above.

Bright said, “One of my roles at the school is to make sure that students arrive on time. I noticed that Esnat and Susan were late time and again. Normally when students are given detention they learn their lesson but these two girls were consistently late and tired. They told me it was because of the distance they had to walk to school. I didn’t believe them so I decided to check out their story, and that was when I realised how remote the family home is.”

 Bright and volunteer Alyson working with some of the other girls living at the dormitory Bright and volunteer Alyson working with some of the other girls living at the dormitory

All four of these students are attending Kapanda Secondary School because they were selected after gaining high grades in their end of primary school exams. The three girls are lucky to be being sponsored but there are many other students in the scholarship scheme who also need to be supported.

Just £10 per month supports a student in our scholarship programme.

Find out more about our scholarship programme. For more information email info@rippleafrica.org

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Fruitful Office is Ten Years Old!

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa founder Geoff Furber

One of the fun things about RIPPLE Africa is working with some amazing people, and the team at Fruitful Office have been fantastic supporters of the charity for a number of years.

Fruitful Office was started by two very good friends, Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst. I first met them about nine years ago when they had just started their business supplying fruit to offices. They were both keen to make a positive difference and so decided to plant a fruit tree in Malawi for every basket of fruit they sold.

planting trees in Malawi
Planting trees in Malawi

Fruitful Office recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, and both Liz and myself were lucky enough to be invited to the event in London. It was wonderful to meet the team – we were so impressed with all the people and their positive energy.

celebrations
Celebrating 10 years

Over the years, the company has grown and is now in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Belguim and Ireland. They apparently sold over 550,000 bananas in May 2016 alone! But not only that, they have planted over 2.6 million trees through RIPPLE Africa in Malawi. We would just like to congratulate Fruitful Office on 10 very successful years and wish them every success for the future, and to thank them very much for their very loyal support for RIPPLE Africa.

If anybody would like to find out about how they can have fresh fruit delivered to their office, take a look at the Fruitful Office website – not only are they a great company to work with, but you’ll also be helping us to plant more trees in Malawi.

Fruitful Office 10 years
Celebrating 10 years

More information on our fruit tree project can be found here.

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