Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 5

Welcome to the fifth week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas stories. If you want to make a difference to people’s lives in Malawi, why don’t you buy a Christmas gift from our Christmas Gift Catalogue.

A gift of £25 could help a family plant 25 fruit trees in Malawi

John and Dorothy Nkhwazi and their three children live by the lake where the soil is poor and trees are scarce. We’ve help them grow their own trees that they planted out this rainy season. They include trees that they can coppice for wood to use on their fuel-efficient cookstove and fruit trees that help improve their children’s diet. These are planted around their boundary perimeter.

As any of you who have been to Malawi will know, deforestation is a huge problem there. That is why we continue to grow trees and provide seeds for local communities. This year we are setting up 15 new community tree planting clubs, who will each grow thousands of tree seedlings to be planted out. They will grow a combination of Cassia trees, to provide wood for cooking fuel, indigenous hardwoods and fruit trees. Orange, tangerine, lemon, mango, guava and avocado will help improve people’s diets and any surplus can be sold.

We continue to provide 10,000 households in Nkhata Bay District with 35 seeds and plastic pots (or tubes they are known locally) in areas that are particularly badly affected by deforestation. The householders are then responsible for growing and caring for the seedlings themselves, thus getting them to take ownership of their trees. 25 Cassia seeds, 5 guava and 5 papaya seeds are provided to each household.

Mwaya tree nursery continues to flourish, with the fruit orchard producing its first fruit this year. And many more thousands of seedlings are being grown once again for local primary schools to get the students involved with tree planting and tree tending. This helps them learn about their environment, deforestation and gets them to take ownership of the trees. So it’s an educational tool that also helps provide more trees.

We have planted 4 million trees since we started tree planting, so please help us keep this really important initiative going to combat deforestation and educate future generations about the importance of how to look after their environment. Your gift will help us provide much needed trees to more householders in the area.

On behalf of the Nkhwazi family and other families in Malawi, we’d like to say Thank You for taking the time to read about one of our environmental projects.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 4

Welcome to the fourth week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas stories. If you want to make a difference to people’s lives in Malawi, why don’t you buy a Christmas gift from our Christmas Gift Catalogue.

Your kind gift of £13 could provide two adult literacy classes
for 30 people

Annie Banda is 25 and has two children. Annie wasn’t allowed to finish secondary school by her parents as they wanted her to stay at home and help with the farming and chores. She ended up getting married at a very early age and because she didn’t finish school she couldn’t read or write very well.

This affected her confidence and meant that she was unable to do many of the basic things that most of us take for granted – imagine not being able to read the newspaper but having to just look at the pictures, not being able to help with children’s homework, understand forms, write letters, or read a simple story.

Being able to read and write makes a huge difference to an adult’s ability to do many simple day to day activities. A large number of adults in Malawi, particularly those in the rural area where we work, have missed out on a basic education because of high costs prior to 1994 when free primary education was introduced.

RIPPLE Africa supports adult literacy in Malawi through two adult literacy classes, one each in the villages of Mwaya and Mazembe. Each class caters to varying levels of ability, and they run twice a week in each village. RIPPLE Africa’s support includes paying the monthly salaries of a teacher and an assistant teacher at each adult literacy class and our ongoing support of Mwaya Community Library.

All the students who attend the classes are members of the library and are able to borrow books to use each week to support their learning. There is a special section in the library dedicated to books for the adult literacy classes.

Annie attends one of these literacy classes regularly and she is now able to read and write proficiently – which means that she is now able to help her children with their homework. She is delighted with the progress that she has made as are all the students who have been part of the project, and there is a waiting list for future classes! We hope soon to be able to double the number of classes offered in the adult literacy project.

Your gift will help us ensure that more adults are given this amazing opportunity.

On behalf of Annie and our other adult literacy students in Malawi, we’d like to say Thank You for taking the time to read about one of our education projects.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 3

Welcome to the third week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas stories. If you want to make a difference to people’s lives in Malawi, why don’t you buy a Christmas gift from our Christmas Gift Catalogue.

A gift of £10 can help a family cook more safely and efficiently on a Changu Changu Moto cookstove

Ackim Chirwa, RIPPLE Africa’s Katentere pre-school teacher, lost the lower part of his arm in 2009 when he had an epileptic fit and fell into a three stone fire. After being rescued by his brother they went to Chintheche Rural Hospital, but couldn’t get treatment that day because it was the anniversary of Malawi’s Independence Day. A few days later he went to Nkhata Bay District Hospital, but due to the delay he had to have part of his arm amputated and spend a
month and a half in hospital.

Fast forward to 1st March 2014 and Ackim’s nephew, Solomon, had a nasty accident where boiling water was knocked off a three stone fire and onto his torso. Solomon is only one and a half and although the family have a Changu Changu Moto, that day they were maintaining it and were using a three stone fire instead. Solomon’s father, Joel, was boiling water using huge logs when Solomon ran into the kitchen to see his father.

Unfortunately when using a three stone fire the wood sticks out in all directions and the pots have to balance precariously on three stones. So when Solomon tripped on one of the logs he fell and knocked the boiling water over himself causing burns to his stomach and back.

The family immediately took Solomon to Chintheche Rural Hospital and there he was told to go to Nkhata Bay District Hospital 75km away, a journey that they had to make by minibus. He stayed there for two weeks receiving treatment, which fortunately was successful, but the scars are still visible as a reminder.

Ackim’s and Solomon’s families both built Changu Changu Motos at the beginning of this year and would generally use that rather a three stone fire. However, since Solomon got burnt they have never used a three stone fire again. Their families are very grateful for the Changu Changu Motos and hope that this will help avoid any further such accidents in the future.

They like them because they are much safer, but also because they use one third of the amount of wood that is used on a three stone fire. Solomon’s mother particularly likes this as it is she who has to collect the wood for cooking – she now saves six hours a week collecting wood. This is great as it means she can now spend more time with her children and the rest of the family, as well as having more time for farming and household chores.

Help us ensure that more families use the safer and more efficient Changu Changu Moto cookstove instead of the three stone fire.

On behalf of Ackim, Solomon and their families, we’d like to say Thank You for taking the time to read about one of our environmental projects.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 80

This blog is written by Caitlin Earey, a volunteer teacher

Hi everyone! I am writing this blog out on the decking of the stunning Mwaya Beach where I’m staying. The whole place is a hub of activity as everyone’s excited about two more education volunteers who will be joining us later today! – Phoebe and Gabrielle – and you will hear from them over the next couple of weeks.

So, as of yesterday, I’ve been here officially six weeks! It seems like I have been here a lot longer than that, and I’ve got to say I’ve had a pretty busy week! Every morning, I cycle to Kapanda Secondary School where across the week I teach seven 40-minute periods of maths to the Form 1 (14-15 years old) class. They are so eager to learn! It’s a pleasure to teach them but learning their names is very hard! It is my goal for next week. On occasion, I also observe the Form 4 (18-19 years old) class. They are very bright and quick with their maths and, looking at their syllabus, it was interesting to see that some topics they learn were topics I was taught in University! I am seriously impressed.

On Monday and Tuesday late morning, I go to Chiomba Primary School to teach Standard 6 and 7 two periods of maths. Here I have to go quite slowly as their English is not as strong but we seem to be making it work! They get the answers correct anyway. I also take a reading group for Standard 3 and 4 just before heading back to Mwaya for lunch.


My Standard 7 class

I spend Monday afternoons with the Mwaya Adult Literacy Group that Phoebe set up on a previous visit. Their reading is very good and their comprehension improves each week! On Tuesday afternoons, I play netball near Mwaya Primary School, although it was not on this week as, unfortunately, the sports teacher was away. I spend Wednesday and Friday afternoons back at Kapanda, but this time with the Open School students. These are students who either cannot afford to go to secondary school or did not manage to get the grades. The classes are much bigger and the pace slower than Day School as their English is not as strong. Some have already asked me to tutor them as well as all they want to do is pass their exams! So I’ve now got two tutor sessions running as well during the week. Thursday afternoons are a little different as I spend them going with Linda, the healthcare volunteer, to the Women’s Health group. This week, they learnt about the symptoms of conjunctivitis, and what to do if they or someone they know has it. We then spent the next half of the lesson doing some exercise! Linda started them off nice and gently this week with some yoga stretches on the beach, which I managed to get some lovely pictures of! The ladies seemed really keen, however, to do some more vigorous exercise! So running up and down the beach next week it is!



Women’s Health Group doing yoga!

While cycling and walking around, there are always friendly people about who are interested in what you do and are very grateful to have us here. The welcoming and the continued support we are getting is very touching. At the end of last week I was walking back to Mwaya Beach and had a lovely conversation with an old blind man. I mention him specifically because he ended our conversation in a beautiful way, and this is how I am going to end this blog:

“Go in peace, wherever you may walk and wherever you may sleep.”


The best view in Malawi – only a 15 minute cycle away!

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 2

Welcome to the second week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas stories. If you want to make a difference to people’s lives in Malawi, why don’t you buy a Christmas gift from our Christmas Gift Catalogue.

A gift of just £8 could repair a wheelchair for a disabled child
just like Mike

For 14 year old Mike his wheelchair is his lifeline. In Malawi living with a disability can be a life sentence.

He is able to see his friends, go to school and feel part of the community, without the wheelchair he would be stuck at home missing out on fun and his education.

Logistically, many people with movement restrictions are physically unable to leave their homes, many having spent their entire lives in isolation within the four walls of their home. Children are unable to attend school simply because they can’t physically get there.

Through our Disabilities and Rehabilitation project we work to improve the lives of children like Mike and the quality of life of their carer, to enable that person to live as independently and as happily as possible within their local community.

A lack of identification, treatment, rehabilitation, and support can mean a disability is a complete barrier to participation in local society. People with disabilities are often ostracised and cast aside. Socially, many local people believe that a disability is the result of witchcraft or “black magic”, and as a result are not properly identified.

It is estimated that there are over 400 people living with disabilities in the local community who are in need of treatment, rehabilitation, and support. Collins Chanika, Senior Healthcare Co-ordinator, identifies patients who could be considered for the project, conducts regular home visits to provide clinical rehabilitation, identifies candidates for mobility equipment and arrange for the order/delivery/use of such equipment, organises community support groups for carers and patients, and makes referrals to relevant partnership bodies and hospitals where applicable.

Collins is an amazing man and is well respected throughout the Nkhata Bay District and really does change lives forever. The local families adore Collins, he has an incredible rapport with the children and his approach is gentle and very effective. He is a great asset to RIPPLE Africa.

In addition to this clinical care at household level, the project also encompasses an awareness campaign to tackle the social stigma and misunderstandings surrounding disabilities in the community. This campaign is the first of its kind in our area; RIPPLE Africa conducts regular talks about disabilities to local community groups within the area.

Every person with a disability deserves an equal chance at a better life! RIPPLE Africa’s Disabilities and Rehabilitation Project provides that — and brings hope and happiness to people who may otherwise have given up.

On behalf of Mike and other disabled children, a big Thank You for taking the time to read more about our Healthcare project.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

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New RIPPLE Africa Website and Video

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been working on our new website which is now launched. Our aim was to make it cleaner and simpler to navigate with fantastic pictures and short videos, as well as making the donation and enquiry call-to-action buttons easier to find. We hope you’ll love RIPPLE Africa’s new website and would welcome your comments.

The new team at the new office in Buckingham is really settling in and is proving to be a huge asset to RIPPLE Africa so we’re looking forward to a really exciting year in 2015.

Please take a look around the new website – www.rippleafrica.org – and also watch our short new video:

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 1

We’ve decided to produce a Christmas Gift Catalogue again this year after the success of the one last year. This year’s catalogue has the 12 Weeks of Christmas theme so, for the next 12 weeks on every Monday leading up to Christmas, we will have an interesting story for each different gift. So why not get a unique gift for someone you know at Christmas by having a look at our Christmas Gift Catalogue and making a real difference to people’s lives in Malawi.

Welcome to the first week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas stories:

A gift of just £5 could buy educational toys for a pre-school to help very young children like Gift to learn through play

As a baby, Gift Banda was malnourished. Gift’s mother used to tie him to her back and set off with his two older brothers in search of firewood and food. There was no father around to provide for the family and they spent their day struggling to find enough food to eat – there was no time for the children to play or learn.

The family’s desperate situation became known to RIPPLE Africa through one of our international volunteers who used to visit and regularly check on Gift. The volunteer provided his mother with a high-nutritional milk powder for malnourished babies. In Malawi, 46% of children under five years old are malnourished and 60% of children have a Vitamin A deficiency which lowers immunity levels and reduces their ability to fight off disease.

Gift Banda is now four years old and attending Mwaya pre-school. His two older brothers attend the local primary school which Gift is looking forward to attending next year. He can’t wait to get to pre-school in the morning where he gets to have a lot of fun. He loves to sing and dance, and is learning all the time through play.

He still arrives at pre-school not having had breakfast, but his mother makes sure he attends every day as she knows he will be fed. All pre-school children receive a simple yet nourishing meal of sweet potatoes and tea. The teachers grow and supply the sweet potatoes. RIPPLE Africa runs eight pre-schools in Malawi which includes paying the salaries of three teachers at each pre-school. We try to fully resource each pre-school to ensure that children get a great start to their education. We are hoping to fund new classroom blocks for three of our supported pre-schools.

Your gift will pay towards educational toys desperately needed for one pre-school.

On behalf of Gift and other very young children, a big Thank You for taking the time to read more about one of our education projects

Tawonga Ukongwa!

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 79

This blog is written by Tara Strange, a volunteer teacher

As education volunteers, Caitlin and I have had a busy time this week as all of the schools started back on Monday for a new term. We were introduced to Alamson Longwe, who was incredibly friendly and welcoming; he took us on a tour of the secondary and primary schools in the local area. We quickly realised that the first day of term was perhaps not the best time to be introduced to some of the schools because, when we arrived at Mwaya Primary, all of the teachers were in a staff meeting to discuss their priorities for the new term. We moved on to Kapanda Secondary School; I was surprised by the similarities between some of the subjects mentioned in the welcoming speech that the headmaster Collence Msiska gave and the topics covered in assemblies at the start of a new year in British schools. He too had to remind the students that the use of mobile phones during lessons was prohibited, and that the pupils should be wearing the correct uniform, not trainers. I am sure many British teachers can relate to these as reminders that constantly have to be given to students back home (and probably in most parts of the world!).

I was thoroughly impressed by the standard of behaviour at Kapanda; the pupils appeared dedicated to their learning. Caitlin seemed overjoyed at the thought of working here; she will be team-teaching Form 1 Mathematics once they arrive (the school is still waiting for the government to release the names of pupils who have passed their Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations). We saw the Physics Laboratory and was surprised by how well equipped it was – thanks to the Institute of Physics who brought over lots of supplies this summer. There are plans in the pipeline to introduce electricity to Kapanda, and this would particularly benefit the Laboratory as well as the whole school.

Next we visited Chiomba Primary School; a very different environment to Kapanda Secondary. There are currently not enough classrooms to fit all of the Standards, so some lessons have to be taught outside under a shady tree. UNICEF is helping to build another classroom block. The staff and students seemed unfazed by their lack of resources, though, as their enthusiasm more than made up for it!

The following day, Linda (a volunteer physiotherapist) and I visited Mwaya and Mazembe Primary Schools. We were introduced to many different classes (the students seemed much more able to pronounce ‘Linda’ than ‘Tara’!). The Standard 1 class at Mwaya (taught by RIPPLE Africa’s Education Coordinator, Maurice Chunga) sang us a wonderful song about an itchy plant which involved them lying on the ground and wriggling all over the floor! Having been almost knocked over by a wall of sound in Standards 1 and 2, the reaction of Standard 8 was fairly muted. Maurice ran over to the Standard 2 class and asked one of the little boys we had just met to come with him. He stood in front of all of the older pupils (which must have been nerve-wracking for him but he looked totally unscathed) and showed them how it was done: introducing himself in English and then asking us questions.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Mazembe Primary School is run by a female head teacher, Jane. She was very welcoming and encouraged us to get involved at her school as much as possible.

We returned to Mazembe in the afternoon, with Caitlin, to attend the Adult Literacy Class run by Alamson Longwe and set up by an English teacher Phoebe, who is returning to RIPPLE Africa later this month. I was impressed by the standard of English in this class; one of the students asked me about the future tense (which further confirmed to me that English is such an irregular language, and I admire these adults for persevering with it!). The following day Caitlin and I helped at the Adult Literacy class held at Mwaya.

Then we visited eight pre-schools (Mwaya, Matete 1 and 2, Mazembe, Chitungulu, Chiomba, Kachere and Katenthere) with Charles Domingo, RIPPLE Africa’s Pre-schools Coordinator. This was a lovely experience as the children were very excited to see us, and they performed songs and dances, and recited the alphabet, numbers from 1-10, and the months of the year (poor July was often forgotten!). Attendance was fairly low this week as it was the first week back; I must admit it was hard to picture how 90 children would fit into some of the rooms as there were only about 30 in them this week, and even that was pretty noisy and exciting! For me the biggest challenge was cycling between all of the different locations. I hadn’t really been cycling since I was about seven years old, and the phrase ‘it’s like riding a bike’ didn’t seem to apply to me! I was quite proud of myself though as some of the schools were up narrow, steep, sandy paths and over rickety bridges and, despite a few tumbles and bruises, I managed to get to them all. I tried not to grumble, though, as I realised that for these children this is a daily commute, by foot, and with tiny little legs! The Malawians continue to amaze me!

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 78

It has been a quiet time volunteer wise at Mwaya Beach which has led to a lack of blog posts in recent weeks. However, this blog is written by Linda Vardy, a volunteer physiotherapist, who started her volunteer placement at Mwaya in mid August.

I arrived three weeks ago as a healthcare volunteer and, although I started when no other volunteers were here, I had a lovely welcoming party to greet me in the form of Arnold, Martha and Geddess – those open arms and big smiles have continued to be a great part of the day.

It wasn’t long before I was joined by three representatives from the Institute of Physics (Eileen, Kristen, and Olivia) who, between them, have returned regularly over the last few years to continue a very successful project aimed at teaching local teachers about practical physics experiments to use in class. They have also been able to assist in the supply of equipment for the schools provided by the Institute of Physics. They very kindly invited me along to the end of training dinner, and you could tell how enthusiastic the teachers were who had attended and also how well the course had run. It has been useful for me seeing how beneficial the projects can be.

Following their departure, I have now been joined by two more teachers from England, Tara and Caitlin, who are currently finishing their induction and are keen to get into the schools once term starts. We have been able to be useful through these initial weeks by assisting with the environmental projects at the Mwaya Tree Nursery.

So far we have helped with grafting the mango trees, a technique used to encourage fruit production, and have made bricks – a messy, but fun task! The bricks are going to be used to make Changu Changu Moto stoves, another successful ongoing project.

My weekly timetable is slowly taking shape, and I have been enjoying my visits out to the clients in villages with Collins Chanika. It has already been mentioned in previous posts about Collins’ enthusiasm for his job and his clients, and I can only echo this – he is a very knowledgeable man who works within a very limited budget with little equipment. As a physiotherapist in England, I am used to a very different environment, although I have spent time in the community and we often have to be inventive there too with how we set up an exercise or make equipment. This week, we have had a fight with a broken wheelchair to remove its good wheels so that we could renovate another chair – Collins described it as ‘equipment rehabilitation’! It definitely needed a bit of muscle from us but I am pleased to say we were successful, and it means one of the Cerebral Palsy clients is able to remain mobile.

Currently, myself and Collins are learning from each other as he has spent much more time treating children than I have and in return I am hopefully teaching him something about the management of adult neurological patients. I am hopeful that, as we continue to work together, this will continue.

Some of our recent visits have also begun introducing me to some of the difficulties with provision of equipment but also the links that Collins, and RIPPLE Africa, are trying to establish with specialist centres in other areas of Malawi. Whilst in one of the villages reviewing a young boy with contractures, we were able to check the prosthesis of one of the amputee clients. The challenge now is to get his prosthesis reviewed at the prosthetics clinic in Mzuzu, and likely renewed, as he is growing out of it but funding for this vital review has to be arranged.

I know many of the previous volunteers who have been out on rounds with Collins will have met Isaac (one of his young clients) and will be pleased to hear he continues to go from strength to strength. He walks out to the track to meet us each time we visit and grabs our hands to lead us back to his house. He is keen to start at pre-school and always has a cheeky smile for us! Susie, you will be pleased to hear he is also getting better at completing his puzzle and, even in the last two weeks, has shown improvements.

After a slower start with the Women’s Health Club, we have had our first proper session this week, and the ladies who attend have some very good ideas about how they want to move forward with the group and use the money they are raising from their sewing skills to help their local community. They are also keen to utilise my skills as a Physio, and we are going to be doing some exercise classes together – I have suggested we use some traditional dance in the classes – this could prove very entertaining for the ladies though as I don’t have a lot of natural dance ability! Hopefully there will be more news from the group as the months progress and they are able to build on the success they have already had.

I will leave it at that for the minute and get back to some ChiTonga practice – Arnold is drilling me regularly and, although my brain seems to remember, my pronunciation leaves something to be desired!

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The Fowey Triathlon – Raising Money for RIPPLE Africa

On Sunday 14 September, Roz Rapp, a friend of previous volunteer and RIPPLE Africa Trustee Toby Milton, took part in the Fowey Triathlon in memory of Toby’s mother, Jane, who sadly passed away last year.

The weather was fine, but very windy, making the cycling part of the triathlon very challenging! One hundred people took part, and Roz completed it in just over three hours which is an amazing achievement. She had to do a 600m open water swim, followed by a very hilly 30km bike ride, and then an even more hilly 12km run to the finish line!

We can’t thank Roz enough for her fantastic support which has raised over £800 for RIPPLE Africa! If you’re inspired by Roz’s brilliant effort, it’s still possible to make a donation on her JustGiving page.

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