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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Mosquito net fishing

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

Mosquito nets are an amazing piece of equipment but only if used correctly. Recently 9 million mosquito nets have been distributed around Malawi with the aim of saving lives from malaria but unfortunately not everyone will use them for their intended purpose.

For people living alongside the lakeshore, the temptation to use their mosquito net for fishing is too great and is sadly, one of the challenges facing fish conservation committees.

RIPPLE Africa empower and work with local fish conservation committees to educate not only fisherman, but women and children too on the bylaws associated with fishing in Lake Malawi, these include prohibiting fishing with mosquito nets.

However, with the recent distribution of mosquito nets, it was expected that at some point we’d see people fishing with them.

On Tuesday morning two girls appeared at the beach in front of RIPPLE Africa headquarters and started using a mosquito net to catch the baby chambo fish in the shallow waters.

 Scooping up the baby chambo fish in the shallow waters Scooping up the baby chambo fish in the shallow waters

 Illegal fishing with a mosquito net Illegal fishing with a mosquito net

The staff at RIPPLE Africa are very observant so alerted Dan (Assistant Manager) and myself. We went and spoke with the girls to find out whether they understood what their net was for and why they were fishing illegally.

Aged 21 and 15, the girls said they understood what the net was for. The eldest one said, “It’s for protecting us from mosquitos.”

But they also highlighted that their new net wasn’t ‘needed’ as they already had a net which they were sleeping under.

We also asked why they’d decided that fishing at RIPPLE Africa’s headquarters was a good idea and they responded to say that the fish conservation committee in their village were extremely efficient and strict – so they basically didn’t want to get caught but wanted fish to go with their staple diet of nsima.

 Illegal fishing with a mosquito net

 Dan talking to the two girls about fishng with a mosquito net Dan talking to the two girls about fishng with a mosquito net

This example highlights that the fish conservation project is essential and key to saving the fish source in Lake Malawi as well as demonstrating that the fish conservation committees are in fact dedicated to educating people in their areas and actively stopping illegal fishing.

Dan explained to them again though in their native language ChiTonga about the fish conservation project and the importance of letting the baby fish grow, and we’ve now informed their fish conservation committee so they can continue with the education in their village.

Sadly though, the baby fish were already dead so couldn’t be saved.

More information on our fish conservation project can be found here.

  • The girls getting the small fish out of the net
    The girls getting the small fish out of the net
  • The fish they've caught. If the fish had been able to grow, the girls would have only needed one big fish and not loads of small ones
    The fish they’ve caught. If the fish had been able to grow, the girls would have only needed one big fish and not loads of small ones

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Life as volunteer coordinator

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

Being Volunteer Coordinator at RIPPLE Africa is a fun, challenging and interesting job, one that I’m really enjoying.

Whilst I’m in the UK my main role with the volunteers is to help them get ready for their trip to Malawi, I’m also extremely lucky that my work requires me to be in Malawi too.

In Malawi we have Dan who is our Malawian Volunteer Coordinator and together we work to ensure that the volunteers are making the most of their skills and time to support and work with the various projects that RIPPLE Africa is involved with.

Over the past few weeks since I’ve been here we’ve had medics, teachers and even an IT consultant volunteering.

Since I started as Volunteer Coordinator, I’ve been working with Dan to share some new ideas based on my personal experience as a volunteer. Together, we’ve been working with the current group of volunteers to make sure that all future volunteers are as prepared as possible not only prior to coming to Malawi but also when they arrive at Mwaya Beach.

I’ve also been out with a number of the volunteers and our Malawian coordinators to see how they are getting on with their projects.

The other day I was privileged to be able to visit Faith, a 10 year old boy from Chifira who I have met and worked with on numerous occasions. Faith has spina bifida. He has a number of pressure sores and gangrenous toes. The team visiting him consisted of Jennifer and Lisa, two nurses from the Isle of Man and Charlotte a physiotherapist from England. They were supported by Esther, RIPPLE Africa’s medical volunteer coordinator.

It’s great to see our volunteers adapting to the limited resources available and doing their utmost to support those requiring assistance.

 Jennifer, Lisa and Charlotte working together to help Faith, a 10-year-old with pressure sores - he is probably the most patient little boy around. Jennifer, Lisa and Charlotte working together to help Faith, a 10-year-old with pressure sores – he is probably the most patient little boy around.

Tracey has recently returned home after her volunteer stay and was involved with our pre-schools. Tracey runs her own nursery in the UK and was in Malawi to observe and work with the pre-school coordinator and teachers to offer suggestions on alternative and new teaching methods which can be used in our eight pre-schools.

Charlotte has also been volunteering in the pre-schools, introducing new activities including sand pits which seem to have proved a huge hit with the children and teachers alike.

Rachel and her husband Jack are also volunteering, spending a total of 10 weeks with RIPPLE Africa. Rachel is a primary school teacher back in the UK so has been working with the pre-schools and primary school teachers, offering training and sharing ideas on teaching methods. With six primary schools and the eight pre-schools, Rachel has kept herself rather busy as she wants to be able to offer each set of teachers the opportunity of training in the areas they want support in.

 Rachel entertaining the troops at pre-school Rachel entertaining the troops at pre-school

Jack on the other hand was rather concerned prior to coming to RIPPLE Africa that he wouldn’t be busy and that his IT skills wouldn’t be of any use in rural Malawi. How wrong he was. Jack has been working with Bright, a teacher at Kapanda to help in their digital literacy classes but most importantly has been working in the health clinics as they are improving their computers.

Jack’s biggest task, one that he is still working on, is to create new software for the pharmacy at the rural hospital at Chintheche.

Kieran is an Irish doctor on his way home to Ireland after living and working in Australia for the past five or so years. During his volunteer placement, Kieran has found that he is able to make the most difference at the rural hospital working with the clinicians there, and has also spent time at the newly opened Nkhata Bay hospital assisting in emergency surgery.

Volunteering in the healthcare setting offers a very raw view on what life is like here as well as cases that ordinarily you might not experience back home in western society. Jennifer and Lisa were heroes on their first day of induction by saving a baby whilst Kieran has seen the challenges facing medical staff and their patients – he’s also treated a crocodile attack victim (who I might add, survived!).

Alyson is our newest volunteer. From Chicago, she’s the only volunteer from across the pond at present and is spending her six week placement working within the health clinics and in the environment sector conducting research before she returns to the States to start her Master’s in Public Health.

The rest of the year will also see a variety of volunteers arriving from across the UK, Germany, the States and Australia ready to share their skills with Malawi.

 Treat night for Team RIPPLE - Volunteers with RIPPLE Africa founders, UK staff and our American and Australian office teams! Treat night for Team RIPPLE – Volunteers with RIPPLE Africa founders, UK staff and our American and Australian office teams!

For anyone wishing to volunteer, take a look at our volunteer opportunities on www.rippleafrica.org/volunteer-in-africa

And if you’d just like to come out to visit RIPPLE Africa and see the projects and work we are doing, we love having visitors. Email nikki@rippleafrica.org

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RIPPLE Africa is making magic happen in Lake Malawi!

Many of you know that one of our most important environmental projects is Fish for Tomorrow – a community led fish conservation project, which is proving extremely successful in the parts of Nkhata Bay District where it operates so far.

In Lake Malawi, high population growth and a lack of effective enforcement of national laws governing the types of nets which can be used for fishing have led to huge reductions in fish stocks over the last 20 years. In Nkhata Bay District, fish catches have fallen by up to 90% according to the local fisheries department. Many fish species in Africa’s third largest lake are now classified as endangered or threatened. If this trend continues, fish (which constitutes over 70% of animal protein consumed in Malawi) will become more and more scarce and people will struggle to catch enough fish to eat.

Fishermen on Lake Malawi Fishermen on Lake Malawi

Our project empowers local communities to take ownership of the fish in their area, introduce local bylaws restricting net sizes and operate a 3 month closed season to enable fish to breed and grow. We now have fish conservation committees operating along 80 kilometers of the lakeshore and fishermen in the areas protected by these are reporting larger catches of bigger fish, meaning that they are making more money and are able to provide more food for their families.

In April, RIPPLE Africa’s CEO, Geoff Furber, presented the project to Malawi’s Director of Fisheries, Alex Bulirani and his team and John Balarin of Pact, an NGO working on fish conservation in the south of the country. The Director was really impressed and agreed to come and see for himself the impact that the project is having in Nkhata Bay. Supported by Pact, the Director spent three days with us accompanied by District Fisheries Officers from other parts of Malawi and senior chiefs from Mangochi and other southern districts.

Director of Fisheries, Alex Bulirani, John Balarin of Pact and RIPPLE Africa’s CEO, Geoff Furber Director of Fisheries, Alex Bulirani, John Balarin of Pact and RIPPLE Africa’s CEO, Geoff Furber

Together, we visited 5 fish breeding areas (Chawaza, Tukombo, Chiwana, Ntchindi and Msuli) and met the fish conservation committee members and chiefs who told the visitors how the project operates and what the benefits are to their communities. All the visitors were blown away by the commitment and enthusiasm of those they met and the results that they are achieving and the Director of Fisheries described our approach as magic!

Inspecting mesh sizes of nets at one of the breeding areas Inspecting mesh sizes of nets at one of the breeding areas

All are now keen to see our approach adopted in other parts of the lake and we are now working closely with Pact and the Director of Fisheries to find funding to enable this to happen quickly. Quite an achievement for a small charity from Buckingham to be making magic happen for fish in Lake Malawi!

Read more about our Fish Conservation Project here.

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Anyone for a sleepover?

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

Teenage girls really are the same the world over. On Monday I visited the girls’ dormitory at Kapanda Secondary Day School as it has now opened and the first 20 or so girls have moved in. Once we asked for a photo the girls struck their best poses like most girls their age!

Striking a pose Striking a pose

The building was partly funded by Paul Gudgeon in memory of his late wife Molly Gudgeon, and by Annie and Graham Boon. Despite the opening being delayed slightly, it’s great to see the girls are now moving in and living together.

The aim of the dormitory is to provide a safe place for the girls who are primarily in Form 2 and Form 4 so they are able to focus on their studies as these are the equivalent to GCSE and A-level years in the UK.

Ordinarily girls don’t do as well at school because they either get kept at home to help with farming and/or look after younger children or they get married and/or get pregnant.

However, this girls’ dormitory is the ideal place for these girls to have the best chance at finishing their education, key to a positive future.

As we wandered from room to room, the girls were busy with their heads in their books studying. Each room sleeps four and most are mixed with Form 2 and Form 4 girls.

Despite the disruption from us asking to take a few photos, they were revising biology, English, social science and mathematics.

 Gertrude studying from the comfort of her bed Gertrude studying from the comfort of her bed

 Happy smiles! Happy smiles!

I asked one of the girls Gift (who is the daughter of Esther who manages Lowani) whether they’d actually had any sleep on their first night. Her answer that they’d gone to bed and slept was a surprise as I can remember the sleepovers when I was their age, and we were always up talking for hours.

In some respect, they value education much more here than in developed countries as they know it is not a given right but an opportunity.

Each girl has to contribute to staying at the dormitory, and they each provide a bag of maize flour too which is turned into their staple diet of nsima.

 Storeroom filled with sacks of maize flour Storeroom filled with sacks of maize flour

After the girls had finished proudly showing off their rooms, and posing for photographs we left them to study.

As we drove down the track we came across two other girls who had clearly packed up their belongings at home and were on the move into their new home. No need for a delivery van here, they balance their bag or suitcase on their head – and no teary eyed parents either.

 On the move On the move

In some way the similarities of these girls posing for photographs is mirrored to western societies yet on the other hand, the fact that the girls take themselves off to their new lodgings without a parent is in some way, quite different to back home.

I remember lots of tears and my parents driving me to the airport, although maybe that was to make sure I’d gone and they could enjoy the peace and quiet! 🙂

There are still more amazing projects which need support and require funding. Have a look around the website to see how RIPPLE Africa is ‘Providing a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out’.

If you’d like to make a difference and support a project you can donate here. Thank you!

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Sharing Ideas with the Pre-Schools

Volunteer Charlotte Nicklin writes about her time spent with the eight Pre-Schools in Malawi and how herself and Judith have been sharing their experiences.

It’s been an extremely busy month at Mwaya Beach, as Judith and I have been working towards an important opportunity to share some training with the pre-school teachers that work in the eight pre-schools for local children aged 2-6.

Having spent time in all of the schools working with the staff, we felt we understood some of the difficulties the staff face daily with climate conditions, rain, humidity, insects, storage and limited resources. We’d also asked the staff individually if there were things they would like to cover, and as a result of both we put together a program that would draw on Judith’s experience as a teacher and what we’d both experienced first-hand in the schools.

There was emphasis to concentrate on general key learning methods that could be better utilised , the need for constant variety to hold interest and to adapt all activities to challenge different age abilities.

Charles Domingo the Pre-School Coordinator with the staff
Charles Domingo, Pre-School Coordinator with the staff

Judith demonstrating to a group
Judith demonstrating to a group

It was also an opportunity to share ideas, Judith had already introduced new activities when she had taught in the schools, and it was good to all have a chance to think up new ways of using the readily available and free local materials as teaching aids.

Bamboo and stones from the lake shore are in abundance, and teachers were encouraged to come up with as many ways as possible to use these things. 101 uses were thought of, not just counting the pieces, introducing size big/small, texture rough/smooth, colour, patterns, pictures, drawing shapes, letters, stacking, even musical instruments.

Simple games and learning were included; we had home-made jigsaws from pictures which were laminated and numbered, so counting numbers in order would create a picture of something fun for the children. Judith had also created the “fishing game”, which promotes fishing conservation which is very important here. Using your magnetic fishing rod you catch the numbered fish to promote learning numbers but also learn to throw the little fish back as they’re “too small”. Genius! The teachers loved to play as much as the children had in school.

The fishing game
The fishing game

We had also borrowed 50 books from the library that Judith thought were particularly good, so teachers could discover some new stories to use in their classes. Whilst for some the library is a distance from school, all have to come to Mwaya each month so it was good to remind everyone what a good resource the Mwaya library was.

The library staff had agreed to keep Judith’s recommended reading list so in future teachers can easily find some of the best books rather than face whole shelves of children’s books that can be a little overwhelming.

In addition to the core teaching content of the day, I had a chance to cover briefly topics of health, including the perils of cockroaches for spreading disease, and some basic first aid that would be necessary in the school environment, as this had been something that was clear from having spoken with many people, there was in fact very little knowledge for the most simple problems.

With time constraints being our most limiting factor, it felt like we’d packed a lot in and it seemed well received. The take home message was to apply what had been learnt and to motivate some new ideas in the classroom. I look forward to being able to follow up in the schools through the next term as I continue my time here and hope to see evidence of it in use.

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

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