Kapanda School Trip

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


The little kids wanting to be like the big kids!

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


Kapanda Netball Team (Team B) scoring


Kapanda Football Team before the game

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

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

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Jo Fa-Ha … The Reluctant Blogger!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

The week before last, I had the privilege to attend the St Andrews Prize for the Environment. It was the most amazing experience and included a fascinating couple of days. I and the other finalists were very warmly welcomed by the University and ConocoPhillips, all of whom looked after us very well and did their best not to make the finalists feel nervous. The day before the presentation we were able to practice our presentations with a professor from the University, who was very helpful in providing feedback and making us feel at ease. The fact that we were able to practice in the Upper Halls building where the presentations would take place was also useful.

That evening, to unwind, I took a jog along the St Andrews beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed, though sadly my run wasn’t quite as exciting, but the fresh North Sea air was very invigorating. Each evening we attended dinners with the Trustees of the Prize, employees of ConocoPhillips, members of the screening committee and delegates, all of whom were fascinating to chat to and very friendly. It was encouraging to talk to people who were so interested in our project and be able to tell all about our RIPPLE Effect!

The presentations were held the next day, thankfully in the morning. I was obviously very excited, but also a little nervous if I’m honest; I don’t think I’ve made a presentation in front of so many people on my own before, especially with so much at stake. Unfortunately, the finalists weren’t able to see each other’s presentations, in the name of fairness, as it would have been interesting to learn more about what they did. But from chatting with them and reading about their projects, they were obviously doing fantastic work as well. One project included a multi-level chimpanzee conservation project in Guinea, the eventual winner, and the other was a business community project that recycled discarded fishing nets from the Philippines and made them into carpet tiles. I was the last one to present so had an hour or so to pace about while I waited for my turn. The presentation went well and this was followed by 40 minutes of questions; these were split into two sessions over lunch, and they were tough but fair to find out more about our projects. Huge congratulations to Christophe Boesch for winning, but also to Nick Hill for getting to the final.

Although we were joint runners up, we were told we were all winners for making it to the final and we were still well reimbursed for this. They said the competition was particularly tough this year and that all the projects were fantastic, which is really encouraging. To get to the final from 400 applicants is a real achievement and will add great backing to what we are doing. I look forward to staying in touch with the St Andrews Prize for the Environment family and sharing ideas in the future as we look to continually improve as a charity.

I would like to say thank you to everyone involved and whom I met in St Andrews, as well as a huge thank you to everyone back in the Buckingham office for all their help, but particularly to Pam, whose fantastic multiple applications got us to the final – a brilliant effort – and the first of many, we hope, as the future of RIPPLE Africa looks increasingly exciting.

To read more about the Prize, follow this link, and if you want to see more pictures of the event follow this link.

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Becky’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Becky Haigh 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.

Becky’s Story

Unfortunately for me, I had only a month to visit Malawi and experience life as a RIPPLE Africa volunteer, but what an amazing month it was!

After taking the bus from Lilongwe to Mwaya, I found that I had arrived on a national holiday so Sue, the other volunteer at Mwaya, took me to visit Esther, go for my first swim in Lake Malawi, and for a trip to Mazembe to meet Alamson and attend the Adult Literacy class that he ran there.

As I was only in Malawi for a short time, my main job was to research the needs of the pre-schools and primary schools to help the UK office. I went to visit each of the pre-schools with Charles, the Pre-schools Coordinator, and this was great fun, though a lot of cycling in sand and rain! The children are so sweet, the staff so hardworking, and Charles was a great source of information about the primary schools and some of the difficulties faced by the children and their families.

I also went with Dan to visit all the teachers sponsored by the charity and to interview them a little to get an idea of teaching life in Malawian primary schools and how their roles in the school helped the head teachers and pupils. They were all fascinating to speak with, and it was great to see so many people, who would have perhaps been out of work, eager to learn and providing valuable help to their community.

  • Katenthere Pre-schoolKatenthere Pre-school
  • Many children are expected to help in the fieldsMany children are expected to help in the fields
  • A class at one of the primary schoolsA class at one of the primary schools

Then I went to visit some of the primary schools and speak with Maurice, the Education Coordinator, and Alamson to discuss key needs and issues faced by the primary schools. Maurice is a wealth of information with a logical and resourceful attitude and was especially helpful in determining a list of key problems that RIPPLE may be able to help with.

Another job I had was to speak with young girls and young mothers to learn more about life for women out in Malawi. The culture is very much divided into gender roles, and women here work very hard! Girls will often go to school in the morning and spend the afternoon cooking, cleaning, taking care of younger children and working in the fields. This is not to say that the boys do not also work hard, though they often have fewer chores. It is not uncommon to find girls becoming mothers at 14 and 15 years old*, and I was able to speak with a few of these young women at the Under 5s clinic and at Kapanda Secondary School to find out about their attitudes to education, their family situation and the difficulties they face. A big problem, I learned from the staff at Kande Under 5s Clinic, is that many of the mothers are malnourished due to the amount of work they do whilst also carrying and feeding babies. The clinic provides extra food and nutrients to these malnourished mothers (determined by measuring their arm circumference) to help them to deliver and nurse healthy and happy babies. Esther also kindly invited me to the Women’s Group that she runs in Lowani Beach where around seven to 10 women sit together, often with a health volunteer from RIPPLE Africa, to discuss women’s health issues and caring for family members with health problems. Here I was able to ask many more questions about how women’s health issues are viewed and helped, attitudes to teenage pregnancy and marriage, and what they think could help young women in Malawi. It was an incredibly interesting afternoon!

  • Becky with a newborn babyBecky with a newborn baby
  • Staying in Nkhata BayStaying in Nkhata Bay
  • With fellow volunteer SueWith fellow volunteer Sue

Life at Mwaya Beach was wonderful; all the staff make you feel like part of the family and help you to practice your ChiTonga. I went for a swim most evenings before watching the sunset with a gin and tonic (Malawi Gin really is great!). Both of these are very much needed after a day cycling in torrential rain, blistering heat and incredible humidity! I would often find myself struggling up a hill and then be swiftly overtaken by an elderly man on a broken bicycle carrying his wife and his week’s vegetables to sell! This is a remarkably healthy and strong country, which put my fitness to shame! Sue and I went away to Nkhata Bay one weekend, and another weekend we spent a night at Kande Beach, and both were great fun, but as we got back to Mwaya, saying hello to all our friends along the way, it really did feel like we were home! How sorry I am to leave it so soon!

*Editor’s Note: Since Becky wrote her story, Malawi has passed a law banning child marriage, raising the minimum age to 18 years.

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Order! Order! The Rt Hon John Bercow MP Visits RIPPLE Africa

Friday the 13th is unlucky for some but not for RIPPLE Africa! Today we welcomed our local MP and Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow, to our Buckingham office to tell him about the amazing work staff and supporters do over in Malawi.

He was extremely impressed with Geoff and Liz’s story of how RIPPLE started and how, through sheer hard work, dedication and determination both here in the UK and in Malawi, the charity has developed so far.

John has been to Malawi and remembers that it was a country of great poverty, and he was interested to hear all about the projects we support, especially how each project area – Environment, Education and Healthcare – touch all areas of the lives of the local communities in and around Nkahta Bay District.

Geoff talked about the very successful Fish Conservation project and how, with our help and support, the local communities are really taking ownership and are seeing the benefits of our work to prevent over fishing in the lake.

He very much supported our ethos of giving a hand up and not a hand out, working with the local communities to develop skills and knowledge about protecting their environment and resources for the future.

John was impressed by the impact we make and thoroughly agreed that the only way to help developing countries make a meaningful change is to work at grassroots level, empowering and giving ownership to the local people.

We even managed to squeeze in a game of table tennis! Being “obsessed” about tennis meant that he was very keen to play!

John was taken with the idea that it was a good stress buster to have in the office – so look out House of Commons, there could be table tennis tables appearing all over the building!

It was a fantastic meeting, and we are very grateful for John’s support.

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 86

Prolific RIPPLE Africa blogger, volunteer Sue Morgan, has written her fourth post below.

Exploring the Neighbourhood
Faston is a self-employed artist and musician who’s very friendly and knows the area really well. He has happily taken on the role of being our walking tour guide at weekends!

Local Village Life
We had just left Mwaya when Faston suddenly hissed, “Lie down,” and dropped to the ground…a terrorist attack? No, we were about to walk into the middle of a swarm of bees which soon resembled a huge black cloud blocking our way. An alternate route soon had us headed for a narrow path through fields of maize crops. We stopped at a small house to say hello to a tiny little old lady, all brown and wrinkly like a walnut. It turned out we had stopped there because she had a cashew nut tree in her garden and was happy for us to help ourselves! Faston promised to show us how to make them edible later. Onward through fields, and we were soon joined by a crowd of little kids who just wanted to hold our hands, high five or have their picture taken. The kids here are so lively and happy! Our next stop was to rest under trees in a (very) small village of about six houses. It was fascinating to see everyday life and also very impressive to see that all the kids work alongside the adults! There were all ages, old and young, out in the fields, singing whilst clearing weeds with big heavy hoes; some kids were washing school uniform ready for next week, others were taking containers to get water, and two women were pounding cassava into flour. Of course we both had a go at pounding for about five minutes! It was exhausting! Faston got us some raw cassava to try – it tasted a little bit like like coconut. The people we met there were so happy to see us and made us feel very welcome.

Also in the village, there was a chicken house on stilts with a kind of ramp for them to get in and out.; apparently, they were built because of hyenas which are no longer a threat.

It was getting late so we went back to Faston’s house where he made a small fire with pieces of charcoal and baked the cashew…hmm, maybe it wasn’t cashew and I don’t know that it was edible – that’s all I can say! Then we went back to the beach as we were in need of a cold drink and a swim before dinner.

Mushroom Picking
The next walk was to a ‘mountain’ to pick mushrooms. It wasn’t a mountain, but it was quite a distance to hike through thick sand, planted fields and overgrown woods, and it was pretty steep. It was the same area that Becky and I had both been to when we visited schools, but this time we left the track and plunged into thick undergrowth…eek, snakes, thought I! Along the way, the landscape was a stunning mixture of colours, ranging through orange, yellow, red and brown in the soil, an amazingly deep blue sky and of course every imaginable shade of green. We tramped and scoured the land, but the dastardly mushroom pickers had beaten us to it! We went to visit another delightful old lady who looked like she was in her 80s but was as sprightly as a young thing. Again she was delighted to welcome us into her home and came to help us look for mushrooms…actually she and Faston searched while Becky and I stayed under a tree and talked to her 18 year old grandson and played with the family dog! He was a cool kid…his parents had both died so he left school to come and care for his grandmother and do the farm work for her.

Finally, the elusive mushrooms were located but Becky and I were not allowed to pick any because some were poisonous and they all looked the same to us! (Previously I had got into trouble at Mwaya Beach for starting to eat a raw mushroom – apparently this type of edible mushrooms is poisonous when eaten raw and could kill you so it has to be cooked!) By now it was getting late – we were all tired but happy, and we finally headed for home with a basket of mushrooms.

A Walk to a Viewpoint
Last weekend, I requested a walk under trees! The first port of call was Faston’s house so he could eat lunch and also collect his cousin who wanted to join us. I shared nsima and pumpkin leaves with the men, but I didn’t realise until we left that the women were eating on the other side of the house. Faston has a mulberry tree and a passion fruit tree in his garden, and the corn on the cob is almost ready to eat…yummy! I will definitely be back there to eat! Once lunch was over, we headed off and passed many small houses along the way where people had planted flowering shrubs and flowers around the walls. They looked too pretty to be real! There was even one house painted in bright colours which was just stunning – this is very unusual because paint is expensive.

As always, we were greeted by everyone and joined by lots of little kids. Then we hit the trees and started to climb – this was when I was told we were climbing a ‘mountain’ which had spectacular views. Actually, it wasn’t a hard climb as water erosion had dislodged rocks and created a natural staircase. I was just getting breathless when we reached the top and, yes, the views were lovely. I could spot the road I cycle down almost daily to get to Mazembe Primary School and, in the distance, I could see Kande village and, in the further distance, tiny villages dotted on the landscape. It was interesting to get a bird’s eye view of what is by now a very familiar route. We stopped there for a while to rest before heading back, and I got to the beach just before nightfall which was lucky as I didn’t have a torch and darkness is swift! I’m looking forward to the next expedition, although Faston has mentioned climbing a real mountain!

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A Visit to RIPPLE Africa’s UK Office

Long time supporter Peter Finch wrote this article following his recent visit to the UK office.

Back in April 2014, just after RIPPLE Africa opened its new UK headquarters, there was a blog entry informing us all about the new office. In that blog we were all invited to “drop in to see us for a cup of tea and maybe a game of ping pong”. Nearly a year later, I happened to be in the area so thought I would test that offer and meet everyone at the office.

My involvement with RIPPLE Africa has only been as a supporter and an avid reader of the weekly blog. The weekly stories from the volunteers at Mwaya on the work of the charity and the difference they make is inspirational. Therefore, an opportunity to meet with the people who make everything happen back in the UK was not to be passed up.

I was greeted by Liz, Geoff, Charlie and Pam. Unfortunately, Claire and Jo weren’t there that day so I wasn’t able to meet the whole team, but perhaps next time… I was made most welcome and not only had a cup of tea but the special biscuits were brought out too! It was great to experience first hand the enthusiasm the team have for the charity as a whole. I learnt about how Liz and Geoff first came across Mwaya (it appears it was as a result of a missed turning) and how the charity got its name. I hadn’t realised ‘RIPPLE’ was originally an acronym (I was told what it was but have already forgotten, I am afraid) but now I think is better thought of as descriptive of what happens in Mwaya. For example, Geoff was telling me about the success of the fish conservation project, so much so that the national Fisheries Department want to extend the project further along the lakeshore; hence the ‘Ripple’ effect.

My family and I were fortunate to be able to visit Malawi back in in 2009, when our daughter was teaching in Blantyre. Although we never made it north to Mwaya during our visit, we did experience the friendliness of Malawian people. It was an incredible trip and one that we will never forget. However, we also well remember the poverty and the lack of proper infrastructure and basic amenities. It is a salutary lesson to us in the UK who live in comparative luxury to experience extreme poverty. Therefore, supporting a charity that makes a difference is clearly worthwhile. I really hope I will be able to visit Mwaya one day to get an even better understanding of the tremendous projects and, of course, the Ripple effect. For instance, who cannot be intrigued by a Changu Changu Moto!

By the way, the team were true to their word, and I was persuaded to participate in a game of ping pong. I protested but there is no arguing it appears. I am ashamed so say I was on the side that lost 11-1.

My thanks to Liz, Geoff, Charlie and Pam for taking an hour out of their valuable time to indulge a passer by. We parted as friends – I look forward to the next time.

If anyone would like to follow Peter’s example and drop in for a chat, a cup of tea, and a game of table tennis, we’d be delighted to see you.

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 85

This is RIPPLE Africa volunteer Sue Morgan’s third blog

Weekend Breaks Are Great!

When you have worked hard all week, you deserve a little pampering … of course, we are already beautifully pampered by the Mwaya crew but it is still always good to have a change of scenery. So far, we have tried out two local destinations easily reached by public transport: Nkhata Bay and Kande Beach.

To get to Nkhata Bay took us about three hours travelling by minibus which is an experience in itself. The buses are very friendly and the people are just delightful as long as you are prepared to share space with a live chicken, farm plough and twice the number of people the vehicle was designed to carry! Once in Nkhata Bay, we made our way to Mayoka Lodge which was recommended as a great place to stay. It is a fair way out of town and an uphill slog, especially on a hot day, but when you get there the situation and views are spectacular! I will have a long lasting memory of my room that was perched on the edge of a cliff and the best four poster bed in a really comfortable room that had a fan/bedside lamp and a small balcony! The beach was very rocky so swimming involved quite a lot of slipping and sliding but, once in the water, it was gorgeous. Probably the only negative comment is that the noise from the bar got progressively louder as the alcohol level increased, and we didn’t get much sleep that night! The next day was spent swimming, doing a little shopping, and then having a great lunch at Aqua Africa before heading back to Mwaya.


A view of the beach


Check out the bed!

Kande Beach is much closer and can be easily reached by minibus (matola), cycling or a walk along the beach (except in the rainy season). It has a beautiful sandy beach and offers the opportunity to go snorkelling, diving, kayaking, or just relaxing in a hammock or at the bar. The rooms are pretty basic but very comfortable, and there is a well-equipped reasonably priced cafe for snacks and meals. Becky and I spent the first day swimming, lazing in the hammocks and getting sunburnt! A highlight was playing Bao with some locals under the shade of a mango tree. Day 2 started a bit grey so a slow start to the morning, but we had already arranged to go snorkelling in dugout canoes so, as soon as it brightened up, off we went! It was quite the experience balancing on the dugouts, especially as the fishermen who were rowing made it look so easy! The snorkelling around Kande Island was just wonderful and well worth the trip there. Coming back it was a little choppy, and my canoe rolled with me ending up in the water! It was very safe and laughable but getting back into the canoe was a challenge until one of the fishermen, who was probably about 20 years old, just pulled me from the water, no problem – we then all swapped canoes and carried on, amazing! The weekend ended with us getting a very windswept lift from Kande in the back of a Toyota pickup along with way too many other people. I am already looking forward to a return trip to Kande Beach!


Becky’s first time snorkelling!


How to relax

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 84

This blog is the second one to be written by volunteer teacher Sue Morgan

The Other Side of Malawi…the Rainy Season

Malawi is stunningly beautiful and full of lush vegetation which just flows through the landscape in never ending shades of green. The people are totally dependent upon fertile ground to grow essential food stuff, and this is the first country I have ever lived in or visited where people genuinely do live off the land because of the abundance of grain, fruits and vegetables. But of course, you can’t get any farming done without a bit of rain!

And if you think you know what rain is…think again! At times, it’s more like a deluge that can only be described as standing under a waterfall. It is not at all cold but in seconds you are completely and utterly wet through. There are also regular and spectacular thunderstorms, and personally I love the swirling and ominous black clouds that are accompanied by ear splitting crashes of thunder. Most days the rain lasts about half a day either in the morning or the afternoon – then the sun comes out and in an hour you are warm and dry. On really good days, it rains at night and the days are gloriously warm and fresh.

Potential visitors to Malawi, please do NOT be put off from coming because of the rain! It really can be a welcome, refreshing respite from the sun and in a bizarre way you feel really local when you are one of many huddled under a tree or just laughing with fellow (Malawian) cyclists because you have forgotten to take the umbrella and rainsuit and you cannot possibly get any wetter!! If you should come to Malawi in the rainy season between December and April, you will need the right gear! Whatever you are doing as a volunteer, you will inevitably be cycling at least 10km a day and most days you will get caught in a downpour. A jacket is NOT enough!! The photograph below shows me kitted out for cycling 7 km in a downpour. Check out the size of the umbrella which cost MWK2,000 (about £3 or US$4.50) and the rainsuit which is completely waterproof cost MWK6,000 (about £9 or US$13.50). The umbrellas can be bought locally (I am planning to get a rainbow coloured version!) and the rainsuit comes from Mzuzu (after seeing me look like a drowned rat on several occasions, a very kind teaching partner at Mwaya Primary School went and got mine for me).

As a teacher, an interesting side effect of the rain is the noise level in the older classrooms which all have tin roofs. I have, on two occasions, had to resort to sign language and written instructions on the board like ‘Take out your exercise books’ because it was impossible for anyone to hear anything over the deafening noise of the rain. Actually, we all just ended up laughing and abandoned the lesson! On a side note, I have got used to young kids coming into the classroom with machetes (slashers) and hoes because the rainy season is planting time and they have field work to do before and after school. Check out the age they start helping with field work in the picture below!

Don’t take my word for it – just come and see for yourself!

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RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 83

This blog is written by volunteer Becky Haigh

Hello from Mwaya!

I have been here for around two weeks now and am finding it surprisingly easy to adjust to the afternoon swims in the lake and the wonderful people here, though cycling in the sand is proving to be a bit more of a challenge! At the moment, it is just Sue (Ama Suzie) and myself here as volunteers so, along with my time exploring and learning more about the pre-schools, I have been helping her with some of her extra classes, and helping with the Adult Literacy classes on Tuesdays. Everyone is very determined and eager to learn, which makes the classes productive and great fun!

I have also been shown around some of the projects. Dan is incredibly knowledgeable (and patient!) when teaching me about the different plants at the tree nursery, and Charles has helped me negotiate the sandy tracks to visit each of the pre-schools where I have been meeting the children and the wonderful people who take care of them.


Sue in the tree nursery

On the weekends, we have been shown around the countryside by Faston, a local artist, and we have been on long walks to pick mushrooms, visit other villages, and cook food with his family. Last Sunday, we were very fortunate to be taken to a dance in Chiomba by Arnold (the day watchman and all-round man-in-the-know) to celebrate the harvest. This was the women’s dance, so local girls and women from each village each did a dance to chanting, drums and whistles. It was amazing to watch and was an incredible local custom to see.

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