Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 8

Welcome to the eighth 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 £60 could pay for a child just like Annie to attend secondary school for a year

Annie Manda worked hard at Mwaya primary school and finished in the top three of her class. When she finished primary school at the age of 13 she was faced with having to leave school because her family couldn’t afford the expensive secondary school fees. In Malawi, primary school education is free but many children don’t have the opportunity to attend secondary school as their parents can’t afford the fees.

Many pupils drop out of school after their last year in primary school with sadly only 13% of pupils going on to attend secondary school. This is not only due to the expensive school fees but in the case of girls their parents often expect them to work around the home – in addition many girls will fall pregnant and go on to get married at a very young age, making it difficult for them to go back to school.

Because her parents couldn’t afford to pay for Annie to continue in education and as she is the oldest of four children and the only girl, her parents would probably have expected her to stay at home to help with chores and look after her youngest brother. Her other two brothers attend the local primary school.

Fortunately for Annie, she was awarded a scholarship from RIPPLE Africa to attend Kapanda Secondary school. Kapanda is a modern building built by RIPPLE Africa and has an excellent learning environment including the best equipped school science laboratory in the region. Thankfully Annie doesn’t have very far to walk to school and has continued to excel at school. Now at the age of 17, and in her final year at secondary school she is looking forward to enrolling at nursing college when she finishes.

RIPPLE Africa selects pupils to attend Kapanda Secondary school on merit, and focuses on those who have shown promise in primary school and don’t have the funds to attend secondary school.

Your gift will give one pupil the same opportunity as Annie to attend a year of school at Kapanda Secondary school.

On behalf of children like Annie a big Thank You for taking the time to read more about one of our education projects.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 7

Welcome to the seventh 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 £50 could provide two desks for children in a Malawian primary school

Can you remember when you were a child and used to lie or sit on the floor to read a book and play? Imagine if you had to sit on the floor all the time to read and write – at home and at school. In many rural schools in Malawi, underfunding has meant that there is often no money for basic equipment such as desks. Many children do not have any desks at all in the classroom and have to sit all day on a concrete floor or sit outside on the ground. Often if the classrooms have desks it is not uncommon for three pupils to have to share one desk, as there aren’t enough for the ever-increasing class sizes.

Primary schools are government funded and free to attend but are very under-resourced, lacking even the most basic materials. Having a desk is a vital part of learning, making it easier to write and concentrate in the lesson, creating a much better learning environment.

RIPPLE Africa employs local carpenters to build desks for the five primary schools which we support in the region. The desks are made from sustainably sourced wood and are robustly built so that they last as long as possible. We are hoping to be able to continue to provide new desks so that eventually all children in the five primary schools are able to sit at a desk and learn more effectively. Every time we build a new double classroom block we aim to provide 50 new desks so that the classroom environment is the best it can possibly be in order for children to learn. We also supply extra textbooks and create training opportunities for the teachers. All classes are overcrowded and can often have around 150 pupils in a class.

Your gift will pay for two new desks, paving the way for a better education for two children.

On behalf of primary school children a big Thank You for taking the time to read more about one of our education projects.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

RIPPLE Africa’s Winter Newsletter 2014 – Hot Off the Press!

To get you in the mood for Christmas, we’ve just finished RIPPLE Africa’s Winter Newsletter 2014 for you to download and read. It’s got news about our Christmas Gift Catalogue, as well as stories from our projects in Malawi, letters from two of the RIPPLE Africa team in Malawi and the USA, together with some amusing and interesting factoids. We hope you enjoy reading it!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 81

This blog is the second one written by Tara Strange, a volunteer teacher

I cannot believe how quickly the days are flying by – this is already my seventh week at Mwaya which means I’m over halfway through my time at RIPPLE; I want time to slow down! I’ve decided to split my timetable between two pre-schools and three primary schools, as well as teaching computer lessons for the primary and pre-school teachers, plus running art clubs and assisting with adult literacy classes (plus a bit of tutoring English on the side); it’s been a busy time!

The adult literacy class at Mwaya have been translating some children’s books (such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar) into the local language, Chitonga, and making craft pieces like drawings of characters and puppets. These will be put together in ‘story sacks’ and used at the library on Saturdays for story-telling sessions for the children. This project has been set up by returning volunteer Phoebe, and everyone at Mwaya seems to be really enjoying preparing the stories. Phoebe has also enlisted Caitlin to start up an adult numeracy group at Mwaya on Thursdays, but I’m sure Caitlin will write more about the progress of this class in her next blog. I have been putting together a book entitled ‘Life in Town’, filled with short stories written by the adult literacy group, of their memories of visiting a city.

Previous volunteers had set up art clubs at Mwaya and Mazembe primary schools so I’ve decided to start these up again. So far we have made and decorated origami planes and boats, and made Mother’s Day pop up cards ready for Mother’s Day (this is celebrated on October 15 here). Soon we will be making masks, collages and friendship bracelets. The children are very keen and eager to participate – to the point where we have an audience of students craning to look in through the classroom windows at us!

Last week Geoff and Liz arrived with Geoff’s son Neil and his girlfriend Jenny. We had a special treat arranged to coincide with ‘moon rise’, the time of the month when a full red moon rises across the lake. A local choir of girls came to the beach and serenaded us with a medley of reggae and gospel songs, and even a song about the previous President, Joyce Banda. They danced as well as sang, and some of the songs were so energetic we were amazed that they had the stamina to keep going!

A few weeks ago Caitlin, Linda and I arranged a trip to climb up Mount Kuwirwi – unfortunately we didn’t quite make it to the top, but we still had some absolutely incredible views. We also took a trip to go horse riding in Kande. It had been over five years since I’d last ridden a horse, and even then I’d only been three times, so needless to say my leg muscles were a little bit worse for wear the following week! It was totally worth it though, the experience of riding a horse bareback into Lake Malawi is one I won’t forget easily.

We have an exciting few weeks planned ahead – this weekend we are going to Nkhata Bay for my birthday, and the following weekend we are going to Nyika Plateau and Vwaza Marsh, all of which I’m really looking forward to!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

Twelve Weeks of Christmas – Week 6

Welcome to the sixth 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 £39 could pay for weekly therapy for a whole year for someone living with Cerebral Palsy just like Soljana

This is Soljana, he is 10 years old and has Cerebral Palsy. In Africa, there are many children with this condition.

In Malawi, if there are no Government services offering therapy for children with cerebral palsy in rural areas, their families may feel helpless and that there is no hope for their children.

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 Disability and Rehabilitation project we work to improve the lives of children like Soljana 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.

RIPPLE Africa’s 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. If children like Soljana have movement therapy from very early in their lives they can be helped to hold themselves upright and move purposefully but if they do not they can become stiff and immobile and it is difficult for them to lead happy, independent and fulfilling lives.

Parents often feel ashamed that their children cannot move around normally and they may keep them indoors where they have little chance of learning to sit up and move around. This puts them in great danger of developing the secondary problem of shortened muscles and deformed bones and then it will be even more difficult to help them. Their families will have to devote a good deal of their time to taking care for them.

So 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, Collins conducts regular talks about disabilities to local primary schools, secondary schools, church groups, and local health clubs within the area.

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

On behalf of Soljana and other disabled children, a big Thank You for reading more about our Healthcare project.

Tawonga Ukongwa!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in RIPPLE Africa News | Leave a comment