Dining for Women Raising Money for the Changu Changu Moto Project

This blog has been written by Kay Yoder, Director of Operations for RIPPLE Africa, Inc., in America

The DFW Asheville, North Carolina, chapter embraced the Changu Changu Moto project so enthusiastically that they even built their own!

This past spring, the Changu Changu Moto fuel efficient cookstove project sent ripples all across America, as thousands learned about its many benefits and raised $45,000 to provide an additional 3,000 stoves in Malawi!

RIPPLE Africa was selected from countless applicants to receive funding from Dining for Women (DFW), an organization with 430+ chapters that meet monthly across America to share an ethnic potluck meal and learn about U.S. charities working in developing countries that benefit women and children. Money that otherwise would have been spent going out to dinner is pooled together by chapter members and is collectively used to fund monthly projects.

The DFW Asheville chapter cooking on their Changu Changu Moto

I first learned of Dining for Women over two years ago and became a member of my local chapter here in Florida shortly afterwards. Not only have I found the meetings extremely informative, but I have also developed a real sense of community amongst my fellow members who share my same concern for global issues and desire to do something to help. Although it was not my motivation in joining the group, I almost immediately realized that RIPPLE Africa’s Changu Changu Moto project would be a perfect candidate because of the many ways in which lives are positively impacted by the cookstove. After a very arduous application and vetting process, I was thrilled to learn that the project had been selected and would be featured to the DFW membership during May of 2015!

During the May meetings throughout the country, DFW members were educated about the mission of RIPPLE Africa and specific details surrounding the cookstove project. Two excellent videos were produced by Geoff and his team (see below)—the first demonstrates Malawian women utilizing the Changu Changu Moto while cooking some of the very recipes that DFW members were themselves enjoying and the second outlines the environmental and health-related issues associated with use of the traditional three-stone fire.

As an added bonus for many chapters, a number of U.S. based RIPPLE Africa volunteers and devoted supporters attended nearby DFW chapter meetings to advocate on behalf of the organization and the cookstove project. Personal accounts of time spent in Malawi were shared by Will Adams, Ali Gaskell, Duncan Allison, Kelly Rose and me, putting a face to both RIPPLE Africa and the Changu Changu Moto project. It was a wonderful opportunity to share our experiences with such a like-minded audience and we really appreciated the warm welcome each of us received throughout the country!

Will Adams sharing his experiences with a San Francisco DFW chapter

Will Adams enjoying some Malawian cuisine during one of his many DFW presentations

A very special thank you to Dining for Women for believing in the merits of our cookstove project and to the RIPPLE Africa team who so enthusiastically shared the great work of the charity with DFW members! If Dining for Women sounds like a group you’d like to explore, I strongly encourage you to visit their website to find out more.

A co-ed DFW chapter located in Sarasota, Florida, that began as an extension of a Rotary Club

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A Tribute to Collins Chanika, RIPPLE Africa’s Disabilities and Rehabilitation Project Coordinator

Following the sad news of Collins’s sudden death last week, we have put together the video above as a tribute to him and we have also set up a JustGiving fundraising page and a FirstGiving fundraising page for US donors to raise money to help support his family. He left behind a wife, a son who has just started a three-year electrical engineering degree course at the Polytechnic in Blantyre, a daughter at secondary school, and three children at primary school. We hope as many people as possible will make a donation in memory of this wonderful man.

Thank you for your support.

The RIPPLE Africa Team

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The RIPPLE News – Summer Newsletter 2015

RIPPLE Africa’s Summer Newsletter 2015 is now ready for you to download and read – just click here. It’s got news about our projects in Malawi and a recent visit to Mwaya by two of our wonderful donors, news about James Hughes who is running in the New York marathon to raise money for RIPPLE Africa, and other interesting snippets of information. We hope you enjoy reading it!

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Hands Up for Kapanda!

This week’s blog is written by Graham and Annie Boon following their visit to RIPPLE Africa’s base at Mwaya in Malawi in April 2015

It’s official. In February 2015 the World Bank declared Malawi the world’s poorest country. The economy is based on subsistence agriculture so cash rarely changes hands with the result that very little money reaches the government through taxation. A government corruption scandal in 2013 led major donors like Britain to end the provision of bilateral aid. What better country to help through charitable donations through supervised expenditure?

If it hadn’t been for RIPPLE Africa, Graham and I would never have visited Nkhata Bay District in Malawi. Why would you visit part of the poorest country in Africa with none of the ‘big five’ and an unspectacular landscape? We went because we made a donation towards the building of a girls’ dormitory at Kapanda Secondary School.

Although an acceptable proportion of girls start secondary education in Malawi, a decidedly small number complete. Teenage girls are more useful at home looking after younger siblings, cooking and generally helping the family survive. So they start missing days, fall behind in their studies and then just stop attending altogether. The provision of a dormitory will address this problem by providing a safe supervised environment where the girls can spend time studying in the years in which they sit their school certificate examinations negating the need of up to an 8km walk to and from school each day. It was very exciting visiting the construction site.

Graham got ‘well stuck in’ helping to lay bricks and put roof trusses together. I walked down the long central corridor imaging I could hear giggling happy school girls discussing career opportunities now that those dreams were a step nearer becoming reality.

Not part of the visible construction, but laced between the bricks, was the feeling of hope. Visiting the children in their rudimentary classrooms, growing up in an increasingly overcrowded and inadequately governed country, I was struck by the fact that the girls all had dreams of being doctors, nurses, teachers and accountants. They all had hope for a better future and maybe we were helping them take a step towards those dreams by providing the dormitory.

RIPPLE Africa is also involved in fish conservation and reforestation projects all based on the underlying aim of helping the Malawians help themselves. An impressive network of local coordinators working in the villages and in the countryside demonstrate the principles of saving the local fish stocks and replanting the depleted landscape with trees to satisfy the almost insatiable need for firewood.

Here again RIPPLE Africa have pinpointed a problem and developed a cooking stove, the Changu Changu Moto, which uses appreciably less firewood than the old three-stone fire. An extra benefit is the removal of a fire hazard from the kitchen and many children being saved from dangerous burns.

We met some wonderful people in this friendly country, particularly Mr Longwe, who runs a public library at Mwaya Primary School. He has about 4,000 books in his care, all meticulously catalogued and managed with a basic handwritten lending system. I donated a copy of my novel to the library and was considerably humbled by Mr Longwe telling me that he would have to read the book himself to make sure it was suitable material to join his illustrious shelves. Should a member of the library fail to return an overdue book, then Mr Longwe will get on his bike and visit the perpetrator personally. If the borrower is a persistent offender, then the penalty of being struck off the library roll will be applied.

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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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