RIPPLE Africa is making magic happen in Lake Malawi!

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

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

Fishermen on Lake Malawi Fishermen on Lake Malawi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about our Fish Conservation Project here.

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Anyone for a sleepover?

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

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

Striking a pose Striking a pose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Happy smiles! Happy smiles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 On the move On the move

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

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

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

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

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Sharing Ideas with the Pre-Schools

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

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

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

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

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

Judith demonstrating to a group
Judith demonstrating to a group

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

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

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

The fishing game
The fishing game

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

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

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

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

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

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Challenge. Did someone say challenge?

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

I’m always looking for that next challenge in my life, and mainly something that I can do to not only push myself but to raise funds for causes close to my heart. And have I found a challenge to do!!

Whilst in Malawi last year a volunteer (now friend) Rebecca and I were having a natter as we looked over the beautiful Lake Malawi.

I mentioned that I’d love to one day cycle across Africa, exploring the majestic and stunning continent that I’ve fallen head over in heels in love with. Rebecca agreed that that would be an amazing achievement.

It’s probably a far-fetched dream as I hadn’t been cycling since I was a teenager and the first time I got back on a bike was in Malawi (and they weren’t very good bikes).

Sam (another volunteer) and I did manage a six hour cycle ride in the blazing African sun and that was challenging enough. As I write this I realise I’m mad but once I’ve set myself a challenge, I have to complete it.

Anyways, back to the story.

After some discussion and realising the route we wanted to take would be around 4,000km (approx. 2,500miles) Becky and I thought it best to be more realistic to push ourselves with a different cycling challenge.

Instead of travelling through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi we’re going to be taking in the sights of the west-coast of England through Wales and into Scotland. Yes, we’ve decided to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). We’re swapping 4,000km and aiming for 1,450km (approx. 900miles).

Fingers crossed we make it! Fingers crossed we make it!

Although I already know it, everyone I’ve told has looked at me as if I’m mad and informed me that this is no easy feat to achieve. I realise that lots of training is required to get me not only physically fit but mentally prepared too. One cyclist told me that it isn’t about the cycling but getting used to sitting on the saddle for hours at a time. Bicycle saddles – they’re not that comfortable are they?

I don’t know when I’ll have the time, funds or fitness to tackle Africa on two wheels but the aim is to complete the LEJOG cycle in April 2017 over a two week period, averaging 100km per day.

As part of the build up to this challenge Rebecca and I have decided to spend a few days in Scotland this August and tackle a 320km (approx. 200mile) cycle ride.

After sharing the idea and challenge with friends and family we’ve recruited a few others to join the LEJOG cycle next year. And whilst we are doing the Scotland ‘fun’ challenge this summer, it’s the LEJOG challenge which will be the big event to raise funds for RIPPLE Africa.

If you know anyone who might be either interested in taking up this challenge or who might want to sponsor an aspect of the cycle, then please let me know – nikki@rippleafrica.org.

Let the training begin…if our cycling and laughter in Malawi was anything to go by, it’s going to be a tough but laughter-filled challenge!

Nikki & Becky LETJOG
Me and Becky

If you’d like to experience Malawi yourself and are interested in volunteering, take a peek at what’s available here.

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Geoff Reconnects With Old School Friends

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa founder Geoff Furber

It is quite frightening that 40 years seem to have flashed past since I left Aldenham School and I have been very poor at keeping in touch with old friends. But two very good friends from school have just joined RIPPLE Africa. Grant Warden who has run successful businesses in the perfume and fragrance world is now getting involved and introducing valuable contacts who can help to develop the charity and is hoping to visit our projects in Malawi later in the year. David Glaser, a successful businessman and financier, is bringing a wealth of experience to the charity now as our Chairman of Trustees.

It has been a pleasure to all get back together again after so many years and I am really grateful for their help with the charity.

I have also been in touch with Michael Powles also from Aldenham School who was a former BBC World Service Africa news reader and he very kindly provided the voice over on our latest film about ‘Fish for Tomorrow’ which we will be releasing in the near future.

library Malawi
Grant Geoff and David back together

We’ll let you know once the latest film is released. In the meantime, find out more about our exciting environmental work here

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Collins’s Legacy Lives On

This blog is written by Nikki Luxford about her time spent with Collins and how his work has helped a little girl called Gift.

On July 8th 2015 Collins sadly passed away after suffering a stroke yet his legacy and the amazing work he did lives on.

One of his young patients was three-year-old Mphatso (or Gift as her name translates to in English). When Collins first started working with Gift, she was unable to sit up by herself and the idea of her being able to walk was unthinkable but with Collins’s dedication and that of her grandparents, Gift made remarkable improvements.

Collins, Gift and Grandfather

I met Gift on my first visit out with Collins in May 2015. Gift is autistic and lives with her grandparents because her mother moved to Tanzania for work so had to leave her behind. When Collins first started working with her she was unable to sit and support herself however in May 2015, after months of therapy and Collins thinking outside the box, she had developed enough strength to be able to sit up unaided.

Collins’s next challenge was to strengthen the muscles in her legs so she could learn to stand and eventually walk and instead of a costly piece of equipment, Collins spoke to one of RIPPLE Africa’s carpenters and asked them to make a see-saw out of a log.

The simple but effective see-saw

Smiling Gift on the see-saw

This simple construction allowed Gift to sit down and grip the handle whilst the movement of going up and down encouraged her leg muscles to start working.

But then tragedy struck and Collins passed away and families like Gift’s had to continue on their own and with limited assistance from MACOHA (Malawi Council for the Handicapped).

RIPPLE Africa were unable to find anyone else with the skills, passion and dedication like Collins yet continue to welcome physiotherapy volunteers who spend time with the 47 plus families that Collins worked with, thanks to assistance from Malawian volunteer coordinator Dan.

Incredibly, after over 18 months of therapy, Gift has now taken her first steps. A very emotional and amazing moment for both her and her family, and all thanks to the dedication of Collins, her grandparents, RIPPLE Africa volunteers and of course, Gift herself.

If you’re interested in volunteering with RIPPLE Africa and work with our inspirational staff, email us.

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Understanding the Importance of Pre-School

Volunteers Charlotte Nicklin and Judith Ward write about their time spent with the eight Pre-Schools and how they’ve been repairing existing items and introduced a new resource.

Judith and I, the current volunteers here at Mwaya Beach, have been having a very busy time in all the Pre-Schools with the children who are 2-6 years old and are preparing for Primary school education. It’s extremely important that all the children attend Pre-School, to start learning vital skills as early as possible. In fact many do not, sometimes because they are needed to help with other siblings at home, help with other chores, or just through ignorance of their parents not knowing that they are missing out on something to benefit their child.

We’re spending time with Primary School teachers too, and they report they can tell which children have attended the Pre-Schools, and for those who haven’t, they see how difficult it is to catch up on the important basic elements they’ve missed such as learning their alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes and early writing skills.

We’re now big advocates of the Pre-Schools; we’ve seen what a good job the staff do in difficult conditions. Attending the under-5’s clinics is on my “to-do” list to help spread the word to all the parents who currently don’t send their children in that they’re missing out.

We’ve been sharing our time in all of the eight Pre-Schools locally, getting to know the staff and the children, and have been getting to understand some of the difficulties they have to contend with on a daily basis. It’s rainy season at the moment, which can mean hours of solid heavy rain, ultimately followed by sunshine, but when it rains hard, the children don’t go to school as they don’t have waterproofs or generally even an umbrella, so class sizes can vary in Pre-School from 0-100 or more depending on if the sun is shining, so lesson planning has to be flexible!

With so much rain, combined with the general humidity, and insects(!) it’s extremely difficult for the teachers to ensure that the resources do not deteriorate. We’ve been taking the opportunity amongst other things to also be doing a big stock take on who’s got what in their cupboards and see what can be revamped, repaired and recycled.

Toys after a scrub

Toys drying on my washing line

Judith running some repairs

…and then they’re as good as new

Datsy playing with her new doll at Katenthere Pre-School

As well as some washing and running repairs to existing items, we’ve made 2 sandpits in the last week as a new resource at Matete 1 and Matete 2 Pre-Schools. I’ve learnt that using sand is a really good way for the children to start learning about volume, pouring sand or water. They can draw in it and make shapes, or even a sandcastle.

Sand is readily available in many of the surrounding areas, and the community also make their own bricks, which we used to encircle the sand, so a few buckets of sand later (I even tried carrying one on my head as everyone here carries EVERYTHING on theirs) we had completed our task. Next, add some children and a few DIY sandpit toys made from drink cartons, plastic bottles and margarine pots, and a little encouragement, you have some happy children!

Carrying sand in a bucket Malawi style but very slowly

Learning what to do in the new sand pit

Trying out the new sand pit

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Creating incredible outcomes with limited resources

This blog is written by volunteer Rebecca Davies

One of the many things I feel I have learned as a healthcare volunteer in Malawi is how to maximise resources, making the most out of what is available and creating outcomes I might not have imagined possible at home. An example I would like to share happened last month when RIPPLE Africa’s Volunteer Projects Manager Dan introduced me to Mwayiwawo (Lucky), an 11 year old child with right hemiparesis as a result of Meningitis who lives in Nkhungwe, 7km south of Mwaya.

Lucky used to receive regular physiotherapy from Collins, RIPPLE Africa’s Senior Healthcare Coordinator, until he sadly passed away last year. Since then no specialist care has been available and her right arm and leg have regressed considerably, limiting her range of motion and causing discomfort during transfers.

Although what Lucky really needs is for regular physiotherapy to become available, she could also benefit from wearing an arm splint for a few hours each day to prevent further progress of her contracted wrist and hand. I gave it some thought and eventually came up with a design for an arm splint made from materials that are easily found locally.

Although my sewing isn’t great at all I was quite happy with the end result, and the day Dan and I revisited Lucky and her family to give her the new arm splint was really gratifying. Her mother immediately recognized what it was for, saying that Lucky had owned a rigid plastic version when she was 6 years old that she had since grown out of. Once fitted, it was good to see that Lucky tolerated it really well and that her wrist and hand relaxed in to a better position.


Arm splint foam template

To make the splint I collected:

  • ½ metre of drain pipe (11cm wide)
  • Sponge/Foam for padding (¼ inch thick)
  • 1m2 of Chitenge (material)
  • ½ metre of Velcro

Total weight of finished product: 90g (weighed on Mwaya’s kitchen scales to the amusement of the kitchen staff).


Arm splints

Price guide:

  • 1m of drain pipe: MKW1.000. 5 metre-long drain pipes are sold individually in Mzuzu for aprox. MKW5.000 (remember to take your haggling hat with you!).

Fellow volunteer Laura and I were debating how we were going to transport a whopping 5m of drain pipe back to Mwaya in a Malawian minibus when we luckily met somebody in the shop who bought the other 4 metres.

  • Foam for padding: this was given to me by the Lowani Ladies Sewing Circle, but is available in Mzuzu sold in 2m2 pieces.
  • 1m2 of Chitenge (material): MKW575. In Mzuzu we paid MKW2.300 for 4m of material. This is the best price we have been able to find.
  • ½ m of Velcro: MKW75. Bought from Matete’s tailor Patrick.

Total Cost = MKW1.650 / £1.80 / USD 2.60

If you were to buy a professional, shop-bought splint you’d be looking at spending at least £70, so the £1.80 option which is equally as effective would not only save you money, but with the money saved, you’d be able to make 34 more splints to help 34 more children.

It’s amazing what you can create and achieve when faced with limited resources.


A happy Lucky wearing the arm splint

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Charlotte’s Volunteer Story

Volunteer Charlotte Nicklin writes her first story about settling in at Mwaya, Malawi and her volunteering experience so far. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Judith Ward and myself met at Lilongwe Airport on 4th January 2016, and reached Mwaya later the same day as the only 2 volunteers to be with RIPPLE Africa for the known future.

Judith is English, lives in France, and has many years experience of teaching English as a foreign language to students of all ages, and is here at RIPPLE for 3 months.

I am a physiotherapist, with much diverse hospital experience, however I knew that I wanted to have as broad an experience as possible, especially as my first time ever in Africa, so hoped I could gain experience of volunteering across several areas that RIPPLE is involved with, not just healthcare, with my stay planned for 6 months.

Chitonga lesson in action

We’re a month gone already, and have had time to now make all the typical early stage volunteer adjustments that I’m sure nearly all volunteers make coming here to Malawi. For example, trying to learn Chitonga, navigating our way round (me relying on Judith a lot as I have no sense of direction!) by foot, minibus or bike, even when the heavens open which is most days during rainy season which is December-April. I never leave home without, and am nearly always wearing, my gorgeous (purple!) waterproofs which generally only protect your clothes from a layer of mud rather than actually keep you dry.

We’re adjusting to not only the rain, but the hot sun, and the spectacular storms particularly at night that light up the sky with both thunder and lightning.


Rainy season and the joy of waterproofs!

We’re also aware of how much as Westerners we take for granted everyday tasks. Simply turning on a tap for water – most Malawians don’t. The local area around Mwaya Beach has a number of fresh water bore holes that provide clean water to use, however it does still need to be pumped from underground and then carried back to their homes in containers, typically on their heads, every day.

Carrying the necessary fresh water

For the first time in 10 years there have been more than 150 cases of Cholera in the local area (according to local radio news), so clean water is more important than ever, and we are aware of being vigilant with basic hygiene to prevent problems for ourselves. It’s also one of many good practises that are instilled into the children through handwashing at Pre-Schools prior to eating or drinking. Every activity that normally involves flicking a switch for electricity, generally is not available to most families here, so the rhythm of the day for them and now us, is governed by the rising and setting of the sun to optimise available daylight hours.

Lining up to wash hands at Katenthere Pre-School

Shopping for our food is also a thing that cannot be considered straightforward, as without refrigeration, food perishes quickly, so the need to pick up a few items of fresh food, tomatoes and bananas can be a daily necessity, whether from village stalls or just the roadside.


Food shopping at Kande Market

So we’ve done all that and much more besides, but more now of what projects we are getting involved with.

We have been attending a mixture of Pre-School’s, Mwaya Primary School and Kapanda Secondary School daily, all heavily supported by funding from RIPPLE Africa for either actual buildings, to pay for some of the teacher’s salaries, for items of equipment or for the tea given at the end of the morning at Pre-School.

The content varies hugely, but education is considered very highly here, and staff and students alike have many challenges of resources that would be considered impossible in western schools, not simply the high ratio of students to teaching staff, which in Pre-Schools may be 35:1 children under 6 years, Primary School may be 100:1 students, and Secondary School can be 60:1 students. The actual resources including desks/chairs and classrooms available to use, books that have to be shared (1 between 5) adds another layer of difficulty when studying Romeo and Juliet as an English text for Standard 7 students at Kapanda and different teaching and learning techniques are needed. I’m learning a huge amount from both Judith and working with the other teaching staff, who’s motivation and commitment is outstanding.

I look forward to highlighting some individual stories of interest of the current and ongoing projects that RIPPLE Africa supports over the coming blogs, and hope they will be as interesting to read about as they are to be experiencing first hand.

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Jethro’s University Graduation and his “Proudest Mum in the World”

Yesterday we received this wonderful letter from Jethro following his University Graduation Ceremony which he attended with his proud family. Jethro was part of our education scholarship programme.

Hello.

So on Wednesday I joined the group of the learned, as the master of
ceremonies put it. It was a special event, thanks for making this
possible. Mwaya this week has added to its number of university
graduates.

Today, I probably have the proudest mum in the world, as three of her
five boys now hold University of Malawi (UNIMA) and Zomba Theological
College in conjunction with UNIMA degrees. . With her last born, who
is still in secondary school, now fully motivated (already trying on
the graduation gown). This wouldn’t have been possible without your
providing a “hand up”, so on behalf of family, I say thank you, to
Ripple Africa, and all its friends. You are special persons, and the
world is a good place because you are in it, and you make your impact
felt.

We grew up in the village, without knowing universities existed, we
passed each milestone as it came and went on to the next. Not once in
my primary school days did I think of becoming a university graduate,
then going to school was something I had to do, I had no reason for
it, with time and of course enlightenment here we are, and to a greater
extent, Ripple Africa has brought me here.

I also thank you for the continued presence of teaching volunteers at
our local schools. The role these guys played in my school life can
not be emphasized enough, they motivated me to do more, I had
incentives to be the number one student again, and of course I owned my
first chess board while in standard five, because one of them thought
the number one student deserved it.

I thank you, for being there all the way, even when the going got
tough, I was one of the few left to stand on your shoulders. My mum
and the whole family joins me in giving these heartfelt thanks, and
pray to God that He bless all that give for the benefit of the less
privileged.

Today, the dream that was born and nurtured had been achieved. What’s
next? The job hunt continues, while I search for Masters Scholarships.

With Thanks,
Jethro.


Jethro and one very proud mother


Jethro and his family


One well deserved Degree

Helping to sponsor a child to attend Secondary School can be one of the most rewarding donations you will ever make. Take a look at our Sponsorship Programme.

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