Mwaya Mondays- Vol. 43

Monday, 3 June 2013

Mwaya Mondays Vol. 43- By RIPPLE Africa Trustee Toby Milton

I have recently been appointed a trustee of RIPPLE Africa, and have been desperate to get back out to Mwaya Beach ever since I volunteered last year. I have a job that requires me to travel to South Africa a couple of times a year, and so it seemed only sensible that I should tack on a 10 day visit to Malawi.

Faced with only a very short length of time here I thought it best to make the most of the trip by visiting as many of the projects as possible. Fortunately my arrival coincided with that of Liz, Susie and Paul (Susie’s brother), and since Susie and Liz also wanted to get a quick refresher of how all the projects here were progressing, we decided that the best way would be to hijack Geoff, Charlie and Tom the Land Cruiser and go out into the communities and check up on general progress.

Well, what a week! We started on Monday morning with Geoff preparing a detailed schedule, complete with timings, places to visit, and the people to call (in reality a few scribbles on a note pad!). It went against every bone in his body to be so organised and un-spontaneous, but it seemed to do the trick, and in the space of five days we have managed to see a huge amount!

We spent one day out with Jimmy visiting the pre-schools. The children were as cute as ever, and we enjoyed their screaming chants and their delighted faces as Jimmy wound them up into a frenzy. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Intloduction’ chant at ‘Katatele ple-school’! We also checked out where the new building is going to be erected at Katantere.

We spent a day visiting the various building projects that are under construction. We went to Kapanda to see the teacher’s houses, to Chintheche where the new office is going up, to the house for the medical assistant at the Mwaya Dispensary, and to Mazembe Primary where the classroom block is now finished… the list goes on! When I was volunteering last year, a lot of these buildings were just over-grown plots of land. To think that so many of these projects are now really close to completion is amazing, the builders here have done such a fantastic job and at an impressive pace. I think the Chintheche office in particular deserves special mention, you can really see the ambition and drive of the charity when you visit. Not only is the office vastly bigger than the current one (bigger I think than Charlie and Geoff perhaps originally planned!), with big meeting rooms, spacious offices and store rooms, and of course a kitchen to boot; but it feels like it will be the perfect space for the environmental side of the charity which is going from strength to strength. You can just tell how proud Force is, and rightly so!

We had a day each on the Changu Changu Moto project and the Fish Conservation project. Both days were spent driving about in Tom to the local communities where the initiatives are rapidly gaining momentum and acceptance. You really get the feeling that strong progress is being made, and that the locals are extremely grateful for the charity’s good work. The crux of both of these projects is education and driving awareness. There is definitely a vast improvement from when I was last here in terms of understanding within the community of why the projects had been set up, of their importance to the future of the country and its people and ultimately in the community wanting to make the projects successful.

A visit to Mwaya Beach wouldn’t be complete without its fair dosage of fun and frolics, and true to form his trip hasn’t disappointed! We’ve set a new record of 10 animal onesies on display at once, a meal on the beach with obligatory dancing on chairs, a couple of skinny dips in the mornings (and evenings) and a visit to Ngala one evening with pizzas all round and the customary refined singing in the car on the way home in Tom (a particularly special rendition of ‘Summer of 69’ sticks in my mind as the best performance of the night). We’ve also treated ourselves on the food front, with a roast chicken and a fish curry during the week, and of course a couple of rounds of cheese and port – amazing! As ever the sun-rises have been spectacular and I was lucky enough to see a legendary Mwaya moon-rise too.

I have somehow managed to squeeze all that is so special about this place into an extremely hectic 10 days and, if possible, I am even fonder of Mwaya than I was when I volunteered. The people are all amazing and what the charity is achieving to help and change the lives of so many is truly inspiring – I am extremely proud to be associated to RIPPLE Africa. Thanks for a lovely week!