Going back to where it all began

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer, Nikki Luxford

Last weekend was a very exciting weekend as I returned to the south of Malawi to visit the villages where I previously volunteered.

The long journey down to Zomba was definitely worth it on Saturday as getting the mini bus and cycling into the village on Sunday morning was like going home.

Seeing familiar faces and hearing my name being called out as my bike taxi cycled down the track saw me smiling – a smile that last until I left on Tuesday night.

teachers Malawi
The teachers I worked with at Hayo pre-school

Whilst only a brief trip, I managed to check in with the sponsored children and go to their schools and collect progress reports and exam results as well as visit Hayo pre-school and a number of families who we’ve been working with and supporting.

pre-school Malawi
My pre-school children who are growing up way too fast!

But even though I was away from RIPPLE Africa I wasn’t completely ‘off-duty’ so to speak. Visiting one of my families, I noticed the neighbour had serious burns on her arm. I asked if I could see her kitchen with the idea of building her a Changu Changu Moto fuel-efficient stove but to my surprise she already had one, an unused one.

In front of the Changu Changu Moto stove was a traditional three-stone fire which is how she burnt herself and I asked her how she’d come to have this Changu Changu Moto and whether she knew how to use it.

She explained how another charity had come to the area and built a number of them in random households and had then left – but without explaining how to use them nor telling them of their benefits. Not much point in building something if you’re not going to tell someone how to use it. It would be a bit like me walking in to your home and giving you the latest gadget without an instruction manual – you’ll most likely look at it once and put it in a drawer.

So…back to the Changu Changu Moto! I think you can probably guess what I did next. First of all we dismantled the traditional three-stone fire and cleared the area around the Changu Changu Moto ready to maintain it and build pot rests.

 Changu Changu Moto Malawi
Maintaining the first Changu Changu Moto stove

It doesn’t take long for people to know there’s a visitor in the village so by the time we finished renewing the stove we had quite an audience of women, all eager to hear about the Changu Changu Moto.

One lady asked if she could have one. I couldn’t see why not so agreed to come back a couple of days later to show her how to construct one. I did and we had great fun. Again, we had an audience but whilst several of us mixed mud and water and others carried and fetched bricks some sang songs and danced – you can see why it’s hard not to smile and be happy!

Changu Changu Moto Malawi
All smiles – making the next Changu Changu Moto stove

Half an hour later and we had our stove made.

A lot of the ladies in the village would now like one as they’ve heard the benefits of the stove such as how it saves wood, cooks quicker and prevents accidents, so although I’ve shown them how to make it, I know what I’ll be doing on my next trip when I go to visit.

Changu Changu Moto Malawi
Our finished stove – pretending to cook!

If you’d like to read more about life in rural Malawi, Nikki has posted a number of blogs on her website.

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