Education, Nursery, Testimonial, Volunteers, Youth

Volunteer Testimonial – Sanne Westera

Volunteer Sanne joined Phunzira in Ruarwe in June. She got involved with many youth projects during her time in the village including youth club sessions, nursery school and she also organised an educational quiz for members of the youth club with pens, pencils, notebooks and maths books given out as prizes. Below is a testimonial from her time volunteering with Phunzira.

“I really enjoyed my stay in Ruarwe, the community is very welcoming and the kids are so eager to learn and fun to play with. I wish I could have been more involved in the clinic but, as I’m now studying medicine, I might be able to come back to Ruarwe for an internship in the future! I would like to thank Phunzira, NYM, the community and Zulunkhuni river lodge for making my stay a memorable one and I’m hoping to be back very soon.  [It] would have been more enjoyable if my travel plans had allowed me to stay longer!”

Thank you Sanne for your time and we very much look forward to welcoming you back!

Community, Education, Malawi, Sports, Volunteers, Youth

Volunteers join Phunzira from France

We were lucky enough to host three volunteers from France for a period of one month. Leo Berger, Aurelien Lluis and Kartik Sharma arrived in Ruarwe towards the end of May and immediately got stuck in with a great number of activities at the education centre Nyumba ya Masambiro. During their time with Phunzira they rebuilt the bridge across the stream into the NYM land after it had been washed away by the rains, they completed a data analysis plan for the maize mill, they got involved with tutorials and youth club sessions, they rewrote the guide to NYM which is available in the library for any visitors to read, they got involved with community activities such as football games at the village football field at the top of the hill and in their spare time they walked down to Usisya and back to get to see a bit of the surrounding area!

The staff at the education centre was delighted with their energy, joy and enthusiasm and it was wonderful to see how much could be achieved in such a short space of time. Thank you to all three for their hard work during their time in Ruarwe!

Donations, Fundraising

Donate to Phunzira as you shop

For all those that shop on Amazon: If you use Amazon Smile then Phunzira will receive a small donation each time you make a purchase AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU!

Click on the link below to support us each time you buy:

https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1136460-0

Then, to make sure you make a donation with every eligible purchase please always ensure that you have “smile.” before your web address so that you are accessing smile.amazon.co.uk or smile.amazon.com.

Every little addition makes such a great difference to the communities in Northern Malawi so be sure to pass this link on to friends and select Phunzira as your preferred charity. Thank you!

Community, Education, Malawi, Op ed Article

Nyumba Ya Masambiro – From Concept to Handover – by Philippa Mander

Philippa is Secretary of the Trust at Phunzira, a charity that has set up and supports a community education centre in rural northern Malawi, and that also supports two government health clinics in the area. She has worked for the charity since 2013. Nyumba ya Masambiro is this community education centre. Nyumba ya Masambiro means “House of Learning” or “House of Education” in Chitumbuka, the local language.

In 2007 Rosa Nissim left the UK to teach mathematics for one academic year at a private school in the town of Nkhata Bay, Northern Malawi. At the end of her volunteering placement she travelled further north, by boat, to the remote village of Ruarwe. Ruarwe does not have access to utilities such as electricity and running water, nor conveniences such as a market, supermarkets or banks, and there are no roads leading to the village. Access is only by boat along the shore of Lake Malawi and on foot via the small paths through the hills along the lakeshore. There is limited telephone reception, only available from the top of a steep hill on the outskirts of the village where a line of sight is made to the telephone masts in Usisya, 20km south of the village. In this remote community, an eco hostel (Zulunkhuni River Lodge) is a quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Nkhata Bay life.

The community in Ruarwe survives from fishing and subsistence farming, with minimal outside support for community development. During her stay in the village, Rosa was introduced to the Village Headman at the time, Palombe Mjeremani. Now deceased and having passed his role to his son Robson, Palombe chatted with Rosa about her teaching experience in Nkhata Bay. Palombe believed that access to knowledge and education was key to both community development and residents’ ability to improve their prospects. They discussed ways to provide further educational opportunities to the impoverished community and Palombe asked if Rosa would be willing to set up an education centre to provide support to school students as well as opportunities for other community members beyond school age. He offered a plot of land just outside the village, opposite the primary school, for such a purpose and at the end of 2008 after completing her two month stay in Ruarwe village, Rosa returned to the UK to look into this proposal.

In 2009, Rosa spent the year in the UK. She set up the charity Phunzira, meaning ‘education’ in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, and set about fundraising. She then returned to Ruarwe in 2010 to start building. Using a rammed earth style of building and employing local staff to build, six buildings were constructed. Having gone through some changes in purpose over the last seven years, these buildings now house the following: a youth centre; a library; a computer room; an IGA room; an office; and a store room. Solar power was first installed 2011 and is now complemented by a pico-hydro turbine, installed in 2013. The rammed earth style of building was chosen as it uses resources widely available in the surrounding environment such as mud, stones and sand. As a result, costs were kept to a minimum for items such as cement etc, large scale maintenance is only needed infrequently and, additionally, the rooms are cooler in the hot season and warmer in the cool season.

Phunzira was very fortunate to receive donations of books primarily from two London-based secondary schools, allowing the library to benefit from a wide range of novels, reference texts, encyclopaedias and curriculum textbooks. We also received donations of paints, pens, paper, toys, and more for youth activities.

Nyumba ya Masambiro is now able to offer the following services to the catchment community: a junior youth club three times a week focussing on education, creativity and sports; access to a well stocked library with a borrowing system in place as well as access to newspapers which can be read on site; tutorials run in academic subjects such as maths, English and science; and IT lessons. All these services are offered completely free of charge. In addition to these services Nyumba ya Masambiro also runs a nursery school during term time for preschool children for a nominal charge. Nursery students receive teaching in basic maths and English and receive a sweetened maize porridge breakfast daily.

As well as these ongoing projects, Nyumba ya Masambiro has been involved in supporting larger-scale, one-off projects within the catchment area, including: construction of two science laboratories at the local secondary schools; the building and donation of an ambulance boat to the government for the transfer of critically ill patients from Ruarwe and Khondowe clinics; the training of a local community member as a Medical Assistant (equivalent to a doctor) for Ruarwe clinic; and the maintenance of the school office block at a primary school.

In order to fund the free of charge, ongoing community services, Nyumba ya Masambiro runs some micro businesses (IGA’s). These include: a solar charged battery box rental scheme; phone charging from the solar and pico-hydro systems on site; the provision of typing, printing, scanning and photocopying facilities (particularly to local schools during exam season); the sale of eggs; the sale of some garden produce such as sugar cane, bananas and papayas; and a profit-sharing scheme with a local community member to run football screenings using a TV satellite system. The aim is for NYM to become fully financially self-sustainable and no longer be reliant on Phunzira’s financial support; the staff is making great inroads in achieving this aim.

Nyumba ya Masambiro is staffed exclusively by local Malawians who have been trained by Rosa and a variety of volunteers over the years. The staff consists of four members of Management: a project manager; a bursar (who is also the librarian); a project coordinator; and a business coordinator. There are four additional members of staff: a project/business assistant, a cook/cleaner and two night watchmen. Nyumba ya Masambiro does not necessarily expect staff to be fully qualified before they start their job; training sessions on group cohesion and personal development are part of the ethos of the centre. This gives local community members the opportunity to not only earn a salary but also to develop skills as an individual.

When Nyumba ya Masambiro was founded it was fully reliant on Phunzira for funding for projects, maintenance of the educational centre and staff salaries. It was the intention from the very beginning that the centre would become financially self-sustainable and that the community would take over the running of the centre, through the staff, local trustees and an executive committee, in order to take ownership of their own development projects. As a result, all facets of management have been slowly handed over to the staff over the years as they have been trained up. In April 2016, a huge and colourful ceremony was held alongside the Annual General Meeting at which the centre was officially handed over to the local community. All legal ties between Phunzira and Nyumba ya Masambiro were separated and since this time the day-to-day running of the education centre has been in the hands of the staff alone, with occasional assistance offered by Phunzira staff as required.

It has been wonderful to witness the personal development of the individual staff members, the unity of the staff as a team, and the support from community members for the centre as a whole. While financial sustainability has not yet been achieved in full for salaries, we remain hopeful that this will be accomplished in the near future. If you are interested in supporting Phunzira financially, please visit Donate or if you are interested in volunteering for any of the ongoing projects please find further information on our Volunteers Pages.

 

 

Donations, Healthcare, Malawi, Volunteers

Donation of supplies for the Ruarwe Health Centre

The Ruarwe health centre has received a wonderful donation of much needed medical supplies. Volunteers Kartik, Leo and Aurelien have brought with them a box of fifty pregnancy tests and a new battery operated sphygmomanometer (blood pressure meter). These will help with vital diagnostics and blood pressure management for the communities served by the clinic.

The realities of rural healthcare are that often even the most basic supplies are lacking and a government strapped for cash is not able to supply such items to rural health facilities. While it is important that Phunzira does not take over the role of the government in providing supplies for the clinic, it is a delight when one-off donations such as this can make a real difference on the ground in diagnostics and treatment. With such a large part of the population visiting the clinic being women of child-bearing age pregnancy tests are vital in quickly establishing whether a patient is expectant and therefore being able to provide antenatal care. We are also seeing a rapid increase in hypertension within the community, and so the sphygmomanometer will allow for easier management of this condition at hypertension assessments.

Thank you so much for the kind donation!

Medical Supplies Ruarwe

Community, Healthcare, Malawi, Volunteers

Student nurse joins Ruarwe Clinic team

Student nurse Emily has been with the team at Ruarwe Health Centre for 4 weeks undertaking her elective placement. Learning all about healthcare challenges in such rural communities, the different medical conditions encountered in Malawi and treatment with very limited drugs and resources.

Nursing electives are a great opportunity for students to really experience a completely different working environment and health system from the western systems they are training in. The staff at Ruarwe Clinic also absolutely revel in the opportunity to both share their knowledge and learn in return. This exchange of knowledge is absolutely key to any elective placement.

Student nurse Emily

Emily was a wonderful student, who really got stuck into Malawian life. it was a pleasure having you with us Emily, we really look forward to hosting you again soon!

Community, Education, Malawi

The Maize Mill moves into its new home

The maize mill has been moved into its shelter in the heart of Ruarwe village. Once completely up and running this mill will save community members the 20km hike south to the nearest mill in Usisya with their heavy bags of maize to be milled and back with their bags of flour. This walk takes locals approximately 4 hours each way and the vast majority of the time this task falls to women who predominently carry out any household and farming related tasks. Often with a child on their back, they will undertake the journey to the mill and back in one day as the finances are just not there for any kind of overnight stay away from their own home.

The mill will also help to make Nyumba ya Masambiro financially self-sustainable to allow community members continued access to free education projects. This has been an important part of our ethics and aims since the beginning of our projects. Watch this space for updates when the mill starts running!

Maize Mill

Malawi, Nursery, Volunteers, Youth

Nursery and Youth Volunteers Assist at NYM

We were very pleased to have two nursery and youth volunteers joining the Nyumba ya Masambiro team at the end of March. Cara Marsh and Sabina Trojanova cleared out the youth and nursery cupboard to make it easier for staff to make use of the wonderful equipment we have there, worked on teaching the alphabet to the children at nursery, and played musical chairs, hoola hooping, and sang and danced with the kids at the centre. Cara has already expressed a desire to return to NYM and the staff and kids would be absolutely delighted to welcome her back any time!

Volunteers with both qualifications and no qualifications are great additions to the team at Nyumba ya Masambiro, coming with fresh ideas, new motivation and injecting some drive into the staff. We all really value the effort that volunteers put in when they come out to Malawi and the kids, the staff, and the wider community absolutely love having volunteers around.

Donations, Malawi, Sports, Volunteers, Youth

Donation of Footballs and Netballs To NYM Youth Club

We would like to extend a huge thank you to former volunteer Phillip Zheng, who donated three footballs and two netballs to the NYM Youth Club. Having made the long journey from the UK out to Ruarwe, we now very much look forward to setting up some youth sports tournaments using these new balls, and we are sure that the Ruarwe Youth will very much enjoy these generous gifts. Yewo Phillip!

Sport is such an important part of Nyumba ya Masambiro’s activities, giving both younger and older youth members the opportunity to relax, keep fit, play and socialise with friends and for the older youth it helps to prevent the temptation of falling into excessive drinking as well as it keeps them entertained and motivated to keep fit. Football and Netball are hugely popular throughout Malawi and Ruarwe village has 2 teams alone who can regularly be found at the top of the hill either training or playing vibrant matches against surrounding village teams. The atmosphere is fantastic and it is great to be able to support the next generation of players through this fabulous donation!

footballs and netballs

Community, Donations, Healthcare, Malawi

Ambulance boat back on the water

The beautiful Ruarwe ambulance boat is happily living in the village again after its full maintenance and repainting made possible by our wonderful donors. We would like to extend a huge ‘thank you!’ on behalf of the community to Richard Gray for his very generous donation and repeat volunteer Leah Desmond for her very successful fundraising. These funds allowed a complete overhaul maintenance of the Ruarwe Ambulance Boat, completed by the boat builder Zero in Usisya. The maintenance was carried out between September and December 2017, and the repainting completed at the end of February 2018.
Since its maintenance it has carried critically ill patients to Usisya for life-saving treatment and it has been deployed in a large scale public health program to treat an outbreak of scabies in our catchment area lakeshore villages.

A huge thank you to the donors that have made this maintenance possible and kept this life-saving transport afloat.