Community, Donations, Malawi, Volunteers

Introducing NYM’s upgraded kitchen

We are absolutely delighted that the kitchen at Nyumba ya Masambiro has seen a big renovation this year. The kitchen sits up on the rocks behind the Library with views through the trees down to the lake. It is one of the hubs of NYM, serving as the site for meetings, nursery porridge cooking, morning tea drinking, volunteer lunch eating and the perfect spot to cool off during the hot season as it is so well located that it catches any breeze passing through the valley.

Previously an entirely wooden structure, the new kitchen has a more stable concrete floor with an A-frame roof which has been raised up higher to even better catch the breezes, and a nice big socialising table.

We would like to thank Claire who donated the funds for the concrete for the floor and the staff at NYM who did a great job at salvaging so much material from the original kitchen to allow it to be built in the most environmentally sustainable way possible. Yewo Chomene!

Community, Malawi

Farewell our friend Jake

It was with great sadness that we had to say goodbye to super staff member Jake the Guard dog yesterday. Jakey has been the guard dog (and everyone’s friend) at Nyumba ya Masambiro since its inception in 2010.

While Jake’s main role at the centre was to chase the monkeys away from the crops in the gardens and keep the watchmen company through the night, he took it upon himself to befriend and accompany every volunteer, visitor and staff member to come through the site.

The most sweet-natured and gentle soul, Jake loved a patch in the sunshine to rest and always had a happy grin on his face. He suffered from a short but very severe illness but we are hugely grateful that he remained cheerful throughout and showed no signs of pain or discomfort right up to the end. Thank you Jake for all your love – you will be very much missed!

Community, Fundraising, Malawi

Gardening grand plans at NYM

Recent months has seen a real push in crop management at the Nyumba ya Masambiro gardens. James Nyirenda has been the gardener at NYM for a couple of years now and he works incredibly hard to make his vision for the garden a reality. Under his watchful eye the sugar cane crops have flourished bringing in small but steady income to the centre.

Once a week all the staff at NYM down their tools to work together in the gardens, planting cocoa yams at the end of the year was the big target and two large garden areas were weeded, turned over, watered and planted with cocoa yam seedling stems. These are being tended under the watchful eye of James to be ready after the rains for harvesting and selling to community members. Selling crops from the gardens is one of the micro businesses run at NYM, the income of which ensures that community members can continue to benefit from the education services being offered completely for free.

James has grand plans for the gardens for 2019 including planting many varieties of sweet potatoes, replanting some papaya tree seedlings as our papaya trees are now too old to fruit successfully and expand both the sugar cane and cocoa yam crop areas. Watch this space for more news on how the gardens develop!

Community, Malawi

Celebrating the Night Watchmen

In December we held a party to celebrate the great work that the night watchmen do at Nyumba ya Masambiro to keep the beautiful centre and gardens safe. Khumba Gondwe and Tharzan Msuku are two of NYM’s longest serving members of staff and they really do go above and beyond their duties protecting the centre.

They often use the cooler evening and morning daylight hours to dig over soil in the gardens, they water crops early in the morning just as the sun comes up to give the crops a chance to drink before the sun is high enough to evaporate the water away, they pick up any litter that has been dropped on site or blown in by the winds, and very importantly they keep little guard dog Jake company as he rests from his daytime job of keeping the monkeys away from the crops!

It is so important that good and consistent work is acknowledged and rewarded and so we held a small party with soft drinks, biscuits and crisps in the library. The trustees were present and spoke wonderful words of praise for the watchmen and they were each gifted a 20 litre bucket with a lid and 2kg sugar, which they each carried home with great, well-deserved pride.

Tharzan and Khumba, we would like to thank you both for your many years of hard work and here’s to many more – Yewo Chomene!

Community, Malawi

NYM End-of-year Trustee Meeting

The beginning of December saw a Nyumba ya Masambiro Trustee Meeting held in Khomola Village where NYM Chair Trustee VH Jolote lives with his family. Secretary Trustee Flarey Singini and Phunzira Secretary Trustee Philippa Mander on behalf of NYM Trust Member Rosa Nissim hiked the one hour journey up into the Rurawe zone mountains to Khomola Village. Following a delicious breakfast the trustees met for almost 3 hours discussing the achievements of 2018 and any issues encountered, as well as plans for 2019. In 2018 NYM and the Ruarwe clinic were able to host 10 international volunteers, which has been of huge benefit to both the community members and the volunteers themselves.

We would like to thank all our donors for their generosity, which allows Phunzira and NYM to continue to run all its community projects. We would like to thank the many volunteers for sharing their expertise and energy with the NYM staff, the clinic and all the community members who benefit from these projects, and we invite you all to continue with us in our journey into 2019 as we continue with all our work and projects.

Community, Donations, Education, Malawi, Nursery, Volunteers, Youth

Volunteer Rose Benbow’s time in Ruarwe

In November volunteer Rose Benbow came to volunteer at Nyumba ya Masambiro with the Nursery and Youth Club. Rose came with an incredible donation of resources for so many of NYMs projects. This included over 20 books for the library including Mr. Men and Little Miss books, Horrid Henry books, the complete works of Shakespeare abbreviated for early years readers and so much more. In addition to that Rose donated pens, pencils, erasers and notebooks for the Youth Cupboard, as well as toothbrushes and face flannels for the Nursery school students.

Rose also go involved with the repainting of the Youth Hall, and then with some teaching sessions with Youth Club once the redecoration of the hall was completed. Yewo Chomene Rose for your incredibly generous donation and your time spent with the Youth Club!

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!

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.

 

 

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