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

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.

Community, Malawi

Maize mill income generation scheme underway!

The staff at Nyumba ya Masambiro have begun – in January 2018 they purchased a maize mill and husk remover, as well as constructed a separate kiosk to run the business from. The mill will be up and running by the end of February, and has already become the talk of the whole community.

The aim is to provide a vital service to villagers, who rely heavily on maize as a primary staple and currently have to travel extreme distances to the nearest operational mill. The profits are expected to fully sustain the costs at the centre (project materials, staffing, maintenance of buildings, etc.) and any surplus funds will be re-directed to existing health/education projects in the catchment area.

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed towards this scheme! If you wish to make a donation it is not too late – please go to www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/ruarwemaizemill

 

 

Community, Malawi, Volunteers

Shahar brings back power to NYM

A huge thank you to Shahar Lakritz, a voluntary engineer from Israel who came to Ruarwe in August 2017 to volunteer his services at NYM community centre.

As well as solving NYM’s ongoing power problems (there is now electricity in all of the rooms!), he made the time to get to know the staff at the centre and nearby lodge, as well as make a trip to Khondowe for the malipenga dance festival. He was also kind enough to donate some electrical supplies to NYM, as well as share his precious knowledge with a selection of the staff.

Shahar – thank you – you will be very missed!

Community, Malawi

NYM youth club hosts netball matches

NYM youth club members are extremely proud of the new netball bibs kindly donated by Netball UK. To celebrate these new bibs, NYM youth club hosted Banda Primary School for a small netball tournament. The celebration began with singing and dancing in the NYM youth centre. Youth club members had fundraised within the community to buy a goat for a wonderful lunch shared between community members, the youth club and their visitors. Everyone then climbed the hill to the community ’netball court’ under the giant Baobab tree. The Junior NYM team, wearing the new navy bibs, beat Banda Juniors 1-0. Meanwhile, Banda Seniors played an excellent game, beating the older NYM youth students, wearing the yellow bibs, 8-3. Thank you again to Netball UK for these wonderful gifts. Having these bibs has really boosted female engagement, both with sports and with youth club attendance in general, for which we are very grateful.

Community, Education, Healthcare, Volunteers

Volunteer nurses provide informal contraceptive health education

Teenage pregnancy is a very real problem across rural Malawi, resulting in girls dropping out from secondary education and, while re-admission policies do exist, it is unclear how well they are followed. In order to tackle this problem, two volunteer nurses conducted an informal contraceptive health education talk for both male and female school students in Khondowe. They provided extensive information about contraceptive services available at both the Khondowe and Ruarwe Health Centres and answered the students’ questions about contraception.

While sex education (including contraception) is on the school syllabus, this is sadly often overlooked due to both staffing and social pressures, amongst other issues.  Alice Worsley and Hannah Ward were able to start tackling this lack of education along with John Chilinde, project co-ordinator and youth leader at NYM. Thank you!

 

Community, Malawi

New netball bibs arrive in Malawi!

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Netball UK for the donation of two sets of netball bibs to the Nyumba Ya Masambiro Youth Club. They arrived in Malawi at the end of August. The bibs, in navy blue and yellow, were worn with pride during the inaugural game on Friday September 16th 2016. The game was well attended by community members and the blue team won 7-4. The girls in the youth club are thrilled with the new bibs and plans are already afoot to set up matches against other local teams. Thanks you to Netball UK for making this possible and for supporting the promotion of sports for females in the community.