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!

Donations, Education, Malawi, Nursery, Volunteers, Youth

The redecoration of the Youth Hall at NYM

October and November saw great changes for our Youth Hall at Nyumba ya Masambiro. Returning volunteer Cara Marsh had a great vision for the redecoration of the Youth Hall walls supported by a generous donation from NYM visitor Sabina Trojanova. The walls had originally been painted with some small images when the hall was constructed in 2010. These small murals had become faded over time and Cara had a vision of using new images that would allow for interactive teaching for the nursery and youth club.

After the initial whitewashing of all the walls, the plan was mapped out and painting took 5 weeks in total. Cara enthusiastically encouraged guests from nearby Zulunkhuni River Lodge to come and join in as well as staff from NYM, children in the Youth Club and community members passing through. It really was a whole community activity and the nursery and youth club members really benefit from these murals every day, both as they are so bright and cheery and also from an interactive learning point of view. Cara – we thank you and all your volunteers for your vision and wonderful energy throughout this project – you have given the Youth Hall a new lease of life!

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!

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, 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, 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, Education, Malawi

NYM 2016 Handover Celebration

The NYM handover party in Ruarwe on 23rd April was a huge success, many thanks to all those who worked so hard over the last few months to make it happen!

The morning session was our Annual General Meeting so discussions were held with guests from the catchment area to discuss NYM’s achievements from last year as well as its goals for 2016. The afternoon saw the arrival of the visitors coming by boat from Nkhata Bay (a particularly long journey – many thanks for travelling so far to join us!) and included a number of speeches as well as songs by the nursery and youth club, dances from the Mbotosha women, and an excellent production by Difficult & Bikilone (Ekhesha & John) who entered the arena dressed as ladies and entertained the crowd for a hilarious 20 minute drama.

Many thanks to those that came from near and far to join us for this special occasion, and a special thanks to those that gave money to appreciate Maria’s English alphabet recital – you have collectively paid for her nursery tuition until the end of the year, yewo!

NYM has now been officially handed over to the staff and the wider community to manage independently. This was a very special day for NYM, Phunzira and Ruarwe Village, and we would like to thank everyone that has helped us along this epic journey – from Malawi to England to America to Australia! TAWONGA CHOMENI!

Community, Education, Malawi

IT Room up and running

We are very pleased to announce that the IT room at Nyumba Ya Masambiro has officially opened. IT lessons are now taking place on an almost daily basis led by the manager Watts Mkhuta. Thank you to Rob Hook for sorting out our electricity at the centre in order to allow this to happen, to Phillip Zheng for helping out with the first few lessons and all the kind donors who have passed on laptops to NYM when they were finished with them. So far 9 people from the community have started their lessons and many more are enquiring and keen to start soon.

Community, Education, Malawi

Girls at youth club

We are thrilled to let you know that for the first time in many years we have had more females than males attending a Junior Youth Club sports session!

Following many fact-sharing sessions with the community members (particularly parents), as well as the employment of a female Project Assistant and a focus on Gender Equality in NYM’s youth initiatives, the efforts of John Chilinde, Rabecca Vinkhumbo and all staff at NYM have paid off resulting in a boost in female attendance at Youth Club.

The girls played a vibrant game of netball while the boys were busy on the football pitch. We very much hope that this is a sign of times to come!