Despite the sad closures of NYM’s main activities at the community centre, in December 2022 some small parts were re-opened with great joy from the staff and surrounding communities. The library is running and being visited primarily by students to access during revision time due to its wide range of academic text books sourced in Malawi and UK. We are also happy to announce that the youth centre is currently being used by a children’s nursery, with free-of-charge access to the large room and recreational/ educational resources. In addition, donations are being sourced in order to provide medicines to the two nearby village clinics, where not even basic drugs such as paracetamol are available due to nationwide government shortages. The maize mill business has also received an injection of cash, allowing for essential maintenance work and the purchase of maize, to sell directly from the centre. All other activities in Ruarwe village still remain closed due to insufficient funds since the start of Covid – it has been a very challenging time and we are extremely grateful to our staff and supporters for keeping us alive over the last two years. We hope that by the end of this year the maize mill and its subsidiary businesses generate enough funds to re-open the weekly youth club and sporting events, at which point we will look towards starting up the volunteer programme again – it has been missed dearly in Ruarwe!
2021 Covid closures
Sadly NYM’s community centre in Ruarwe village still remains closed due to Covid-19 and insufficient funds. However, the maize mill business is open sporadically and helps to employ its two necessary members of staff (cashier and miller), as well as contribute towards the employment of two extra NYM staff members to look after and maintain the centre during its current closure. We are very thankful to all the staff in Malawi for their swift and transparent actions in managing the emergency donations we received for coronavirus provisions over the year, and we hope they will all be re-employed by the end of the year to re-open the community facilities and workshops once again. We are also grateful to our supporters out there for all the generous donations and offers to volunteer – we will assess the situation again in a few months so keep dreaming of Lake Malawi and watch this space!
Raising funds across the globe
A huge thank you to all our friends and supporters that have helped us to send COVID-19 emergency relief funds to Malawi of over £1,800 since our activities were suspended in March.
Donations are being used to purchase essential sanitation items during the pandemic such as soaps and face masks, in order to distribute swiftly and free-of-charge to the elderly and vulnerable at this difficult time. The local clinics have also suffered a sudden shortage of essential, basic medicines due to the prioritisation of Coronavirus supplies, so a range of drugs and equipment is being sent to assist at Ruarwe and Khondowe Clinics. In addition, all NYM programmes and activities have been suspended since March, including the maize mill microbusiness which was eventually closed in mid-April, so the staff from the community centre and its associated businesses are now able to access emergency relief funds to help feed their families.
A special thanks to our good friends in the Netherlands Marlieke Moors and Derek van Bakel (pictured below on Lake Malawi) – with the help of friends and family they managed to raise a whopping €800 for their Kingsday (Konigsdag) fundraiser in just a few days! A big thank you also to all our supporters that have managed to donate at this economically challenging time, and to the family and friends of the Nissims and the Manders for their continued generous contributions. YEWO!
Donation appeal during coronavirus crisis
While we’ve had to pause Phunzira and Nyumba ya Masambiro’s usual activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hardships within the community continue. We have made it our mission to support the wider community in Ruarwe, that said, we have had to shift our focus. We have been informed by a healthcare professional that all the soap available in the village has been bought up. We all know that washing your hands with soap is absolutely key in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, we want to source funds to purchase soap in Nkhata Bay and transport it to Ruarwe for distribution within the larger community. We will arrange distribution with elderly and vulnerable citizens in mind and manage it as fairly as possible.
Any additional funds raised will be used for ongoing COVID-19 response activities and ongoing wider needs within the community.
Please head to our Donate Page to help us support the community.
Thank you for your generosity at this difficult time, when everyone is having to tighten their belts globally. Yewo Chomene!
Maize mill activity during the COVID-19 pandemic
While Nyumba ya Masambiro and Phunzira have had to put the majority of their activities on a complete hold during the global Coronavirus pandemic, we have made the decision, in conjunction with NYM, to keep the Maize Mill open with a new set of rules to implement strict social distancing and hygiene practices to protect both the customers and staff. Residents of Ruarwe, given its remote location, do not have access to any shops or market places for food. They grow their own, occasionally barter and trade, and rely heavily on government-subsidised maize for their daily nutrition. The Maize Mill is therefore essential for food security.
We are delighted that, since the opening of the Maize Mill, a steady flow of customers continues to come on a daily basis to mill their maize. To make sure that everyone remains as safe as possible, customers currently queue outside the milling house with minimum 1 meter distancing from person to person. As they approach the milling building they wash their hands with the soap and water provided for them. The miller and cashier each have a personal handwashing station within the milling house and they wash their hands between each customer interaction.
We are delighted that NYM is able to maintain the Maize Milling service safely at this time, and we will continue to monitor the situation in Malawi and will make changes where necessary.
After much discussion, having kept an eye on the situation and assessed the information available, we have decided to close Nyumba ya Masambiro and suspend all volunteer activities effective immediately and until further notice. We have not made this decision lightly – we are sad to have to close the centre and we understand and appreciate the great value that volunteers can add to Ruarwe and its surrounding communities. It is important that we too spread the message of social distancing at this difficult time.
As of a few days ago, the Foreign and Commonwealth office declared that all non-essential travel to Malawi should be avoided due to the risk of quarantine on arrival. This afternoon, President Peter Mutharika announced multiple measures to combat this strain of Coronavirus, including the closure of Malawi’s borders to all those travelling from countries affected by COVID-19, the closure of all schools, universities etc, and restriction of congregation of large numbers of people within Malawi.
We are sorry to have to put this in place. We very much look forward to reopening the centre and hosting volunteers in the future, once the circumstances change.
We wish all our friends and supporters the very best at this trying time. Stay safe!
Donation of exercise books, pens and pencils to primary schools
At the end of the year, previous Nyumba ya Masambiro volunteer Mecki very generously donated funds that allowed the purchase of 300 exercise books, 300 pens and 300 pencils. These were distributed to the primary schools in Ruarwe, Mazomera and Nkhoso.
The NYM Project Coordinator, Ishmael, had a wonderful time distributing the materials and sends his deep gratitude on behalf of NYM and the 3 primary schools for this generous donation. The kids were elated!
While state primary education is free in Malawi, parents must provide the exercise books, writing materials and school uniforms for their children, and those without these items are turned away from school. Sadly, for some, even these small costs are prohibitively expensive so this donation allows many children to remain in school, which is fantastic.
A huge thank you to Mecki for fundraising and providing this fantastic donation! Yewo Chomene!
The new maize mill engine arrives in Ruarwe!
On Sunday 24th November, there was a palpable buzz of excitement throughout Ruarwe as this was the day that the new Maize Mill engine, funded through a grant received from Africa Direct, arrived in Ruarwe village. The engine was purchased in Lilongwe by Frank Msuku (Project Manager at NYM) and Castaway Nyirenda (Bursar at NYM). A recommended mechanic, with extensive experience planting and maintaining such engines, accompanied them from Lilongwe to ensure correct and safe handling of the machine along the journey. The passage took them from Lilongwe via Mzuzu to Nkhata Bay by road and then on to Ruarwe via the Ilala Ferry.
On arrival in Ruarwe, there is no jetty to allow easy offloading of this very heavy piece of engineering and so the mechanical crane on the ferry had to be used to load the engine onto the service boat and then a group of strong village volunteers lifted the engine onto the beach. It was nerve-racking and thrilling to watch everyone come together to get the engine safely to its new home in the milling house! We’re so pleased that the mill is up and running! Thank you to everyone who helped on the journey.
Senior youth shelter under construction at NYM
We are delighted to announce that Nyumba ya Masambiro is building a shelter for senior youth community members. The government initiative of Youth Friendly Health Services, which uses the youth hall to meet once a week and discuss issues relating to the youth and health, has highlighted that there is nowhere that the senior youth can meet, hang out and socialise away from alcohol in the bars and pubs of the village. Senior youth members have recognised that they need a safe space in which they can socialise independently and they approached NYM to see if such a space can be created.
NYM has board games such as chess, draughts, bawo, cards, dominoes and more. The senior youth will be able to use these and chat in an alcohol-free safe zone. The shelter is being constructed from as much existing material from around the centre to ensure that the building is as sustainable as possible with minimal impact on the environment. We are delighted to be able to offer this space as a solution to this issue, brought to us by the community in Ruarwe.
Incredible grant received from Africa Direct
In September, Nyumba ya Masambiro was delighted to receive a grant of 2.4 million Kwacha (2.9k Euro) from Africa Direct. Phunzira applied for this grant on behalf of NYM, for the relaunch of the Maize Mill Project. The Maize Mill project was requested by the community to alleviate some of the food insecurity experienced as a result of not have easy access to a mill. The grant proposal, prepared by Philippa Mander and Rosa Nissim, was submitted in July and approved later that month.
Africa Direct is a charitable organisation registered in Ireland. From their website:
“We are an Irish Cork-based charity fundraising to support projects for people living in poverty in Africa. We are run by a membership of volunteers open to anyone to bring their own skills, ideas and backgrounds, and we are a fully voluntary organisation committed to getting the maximum funds raised ‘direct’ to our partner’s projects.”
“Africa Direct’s mission is to alleviate poverty in Africa. Our approach is to work with Africans to tackle poverty in their own home areas. We do this through supporting, funding and listening to our African partners.”
We would like to extend out thanks to the wonderful team at Africa Direct for this incredible grant – it really will make such a huge difference to the whole community within the Ruarwe Zone. Tawonga Chomene!