Malawian Rice Vendor

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Butterfly Space -----

A little about where we ended up here in Malawi...  We are at Butterfly Space a community outreach program located along the shores of beautiful lake malawi.  Two English women, Josie a Northerner from York and AJ, a southerner from Bristol bought a old, dilapidated hostel/backpackers place that was quite neglected.  They have spent many thousands of kwacha ($1.00 dollar equals 146 kwacha) to turn the compound into a loosely stated community center.  Though Butterfly Space is now not neglected it is still quite rundown.  That is because the women, bless them, have put all the money back into the community.  Here on the compound they have built a number of small buildings to house the various functions that they run for the needy, which are many, here in Nkhata Bay.  One such building is a center for kids and also space for tutoring.  This gives dozens of children an opportunity for a couple of hours each afternoon to escape their daily lives and get to play games, make puzzles and interact with each other and most importantly just be kids because for the average child, household and farming chores incorporate  most of their youth.  There is also a library and internet center that allows free access for educational purposes.  Another space is set aside for community gatherings including informational education, for example, for people who are dealing with HIV/Aids.  We have been here almost two weeks and have started to settle in to a bit of a routine.  We have had the opportunity to work with some special needs children, a group of roughly 8 or 9 kids that not only have mental challenges but many also have physical issues as well.  These kids are not left behind more that they are living as if they do not exist in this society except to their loving families.  The local schools here are a disaster with as many as 150 children in a classroom with one teacher.  We in the West complain when the classes near 30 pupils per teacher.  When classes are so filled , a teacher's main objective is disciplined control.  They seem to focus most of their attention on the 10 to 15 percent of kids that are gifted.  This means that the remaining 85 percent are basically forgotten and left to their own devices.  The special needs kids are not even able sometimes to get to the school least wise get any type of attention at all.  Both Erika and I have been moved to tears because these kids really want to learn and are so appreciative of the time we spend with them.  Along those same lines, we are trying to arrange some home visits of the families of these special kids to try and teach them some basic household chores in order to relieve some of the pressures that their mothers are forced to endure during the course of any given day.  This includes teaching them how to wash dishes, how to wash their own clothes, fetch water etc...  It is fascinating going up into the small villages in the outskirts of Nkhata Bay.  We have walked up to a couple of hours to visit some of these special needs children's families and to see how spartan of lifestyles they lead. Most, if not all, of the houses in the surrounding area have no electricity, water is taken from a local well, sometimes up to a half hour walk away.  The family members sleep on thin bamboo mats placed directly onto a concrete slab if they are lucky or directly on a dirt floor.  A lot of times because the special needs children have some severe physical disabilities this type of sleeping condition impairs their ability to get a good nights sleep.  We had the opportunity last week to deliver a mattress to a child that has severe cerebral palsy who had previously been sleeping directly on the earth, the look on his face when he received the mattress was priceless.  The smile from ear to ear...  As we go out and talk to the families we have been literally bombarded with other villagers bringing their handicapped children to us searching for some kind of help.  Unfortunately, the resources at Butterfly Space are quite limited and there are too many children in need to be able to help them all.  As such, these kids will probably have to endure without any aid.  We have also been doing tutoring every day with a group of more gifted kids helping them with basic math and English.  We are really enjoying ourselves even though we would like more kids to participate, it seems only the more gifted kids really want to (as normal) learn.  We also have been taking charge of an afternoon kids club which gives children an opportunity to escape if only for a few hours their chores and to play games.  We have taught them a couple of old "drinking games" which they especially love..........All in all, we are trying our hardest to make some sort of little difference in this harsh but yet beautiful land.....

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