Malawian Rice Vendor

Saturday, 13 August 2011


For those of you that got the chance to read a previous posting, we just wanted to let you all know that we do actually volunteeer more than just one day a week. Though Mondays are by far our favorite days here in Nkhata Bay, we do truly enjoy the rest of our week. Along with special needs school on Monday, on Fridays, we make our way back up to Liwell's. We have been helping his mother, Martha, out with teaching Liwell basic household chores, laundry, dishes, personal hygiene and general cleaning up are things that he desperately needs to learn. We have definitely seen some progress since our initial visit because now when we do our Friday visits, he will usually have his clothes in a bucket ready to be washed. Rachelle and David usually also join us so that they too can get into a routine. We really enjoy ourselves when we go into the village. Many of the village kids come running out from their humble abodes, screaming Hello as they gather around us as we walk the dusty pathway towards Liwells house. The life here is so simple. The women are usually gathered near the house doing various household chores while the men may gather under a nearby tree, talking or playing "bau" a favorite African board game. If the children are not in school, which many do not have an opportunity to go, then they too will follow on the gender lines with the boys running around playing games while the girls are helping with the various duties of the day. Nobody in any of the villages that we have visited have electricity or running water so it is very common to see the small girls carrying large buckets sometimes as big as themselves. They fill these buckets at the communal pump which sometimes is located several KM's away from their houses. It amazes both of us that they have to walk so far in each direction in order to fill just one bucket of water. Other girls and women will have huge bundles of branches balanced precariously on their heads which they take into town to sell for less than $1. Often these girls will go lengthy distances into the nearby forest to gather the wood so their daily journey is several KM's just to make one dollar. None of the houses that we have visited or passed have any type of indoor fireplace so obviously there is no indoor heating. Even though we are situated in the tropics, we are at elevation so the nights can get especially cold. The harsh reality hits home when we see these small girls sometimes no more than 6 years old, struggling to lift and carry these heavy bundles of branches. These girls along with their brothers should all be in school. AJ and Josie have implemented a policy that they will not buy any firewood from these children if they come around soliciting their wares during school hours. As far as schooling goes this is another area that we are trying to help. Tuesdays through Fridays Jeff has been running a tutoring program in the early afternoons. Helping children with math and English with the occasional science or geography lesson for good measure. The kids range from about 9-14 years old. For the most part, all of them are very eager to learn as Jeff has tried to make the lesson plans fun and varied so the kids won't be bored. He has had as many as a dozen students show up for any given class so it is usually only 5 or 6 that will attend on a consistant basis. Erika, meanwhile, has been helping with an afternoon kids club program. Butterfly, through a series of donation and funding from a local rotary club in England, has built a building where the children are able to come for a few hours every afternoon after school. This is an opportunity for them to escape their daily lives if only for a short while. Basically letting them just be kids and be able to play and not have to worry about doing chores. Erika along with the help of AJ and a few other volunteers over the past several weeks have organized games, coloring contests, drama projects and other assorted activities helping take the children's minds off the day to day struggles that they endure. Erika really enjoys all of the kids. Usually the group numbers upwards of a couple of dozen though they are disproportionally boys (the girls are usually stuck at home). It is quite amusing when we walk into town as Erika has become quite a celebrity with these young men. Inevitably one or more shout out her name as we pass by usually coming up to shake her hand and greet her. We have also been providing computer lessons for the community at large. Here at Butterfly, they have built a community resource center where anyone can come and use any of the several laptop computers that have been donated. They are able to check their email or do research all for free. There is also lots of material available for reading from sustainable gardening to infectious disease prevention to general knowledge and other various educational materials. Since most of the people have never ever seen leastwise used a computer, it is quite a challenge teaching them the basics of how to use these amazing machines. All of them are quite keen to learn. We start off just logging on and off and how to get acquainted with the mouse. Erika has concentrated her efforts on teaching both word and excel programs trying to get everyone to be able to produce a resume for themselves. Meanwhile, Jeff has been teaching people on the basics of the internet. It is quite funny how that part of our teaching has evolved over the past several weeks. At first it was just how to be able to access the web and to look up things on Google, people were fascinated by the wealth of information available at the push of a key stroke. Jeff eventually started opening email accounts for people and this led to several people asking about facebook. Now, it seems that Jeff spends most of his time training everyone on the intricacies of Facebook. This has turned into a nearly full time job as each day, more and more people approach Jeff wanting to set up their own account. Many of you may laugh at this but it actually is a very good thing here. Not only are we helping these impoverished people learn about computers and the internet but also we are helping build a social network where they are able to meet other people from the Nkhata Bay area and beyond. Luckily, Jeff has brought a camera with him so now while setting up all of these various Facebook accounts, he can immediately take a picture of these individuals so that they too can have a profile photo for all their friends to see. The smiles that come to their faces are priceless as they get to see themselves up on the computer screen. Since a digital camera is only a distant dream for everyone here they all are fascinated by the instant gratification that the digital world provides.Many have never, ever seen a photo of themselves so it is so cool! Before we left the U.S. we would have never thought in a million years that our miniscule contribution to the impoverished of this continent would be setting up Facebook pages

1 comment:

  1. Wow guys, I have not been able to keep up woith your travels and travails over the last couple of months but have just read through them all. An incredible journey and amazing impact that you guys are having in this community.

    It sounds heartbreaking / heart warming and a truely life enlightening experience. Just fabulous and your writing is so evocative. I love the idea of your expanding the imperial colonialism of Facebook :-)

    I hope that all works out well for you and that you are safe and well. You are in our thoughts and I look forward to you next installment. Stay safe and have fun.

    Lots of Love
    Craig, Jules & the Girls xxxx