A Volunteer Community Project in Malawi
|Re-opening after Covid-19 |
March – August 2021
By the Butterfly Crew; Josie, Alice, Holly, Stefan and Imogen!
One year on from our last newsletter which announced our temporary closure, we are pleased to announce we have survived this strange year and are looking forward to things finally getting back to a new version of normal. We must say a massive thank you to all those that contributed last year to the fundraiser for the staff, raising close to £1400 which allowed us to help all our staff in some capacity, and retain staff that would ensure Butterfly’s future!It became clear during last year that it was going to be some time until International travel got back to normal. It was also clear from many of our established projects that they would benefit from longer term, more skilled volunteers or internships so we used the our time during closure to research into this and also updated much of our presence on several international volunteer sites. We developed a strong link with Roots Interns in Cape Town who fully research their students and their projects, offering the potential for a more meaningful link on both sides. We now have six of our projects listed here and there has been an amazing initial response! We have had a number of remote internships already for MSPC, Kandoli and Butterfly, and while everyone is keen to travel here to do their internship in person, this has proved frustratingly difficult so far because of the changing border situations worldwide. Despite the lodge being shut for much of the year , many of the projects have still been running in some capacity, so there will be an overview of each later in the newsletter.
After a slow start to the year, we opened the bar in January and finally reopened the lodge in April. During the closure, we had concerns about the condition of the lodge, but were pleasantly surprised when we returned, thanks to our amazing staff, who had looked after the site while we were in the UK! Holly and Stefan came to join Josie and Alice, to invest in Butterfly and become part owners. It was Stefan’s first time getting involved with Butterfly since teaching in international schools in Malawi then Ecuador, so he was delighted to be back in Malawi and keen to get stuck in to a new venture! The first couple of months we focused on renovations and bringing life back to Butterfly’s projects on site. It was hectic, with lots of investment money being spent on a team of workmen to fix the place up, rewiring the lodge, installing solar hot water, building a new brick driveway, installing a new sound system in the bar (meaning more parties), and renovating the compost loos and the guest chalets!
We have been focusing on training our team, and marketing the lodge more within Malawi to keep our heads above water throughout these quiet months. We have also hosted monthly parties, and have been lucky enough to have a new inhouse DJ, Stefan, aka ‘DJ Mayonaise’ (Christened after we had a mayonnaise related accident involving his decks and a car journey!). Thanks to these parties and the support of friends around Malawi, we have managed to make it this far, and now that the borders are open, we are feeling somewhat relieved and excited about the coming year!
We are still operating on skeleton staff, but our team have been incredibly hardworking and have helped us turn the place around. We have a new general manager, Jacoline, who has been fantastic, assisted by Talwiss, our new receptionist who joined us from Joy’s Place in Mzuzu after it sadly closed its doors. They are both a huge asset to Butterfly Space, always chipper, smiling, with high standards and good attention to detail.
Sadly, Lunar passed away recently, after suffering with mange and other illness. She was receiving regular treatment, but it was her time to go. Lunar was Josie’s friend for over seven years, a rescue dog from LSPCA in Lilongwe. Rio has also had a tough time, suffering with bad knees, but Josie is taking good care of him and now has him on a strict diet of oily fish, turmeric, and supplements, so we hope he will make a speedy recovery!
We have since adopted Luca, a street dog who was living close to Butterfly. He is still a bit nervous, but feeling increasingly at home in Butterfly. He has been treated for mange, and recently neutered and treated for rabies thanks to an amazing campaign lead by Daan and Elina from Kaya Papaya which sterilized and treated hundreds of dogs in Nkhata Bay in just 2 days!
We had to say goodbye to Beatrice this year, who ran Greenview restaurant at Butterfly. It was sad to lose her, as she was a good friend as well as a business partner. Bea is now working in South Africa, exploring new parts of the world. We are excited and lucky enough to have the amazing Chef Friday return from South Africa in September to take over the kitchen. He will bring with him new skills and some much needed equipment, and we are very excited to try his delicious cakes!
Usually this would be the start of the longer holiday in Malawi as, by and large, the country follows the same calendar as the UK, but not this year! We have now finished term 2, with a two week break before resuming school. For the greater part of the term, we were unaffected by Covid, with low rates of infection, although we are now in the third wave so numbers are to the point where we have had to exercise a little more caution. All our teaching staff have had at least one vaccination, with the majority fully vaccinated. Malawi has had a low vaccine take up, as well as limited stock, so we are delighted to have a staff who understand the importance of this vaccination and managed to get vaccinated.
Imogen still managed some school trips, such as visits to the fisheries to learn first-hand about fish farming in Malawi, and a visit to Chimbota secondary school, to learn about secondary school and what they can expect when they leave Stepping Stones next term. Class 3 and 4 received some letters from Newland House in London and they really enjoyed writing back to the children. Newland House children went on a sponsored walk and raised some money for Stepping Stones. This will be spent on improving the playground (termites and a lot of use means it is falling apart), school trips (when Covid allows) and hopefully some computers or tablets. As a school, we know how important menstrual health is for girls in Malawi. Many girls miss around a week a month because they do not have adequate period products to use, which means that having a period becomes undignified and uncomfortable. We have always worked very closely with Supreme, a social enterprise that grew from a Butterfly project, who make reusable sanitary pads. They have recently come in to educate both boys and girls on menstruation. We provide girls with pads when they need them, to ensure that having a period is not a barrier to getting an education. We were very pleased that a researcher who visited the school recently commented that our girls are very open about discussing periods and that having a period does not prevent them from coming to school as they have pads and know they can speak to someone if they need to about it. Our students also took part in an art competition, competing against four other schools. We had one winner and two runners up, all boys!
The first one focussed on maths and setting low threshold, high ceiling tasks (to challenge all learners within a class, no matter their prior attainment). The second focussed on building resilience through developing a growth mindset, as well as a session on developing reading skills. We have had huge support from Daniel Attenborough and his charity, The Kids’ Crusade Foundation, over the years with funding porridge for our nurseries, and now he’s become our school uniform superstar, sourcing more school uniform for our students. As you may have noticed, our colours are red and white. He has been in touch with a number of schools who are collecting old uniform to send out which will then have a new lease of life. We currently have 128 non-fee paying children and this will really help to decrease any social gaps between them and their fee paying peers.
Interns and Volunteers
Through an Eco Tourism internship through Roots, the incredibly hard working Erin Papadimitrou developed a brand new website, which we hope will be launched very soon! Erin has a good eye for detail, and developed a concise and easy to navigate website, and made some great suggestions to improve our online presence. Steve, who first built our website, was able to support Erin with the technical side of the internship since we were clueless about that stuff, and he was pleased to see the website be updated again! We have also had a recreation of our long lost old logo which we all loved and missed, thanks to the help of Luke, a traveler who passed through Butterfly Space in June, and returned again in August. Luke is a super experienced graphic designer and he managed to create it over a coffee in just one morning, so we were all super pleased with that too! Luke is now working on MSPC graphic design. We have also had some other awesome interns thanks to ROOTS, helping with Marketing in Japan, Funding for the radio station and development of the MSPC project!
Malawi Schools Permaculture ClubsWhile it has been an interrupted, and difficult, year for Malawi School Permaculture Clubs (MSPC) it has showed a lot of resilience and while we have had to alter the normal programme to accommodate the school closures, most of the schools have managed to complete a good proportion of the programme. In Malawi as schools closed then learning did not go on-line, as in most richer nations, but it merely meant the whole curriculum was pushed back and extra time allotted to fit in more lessons. This has meant that the whole school year in out of kilter. While we adapted to this last year we have decided to run our permaculture club programme starting sessions again in September and running the whole programme linked to the seasons as they should be and not specifically to the curriculum. This means that in the last month or two the school have ben busy organising both their visits to another permaculture site and also their open days at their school. we felt that these were such important parts of the programme, as it encourages community involvement and provides the opportunities for interested schools to get involved, that it was important we did them this year after they had been missed last year. They have had an amazing turn out and several new schools have expressed their interest to join in September, This means we will be analysing the situation over the next few days to see if we can fit in a training for the new teachers before the start of term in September.
Kandoli FM and Music Workshops
Another project we really felt could be pushed forward by skilled volunteers and inters that have skills to share the community here. This is not quite the same during a remote internship as one that is on the ground, but we have still been lucky enough to get a great intern, Chloe Thibault from France, who is co ordinating a push for fundraising and sponsorship to put the final pieces of this jigsaw in place. Please check out the link if you feel you help spread the work or feel you may have potential links for this project. In July 2021, the Butterfly recording studio and Kandoli FM hosted a series of music workshops based around production, DJing, songwriting and performance. These workshops were held by experts Chmba (a successful deep house producer from Lilongwe), Ishan Cyapital (a reggae-dancehall singer from Balaka) and Martin Anjelz (an experienced producer from Blantyre) and equipment was kindly lent by Tiwale, a CBO based in Lilongwe. A huge thank you to those who donated making this event possible! It was a huge success and has led to a weekly session held in the Media Room by Stefan (DJ Mayonnaise).
Another roaring success with lots of new things happening since it reopened in March. We have been lucky enough to re-employ Sean, and the hard work from Stefan, Sean, and Vitumbiko meant everything was set up and ready to go. We had a friend/volunteer, Jeff Gelbard, come to help with some new technologies including the Raspberry Pi, through which people have been accessing learning platforms such as Kolibri and Khan Academy, both free opensource offline tools for learning. The community have been paying us a visit to use them to study topics as diverse as Mandarin and computer coding! Sadly we are saying goodbye to Vitumbiko who has an opportunity to continue his studies in Community Development; all the best Vitu! We are are also starting to develop more of a community network through the information room, initially focusing on an information database, a contact database and a mapping technique to see who is doing what in different areas of development throughout the District. It is a long term process but we are utilising the improved technology and access to Whatsapp to make this information more accessible. A recent visit to the District Assembly revealed they were also very interested in linking up the activities in the area in this way. This long term plan offers massive potential if we can act as an umbrella for different organisations in the area, and will give the chance for organizations to coordinate so that we can all achieve more together. This is one of the internship positions available on the Roots internship programme and offers massive potential for those who believe in the power of information.
If you or someone you know is looking into volunteering abroad, we are trying to push for volunteers to bring all of our projects to life! We have so many projects to get involved in, and we welcome volunteers with all skillsets! Visit our website to learn more about Malawi and the projects you could get involved in.Thank you for visiting! As you are already aware, we have spent a lot of time and money on rennovating the lodge this year to improve our standards. We still have a lot of ideas and a long way to go, but we hope you liked it so far! Please help us know how we did, by leaving us a review on TripAdvisor, google review or Facebook. Want to stay in touch? Subscribe to our email list to learn about new projects and activities happening at the lodge!“Hidden in our hearts is a longing to live deeply and with purpose and joy, to know and to be known, to be concerned with another; and to make a difference. In this dance of giving and receiving, we create our community, our World and ourselves” ShareTweetForward
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