Newsletter December 2015

A Volunteer Community Project in Malawi

Quarterly Newsletter
December 2015
By Josie Redmonds
Sorry for the delay in this latest newsletter but as we get more and more busy on the ground then there seems to be less and less time to document it all.  And of course the internet problems continue.  Never mind – here is a outline of how we finished off last year and we hope to have a joint newsletter coming out soon to bring us up to date with all the new developments this year.  Hope you enjoy the read.

While back in the U.K. last summer I met a few times with Andrew and Sam from Engineers Without Borders Sheffield to plan their visit and how the water pump project would progress. They arrived in August, the same time as I returned from the UK, and spent 2 months with us. They hit the ground running as we had organised a workshop with the SMART centre at Mzuzu University with local stakeholders, to get feedback upon the design, They are involved in different renewable technologies, also different water lifting devices amongst other things.

We got some brilliant feedback from the design workshop and discussed the possibility of linking with the Agricultural Dept in Nkhata Bay to organise some research on small scale irrigation. The Centre has some good links and experts in drip irrigation and appropriate technologies and we hope there will be more good opportunities to link in the future. At present the research has been carried out and the information is being compiled with a paper expected later in the year.

As AJ left to the UK, Michael and Natasha leapt into their roles at Little Leapers. Ben, another volunteer also helped them out there and between them they managed to keep the two classes running well. We were lucky to have another qualified teacher, Malou, who arrived unexpectedly just after them so the school had a smooth enough transition from AJ leaving. She did brilliant work in the school and also worked with Maureen preparing for the lessons. Ben also helped out in every other way he could, as and when needed. It’s always brilliant to have such amenable people around as there are always unexpected things happening, as anyone who has been here will agree.

Malou’s other half; Vouter helped out no end in the media room and sorted out a lot of the computers, which is always the first job. He delivered computer lessons to different students around Butterfly, and continued our rebrand by making us a few new posters in line with the web-site. On a personal level when he helped me out by getting Rio to the Vet in Lilongwe as he had a horrible wound, maybe from a spider or snake. It looked bad but he is on the mend now.  Check out his handiwork, linking us up now with the web-site design.

Permaculture at Mkondezi School

We saw a quick resumption of the permaculture programme at Mkondezi school as the school started back after the summer holidays. Amazingly the kids had kept the garden alive throughout the dry season and school holiday and before the term started we had the training through Rescope with over twenty people attending. It incorporated teachers and pupils from the school as well as other community and Rescope members. Over five days the topics of integrated land use design are introduced and a design and plan is made for the school year. Further trainings are planned throughout the school year for both teachers and people from Butterfly and also Government officials.  Kate and I and a few local ladies made sure we cooked some healthy meals and snacks for the hungry team.

Butterfly kept up the weekly sessions on a Wednesday afternoon and the group swelled in number and achieved lots. Once the rains started in November we were fully into planting, having made compost and designed the area. Each child has maintained and learned about their own bed and the wider school’s surroundings have also dramatically changed. A visit from regional Rescope members in January really boosted the school and we hope as we go into the next year we will continue to make considerable progress.

The cooking team at Mkondezi
We didn’t have the usual influx into Butterfly after the Lake of Stars festival that we usually have which was a shame….. come back soon Geoff Skelhorn….. but one lady Anneliese who was a stage manager there, did find her way up to Nkhata Bay. Coming from the Nederlands she is involved in nurturing musical and other talent;, and spent regular time in the media room helping people develop their ideas; whether this being developing their on- line profile, to assistance with management. She was the inspiration behind Moods Malawi playing a brilliant concert at Butterfly, which they marketed well and made a tidy profit. Check out their music on She also influenced another concert in Mzuzu by Congolese artist Menes de Plume so it was a really vibrant time for live music. He was supported by Danny Kalima, a long time favourite at Butterfly.

Moods Malawi playing by the lake

Haakon a volunteer from last year returned again after spending most of the year travelling different countries in Africa volunteering. He had improved on his design for the gym and built a new and improved one under the mango tree here. Although he was not staying here he held regular fitness sessions attended by Malawians and volunteers alike and their motivational chants could often be heard while we relaxed at the bar deck at sun downers.

It was around this time that Jules, the queen of glitter, came to us after initially volunteering with Love Support Unite. She was a real pleasure to have here and stayed nearly 6 months. She threw herself into everything and took all the kids to her heart, at Little Leapers, at Mkondezi, around Butterfly. She only just left us and we miss her terribly already……. She’ll be back.

Rohan and Dee arrived soon after, a highly motivated couple from Australia, via India. Morning yoga sessions became the norm on the deck as Dee inspired everyone to rise early. And sunset often saw them all and other travelers swirling the hula hoop on the deck……Tess, a new volunteer had done loads of hooping before so became the regular teacher. She managed, after a lot of perseverance to make a few more makeshift hoops out of plumbing pipes, and so more people could join in the evening session.

Dee and Rohan got stuck into everything as well.  Dee developed different workshops for some of the local women’s groups that we work with: nutrition – based around cooking with turmeric;  practical samosa – making with different bakery groups. Using the different spices which we provided them with, first to use, then to grow, she showed them cheaper recipes with vegetables rather than the meat ones which usually prevail. Jules took photos of all the different groups so we can give them a small poster to help advertise their products. There was a cholera outbreak briefly in Nkhata bay in December which delayed their start as all street food was banned.

Dee and me holding a turmeric cooking workshop 

Rohan, who is a photographer, came with a camera and printer so that he could get out and about in the community and share the love.  He spent many morning out taking pictures and sharing the photos he printed off.  He also spent lots of time in the media room giving lessons on many different things and helping some of the lads set up blog sites or web-sites if they had something to say or sell. He is also helping set up an additional page to the web-site called Nkhata Bay Talent where anybody in the area that has a talent to showcase and has an independent internet presence can hopefully get more hits through Butterfly site. Watch this space as it will go live soon.

‘Secret in Love’  the media room’s first feature film

Dee, Rohan, Jules and everyone helped Beatrice, from Butterflys kitchen, film and edit her short movie that she had made; ‘Secret in Love’ It was brilliant, Bee did auditions for the different parts and there were several different scenes, expertly edited together by Dee. When it was all finished we had a premier here at Butterfly.  Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

Tess and Luke were another lovely couple who also came to help us out in the run up to Xmas and beyond. We were fully into planting season by then and Tessa really got her hands dirty in the garden, as well as joining Jules and me in regular Mkondezi sessions. I visited Lilongwe at the start of December for a yearly Permaculture Network of Malawi meeting to see how we could move the network forward. We made some definite progress and are hoping that by establishing regional networks we can find a way to encourage and push the ideas more. I’m hoping Butterfly will become a hub in the north and really think we can be a stepping stone to help people achieve more in their specific locations.

Beatrice directing, and acting in the film

I met a lovely Brazilian girl, Natalie at Kusumala who was in the country linking with permaculture people and projects. She was a beautiful soul and journeyed back up with us to Butterfly. Unfortunately I got sick, a spiders bite and a long story, but all the girls got busy and had a planting frenzy both around Butterfly and at the nursery school. She stayed a couple of weeks into Xmas, and we have plans to visit the work she is doing in Brazil as well.

Vivi a lovely girl from Germany was another volunteer who got inspired in the garden and planted up at the nursery school. She also investigated a recipe to make face cream out of dried mango seeds and while we never actually made it we hope in the future to develop a new cosmetic item for one of the ladies groups to make.

Chikale life guards

Luke started helping with everything but then decided to concentrate upon setting up a lifeguard scheme on Chikale beach. There are regularly deaths at the lake as very few Malawians who dont live near there can swim.  We approached the local businesses with a plan to cover the costs of the lifeguards, which they agreed to and Luke then trained them up over several sessions and got them some equipment and uniforms. Paid by these local businesses they would be patrolling the beach over Christmas while it was busy and it was the first time I can remember that there were no fatalities. We are hoping we can extend this scheme this year and get some more training for the guys.

Gulugufe nursery school benefited from having a full time volunteer Eileen who had previously been volunteering in Zomba but had moved up here for a while. She did not stay at Butterfly, but spent  every day at the nursery school, it was a wonderful site to go up there at Xmas and see the entire nursery decorated and the kids singing carols.

Bring on 2016, come and get involved!

All these lovely volunteers being at Butterfly meant that coming up to Xmas was a lovely vibe and more visitors over the festive period made for a fun packed day. The staff had had their Christmas party the week before so they were able to assist on the day and as usual we encouraged all our volunteers to get involved and a pig was cooked up on the deck. Bloody Marys got the ball rolling and everyone celebrated, ate and drank.

As Alice returned after Xmas we were all together to celebrate the new year, our usual boat cruise around the bay. Lots of our longer term volunteers were leaving in the New Year and it was a brilliant send off and although it got a bit quiet heading into January there are so many plans afoot it is sure to be an exciting one.

“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”