Newsletter December 2018

A Volunteer Community Project in Malawi
A look back over our year

December 2018 By Josie Redmonds

I can’t believe we have come to the end of 2018 already and this is the first newsletter we have managed to upload, not for lack of trying.  It’s actually a combination of one Alice wrote in July and me now, and I’m sorry in advance if I forget to mention anybody.  I’m sure I will as there just isn’t space to tell you about everything that has happened here at Butterfly this year, it’s been a busy one.I got back at the start of the year to the school permaculture programme working with 9 schools, and a connection with Rosie Woods meant we secured a donation from Africa Direct to roll out the rest of the school year. This meant that they all completed the course, planting throughout the rainy season, they had a school visit to another permaculture site and an open day at their school.  The open day is both to explain to the community what they are doing at the school and also to see if other schools are interested; they can sign up on these open days and we send invites through the education department. My time at home also allowed me to work on links that can benefit the projects and bring the necessary skilled volunteers that can drive each one of our projects.  A talk at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has consolidated this link (Clean Slate 107), and we hope it can drive the environmental side of things both in terms of volunteers and also replicating what they do there in terms of environmental information.  CAT has always been central to supplying information to individuals wanting to make environmental changes in their life and in a place like Malawi this could have a huge role.  We hope to link up the information room here at Butterfly as an information hub through both the Malawi permaculture network and the International Permaculture Network (IPEN) in the future.

Time was also spent consolidating the school permaculture work with Kate Swatridge and that definitely paid off as in May 2018 we were announced as winners of the Lush Spring Prize in the young project category for social and environmental regeneration.  It was great that others could also see the potential of this programme, which for very low inputs can provide interested teachers the information they need to teach an after school club for kids.  These practical sessions teach hands on skills for the kids to change their own situation, in a country where 80 % of the population still self-subsist.  If you want to get more regular updates on this project then please like the following page;

It promises to be an exciting year, six more schools signed up for the programme as a result of the latest open days, meaning fifteen school from Nkhata bay are now following it.  We also had interest from further afield and we are working this year with five schools further afield within Malawi.  Feedback from these more remote schools will help us to make it more widely available on different platforms in the future.  We were lucky enough to link with Cork University and received an International Development placement for four months from May- August.  Shawna couldn’t have turned up at a better time and got fully involved in the organising, visits and our nine open days. The Lush money also gave us the opportunity to employ someone purely for this project and we were pleased to welcome Mr Mwale to the team.  He is someone I have worked with since 2005 and had recently retired so seemed like the perfect person to oversee the school visits together with Francis.During the summer we held two 5 day workshops for all the 40 teachers, two from each school, and there were other representatives from the research station and the Agricultural office too.  After discussions with the District Education Manager we are also going to host a one-day sensitisation for the Primary Education Advisors, who are the ones that work with primary schools.  We hope this will help them be more receptive to what the schools are doing.  All twenty schools are well into their programme for this year and with the start of the rains we are looking forward to the productive planting season. This year has also seen big changes for Butterfly, as AJ has headed to Lilongwe for the necessary schooling for Ezmeekie and Thoko.  She has used the time to get fully qualified, and in her own words `many people have asked me if it feels different as I have been teaching unofficially for the last ten years.  Well, yes it has been a proper learning curve and thanks to a great mentor I have definitely learned how to teach primary years and have realised this is what I have been called to do.  I love it and it is a great investment for Stepping Stones as I continue to run the school from afar and help with ideas for further training.  I have a three week training all designed for future volunteers to hopefully implement in the near future to our trusted teachers and the wider community.´Stepping Stones now has over 90 students and its reputation is growing.

The end of year parent teacher meeting was very positive and its future looks bright.  The third block was finished by September and the school hall, as well as being a great space for the kids, holds a lot of potential for rental. We were blessed with two school groups over the summer and they brought donations, allowing for the installation of solar panels. Sue wood helped to fit the system and they also brought laptops in order for all our students to have computer lessons and the chance for music and other entertainments at our weekly assemblies.  The plan is for the hall to be used as a fully functioning library as well as all the other activities. One of the school groups, Venture Force, actually slept at the school and got so much done as a result of living on site.  The school now has a great playground, new paint job, new bricks, and held an excellent summer school.  Jim Dunning has been responsible for keeping this link alive and supporting Stepping Stones so much, it was great to have him back.  Brighton and Hove school went back to our old partner school Bwelero and shared some amazing lessons and activities across the age groups.  I was blown away by their maturity and progress in the week that they were here and it was great to inspire so many young people and introduce them to this wonderful country –Malawi. They also brought t shirts to give to the school.  They had been printed with a design created by one of our students and was really nice to see the proud artists running around with their t shirts on.Lorraine and Grace also brought a new sports uniform out to Stepping Stones.  Which have been printed with our logo as requested by parents. They were volunteers at Bwelero some years back and have kept revisiting giving so much of their love and skills to stepping stones.  I think they were pleasantly surprised by the developments and what an amazing job Francis is doing looking after the school and his class.  He has committed to staying another year so the school will have the opportunity to keep its international status as well as being very well organised and Judy and Simon were of particular help over the summer. AJ´s partner at CRED, featured her in the latest news   and she was also invited to Uganda in April for an amazing opportunity to meet other partners and see what amazing work they do.  There were like-minded people from Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania and England and it was a great opportunity to make long-lasting friendships and links.  The training and discussions were very insightful and a very welcome break as well as recharge.  It seems like there will be a shift in the focus of CRED but we are very excited to continue supporting and be supported by them.Emmanuelle came to volunteer who was an occupational therapist.  The centre at Mpamba really benefitted from her skills as she saw more than 80 clients and linked us to some other NGO´s doing similar things.  She offered a free service to fix knee pads and crutches and other assistive devices.  She also put on an awareness campaign day, funded by Butterfly, and the town came alive with dramas, games and other activities.  Having a full time volunteer at the centre was great for its members as well as its nursery school which we have since stocked up with toys from the school groups. 

Mpamba centreLong term volunteers also really bring a boost to the activities of Kandoli FM and the media room and we are pleased to welcome back Judith Weymont for a third year of volunteering.  Since she left last year she has continued to support us and has gathered a few donations as well as sent equipment that will start to set us up at the radio.  The money she fundraised supplemented money fundraised on the ground and went towards the renovation of the building.  We have now done any structural changes, have made it secure and have finished the electrics. While she is here this time she will be running two more journalism courses to teach youths in the area the skills they need to get started and getting a regular supply of stories is still the challenge.  It is hard to motivate people to finish them when there is nowhere for them to broadcast their end product.  We will be focussing this year on getting equipment there at the station and getting the support needed to start broadcasting from there as if not it will be hard to keep momentum.  I am sure the support is out there for such a great community project;  A community radio encompasses  all topics like health, education, agriculture as well as more complicated topics of development like civil society and information, so it’s just about finding the right link or connection.Butterfly as well has seen a bit of a turn around, with our new managers Alice and Innocent taking over most aspects of running the lodge.  We are looking to supplement these two with longer term volunteer Butterfly managers, who want to gain experience and bring continued enthusiasm to the position.  At the start of the year Lauren stayed on after volunteering and helped general organising and specifically the bar, where they hosted a number of great music events.  Buddha, a long time Butterfly friend returned at Easter and DJ d some brilliant parties as well as at the Kandoli FM open day.  More recently he did a fundraiser in the UK to buy a computer for the recording room here at Butterfly; the kids here will be very happy as it is rarely empty when the power is on.

 We have the usual turnaround of staff and new faces like John, Isaac, Mathews and Laika join our great team here at Butterfly.  Some sad news as a closing note as Mr Custom Kaunda passed away this year.  He has worked at Butterfly longer than either of us and has carefully planted grass and tended to our green and luscious gardens as well as being a father to the company and visitors.  The funeral was a great dedication to his life as Butterfly members said goodbye.  I’m sure many of our readers will be as sad as we were, as we lay him to rest. 

Mr Custom Kaunda

If you are looking for some last minute Christmas gifts, please check out our Christmas gift shop here. Buy seeds, tools, trees or train a teacher to run a school permaculture club in Malawi & receive a lovely photo gift card to give a loved one for Christmas.Overall we have had a fantastic year and continue to have a wonderful Butterfly family even though new and old faces come and go. Thank you to all who have supported us and fundraised for all the projects, to our staff for your hard work and to all the guests and volunteers. We look forward to what 2019 brings! “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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