Nkhata Bay Disability Centres
The purpose of the disability centres is to empower and support disabled people living in villages throughout Nkhata Bay. The centres promote self-advocacy, enabling access to quality education, skilling sharing and income generation to live more independently. Vocational skills are taught to those that likely have not had the opportunity to attend school, creating a means of living and a sense of greater purpose and belonging in their community. They are also a place that medical professionals can see multiple patients at once to offer advice and support. The centres support people living with all types of disabilities including physical, deafness/hard of hearing, visually impaired, albinism and mental health conditions. We coordinate with the centres’ committee to engage the wider community to raise awareness of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities, including support for ‘disabled women in development’, ‘disabled widows in development’ (DIWODE) and women and girls with disabilities subjected to violence.
Mpamba was built in 2008 and has become a self-sustaining hub for disabled people and their families around Nkhata Bay, with close to 50 members. The space has been inspired by ‘Neema Crafts Centre’ in Tanzania. In Malawi, persons with disabilities are often excluded from education and employment, mainly due to problems with mobility and stigma by society. The centre teaches skills including tailoring, catering, carpentry and nursery school teaching. The catering group offers a restaurant service with prior notice for large groups and the tailors make uniforms and bags for tourists. The nursery school teaches both disabled and non-disabled children and contributes largely to the financing of the centres. Mpamba has proven the success of the skills teaching model for income generation and is a core place for people with disabilities and their families to engage with each other.
Due to finance, time and physical disability limitations, members from the Pundu area struggled to travel to Mpamba so they started their own group in 2019 and met under a tree, offering support and advice to each other. The extreme weather conditions in Malawi lead the group of 43 members to work together with friends and family to mould their own bricks and buy cement to build their own local centre, after being granted land by the chief of the village. They received some funding from volunteers who worked with Mpamba for the roofing materials and labour costs, and at the end of 2021 received the final funding necessary to complete the building through the sale of wall calendars internationally by Butterfly Space. Once finished, the centre will hold workshops in tailoring, carpentry, permaculture gardening and nursery school teaching.
Both centres promise hopeful futures of expansion with the replicable and sustainable model used. There is always a need for volunteers and funding for a variety of tasks. Our goal is for Mpamba to become a model centre by being a source of inspiration, training, knowledge and support for future centres to be opened in other villages in the Nkhata Bay District.
Volunteering at Mpamba & Pundu
Anyone with vocational skills is welcome to share them at either disability centre. You could assist with workshops, the nursery school or develop Mpamba’s restaurant. Medical professionals are also highly valued, with the possibility to support the wider community. It will be essential to schedule an initial visit to orientate and liaise with Patrick Kondowe who is a local volunteer and government schoolteacher with a prosthetic leg that oversees the centres.
- Any volunteers with skills/qualifications that could develop the members’ skills: tailors, builders, carpenters, chefs, caterers, teachers, etc. New ideas, or practices for skills training that have business income-generating possibilities would be more than welcomed to create an even more diverse space to support the disabled people of Nkhata Bay.
- Occupational therapists and physiotherapists are welcome to offer members, and the rural surrounding community, consultations, referral exercises and medical advice. There is a need for home visits, lobbying for government assistance, and access to essential transportation to facilities. Liaison with government providers is essential yet sometimes impossible for the group to access themselves.
- Fundraising can help provide equipment for vocation practice, materials for skills workshops and capital for building renovation.