Vocational Training & Disability Support Centre

Community hubs for disabled people providing access to education and inclusive support services

Our mission "To empower people living with disabilities, and provide them with skills and opportunities to achieve their full potential as individuals, by building a sustainable business."

Mphamba Disability Centre, Nkhata Bay, Butterfly Space, Volunteering in Malawi

The two disability centres, located 10- 20km outside of Nkhata Bay, and 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. Both of the centers support people living with all types of disabilities including physical, deafness/hard of hearing, visually impaired, albinism and mental health conditions.

Each is governed by a committee who we work side by side with to run various workshops including vocational training and income generators, and engage the wider community to encourage and raise awareness of the rights and needs of persons living with disabilities. 

The center’s also provide a hub for regular meetings, micro finance support groups, and a place that medical professionals can see multiple patients at one time to offer advice and support to members and their families. 

Mpamba Disability Centre

Built in 2008, Mphamba has been a self-sustaining hub for disabled people and their families around Nkhata Bay for many years, with close to 50 members. The space has been inspired by ‘Neema Crafts Centre’ in Tanzania. Mpamba teaches skills including tailoring, catering, carpentry and they also run a successful nursery school during the week. There is also a catering group who offer a restaurant service with prior notice, and the tailors make uniforms for kids and bags for tourists which can be found on sale at Butterfly Space Lodge. The nursery school teaches both disabled and non-disabled children and contributes largely to the financing of the centre.

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 and support each other. It has also inspired the wider disabled community, and we have seen several centers and groups form which have been supported by Mpamba Disability Centre. 

Mpamba disability group,, Pundu Disability Group, Butterfly SPace volunteer in malawi,

Pundu Disability Centre

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 mold 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 donations from volunteers who had previously worked with Mpamba , to fund the roofing materials and labour costs, and in 2022, received the final funding necessary to complete the building through the sale of wall calendars and special occasion cards through Butterfly Space. Once it is fully set up, the centre will hold workshops in tailoring, carpentry, permaculture gardening and nursery school teaching.

We are in the process of planning the initial workshops for Pundu Disability Group, using borrowed sewing machines and tools kindly lent by Mphamba Disability Centre. We hope to apply for grants and funding to fully kit out this centre with their own equipment as soon as possible, to enable them to also generate income and be self sustaining.

Why Volunteer here?

In Malawi, persons with disabilities are often excluded from education and employment, mainly due to problems with mobility and stigma by society.

The 2018 Population Census indicated that 11.6% of the total population are persons with disabilities in Malawi. In education, most schools are not disability-friendly, lacking assistive devices and specialist teachers & assistants to provide necessary support. According to UNICEF (sourced from iied.org), examinations are unfair & discriminatory. These problems result in low education levels for people with disabilities, leading to lower employment rates, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Both centers 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 centers to be opened in other villages in the Nkhata Bay District.

Mphamba disability centre, Nkhata Bay, Butterfly Space, Volunteering in Malawi

How you can get involved...

This project can benefit from a diverse range of skill sets. Volunteers with vocational skills can share them at either disability centre. Healthcare professionals can give advice to the group both at the centre or in the community depending on the profession. Often, people living with disabilities can’t get to hospitals and clinics due to transport costs and lack of mobility aid equipment.

Useful skills/qualifications that could develop the members’ skills include:

  • Fashion and textile designers, weavers, papermakers, tailors, gardeners, builders, carpenters, chefs, caterers, teachers, etc.
  • New ideas or practices for skills training that have business income-generating possibilities.
  • Occupational therapists and physiotherapists to offer members, and the rural surrounding community, consultations, referral exercises and medical advice. 
  • Fundraisers and grant/ proposal writers can help provide equipment for vocation practice, materials for skills workshops and capital for building renovation.
mphamba disability centre, nkhata bay, butterfly space, volunteering in malawi

Both people with vocational skills, and health care professionals are 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 center’s. 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.

Prosthetics and disability aid equipment is always needed here, so even if you cant donate your time, please consider assisting in other ways. Past volunteers have shipped aid equipment to Malawi in the past, and it is used regularly in Nkhata Bay District hospital to this day!

If you have any of these skills, or other skills that we can incorporate into the projects, please get in touch! 

Volunteering is free of charge, we just ask that volunteers cover their own expenses, and we encourage volunteers to do a fundraiser to help to contribute to the project they work with. 

If you would like to donate to this project, please see our Wish List for the items that would be most beneficial to the disability centres. Thank you!