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."
The two disability centers, located 10- 20km outside of Nkhata Bay, 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 centers support people with disabilities such as physical, deafness/hard of hearing, visually impaired, albinism, and mental health conditions.
Each has a committee which we work side by side to run various workshops in vocational training and income generators. We often engage the wider community to encourage and raise awareness of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities.
Both centers also provide a hub for regular meetings, microfinance support groups, and a place where 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, and carpentry and they also run a successful nursery school during the week. There is also a catering group that offers 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 center.
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 that have been supported by Mpamba Disability Centre.
Pundu Disability Centre
Due to finance, time, and physical limitations, members from the Pundu area struggled to travel to Mpamba, so they started their group in 2019 and met under a tree, offering support and advice to each other. The extreme weather conditions in Malawi pushed the 43 members to work together with friends and family to mold bricks and buy cement to build their own local center after being granted land by the village chief. They received some donations from volunteers who had previously worked with Mpamba Disability Center to fund the roofing materials and labor costs. In 2022, they received the final funding necessary to complete the building through the sale of wall calendars and greetings cards through Butterfly Space. Once fully set up, the center 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 are currently applying for grants and funding to gain the funds to kit out this center with the equipment they will need to generate income and be financially self-sustainable.
Why Volunteer here?
In Malawi, persons with disabilities often are excluded from education and employment, mainly due to a lack of mobility equipment and stigma.
The 2018 Population Census indicated that 11.6% of the population are persons with disabilities in Malawi. In education, most schools are not disability-friendly, lacking assistive devices and specialist teachers & assistants to provide the 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 to get more resources, cover transport costs and maintain equipment. Our goal is for Mpamba to continue being a model center and a source of inspiration, training, and knowledge and to have the means to support other local groups who wish to start their centers.
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.
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!
Please support our projects. Without the generosity and support we have received over the years, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do!
Thank you, from all of the Butterfly team!
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.