Providing free information, computer skills and developing networks in the community
Our mission "To provide a free information and computer skills service to the community and develop networks to support wider community development."
The community Information Room is situated on-site at Butterfly Space. It provides free access to many resources, including books, information handouts, a raspberry pi, computer access, IT lessons, TedTalks, educational information, courses and videos. The centre focuses on encouraging information sharing to the wider rural community through the networks of local and national projects. It is open Monday-Saturday and runs as a non-profit venture.
The centre is staffed and provides lessons on using computers for research purposes, CV and letter writing, Microsoft Office & Excel and other software. There is a plethora of information in the library on topics such as: life-skills, permaculture, health, tech, language, history, economics, travel, novels and more. Handouts are given to community members to take home on subjects like agriculture, health, nutrition, and business. The point is to provide awareness and education to the community on learning skills which will benefit them and their families well into the future.
How the Centre Began
Josie Redmonds, a University Development Studies graduate with a special interest in eco-tourism, started the Centre which opened its doors in 2009. After a huge fundraising effort by Josie Redmonds and her friend, who cycled the length of Lake Malawi, it is run as a non-profit venture and is now financially supported through Butterfly Space Lodge and other donations.
The Centre has proved a huge success over the years and is still going strong. It has gained many invaluable donations including a set of desktop computers from Suma Wholefoods, and other donations from the volunteers and interns who have supported this project over the past decade.
We have recently purchased a Raspberry Pi which provides access to multiple educational programs, training courses, and lessons for up to 30 devices! This is something that we are promoting in nearby schools with a volunteer, Jeff, who initiated this amazing resource at Butterfly. This device has the potential to provide invaluable information to rural communities with limited access to resources and power, and for a very low cost.
Previous users of this Information Centre have progressed in their education and found themselves working in Information Technology in Dublin and South Africa, proving that for some it has been an invaluable resource.
Day to Day
The Centre, situated beautifully within the heart of Butterfly Space, is open 6 days per week and is open to any member of the public on a drop-in basis free of charge. Sean, the center manager, provides lessons on how to use the computers, along with drop-in lessons in Microsoft Office, Excel, and other basic software. The Raspberry Pi and books are available and set up to be used at any time.
The paper handouts offer a vast amount of information both in English and the local language Chichewa about health, nutrition environment, agriculture, and business. The library is full of books on life skills, health, language, history, home economics, travel, novels, and Interfaith AIDs Association newsletters. Sean is currently focusing on developing skills in computer programming with long-term volunteer Luke, along with video and web design, which visitors to the centre are welcome to get involved. The centre provides the resources that are difficult to access in the town. We promote the centre in nearby secondary schools and community groups, and we have posters around the town.
Who we work with
We are currently focusing on developing the centers role within the wider community to become a useful networking centre for the area, and have started mapping organizations all over Malawi that work with similar subjects, health, nutrition, community development etc. The Permaculture Network of Malawi is keen to start working through regional hubs as a more useful way to disseminate information to local farmers and the International Permaculture Education Network (IPEN) are also keen to start linking with regional education centers as a way to share knowledge and ideas. We have also recently linked with Planeterra.org who are interested in using the centre to provide local enterprises around Nkhata bay with access to much-needed training and support so they can thrive, and invest in their economies, education, healthcare, and the environment!
Why Volunteer here?
This project provides educational growth opportunities towards all members of the community, including marginalized identities. This centre provides a well needed safe and inclusive space for Malawian talents to grow and express themselves. Comprising knowledge and contacts we are working towards becoming a useful local networking center through databases. For volunteers, the center can provide relevant contacts and information on Butterfly Space’s projects and other local organizations running grassroots projects. New data and links are added to our database to help others in the future.
“Community development is a process where people come together to take action on what’s important to them. At its heart, community development is rooted in the belief that all people should have access to health, wellbeing, wealth, justice and opportunity.”
How you can get involved...
We look to attract both students studying community development or other relevant subjects, and volunteers with relevant skills who can do the following:
- Computer lessons for local students and community groups; you would be expected to arrange and direct lessons, informing and engaging potential students to get involved by making posters, boosting our presence on social media, visiting local schools, and through word of mouth with the help of Sean, our Information Room manager. We have extensive Word, Excel and PowerPoint lessons already planned and could always utilise more lesson plans for future volunteers and step-by-step guides for locals to follow independently.
- Workshops on opening email accounts, writing CVs, and using the internet, allow people access and give training in our Media center.
- Gathering information for the center, utilizing and promoting the use of our Raspberry Pi technology, and sourcing more up-to-date magazines, books, and journals.
- Sourcing, introducing and implementing new technologies that can be used in the IT center to benefit the community.
- Community visits to local groups and organisations can help advertise the facilities available in the center and find out more about what information is relevant to people.
- Uploading books onto the library database, collecting and storing local contacts for networking.
- Researching and uploading contacts into our community database as a networking tool for our projects and the community in general.
- Maintenance, upkeep, and inventory of electronic equipment.
- Training for staff that work in the IT and Media center.
Sponsorship & Donations
There are many ways in which you can sponsor this project, from funding a raspberri Pi start up kit for a local school, donating old telephones or tablets so more users can access our rasperry pi, a monthly internet data allowance for training and networking purposes- internet access is extremely expensive in Malawi so many people living in the rural community cannot afford to access it. Our aim is to raise enough monthly donations to provide a bundle to our users so they can open email accounts and learn how to use the internet for research purposes.
One off donations will be spent on upgrading the Centre’s hardware and software, and contribute towards general maintenance.
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.