A Volunteer Community Project in Malawi
| A changing situation: Covid-19|
May 2020By Butterfly
As many of you may have seen on our social media pages we unfortunately had to temporarily close Butterfly at the beginning of April. With loads of cancellations for over the summer and an uncertain time Worldwide and in Malawi, we felt this was the best course of action. We worked together with all our staff to make the best plan we could for everyone going forward, and people were amazing. It meant that for three months some went home to their villages as they had support there and the others were all paid a percentage of their wage so that they can at least budget for the basics. Six of our team are staying on-site and have the extra responsibility, keeping everything up and running and the dogs fed till we hope we can open again. We really hope it won’t be too long, hopefully towards the end of the year, though it’s hard to tell. For anyone who would wish to support our staff during this difficult time then please go tohttps://www.gofundme.com/f/butterfly-staff-fundraiser or we have recently opened a voucher system for Butterfly. This means that people who want to come and stay with us in the future, either as a volunteer or just to stay, can buy vouchers now to give us well needed cash flow to help us on the ground in Nkhata Bay. These are through our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/butterfly.space.malawi/ please feel free to share too ! 🙂
All this upheaval now doesn’t detract however from our busy time leading up to it, below is an inspiring account of our volunteers and their contributions to our many projects. December saw us getting busier but since her arrival in September Laila continued to be busy. She volunteered at Stepping Stones School primary school and at the Youth Club. At school she assisted in different classes but mainly in Class 1. Her work focused on helping children who need more support and time to learn certain things and on giving some of the more advanced kids more challenging work to do. At Youth Club she helped the kids on Friday for her six month volunteering stay. Her gentle nature and dedication to the small groups was so beneficial for necessary catch up. Laila also worked with a child with special educational needs and her nurturing manner was such an asset. Laila’s mother, grandmother and sister came to visit too and brought with them many donations of shoes, medical and school equipment, some laptops and they also fundraised to sponsor four students. Stephanie arrived the start of December and spent two and half months at Butterfly Space, living her dream life of gardening, art, yoga all in such a beautiful setting. She enjoyed being part of life here and contributing to this amazing collection of projects. She discovered how tiring teaching a full day of lessons to 5 different classes is, but loved every minute of the art projects. Her art teaching has also been put to good use in the weekly Youth Club. Youth Club has had another revamp and so many new members coming through the doors thanks to Mbizu rounding up kids from his village and providing a safe, fun and creative place to hang out. Stephanie also did some fundraising and the money went towards enrichment activities and equipment at the Youth Club and Stepping Stones School.
Her interest in gardening also saw her getting her hands dirty in several aspects of the permaculture project. Many days she was hands on around the site helping Mathews with the endless gardening jobs during the rainy season, lots of transplanting and transferring plants to schools as well. She also used her experience as a teacher to review the programme and linked it to the national curriculum, an important developmental tool as the project gets larger.
Stephanie painting the back drops for the play at Stepping Stones. Matthew got the HIV peer support group back up and running which was amazing. His background was in this area, and based on the NHS guidelines on establishing peer support groups for people living with long term conditions, he worked with a new group of 10 people living with HIV. Using his expertise and the previous programme he worked in the local community here by providing information and support on medication adherence, home based care, nutrition and reducing stigma. Peer support is so important and he was able to share his knowledge while making a small income generator for the group.
From his work he designed ten session guidelines for anyone in the future who wants to do this work and this is available in the information room at Butterfly. He also made links with local government and other stakeholders in this area and invited them to utilise this information if they wanted. He continues to support and stay in touch from England. Matthew also sourced six laptops for Stepping Stones School which were donated by Bristol Community Health.
Mathew with his group ‘Uje umampha’Judith also returned for her third year in a row which is amazing and she continues to inspire the kids here. This year she organised a more advanced training for journalists, focussing much more on practicals and getting the students out and about doing interviews and editing their own stories. The fully functioning studios up at Kandoli FM mean we are able to do training up there now and we continue with the renovations; we now have water and ceiling boards.
Solomon in the studio at Kandoli FMWith Laila’s family surprising her at Christmas, and a combination of new volunteers, Stephanie and Mathew, old returnees, Judith, regulars and passing tourists meant we had a big celebration over Christmas. It was the first year with Beatrice in charge at Stepping Stones restaurant and they cooked up a storm for Christmas dinner. They also had live music during their opening party.
After Christmas the people still kept coming, I love it when Butterfly is full of creative and inspiring people and Stepping Stones definitely benefits from the influx of people.
Hannah volunteered there for three days a week between January and March. What a powerhouse! She ran drama and dance classes, often on her feet dancing through the whole of the school day. Trust me, in a baking hot hall, this is no mean feat! Hannah choreographed and put together a show involving Classes 1-7, with music and a theatre production of Where the Wild Things Are. She did some fundraising and was able to provide transport for parents who live too far from school to travel independently. We had around sixty parents to watch the production and they loved the show!
Hannah working with the children at Stepping StonesWe had a visit during the day of the production from Lily and Jack who filmed the performance which we hope will be available to watch online. Lily had previously volunteered at Stepping Stones School and it was wonderful to welcome her back to school. What a treat to have people film the event and a big crowd for the audience to feast their eyes on all the hard work that Hannah, Stephanie and the students did.
Emma was just passing through Nkhata Bay but loved it so much she ended up staying and getting involved. She spent a few weeks at Stepping Stones School, supporting our teachers with implementing a phonics program. She has worked in London schools as a teaching assistant and used her phonics skills to train and team teach with our teachers from the younger classes. This has been invaluable and the impact is huge. Molly and Joey returned for their fourth visit this time solo instead of a team with charity. They helped out with various projects such as the local nursery, Stepping Stones School, the Disability centre and the baby basket project. They brought so many things out that keep the baskets being delivered and the nursery to have resources.
Lisa, who is a bubbleologist, came into school to run bubble workshops and did an assembly. The children adored the workshops and had a lot of fun! The sessions were unlike anything any of the students had seen before and they got so much enjoyment from them. Lisa also visited two of our nurseries. Since returning to the U.K. she has supported the disability group in Mpamba with providing training and wood working tools in order to produce nursery toys which can be sold in order to generate an income.
Willow enjoying the beautiful lake. Willow joined us at Butterfly at the end of January 2020 and unfortunately had to cut short her trip because of Covid-19. She particularly enjoyed working with the older students up at Stepping Stones and was running a reading program, supporting our students who had particular struggles in this area. Thanks to our three buses that provide daily transport from Nkhata Bay, Vizara, Mpamba and the Hospital, we now have a total of 224 students enrolled at the school (116 boys; 108 girls). All classes except one are now full and we have waiting lists for a number of classes. Stepping Stones is known in the area as a school offering excellent teaching and learning.
In addition to the high-quality English and Malawian lessons, our pupils have been enjoying different clubs like chess, social club (looking at how to help those less fortunate living in the community), drama and poetry. We have also been very fortunate this term to have had a trained dance and drama teacher working with the students. We enjoyed a brilliant morning of dance, poetry and acting.
Our school lunch program has offered delicious meals for more than 150 students every day, eating a range of nutritious food. Food in the past few months has become scarce and so our food program has become even more important to our free and sponsored students. It means that they are guaranteed to eat one substantial meal that day.
Last term, the Social Club raised money to help families staying in the hospital with soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. At the end of term, 30 students from the oldest four classes went on a school trip to Kande Horse and the beach. Our last classroom block was completed last term and our Class 6 and 7 are benefiting from this new building. Class 7 are working hard towards their national exams and they will be sitting them in May. Best of luck to them! All of these developments are only possible because of the financial support we receive from our sponsors, so thank you so very much!
Sarah Cota was working at Mzuzu Academy and made a number of visits to Stepping Stones School and nurseries with visitors who came from the UK to see her. They brought many toys and educational resources to the nurseries. Resources and donations of clothes were also sent from the UK by Olivia and Stefanie and these mainly went to the nurseries, with the baby clothes going towards the baby baskets. We are very fortunate to have an excellent nursery coordinator, Patrick, who has shown many of our visitors around and liaised with stakeholders on Butterfly Space’s behalf.
Butterfly now has four nursery schools supported with teachers and porridge from the long supporter Dan Edgan. Covid-19 has meant that the nurseries are closed, so while we are unable to continue the food program in the nurseries, we have been able to provide these families with soap and handwashing education to try to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in rural areas. Dan also funded Christmas parties that the four nurseries held. All children got a present of some shoes, underwear and a toothbrush, as well as enjoying some games and delicious rice and meat. Gert and xxx ran around Mzuzu sourcing presents and visited the nurseries.
Chris Woods has been on his Mother’s Day card mission again to fundraise for the Butterfly Baby baskets which now reach another two clinics in Lilongwe thanks to the money raised by its founder Genna Davies and her family in the rotary club. They visited and had many ideas to improve the things that go inside as well as make long lasting links with groups in Lilongwe.
School photo time. All these updates are from before Covid-19 closed all schools and nurseries. Stepping Stones, the four nurseries and the Youth Club have been closed since the end of March. This has been obviously devastating for our community, although understandably this has had to be done. Most private schools have not been able to pay their teachers at all. We have had some money saved, put aside for building projects such as new toilets, and this is now going on staff salaries. With no school fees, we are struggling. Malawi has poor technological infrastructure and most homes do not have access to the internet, therefore online teaching has been impossible to implement. Our running costs with our staff on very reduced salaries are around £450 a month (19 members of staff). However, we cannot afford to do this for too much longer without additional funding.
Looking to the future, we are very worried about being able to support our students when schools return. After experiencing trauma, we feel it is important that all children have the chance to return to the school that they know, where we can support them emotionally. We have around 105 students who have free and sponsored places. They come from families who cannot afford school fees. Around 40 families have one or both parents working abroad (usually South Africa) who send money home for school fees. With lockdown in South Africa, most of these families will have been unable to earn money to send back. We know that most families who pay fees will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to get the money to send their children back to us. Our running costs while school is operating are around £8,000 a term (20 members of staff (school and nurseries), food program providing food for 150 students, maintenance, three school buses). We would like to be able to apply for funding to support the school in the aftermath of Covid-19 and to help the school reopen with all our students. If you know of any charities or other funding opportunities linked to this area please contact us. Malawi Schools Permaculture Clubs (MSPC) has also ground to a halt in the current situation although all the schools gardens are full of produce after the rainy season. Mr Mwale and Francis would normally be very busy during this third term, organising visits and open days for 22 schools. Instead they are using the time, along with Friday Kamanga, to review the schools and the individual aspects of the programme and look towards developing ideas of best practice and how best to share it. On a larger lever we are looking to the overall structure and how it is best to expand this project.
The garden at Mlare Primary School We cannot finish without saying a massive thanks to Gemma Holden who has been with us throughout the last 6 months, and hopefully it wont be her last time here. Making the bar and social side of the lodge tick, with parties, live music and quizzes as well as taking care of many aspects in the running of he lodge and making everyone feel loved and welcome. Thank you, we will miss you !!!!!
We hope everyone is staying safe and that these strange times soon come to an end and people can get on with their lives. It has been a time though to all slow down and reflect upon what is important and maybe from that, we will start to see the changes so many desire.
At Butterfly we have many exciting things still on the horizon, Holly and Stephen are coming for a trial six months when things get a little back to normal, to see if they want to become more permanently involved. New skills and impetus are essential to achieve Butterflys’ potential and Stephens skills as a DJ will definitely make him a popular addition both at the bar and in the recording room. Other interns who were due to come via Roots Interns may delay and also come when things are up and running so we hope to get off to a positive re-start. Everyone is welcome !
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