A Volunteer Community Project in Malawi A busy year at Butterfly…
November 2019By Josie Redmonds Hello to everybody from a sunny and hot Butterfly Space…summer is well and truly upon us and we’re excited to update you on what we’ve been up to this year!
There have been some big changes here in the last twelve months at Butterfly, which happily shows that we are continuing to grow! Unfortunately it means that it’s been a long time since we have updated you, and as a result this is more a brief overview of our year, rather than a more detailed account, so sorry if I haven’t mentioned everything…but we will update you again soon! With AJ relocating to Lilongwe and my projects expanding, it meant we didn’t devote as much time as was necessary to the lodge side of Butterfly. That needed to change as it was beginning to suffer. The aim was to get longer term management volunteers who would help with different aspects of running the lodge, along with our amazing staff. Lauren got the ball rolling last year, but when Holly arrived in March she took it to a whole other level. Having volunteered here before she already knew her way around and she got herself involved in all aspects of room decorations, renovations, advertising and much more. Butterfly is a much more beautiful place after her TLC!
Carlos,a travelling journalist used his stay here to help us update the website and many of our documents and the revamped rooms looked great in the shots he took. Holly also used these to enroll us in Booking.com and Air BnB, taking us into the 21st century. Melissa has recently added to this and linked us to Smile, so that people can donate while doing their Amazon shopping ( https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1148162-0 ) and still in the pipeline is a donate button via our Facebook page. Great work by everyone and things I didn’t even know were possible! Holly also helped advertise her onward position so when she left in August we were lucky to have Gemma Holden come straight into the role. This continuity was so important to keep Butterfly being a social hub of tourists and locals and Gemma fitted in straight away. With Holly coming back in March we are hoping we can continue this in the future.Here is what Holly had to say about her time at Butterfly….
This was my third time returning to Butterfly Space, but this time for six months, so I was really excited about getting stuck in! I love everything about Butterfly, from all the projects, the staff, Josie and AJ, and meeting and getting to know all of the awesome people that pass through! I was helping with the general running of Butterfly, working alongside Josie, AJ, Alice and Innocent to help to improve and expand the lodge and the projects. As AJ is now in Lilongwe, Butterfly needs that extra body on the ground on her behalf, to help with the general day to day tasks in the bar, restaurant and lodge, and also the projects. I was helping to co-ordinate the volunteers, showing them to the nursery schools and the youth club, greeting them and being a point of contact during their time there, which inevitably always turns into a good friendship.
When I arrived, the lodge was quiet, with only 2 volunteers, Luke and Elliot who were working along-side Josie helping around the gardens, lopping trees, and helping with the Permaculture projects. During the off season we had time to update the website and work on our social media with Solomon (Butterfly’s Media Room Manager), update the information boards around reception, and renovate areas of Butterfly. As it picked up we worked on bringing the bar back to life, and restarted the events, which included some awesome parties, including a disco and funk night which packed out the deck until the bar was dry, and our regular more ‘chilled’ evenings such as the pub Quiz, ping pong tournaments and pool tournaments.
By the time Josie left for her annual visit seeing family, Butterfly was in a good place, and we had a lot of volunteers joining us which brought the projects to life. We had Bridget and her family renovate the nursery and play area in the youth club, and donated tools for the school and Butterfly projects, and arranged a football competition at Stepping Stones, Grace and Alex also helped with renovating the Nursery, and volunteered at Stepping Stones, they helped with the permaculture school club and generally got stuck in when and wherever they were needed. Becca and Erin did an amazing job with the disabled centre, working alongside Patrick, a local volunteer, to visit rural villages and offer advice to people suffering with various conditions who are unable to seek professional advice. Ben, a long term volunteer, played a fundamental role in this year’s permaculture projects, working closely with Francis and Mr Mwale, supporting them and Josie to help the project move forward and expand. We also had the brothers Max and Monty, Benedict and her family, Kacy and Bailey, all short term volunteers, but they all gave it 100% and got their hands dirty, helping with paint jobs in the disabled centre and nursery’s, building work for the new block at Stepping Stones, youth club, and organising and arranging classrooms ready for the next academic year. Heather and Cerys also did an amazing mural at Stepping Stones just as I was leaving, so I am really looking forward to returning in March to see all of the progress!
All in all, a very productive time thanks to all of the hard work of the volunteers and staff at Butterfly and the projects. I made so many friendships and I feel so lucky to be able to spend my time here, meeting such interesting, conscientious and caring people that come to volunteer. I genuinely can’t wait to return!
Another major change was that we decide to rent out the restaurant; it had always taken a large proportion of our time and was not what we wanted to concentrate on so we felt it was a great opportunity for someone who wanted to use the potential of it. We offered it in-house to two of our previous outstanding employees and luckily for us, the fabulous Beatrice accepted. Since working for us she had completed two year at catering college, so together with her friend, Memory, they took over in June. Now named “Green View Restaurant”, they are doing really well in their first few months and are showing every indication they will succeed. The food is still amazing and Beatrice is a wonderful woman to have around the lodge. Future volunteers can assist her in her new business, with recipes, organisation or marketing advice. We are excited to see what the future holds for Beatrice and her team and are sure it will be a long term success. All of these changes have allowed us to concentrate on our expanding projects. After nearly two years, Stepping Stones has said goodbye to Francis who had done an incredible job as headteacher, he brought so much passion and often went beyond the call of duty. He left after getting his dream job back in Canada so we wish him well and hope that he comes back to visit us before too long!
We now give a huge and warm welcome to Imogen who is now leading Stepping Stones. She comes with a wealth of experience and we are excited to see how she will lead the school forwards. There will be a more detailed report from Stepping Stones in the next newsletter as we give Imogen a bit of time to find her feet during the first term in an extremely busy, and challenging role. In the meantime, here is the recent school photo to keep you going.
In the information room we have a great new employee, Sean. He joined us in September and has coincided with a revamp of the information room. We now have new forms of information; three laptops delivered by Chris, after a link up from Love Support Unite, filled with a library of educational material, from agriculture to food processing and IT to health….it’s a substantial resource. A smaller amount of Ted Talks and films also gives us the motivation to start airing those more regularly again. A second improvement was a Raspberry Pi I brought from the UK. Loaded up with a total system of educational videos, this allows kids to come in and access them through their own device and structure their learning to their interests. We are in the process of spreading the word about what is available and hope that these additions will make the information room more popular in the future. The employment of Sean also allows us to look ahead to ways it can be further expanded. We are already updating contact and library databases and a Permaculture Open Day planned for 30th November will be one of many ways we try and advertise to the communities what can be researched here. It is also a great opportunity to bring together like minded organisations in the area to see how we can collaborate together to grow and expand our projects.
Invited to this day will also be our many teachers from the participating schools in Malawi Schools Permaculture Clubs (MSPC). This programme has continued to expand each year, and there are now 22 schools in Nkhata Bay District following our programme. We see great photos every week of the schools sharing the sessions they are doing with the kids and while all schools are different they are all making real changes to their schools and communities. It’s great to see their weekly photos on our WhatsApp group of their progress and sessions at the school.
We continue to support them as they do their sessions and our aims in the next year are to develop the programme to have some material for secondary schools and also develop a way to share this programme more widely. There is plenty of interest from both within Malawi and outside and we want to find a way to share it while at the same time continuing to record and monitor the outcomes. There is great potential for the development of this project and a recent link with Roots Interns in Cape Town has seen us put three internships live. We will also look to link to universities in the future and this way we hope we can attract longer term skilled volunteers to propel this project forward. We will also look into this for some of our other projects; Stepping Stones, the Community Information room and Kandoli FM; community radio.KandoliFM radio has seen some great progress in the last 6 months where we now have a permanent presence at our building in town with Solomon there Friday and Saturday each week. The building was donated by the local assembly and while it needed some renovations it’s in a prime position in the centre of the town. We have continued the renovations and while not finished, they have allowed us to move into the studios and use the space for training. Judith Weymont again held journalism trainings and Masozi Kasambala, a Malawian radio journalist also held week long training at the Kandoli building. We recently received our registration document so we are now able to prepare for getting our broadcasting licence, through MACRA, the national organisation.
I have currently set up a Go Fund Me campaign to try and get the last push needed to get this project up and running. Please donate, or share if you can, I really feel that the right person or organisation is out there and it’s just a matter of making the right connection. The amount I’ve asked for, £15 000, would not only give us the money needed for the transmitter and to get on air but also the wages for two technical people for three years. This is so that we do not have to worry about the technical issues of broadcasting initially and can concentrate upon getting the community involved in the broadcasting, running and listening of the radio. Also, so we have a certain amount of time to harness advertising from the radio in order for us to become sustainable in the longer term. This radio has so much potential for the community of Nkhata Bay, providing opportunities for education, business, civic involvement, information sharing, radio and broadcasting skills and so much more and I really believe that it is about finding the right person or organisation that sees its potential. Please check out our page and share it amongst your networks please, especially people you think may be interested or work in this field. Thanks in advance for help in this dream; https://ca.gofundme.com/f/kandoli-fm-community-radio-station-nkhata-bayWe presently have two volunteers helping out at the school. Leila is here for 6 months from Austria and is working up at Stepping Stones with the younger children and helping out at the youth club. Saskia, from the UK, is here for a shorter time, but is also getting stuck in up at the school. It’s a great experience for them, although emotionally and physically tiring, and the swimming lessons on a Friday afternoon are still a firm favourite. We have new volunteers and guests arriving throughout the next few months so it promises to be an exciting time with lots being achieved.
Please remember to continue sharing us on available volunteer networks and contact us if you ever feel you can do more, like putting posters at local universities, but thank you everyone for your continued support…
Butterfly wouldn’t be Butterfly without it!
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