Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Week 2 of my Malawi trip started off by travelling to a small village outside Blantyre called Chilaweni. This was the village we would be staying in for the next week and the place we would be doing the project in. Chilaweni has a large primary school and small secondary school, with houses dotted around the outskirts. The school is the main hub of the village, along with the church and Dennis the headmaster is a big influence among all of the local people. He was one of the most inspiration people that I've ever met; having been a headmaster for over 20 years, adopted 3 children and he's also changed the school for the better. He said that when he first came to Chilaweni Primary School, they only had 300 students enrolled, but now there's over 1,500. 

Primary school is free for children but secondary school isn't, which is why a lot of the children have to drop out after primary because they can't afford it. They also welcome adults into the primary school if they haven't been able to access education when they are younger, which is think is a really good idea because it gives everyone an opportunity. When we arrived at the village, we got shown to our camp site area by Dennis and introduced to the other staff members (cooks, teachers and guards). We were also dedicated a special dining area at the back of the school where we could have our meals and chill out in between doing the project. In the afternoon we had a welcome ceremony at the school which was really fun. It was really lovely knowing that the whole community wanted to come together to welcome us into the village. Everybody was so friendly and the children wouldn't stop smiling and waving. The welcome ceremony consisted of welcome speeches from the village chief and Dennis the headmaster, and then a few dances and songs from the school children which were amazing. There was also a traditional fire dance that was done which was a bit strange but apparently quite common. 

The project site was about a 5 minute walk from where we were staying and from the main school buildings. I didn't really know what to expect when we walked down to the site, I kind of thought it would just be a plot of land that we had to build on. But when we walked down there we were greeted by the project manager Jofatt, who showed us around. There was already an empty brick building in place which used to be an old farming house with broken windows. Some of the money that we had fund-raised had already been spent on a new roof which was currently being built, because the old roof had been eaten by termites and woodworm. Jofatt explained to us that our job for the week would be to paint inside the building, build a new blackboard, start building the toilets and paint murals on the walls. The finished building was going to be used as a feeding centre for children under 5 years old. This is basically the same as food banks that we have in the UK. 

A lot of children under 5 in Malawi don't have any food all day because they're families can't afford it, and they're too young to go to primary school. When the children reach school age they get a free meal every day at lunch time break from the school cook. So, this is why the feeding centre is really means that parents can take their young children to get a free meal once a day, to make sure that they don't suffer from any further starvation or malnutrition. 

The next day we threw ourselves fully into project work, starting with painting the undercoat on all of the walls (there was a lot of walls), starting the brickwork for the outside toilets and painting the outside bottom panel. We all split off into smaller groups and did different parts of the work, swapping round when we wanted a break or to try something new. The paint was really really strong as they mix it with petrol to water it down, and so we had to keep getting some air from that! Our working hours were 8am-11:30am and then 2:30pm-5:00pm. In between working we sat in our dining area, had lunch and chilled out because it was heat of the day and too hot to work. 

Over the next couple of days it was amazing to see everyone coming together and the progress that was happening with the building. I never thought that we would achieve as much as we had done in that shirt space of time. As you can see by the pictures, it's quite a big building, but it just proves that if everyone pulls their weight you can achieve a lot! 

For the murals we decided to draw the alphabet and numbers 1-10 because they would be fun to look at for the little children, and also 2 sunflowers with our hand prints as the petals. We thought this would be a fun way to remind people we were here! We also painted a food wheel on the wall to give parents an idea of what makes a healthy/balanced diet which we thought would be useful for them to know. On the last day of the project we painted in all of the final touches to our murals and made sure everything looked neat and tidy. It was amazing to finally see all of our efforts and take photos of the work we'd done and compare it to the first day. 

In the afternoon of our last day in the village, we had a leaving ceremony. This was quite similar to the welcome ceremony in that there were speeches and dances. Our leaders made a thank you speech, thanking the village for having us stay and making us feel so welcome, and then Dennis made a thank you speech, thanking us for all of our work we've done and how much of a positive impact we'd made on people. I absolutely loved this week of the trip because I felt like we were able to really get to know the local people and really get involve in community spirit. 

The next part of the trip will be all about hospital visits, safari and Lake Malawi so stay tuned for that in the next week! 

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