CEPA Techies

Herman Fung 馮學文:

Some more excellent work done by my fellow VSO volunteer, the super enthusiastic Doris! She’s based in Blantyre, working with CEPA (Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy).

We had tried to arrange for the iHRIS team to provide this training but scheduling proved difficult. iHRIS end user training is now in progress – more on that to come! Luckily, Andrew (boyfriend of another volunteer) was available and has all the right skills to share.

Originally posted on dorisnuval:

yes, we shall do this or die trying:)

yes, we shall do this or die trying:)

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Today we FINALLY started our IT training here at CEPA where I work. There are 8 of us trying to acquire skills in desktop publishing, basic web editing and social media do’s and don’ts. I’m pretty confident that all of us after 3 days will have become certified geeks like our trainer, Andrew Styles … THE man.

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Categories: Malawi, Work, Volunteering, VSO, Technology | Tags: | Leave a comment

A to Z: E is for…

When I first arrived in Lilongwe, there was constant load-shedding, which resulted in power cuts every 2-3 days for anything between 1-8 hours! It wasn’t until 6 months in, that I discovered there was a load shedding schedule on the ESCOM website. Disappointingly, it wasn’t exactly accurate and always kept up-to-date! 3 long time windows per day, which significantly overlaps isn’t a great “schedule” in all honesty. And that’s when it was updated, supposedly every Monday morning. Still, it was better than nothing. To be fair to ESCOM, after a big maintenance project (which caused really really long power cuts, especially in some rural districts), there is no more load shedding, at least in Lilongwe. We’ve enjoyed a relatively very stable power supply since around the middle of last year.

Food for thought… according to an article in The Economist:-

The state-owned electricity company struggles to keep the lights on even though only 7% of the population is connected to the grid. Power cuts add to the high cost of doing business (Malawi is ranked 171st out of 189 countries by the World Bank).

Kapichira Power Station on the Shire River - view from Majete Game Reserve.

Kapichira Power Station on the Shire River – view from Majete Game Reserve.

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Field trip to Kumbali Cultural Village

On the 1st March, as part of the farewell to the kids, I took them on a final field trip to the Kumbali Cultural Village. It’s located within Lilongwe, about 2 km from the end of President’s Way.

Thank you to Barbara, a fellow VSO volunteer who has since returned home, for funding this whole activity!

We hired a rather nice and new minibus from a neighbour in Area 11. Considering how the government set fuel prices have gone up again recently, it was very reasonably priced and came with a driver. In all honesty, there were a few too many of us crammed into that bus… 25 plus me, Harold and Yohane!

On the way there, we handed out some small basketballs to the local kids, who live and play along the dirt track. I wanted to get the Breakfast Club kids started giving to others. To everyone’s delight, every time I or the driver (in the opposite side of the vehicle) handed out a ball, our kids shouted “za nonse!” because they were translating my message of “for everybody!”

Something I hadn’t expected was the sight of the kids (as well as Harold and Yohane) seeing horses for the very first time. There are some stables on the way to Kumabli, you see. When I explained that the we (the foreigners) enjoy riding and even racing horses for fun, they had a very bemused look on their faces :-)

When we got there, there were so many different activities to do, the kids all scattered to play!

  • Playground with swings, slides and a trampoline!
  • Beach/sand football pitch
  • Netball court
  • Bats, balls and water pistols
  • Sand pits (actually designed for French boules, also known as Pétanque)

When the kids burned off their initial burst of energy, I got them together for a penalties competition, which was eventually won by Linda. Yes, all the boys were gutted!

At around 1 pm, everyone was well watered and fed with a bottle of pop and portion of very nice chips. Cheers Scott! (And sorry for stretching your trampoline!)

Football / Mpira!

Football / Mpira!

Playground for the younger kids

Playground for the younger kids

Netball - rather competitive!

Netball – rather competitive!

Linda, penalty queen

Linda, penalty queen

1 x Trampoline = Many smiles

1 x Trampoline = Many smiles

Everyone still loves having their photo taken

Everyone still loves having their photo taken

Boys and carts

Boys and carts

Lunch time... Think we drank all their Sobo and Fanta!

Lunch time… Think we drank all their Sobo and Fanta!

A very tired Danny catching a post lunch nap

A very tired Danny catching a post lunch nap

Some sort of game I didn't understand

Some sort of game I didn’t understand

Categories: Football, Malawi, Travel, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , | Leave a comment

End of Service

“End of Service” is the phrase VSO uses when a volunteer completes their placement.

This is what I’m currently preparing for because I am completing my placement and going home next Sunday! A few months ago, after a long think and chat with family and close friends, I decided to amend my placement duration from 2 years to 18 months. I need to go home for family and professional reasons. The UK private sector recruitment cycle is traditionally buoyant between January to June and very quiet between July to December, due to budget freezes. So it makes sense that I go back now as opposed to October. Unfortunately I cannot extend beyond October because I also have family promises to keep.

So, I’ve been trying to let go of all the things which have been an integral part of my life here in Malawi. From the trivial elements to the critical ones and the very reasons I came here in the first place:-

  • The iHRIS project
  • Breakfast Club kids
  • All the bonds and friendships I’ve made, some of which I will keep on of course.
  • All the phones, clothes and other stuff my friends have kindly donated still need to be given away!

On the other hand, I am very looking forward to seeing my family and friends, plus riding my motorbike again! I’ve often said that I do not miss any material thing from my first world life. No flat screen TV, fancy car, gadgets, mod-cons etc. The only exception is my first and only motorbike.

Honda CBR600 F-Sport. Valentino Rossi 2001 livery.

Honda CBR600 F-Sport. Valentino Rossi 2001 livery.

As part of the End of Service pack, VSO have a document called Preparing for Reverse Culture Shock. It describes the 5 pre-departure stages, which I initially laughed at (and actually still do). Some of it does resonate though:-

  1. Recognition of feelings
  2. Accept feelings of loss
  3. Prepare for separation
  4. Review the experience
  5. Prepare for reverse culture shock

18 months have really flown by quickly. From not knowing anything about Malawi and Lilongwe to actually being invited to events and not being the newbies. From very slow progress on iHRIS at the beginning (no office!) to having a full project team working full time on it now. From just occasionally handing out the odd sweet and not knowing any of the kids’ names, to feeding and teaching up to 30 kids every week.

Thank you kids! Part of the report for the FOMA grant we received.

Thank you kids! Part of the report for the FOMA grant we received.

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Life is like a toilet roll. First bit goes slow, then after half way it just speeds up till the end!

Thanks for the quote Nat! ;-)

I know for a fact that I will miss Malawi. I also know that I will be back!

Categories: Malawi, Motorbikes, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

A to Z: D is for…

  • d.light – A good range of solar lights sold here in Malawi. A couple of these lights were our saving grace when there used to be frequent load-shedding power cuts, which results in darkness and inevitable delay to dinner!
  • DAPPDevelopment of People from People (an acronym which isn’t quite right) is a big development project. But in the context of Lilongwe, when people say DAPP, they mean the main second hand clothes shop in town! It’s where you find all types of weird and wonderful apparel. From Dr. No style dictator suits to modern Burberry hoodies. Apparently, they also sell books now too. When there is a new shipment due, it is kind of a big event. There’s always overly loud music blasting away by the door. The dust always triggers my hay-fever. So I try not to go very often. Not that I like clothes shopping anyway!
  • Dzaleka – is a long term refugee camp, established almost 20 years ago; In the Dowa district, I believe. Not too far from Lilongwe. A bit farther than the airport.
    My fellow volunteer David and I went there back in February last year. It was an arranged exchange visit. We each gave a lecture in our profession. Him in clinical. Me in project management. The students were extremely bright and hungry to learn. We were both very impressed by their attitude and willingness to take on new ideas, ask questions and challenge any lack of clarity! There are also some very well managed educational facilities there. Including a nice computer suite and library. It was a very humbling and inspiring experience.

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DAPP not GAP!

DAPP not GAP!

Learn from reading. Learners become leaders.

Learn from reading. Learners become leaders.

Ubuntu = Human kindness

Ubuntu = Human kindness

Dzaleka. Photo from http://www.jc-hem.org/Projects_Detail?Region=001

Dzaleka. Photo from http://www.jc-hem.org/Projects_Detail?Region=001

Categories: Malawi, Technology, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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