Posts Tagged With: Fon

Peer Support

2 weeks ago, we had a 6-monthly VSO Peer Support Workshop. The idea is that volunteers from the same programme get together and share their experiences with the community. Highlights, lowlights, successes, challenges and general lessons learnt from working in Health & HIV/AIDS and life as a volunteer in Malawi.

The 4 day workshop was held at Boadzulu Lodge, near Mangochi, and is by the Lake. It must be said that the beach was very disappointing in my humble opinion. It did not come close to the fine sand and clear water at Cape Maclear which is only 25km up the road and certainly not the general quality of the beaches in the Northern Region – Nkhotakota, Chinteche, Rumphi etc. Coupled with having a jam-packed timetable, I didn’t actually go for a swim at all. Overall, it was still a nice enough spot to achieve the open, relaxed environment we wanted for good discussions.

Unfortunately, there was a sting in the tail on the last night of the workshop. 5 volunteers fell ill. They had a stomach bug which caused vomiting and diarrhoea, which meant a restless night for them. Some of them then had to get back to their distant placement locations and homes on public transport! A few of them were then admitted to clinics. Mainly due to dehydration which comes with severe diarrhoea. The official diagnosis: Gastro enteritis, aka food poisoning! Thankfully, everyone is largely fine now.

My iHRIS colleague Oli (and official photographer of the workshop) has written a blog post about some of the exercises and outcomes we achieved. Please check out his post >>> here <<<.

A special mention to the initiative to get 6 nursing and midwifery training colleges connected online. There are 6 ODAs (Organisation Development Advisors) based around the country working at these colleges. Their job is to help the colleges improve their systems and processes. Before I came to Malawi, a company called Fon pledged to support Malawi by donating their wifi router equipment. I have already deployed some of this equipment at places which needed them, including the VSO Malawi Country Office and our office at the Ministry of Health. However, due to the low affordability and therefore accessibility of broadband Internet service, it’s actually been difficult to find places which could benefit from the equipment sufficiently. Hopefully, getting these 6 training colleges online, or at least connected internally, will change that.

There are more professional grade photos from Oli on Flickr.

A little private joke for my peers who attended:-

  • 4 months to go…
Demonstration of iHRIS

Demonstration of iHRIS

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

Keep ticking things off the list!

It’s the night before my departure to Malawi.

The original title for this post was "Ready, Steady… PANIC!" but that would have been rather dramatic and not very positive.

I’ve been in Hong Kong seeing my family for the past 3 weeks. Hence the radio silence and 1 mad week to let my house out and get ready for Malawi.

By hook or by crook, and in the greater scheme of things, I was always going to be ready. Even if I hadn’t done everything I wanted, the only thing I really needed was my passport.

My brother, who has taken time off all week to help me, has been getting annoyed at my liberal use of "first world problems" to describe my situation (and self-encouragement). There’ll be plenty more where that came from!

Thanks to Chris, my local VSO supporter group lead and returned volunteer from Uganda, who gave me the encouragement to "keep ticking things off the list!". I needed it. I was rather emotional and in a blind panic on Tuesday and Wednesday. Emailing with Chris, my Malawi group members and fellow volunteers I met on P2V and SKWID training really helped.

Thank you to my closest friends who chipped in to help me. I needed all of it and there’ll be plenty more overly friendly calling in of favours to keep my let house on the straight and narrow. Not to mention the sending of care packages to Malawi.

I’m sorry I didn’t get round to seeing everyone, especially my ex-colleagues in Birmingham. I hope you understand that I would have been extremely bad company anyway due to the distinct lack of sleep and first world problem stress levels.

Lastly, thank you to all my sponsors. Specifically, Fon for their donation of wifi routers and pledge for more once I’m in Malawi. HTC and their public relations agency Nelson Bostock, for the loan of a new smartphone!

So, bye bye blighty, bye bye house, and see you in Africa!

P.S. It’s my first time using post by email. Hope it works ok.

The picture is from the balcony of my “brotel” suite and a night view of Canary Wharf, which I won’t be seeing again in a while.

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

La Fontennas

You may have seen from my post on 14th August about Fon‘s donation of wifi equipment to Malawi. Well, another shipment has arrived!

Ever been out of range of a wifi hotspot while doing something? Of course! Most people have and it’s extremely annoying.

In pain gif Incredible Hulk gif

These are La Fontennas, which significantly extended the range of Fon Simpl hotspots by up to 200 metres. They attach on to Fonera Simpls I received in August.

Please check out my new Sponsors page. I’m hoping for more sponsors very soon. Please get in touch if you are interested in sponsoring or have an idea.

La Fontennas

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

Share a Little Wifi and Roam the World for Free

If you’ve not heard of Fon, go check it out here!

It’s one of those cool ideas that make you think: Why was this not done ages ago! It’s a vast global network of wifi routers all sharing their Internet access. As a member, you can choose to charge users of your wifi or offer it for free. Either way, you get to use the other members’ wifi i.e. free roaming.

I’m writing this because they’ve generously donated a selection of equipment for me to take to Malawi!


I’ve been using a Fon router (called a Fonera) for a number of years now. It’s a fantastic little device. Firstly {geek alert}, they’re a very decent router. Fast, stable, simple to use and you can tweak it if you wish. Secondly, you can make money from it or feel good from a bit of wifi philanthropy! Anyway, being a fan, I contacted Fon via their Facebook page and explained what I’m about to do in Malawi. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they responded and with a generous offer too.

Well, the first shipment of 3 x Fonera Simpl and 3 x Fonera 2.0n arrived last week. They look awesome.

Their website has a really cool hotspot map feature. If you search for United Kingdom, you’ll see an overwhelming abundance of available hotspots. But in Lilongwe, Malawi, there are currently none! Broadband connection permitting, hopefully we can change that and start a mini wifi sharing movement in the Malawian capital.

Gracias Gabriela, Fon! Rest assured they’ll be put to good use to #MakeaDifference!


Categories: Malawi, Technology, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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