Posts Tagged With: Kids

New Area 11 Breakfast Club

One of the things I was worried about before leaving Malawi, was the Breakfast Club. Although we put various legacy measures in place, including a library managed by one of the parents, the logistics of feeding 30 kids was always going to difficult. Mainly because it is very time consuming, which I found out the hard way when Dens and Regie (“BClub” Co-founders) completed their placements and returned home.

Well, I’m super delighted to report that the Breakfast Club is continuing!

Thanks to 2 fellow VSO volunteers who have recently relocated to Area 11, Lilongwe.

Nyack, who has moved into my room in the same house as Robin, is taking care of breakfast on Saturday mornings. Interestingly, he’s observed that it’s the youngest kids who remember to wash hands before eating! #sambamanja

Catherine is taking care of the weekly after school classes. You can see her own blog post about this here.

Thank you guys! We really are so happy to see this 🙂

Faith, 1 of 31 kids at "bclub"

Faith, 1 of 31 kids at “bclub”

Oats porridge, apple and Sobo

Oats porridge, apple and Sobo

Nyack's new vocation - baking awesome banana cakes!

Nyack’s new vocation – baking awesome banana cakes!

Yohane and Harold helping to make hot cross buns

Yohane and Harold helping to make hot cross buns

Yes, chef!

Yes, chef!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Homework is fun!

Homework is fun!

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Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: | 2 Comments

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

25 Letters in the Alphabet?

As part of the Breakfast Club, Thursdays are “class days”. Depending on whether I get home from work late, it usually runs from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

Using the whiteboard and stationery bought with FOMA funds, we do simple exercises like spelling, mathematics, IT and most recently, learning how to use a dictionary.

Yesterday’s exercise was translating Chichewa words into their English meaning, which we’ve done once before – see post. I began the exercise by writing a Chichewa word beginning with A, then B, then C. Then I went to help each kid individually.

Junior, one of the eldest kids, has learnt how to use the dictionary very quickly. He finished the first 3 words before anyone else. So I asked him to take over as teacher and write more Chichewa words on the whiteboard. Resuming from D etc through to Z.

When he completed this, he turned to me and said: “Finished!

I sceptically looked at the whiteboard, saw only 25 words and replied: “Junior, how many letters are in the alphabet?

Junior confidently responds: “No X… ” and then shows me with dictionary that there are indeed no words which begin with X in Chichewa!

Well done Junior!! 🙂

Junior, the teacher.

Junior, the teacher.

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

IT School

A few weeks ago, I ran a word processing / typing class for the kids. With my ancient Dell Inspiron 7000 laptop, which I used when I was at Loughborough University and amazingly still works!

The mighty Dell Inspiron 7000, complete with Intel Pentium II processor with 256 MB of  RAM and a floppy disk drive!

The mighty Dell Inspiron 7000, complete with Intel Pentium II processor with 256 MB of RAM and a floppy disk drive!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we take so many things for granted in the first world. Arguably, none more so than the basic computer skills we acquire as the norm. The Breakfast Club kids do not have access to a computer. So it’s not a surprise that they do not know how to type. Actually, we all had to learn… we’ve just forgotten how painful it was because it was so long ago!

Teaching the kids the basics brought it all back for me…

  • the (disobedient) mouse/touchpad
  • the (unintuitive) QWERTY layout
  • difference between <BACK SPACE> and <DELETE>
  • how to use the up, down, left, right cursor keys, and
  • the <SHIFT> key!!!

I had a really nice surprise at around the same time of this class. One Monday (kanema/cinema day), I was quite busy. So I put on a cartoon and left the kids to it. When I was still working, I heard a “knock knock”. So went to answer the door. The kids had shut down my computer properly and packed everything up for me! Quite a big leap from treating the computer as an alien object.

Separately, just this afternoon, I had a discussion with a colleague who is an ODI Fellow, also working at the Ministry of Health. She wants to set up a regular IT Drop-In session for MoH colleagues. Anyone who has a question on Windows or Office etc. For example, wants to sort data, create filters, freeze panes in Excel. Or maybe create a fancy pivot table. The iHRIS Team will be ready to support this initiative. We’ve previously talked about doing some general IT training (like the ICDL) instead of just training to use iHRIS. But we never got past the red-tape, bureaucracy and limitations due to our workload/focus. I hope this initiative materialises!

Separately again, I also just recently found out that there is a project to create the first tech hub in Malawi. The project, and probably the hub itself, is called mhub. It’s currently still a work in progress but it sounds very promising.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a little tech revolution ready to happen in Malawi.

Makeshift workstation

Makeshift workstation

Center of attention

Center of attention

Using the SHIFT key

Using the SHIFT key

Categories: Malawi, Technology, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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