Building an Orphanage

My last project, teaching and building a school block at Chikale School in Malawi, is nearly complete. Alice Leaper,  from Butterfly Lodge, is currently managing the builders and the building is in the final stages.  I am now collaborating with ‘Tilinanu,’ a registered charity founded by Alice Pulford and her family. Tilinanu Orphanage provides a home, food, education and love to 40 girls. I will be collaborating with Tilinanu on a new exciting project, building a boys orphanage in Lilongwe!

My recent experience in Malawi at Chikale Primary School was hugely inspiring. I never imagined that with the help from friends, family and organisations, so much could be achieved in such a small amount of time. A school block has been built, with two large rooms which means that 200 children can now be taught in classrooms instead of having their lessons outdoors. This accomplishment filled me with inspiration, motivation, warmth and the belief that a difference really can be made. It was a really rewarding experience!

On my last day in Malawi, I was in Lilongwe (the capital city). I had just visited the bank and was walking to the supermarket when I saw a young boy being strangled by two older boys. I stopped and shouted at the two older boys to get off him, the young boy looked terrified. After the boy had got his breath back, I took him to get some food. He told me his name was Doud and he was 13 years old. Doud is HIV positive, and has been living on the street for over a year and a half. He said he would like to be taken to an orphanage or a safe place.

I rang my lovely friend Nina Pulford, who happened to be in Lilongwe at the same time as me, volunteering at Tilinanu Girls Orphanage, the orphanage Alice her younger sister had built. Nina, Mercy (a Malawian lady and who supports the girls with Tilinanu Girls Orphanage) and I, then spent the day trying to get Doud to a safe place. It was an incredibly frustrating experience. The systems in place to deal with troubled children like Doud and orphans in Malawi are practically non-existent. Nobody wanted to accept responsibility for him within the social services and he was even refused a place at a transit orphanage. Finally we were referred to a social rehabilitation centre, Doud was accepted temporarily.

Since leaving Malawi, I have kept in touch with Nina, who has been instrumental in attending meetings, getting involved and making sure the best decisions have been made for Doud. Still the problem remains, there are so many orphans and children like Doud living rough on the streets with no-where to go and no-one to care for them. It is heart-breaking.

Meeting Doud gave me an understanding of the difficulties that face many young children in Malawi. It was this encounter that compelled me to make the decision to want to help children like him. Tilinianu Girls Orphanage is already an existing charity, and Alice, Nina and their mum are doing an amazing and inspiring job. Teaming up with them to build a boy’s orphanage next door seems like an obvious step forward. I’ve already learnt that so little goes so far in Malawi and really does make a difference. If children, victims of abuse and orphans can be taken off the street and given a home, a chance of education, and access to health care and love, it will be a major accomplishment and will change the lives of so many.

The task of raising the £35,000 needed to complete a large building, for the boys orphanage, with plumbing, electricity and furniture is a challenge. Yet I realise from the response, generosity and care of people, it will be possible. I have already had so many friends and family show a massive interest. Already so many people have begun to raise money and get involved. I want to say THANK YOU and please, don’t stop!!!

If anyone has any ideas for fundraisers just go for it, if anyone knows any businesses, organisations or schools that maybe able to help, PLEASE CONTACT ME I can’t tell you how immensely appreciated it will be and how much of a difference it will make. It’s a huge task to raise so much money, I would love any help along the way!

To donate:

Thanks millions to all the fundraising events that have already taken place. Below are some of the ways people raised money for the school and orphanage.

Music Events

December 10 – Xmas Bass Mash-up – Big Thanks to Dave Evan’s, Matt Water’s Organik, Danger Bloodclaat, Sam Wright, Toni Loco, Ewan Simms, Peter Mitchell and Ben Vale Tenmen.

October 10 – Butterfly Lakeside Party, Malawi – DJs Buddha and White Noise Boy

March 10 – Malawi Fundraiser II – Big Thanks to Rumjig, Spafe (William Breakspear and Johnny One Move), Jess and Julia.

September 09 – Malawi Fundraiser I – Big Thanks to Ashfunk, Lark Lane Drummers, Johnny One Move, Rasp, Buddha, Geoff, Jess and Julia.

2009 – Feat Grapes Band – Big thanks to Mike Smith for organising it!

School Events

Massive thanks to St Hugh’s, St Christopher’s, Gayton Primary School, St Margaret’s in Manchester and Chikale school in Malawi for donations from Xmas card funds, Fun Days, School Fetes,  cake raffles and additional donations from the staff and children.

Friends and Family

Massive thanks for constant donations, competing in races, church collections, raffles, spreading the word and staff lottery wins – there has been so much support.


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Good-Bye Malawi!

After an emotional good-bye, I packed my bags and climbed aboard an overland truck. Two countries and two near death experiences later, (stampeding elephants and white-water rafting in the River Zambezi,) I’m now in South Africa enjoying my final week with my brother, Lungi his wife and my gorgeous niece, Nandi.

The teaching project was a great success, having taught the children how to retell and write stories using narrative language through the medium of stories from different cultures, the children then wrote their own play-scripts and performed in their own plays.  All three plays from Standards 6, 7 and 8 were performed for the whole-school, then again on a stage built by Colin, a volunteer from the UK, at Butterfly Lodge. It was the best feeling ever to see the children I’ve worked with on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the last three months, grow so much in confidence, ability and self-esteem.

The new stage Colin and volunteers built at Butterfly Lodge.

Standard 6 – The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Continue reading

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Huge Thanks to an Amazing Response!

I was starting to get a little worried, the school had underestimated the amount of bricks we needed by 25,000. We never considered the additional cost of the two doors / doorframes and twelve window frames with security bars. The size of the building was much bigger than I expected and with so many other hidden costs, it became apparent that even with the additional donations from the Fundraisers and the World Challenge Group there wasn’t going to be enough money to finish the building. We estimated with the additional bricks, window-frames and cement, we would need another £1000 to complete the project. I was becoming concerned about finances and what could be done, and then I met Nina Pulford from Tilinanu Orphanage. Weirdly enough, I had coincidentally met her sister, Alice Pulford (who built Tilinanu orphanage in Malawi), in Liverpool at the first Malawi Fundraiser. I discussed my predicament with Nina, who then suggested I team up with Tilinanu Orphange (a registered charity) to help raise the rest of the funds. This meant I could set up a Just-Giving Page, which allows people to donate internationally.

I can not believe the amazing response! Within only one week the target of £1000 has been exceeded! I have been over-whelmed by friend’s, family and extended friend’s generosity and support. There is an enormous amount of appreciation here from me and from the school committee, the teachers and the children at Chikale School, thank–you! The wet season begins in three weeks and this is the deadline for the roof to go on the building, so we’re all set! The Headteacher has informed me that Nkhata Bay District Education Office are delighted with the progress of the new building and have promised the school an additional teacher in January! If anyone would like to donate who hasn’t yet, please do! Any extra money will be put towards getting electricity in the new school block, with the future vision that the school will have internet access.

Teaching has been going brilliantly, I’m not so over-whelmed anymore by the hundreds of faces staring at me each lesson on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I even know quite a few of their names! Although, for some reason my name has been abbreviated to Miss Bush. Occasionally I even hear shouts of Mr Bush from the kids (am hoping that this is only because there is no difference between Mr and Miss in Chichewa!!) I’ve been really lucky to have a couple of volunteers to come and help me out on occasions in school. Jo, another girl from England, has a keen interest in HIV Education, so we’ve set about delivering a series of fun, interactive HIV/AIDs workshops tackling the difference between misinformation and facts that surround HIV/AIDs. There is a huge epidemic concerning HIV/AIDs in Malawi, it has taken the lives of so many people and left so many children orphaned. In Nkhata Bay, the last statistic of people tested showed that 1 in 5 were positive. A brave teacher at my school disclosed her positive status to me and she talks openly and factually to the children about her condition. She tells me that HIV transmission continues to be a major problem in Malawi as well as the misinformation that surrounds the disease.  Some of the misinformation children shared with us:

  • Witchcraft can give you HIV
  • Only females can become infected with HIV
  • If someone looks fit and healthy they are not infected
  • You are safe from HIV if you are married

With little communication and no electricity in many places, it’s easy for people to become confused between the misinformation and the facts. The teacher’s loved having what they teach to the pupils confirmed, and the children had a clearer understanding of the facts surrounding HIV/AIDs. Still, there is just so much that needs to be done to stop the further transmission.

Geoff has also been coming into school, working with me on the story-telling project. He has been working with the kids helping them to write their own musical accompaniment for the plays they have written. There is a massive love of music here and it is played everywhere, and all the time. The kids eyes light up as soon as they here any music and they seem to have a natural ability to create the most complex rhythms, dance and sing beautifully. Ahhhh, I love my job!

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FUNdraising Fun

I have had the most amazing 3 weeks so far, it’s been pretty hectic but full of fun, fundraising and school, of-course!

On the 14th of October, Niraj (aka Buddha) came over to visit for a couple of weeks. He was asked to DJ at the Lake of Stars music festival in Mangochi, which conveniently fell over my half-term holidays. So I had the perfect excuse to see a bit more of Malawi, catch up with my lovely boyfriend and have a holiday, yey!

Traveling in a bus here is just not the same as the UK, 5 hour journeys turn into 12 hour journeys with over-heated engines, flat tires and endless stops squeezing even more people into an already over-crowded bus. Buses are only full when the driver can no longer close the door whilst man, woman, child and animal fights for space. It’s not unusual to be sharing your seat (if you get one) with a chicken or goat.  Pick-up trucks operate as buses too, although slightly more uncomfortable than the bus, it is a small exchange for the amazing first-hand views you get not to mention the lush breeze. But one thing you can guarantee, whatever form of public transport you find yourself on, is you will have an unforgettable journey for the better or worse!

Two long bus journey’s later, with Budd, I find myself in Mangochi at the Lake of Stars music festival. Having never been I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew what I wanted was to hear loads of African music! And I can honestly say, I wasn’t disappointed. Musicians from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, the Ivory Coast and the UK descended on Magnochi filling the beach with invigorating African rhythms and enchanting melodies.  DJs played anything from Malawian Hip-Hop, serious dance anthems to laid back sunny-day reggae tunes. A real highlight for me was the Jacaranda School for Orphans Band. Only in January 2010 the Jacaranda School for Orphans were donated used instruments, 10 months later they’d taught themselves how to play the instruments, formed a band and were now rocking the Lake of Stars music festival. Check them out!

After the festival we spent three relaxing nights in Cape MaClear before heading back to Nkhata Bay ready for the Fundraising Day on October 23rd. Alice, a member of the school committee and one of the girls who runs Butterfly Lodge, had suggested to the school that they have a School Fete, as a way of fundraising money for themselves.  The day was a huge success thanks especially to Alice, the organiser, and all the people who volunteered time, resources and energy.  Geoff (aka DJ White Noise Boy) did a stunning job in goal for Beat the Goalie, Budd ran a Video Games stall, Maya did face painting, ladies from the Widows Group made cakes, I ran a Sock Wrestling ring where opponents had to wrestle each others socks off. There were loads of other games and activities, money was made for the school block and fun was had!

The evening culminated in a performance from the school dance troop, a local band and of course, DJ Buddha and DJ White Noise Boy on the decks! Fundraising is a new concept here in Malawi and this day was the first the school had experienced. The day raised 17,000 mk for the new school block, which continues to grow, but more importantly it has raised a feeling of positivity, forward thinking and excitement in the staff and children at Chikale School. This last week I have led a series of follow-up lessons that have involved the children and staff excitedly planning their own fundraising activities and events for future good causes.

Budd left Nkhata Bay on the 26th October but Geoff, his best friend who was also DJing at the festival has stayed on as a volunteer at Butterfly Lodge. Geoff has offered to get involved in my storytelling project, and as the children’s plays come together he will be supporting the kids with musical accompaniment. In fact right now he is hammering and sawing bits of wood and random materials together making a little percussion kit!

Hope all is well for all of my family, friends and all at St Hugh’s. Wishing you were all here swimming in the Lake with me. Am having a real crumpet soaked with butter craving, neither of which is easy to get hold of here. So please, cremate a crumpet in a toaster, load it with butter and eat it for me xx

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Meant to be ….

Ever since I planned this trip everything has just fallen into place, and this feeling that things are ‘meant to be’ has just kept on and on! When I wrote my initial letter to the Headteacher of Chikale school back in March, I never told him about any money available from fundraising, I wanted him to accept me into the school on the basis of educational support. On my first day at Chikale school, it was obvious that there was a massive shortage of classrooms, with 2 classes being taught under trees and one class being taught in an old dilapidated house, where 100 plus children were (and still are) squeezed into a L-shaped corridor. The school is very aware of the challenges it faces, the local authorities too. Unfortunately there is just not the money available from the government to support the school.

Before I arrived, the school committee had already decided to take action towards building a new school block, in the hope that if they had a plan and made a start, some other help may come along. The first stage in building in Malawi, is the preparation of the bricks. On the day I arrived at the school, the Headteacher had sent all the children home (1000+) to ask for 500 Kwacha from their parents and carers. This is about £2.50, which is loads of money out here! The money collected from the families who could pay, raised just over half the money for the cost of the bricks, this was the only source of income the school has had towards the building. I knew there couldn’t have been a better time for me to arrive with the money we’d raised in Liverpool. I asked the Headteacher to call a committee meeting the following Saturday to discuss the school’s development.

The first school committee meeting was a huge success, the committee members all really care about the school and share the same forward vision for the school’s development. They were really pleased when I told them there was money available from the fundraising that had taken place in Liverpool, as well as an additional donation from a group called ‘World Challenge’.  Immediately I withdrew some of the charity money to pay for the remaining bricks to be made, so the process of building could begin. The following day, myself along with the chairman and treasurer of the school committee opened and became signatories of an account with NBS Bank named, Chikale School Development Fund. All the charity money raised has now been transferred over to this account.

During the second committee meeting we discussed the costs for the building and labour. Gary and Catherine, who run Mayoka Lodge next door to where I am staying, have a lot of experience with construction. They kindly offered to organise the builders for the job, phew, as I have no idea about building! So all 40,000 bricks have been prepared and stacked into a furnace, firewood has been brought to the site and tonight the bricks will be burnt!

Teaching continues to go really well. I am now in my fourth week and the kids I teach on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday have got really into speaking and listening, drama and writing. They are all keen, interested and great fun to work with.

Working with the teachers on a Tuesday and Thursday in standards 5, 6, 7 and 8 is a great experience, but tough at times, as I realise what it is to be a teacher in Malawi with every lesson being like delivering an assembly! Before I can even begin my lesson on Tuesday morning in Standard 5 (the classroom that is not a classroom but an L-shaped corridor in an old house), I have to clamber and manoeuvre myself around 100 bodies, trying not to step on fingers and toes, before arriving at the front of the classroom. On one day last week I had a dog called, Baggy, who lives at Butterfly Lodge, follow me to school. He insisted in being at my side during every lesson in every classroom. I was kind of enjoying his company and the knowing that ‘dogs would never be allowed in classrooms in England,’ that was until I reached my Standard 7 class. I had just introduced Baggy as the new pupil learning English, when he only decided to vomit, yep really, right at my feet. Standard 7 thought this was hilarious, well me, I’ve never let Baggy follow me to school again!

Big hello’s to all my friends, family and work friends from St Hugh’s! A massive hello to all the children from St Hugh’s, I’ve got penpal letters in the post for you!!!

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First Impressions

Yeeey! I’m here and it’s great!!!

Nkhata Bay, my home for the next few months, is a vibrant port town right on the shores of Lake Malawi. Butterfly Lodge, where I have a chalet, is a short walk up a hill and out of town. It is such a beautiful place, set on a hill sloping down to the lake, chalets rest amongst palm trees and there is a feeling of total tranquillity. My chalet is right on the lake, so each night I have the luxury of falling asleep to the sound of the waves, yep, the lake is that big it has waves!

I’ve never been to a place where people are so friendly and welcoming, only here has it ever happened that I’ve stumbled on the street, and a local Malawian has apologised for my mistake, ‘Sorry, sorry!’ The what should be ten minute walk to town, usually takes double, even triple! As here, greetings and having a chat with nearly everyone you pass is the norm and could be considered rude if ignored! Daytime starts around 5 / 6ish as this is the coolest time of day, then usually finishes at around 9/ 10pm. Fashion is timeless and follows no rules except one, it has to be snappy! It’s not unusual to see someone walking down the street in a posh tweed suit from the seventies, the fashion era is irrelevant! Being an absence of toy shops the kids here are surprisingly creative with what they have, the other day I saw a group of children that had made hats out of empty shot sachets, I was really impressed!

Chikhale school, where I am teaching, is right by the Lake and a short walk from where I am staying. On my first day I took the resources that were donated to the school, kids and teachers were all really excited to receive the goodies, so thanks again for anyone who donated. Although I expected to see a large intake of children, I was really surprised to find that 2 classes of children didn’t even have a classroom to teach in, with their entire school day being taught under a tree! The school has a development plan and is in the process of fundraising to build the additional classrooms but progress is slow due to lack of funding from the government. I always imagined that the money that we raised would be used to build an additional house for a teacher, however, this was before I realised that there were 2 classes at the school without a classroom. Myself, governor’s and members of the school committee are having a meeting this Saturday to discuss the school’s development, the budget, their fundraising and the fundraising that we’ve done. Will keep you posted!

I have been really lucky to meet Josie and Alice , the two girls that run Butterfly Lodge. They’re really supportive of the storytelling project and the work I’m doing in school, they are also members of the school committee. They both have a strong involvement in the community with a great forward vision. They run numerous projects including: building playgrounds in schools, HIV awareness and building and managing a children’s nursery. Onsite at the Lodge is; an information and resource centre for locals and a youth club that is ran daily.

Working at the school has been great so far, the kids are really enjoying the storytelling project and the teachers are all lovely, although getting up early in the morning is a bit of a killer, on a positive note, I’m done teaching by lunchtime!

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Not long now!

“Ermmm….. You know this school in Malawi? Do you think they may like me to do a teaching project out there?”  the words fell out of my mouth.

“Yes!” Stu replied. And that was it, that was all I needed.

A year and a half later, here I am with just over a week to go before I fly.  Feeling more human-pin-cushion than human-being, I’m ready… I think!!!

I’m inoculated up to the max, I have a plan, I’m expected both in school and in lodgings, I’ve got the coolest giganta books ever for my story-telling project and I’m dead dead excited!!!

Despite only going away for 4 months, I’m milking it this week with farewell camping trips, meals out and general fun-ness. I’m not looking forward to the moment when I actually have to pack. Thank you everybody who has donated so many resources, it is really appreciated, but now I’m actually going to have to lug the whole lot across Malawi, on bus…. It’s that or pay £150 in a taxi, no thanks!

I’m going to miss everybody, my friends, family, work colleagues , kids at school and especially my lovely boyfriend. I know it’s going to be hard being away for 4 months, but something of an opportunity that feels really important to me.

I’ve put quite a lot of thought into this project, all explained in detail on the pages in the navigation bar. Having a plan and doing something meaningful is imperative to me, yet I realise what may happen could be different to what I ever expected! Follow my blog and find out!

See you on the other side xxxxxxx

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