Our Malawi adventure – a project in global citizenship

20 October to 27 October 2017

Harry (10) and Tom (8) travelled to Malawi with their Dad and Granny in October half term, leaving their Mum and little brother and sister at home.

The purpose of the trip was spend time with children, communities and schools in Malawi, understand how their way of life is different and also visit the beautiful country known as “The Warm Heart of Africa”.

The trip had three parts:

1) Challenge. The boys has to climb a mountain to “unlock” the funding we needed to finance the solar project and mosquito nets we had promised the school we were visiting

2) Treat. 24 hours of tented safari in the African bush

3) Project work. Going to school in Malawi, installing the solar system, giving a workshop on proper use of mosquito nets, teaching English and rugby, and spending time with local families.

Harry and Tom kept a diary which is published below.

Departure Day

It is 4pm and we have just left home and our worried mother. Driving down the M3 towards our 12 hour flight and Malawi, the nerves and excitement start to hit us.

I think it is going to be very hot and a bit of a desert as it’s one of the poorest countries on earth. We are going to there to spend time with the children and learn about their lives, and put solar power in their school.

I am quite scared. We have to wear a cap and non-flashy clothes so we don’t stand out. We will have to wear lots of sunscreen and mosquito repellent. We will have to tuck our trousers into our socks, tuck our shirts in and always wear thick clothes. We will also need to get into bed early before the malaria carrying mosquitoes come out. We will have to stay away from animals that might have rabies, water that might have bilharzia, ground where there might be elephantiasis and places where there might be fighting.

We can now see the planes from Heathrow. We are ready.

Day 1.

I am now sitting by a window in Johannesburg airport looking at the planes. We have just been on our 12 hour flight. It turns out we were on an A380!  It was a double decker. I got to look upstairs!  On the flight there was some turbulence, but it was not bad.

We are sitting in a restaurant called Jackson’s. Guess what?  We are about to board a two hour flight!  Come on, we are here for Malawi, not the planes!!!

Day 2. (Morning)

I have just had my first night in Malawi. I slept under a mosquito net. 

When we landed in Blantyre we were picked up by Innocent (Inno) and Wellington (Wellie) our guides. We drove around Blantyre and we went to a market where Inno changed some of Dad’s money. The person running the stand gave us a free Malawi band each!  We drove through town and it was amazingly poor. All the houses have tin roofs, are tiny, are in poor condition and lots weren’t finished.

We are staying in a beautiful estate where tea and coffee is grown. Yesterday we went on a walk, unpacked and learned how to make ice tea.

Last night we had a great dinner. When we went to our room we found a rat!  Someone eventually got it out. There are also bats (possibly a new species), water frogs, toads, lizards and geckos. This place is an animal kingdom.

Day 2. (In bed)

Today has been great!  We started by making paper, it was very interesting and fun!  It was amazing how they could recycle paper so easily!

Lots of people gathered to watch because they probably has not seen many people with white skin. When we left we gave them a football and a net ball that they can borrow from the owner of the paper factory as long as they return them.

Today we also did our Challenge which was a hike and we got really hot and sweaty. The views were stunning especially from the picnic area. I was so proud of reaching the rock on top of the mountain. While we were at the top, some people with machetes turned up - they were mouse catchers! We walked back down to the picnic area where we all had a sundowner drink and drove down to the lodge - where the electricity was off. We also got to see monkeys jumping from tree to tree. We have now named the rock, Solar Rock.

Today I learnt that:

1) Even though the Africans are poor they are well educated and happy. The children were wearing old clothes and no shoes but they could speak English

2) If we give something like a bottle of water, they would drink the water but then re-use the bottle for months 

3) Having come back to the lodge with no electricity and having to turn the generator on makes us really appreciate how much electricity we have and use.

Day 3.

Today had been absolutely amazing and we have been on safari!!!

We left the tea estate in the morning and drove to Liwonde National Park.  We are staying in a lodge with solar powered water!

On the way to our tent an elephant charged at us!  It was knocking down trees and when it was 20 metres away from us, it turned around and started walking away before turning and starting SPRINTING TOWARDS US!

We had a driven safari from 4pm to 7:45pm.

We saw so many animals including elephants, baboons, buffalo, impala, antelope, mongoose, jackels, hippos, warthogs, porcupines, and some owls.

Today has been a great day!

Day 4.

Today we somehow managed to wake up at 5am and have an hour morning safari. It was amazing when we saw a dazzle of zebra, 200 buffalo and some beautiful elephants.

When we got back we had a full English Breakfast and then went on a boat safari on the River Shire.

On the river safari we saw hippos, crocodiles and a beautiful bird - there was a bird nest on the boat.

Afterwards we left and on the way out we stopped at a wood carving shop where I bought a wooden crocodile.

After a two hour drive we arrived at our new lodge called the MakoKola Retreat with a great view of Lake Malawi. We are now staying in lodge 35. It is lovely. It is small and snug and has a thatched roof. 

Day 5.

All I can saw is WOW!  What I just saw was amazing.

We went to the Rainbow Hope senior school (the main school we ware supporting). It was so different to our school. It was just two tiny buildings with four tiny classroom with some desks and a backboard.

We saw the solar equipment we arranged - there are only four panels. It was working but there we no light bulbs in the slots and we counted 23 light bulbs they needed. We then went to lesson on agricultural technology and how to better grow crops and look after animals.

We left Rainbow Hope to help a company called Book Bus which is a Bus that goes to school to give a lesson using Usbourne books. We went with them to a primary school with 1,876 pupils and 28 teachers! Everyone cheered when we arrived and went to the head teacher’s office.  We were greeted and talked to her before we went off to teach English. We taught outside in the shade reading a book with the students. I read a book called “The fox and the stork” with the moral of always be kind to your friends and they will be kind to you. It was a really good book and the class loved it. Harry read “The fox and the crow”.

Once the session was over we gave all the kids in our classes a pencil and an exercise book.

This morning has been perfect.

After lunch we went to People Shop and bought the light bulbs for Rainbow Hope school and put them in. There were no ladders but we helped Dad and Inno do it.

We then went to a school assembly and showed all the students how to use a mosquito net. They had a debate on the advantages of sleeping under a net (no malaria) against using nets to fish, protecting crops or building fences. Afterwards we gave every student and teacher a mosquito net.

While we were there we also gave the school a football, a net ball and a rugby ball (we are teaching them to play rugby tomorrow). We took lots of photos.

When we left Rainbow Hope we spent some time with local boys called Roderick, James and Joseph. Roderick organised a football match that we played in.

As the sun went down we visited a local family. We gave them some gifts which they appreciated. We went into their house which had no electricity and not much space at all. All five brothers and sisters slept in one bed and the mother slept with the corn bags.

Today has been AMAZING.

Day 6 - our last full day

Today is our LAST day. I am very sad but I think it will be great to see Mum.

We had to wake up early so we could get to a Primary school on time. The primary school has 720 children and 12 teachers!

We took part in two English lessons. First with Year 3 (called Standard 3) which was quite easy and then we had a lesson with Year 6 which was hard about types of adjectives.

When we visited Standard 3 there were 50 children sitting on the floor, most with dirty clothes and no shoes with a very strict woman as a teacher. Many children did not have proper pens - just the inside of biros. Whereas in Standard 6 there were not as many children, all the children had desks and chairs (garden furniture) and they had a nice teacher who wore a tie.

When we left we gave both classes some exercise books, some pencils, pens and sweets.

We then visited the school’s borehole which was surprisingly easy to use!

Next we went to the CISER Conservation Centre. CISER stands for Community Initiative for Self-Reliance. We saw the plants they are trying to grow. We also sat their fast-fast stove which is safer because there are no sticks or logs sticking out in three directions like with the traditional three stone stove. The fast-fast stove is also more efficient because it can run on twigs instead of logs.

After lunch we went back to the Rainbow Hope School to say good bye and for a ceremony where we formally handed over the solar project. We also gave a talk about the rules of rugby and how to play.

During the speeches by the head master and school founder, a girl asked to read a poem she had written to show her appreciation for the mosquito nets we gave.   This is the poem the girl wrote: 

Wneew. Wneew.

A mosquito there.

A mosquito here.

Deep in the jungle

Welcoming you to Malawi, the warm heart of Africa.

Mayi mwanawanga ine

A mother crying here

A mother crying there

Death looming over the place

Welcoming you to MakoKola Village.

Why? why

Do I have to lose my little sister.

Why? Why

Do I have to lost my big brother.

From this wicked disease.

I stood firm today and said no more.

No more to mosquitoes, no more to malaria.

Now I am free. Free as a bird.

Because of the mosquito net.

Chiteterzo net.

Thank you!

We left the school for a final visit to a local family where we helped do some washing and learnt about their daily life. Then we went to the sport ground and taught the school to play a game of tag rugby. Although there was a lot of forward passing it was a great game and a great day!

Day 7 - Going home.

Today we left MakoKola Retreat and took a four hour drive to Lilongwe airport. When we got there we said our farewells to Inno and Wellie. We went into the airport and managed to buy a game of Bawo (the traditional game we have been taught). We took a two hour flight back to Johannesburg and boarded our A380, ready to leave Africa.

Epilogue.

I found that in Malawi everyone appreciated anything from an exercise book to a single sweet to solar power. They were very friendly and very grateful. A way of showing that is the way that the headmaster of Rainbow Hope actually kneeled to show his appreciation.

Our visit to Malawi made me realise how lucky we are to have the simple things in life like food, water and electricity. This experience has been life changing and I really hope that we can come back soon!

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