Malawi Food Crisis

Notification from our friends at EMMS International:

Malawi is in a state of emergency. It is estimated that more than 6.5 million people are going hungry, not knowing when they will next eat.

People are travelling for days to get to markets and queueing for food.
This is a very desperate situation for many.

The floods last year have decimated crops. This is now having a big impact on the amount of food available. It is always the poorest and most vulnerable to are hit first and hardest.

Just to be clear, there is absolutely no expectation that you give to this appeal, as you have already been so generous. But if you feel you know someone who would be in a position to help, here is the information on our response, which is being doubled by the Scottish government. Your prayers would be so appreciated:
How you can help

· Please pray for the people of Malawi, the poorest and most vulnerable.

· Please also pray for our partner hospitals, who are often dealing with the most desperate.

· Please support our partner hospitals by donating to our emergency appeal, which is being doubled by the Scottish government.

http://www.emms.org/get-involved/donate/urgent-appeals/emergency-appeal-malawi-food-crisis/

This appeal will help 3,350 vulnerable people get the food they need to see themselves through this crisis by:

· Providing monthly food to households
· Helping farmers to grow what they can
· Building grain stores to protect valuable crops for the difficult months to come
You will be supporting Mulanje Mission Hospital, Nkhoma Mission Hospital and LISAP to respond to the needs of their communities.

 

 

Community Benefit – two fold

In 2015, the annual Lake of Stars Festival was hosted in Sunbird Nkopola with SolarAid’s lights featuring as part of what is now  classified as one of the most far out festivals in the world. From this SolarAid started a new initiative, distributing to 5 local schools (to the festival) their very own community charging stations.

We were fortunate to visit two of the 5 schools whilst out on the road this week, let me set the scene and share their stories:

Current problem – no electricity  = dependance on grass, candles or kerosene and these sources are not sustainable, they are dirty, harmful and expensive.

Solution – Solar lights = clean, sustainable, economically and environmentally friendly light source.

Charging Station: 45 lights, a 10 capacity usb charging port, a 20W solar panel and a battery.

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With these stations each school has been able to  distribute the lights and impact the lives of 45 households who wouldn’t ordinarily afford a light, whilst earning money to support further expansion and provide themselves with an income that can support school needs.

Price comparison of different sources:

1 litre of kerosene oil @ 1500 kwacha (approx £1.50)- depending on the number of lamps used in each household could last between 3 – 7days (reportedly now, becoming very difficult to source and is being sold on the black market, with not price regulation).

1 candles costs 100 kwacha (approx 10p) and will only burn for 2-3 hours, so 7 nights = 700 kwacha (approx 70p).

1 solar light costing 600 kwacha per month to charge (150 kwacha / 15p a week) and the light will last between 2-3 days.

Benefit 1: Community 

Speaking with the children now living with the lights they shared their stories and what benefits the solar lights have brought to their lives, some of those mentioned by the children are:

– being able to study and read at night.
– parents are able to do carry on working at night
– it is safer, less risk of fire and burns.
– easier to do tasks in and outside the house
– less fumes
– they can see snakes more easily
– getting safely to and from the latrine (toilet)
– parents have more money to use for other things.

Since the lights have been introduced to home live – teachers have noticed a significant improvement in the childrens performance at school.

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What is not to love about all of the above!!?? Something so basic as light provides the means to do basic every day tasks with ease and opens doors to opportunities that would have otherwise not been available.

Benefit 2: School (i.e. where does the money go?)

Half of income to both schools is deposited into Sunny Money’s account, where it is then ring fenced for the cost and expansion of the lights and charging station for each school when it accumulates sufficient funds.

The other half is kept by the schools and it plays a significant role in enabling them to invest money in jobs and improvements that would otherwise not be able to be done. It was these stories that hit hard…. and reinforced how little they have.

Koche School – Headteacher, Mr Mateme felt it only right to show us the improves achieved. We were proudly shown:
– two classroom walls repaired by cement they were able to buy with the income.

– black boards have been able to be improved
– broken windows panes were able to replaced
– bolts and pad locks were fitted to a class room and the school woodwork shop, that previously had poor security
– the woodwork shop was able to have a electricity socket replaced (after the wiring was stolen).

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Small but important alterations to the school, as they were having what little school resources they had stolen with thieves just climbing through the holes.

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However these repairs are just the start for the school, the income has enabled them to pull together a wish list and the two most pressing jobs on the list still to be tackled are:
– the improvement of the water supply to the school so the school (and local community who also use the supply) is provided with sanitised water fit for consumption. A local fishing business, fitted the school with a water supply as a good will gesture because the local water board is not able to supply to this area due to lack of infrastructure (literally), but (and it is a big one) despite the good will the water is direct from the lake (a few km away) and in rainy season causes much illness (severe diahorrea caused two young people to die last year) for all those consuming the water. Horrifically those who supplied the water know it was unfit – but went ahead because it was better than nothing – this is how much they are in need that those using are willing to take the risk. The light and income now provides them with the means to make the preparations needed to rectify this. Thank the good Lord!
– Secondly the school have over 3500 students and they haven’t enough class rooms, so their next dream is to provide shaded canopies to those classes being taught outside. Again another improvement I think it would be hard to argue against – I am grateful that the solar lighting is offering the means to see this happen.

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Moet School- Headteacher, Charles laid it out simply – this money provides the school (for orphans and the locals with not enough money to send their children to school) with the means to buy sugar and flour  – so as to provide the children with breakfast every morning and a lunch on the longer school day (Thursday). I think that speaks for itself!

This wonderful two fold effect has already transformed 90 homes (the number of lives in those homes is unknown, but going on 5 people in each household, then already 450 people are benefiting) and over 4000 children in the two schools are seeing their learning environment improve in just 5months!

This week has shown what impact a little passion, imagination and collaboration can achieve. Long may this continue and grow – thank you SolarAid and SunnyMoney – keep doing what you are doing – you are doing incredible work and we look forward to being part of the journey ahead!

Off line…

Since arriving here in Malawi we have discovered we were very out of date on our understanding of the countries population. Rather than the 15.9million we understood it to be the new updated figure is 17million (neighbouring Zambia, 8 times in size has the same population) with only 1.5 million having access to electricity. It is for this very reason that one of SolarAid aims is to go where no one else goes so the millions of people living remotely can be introduced, educated and given the opportunity to live with the benefits of solar light. It is with this focus, that we have spent the last 3 days.

Our first stop was to a school (approx 2 hours from Lilongwe, mainly due to the dirt tracks) – where we were supposed to be having a very low key visit to meet with Sunny Moneys best Agent – Mr Mdokosa. However on arrival we were greeted by 200 beaming smiles and the most well behaved school children we have ever encountered. After meeting with the head teacher and teachers, we proceeded out onto the main grass area to spend time with the children, who had prepared poems and a song for us. Brave spent time educating the children about the benefits of the solar lights, reenforcing the message and hard work Mr Mdokosa had already done at the school – the reaping evidence was with two boys there and then buying their very own Pico lights!!

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After our visit we went into the village to visit with the Teacher District Coordinator (TDC) William. He is in charge of 12 schools within the district and is of great importance and influence to both SolarAid and the schools Head Teachers. He was incredibly welcoming and insisted we proceed to his house so he could proudly showed us his lights!! A true ambassador sharing the good news of solar lights, so I think it is safe to say – he is for Sunny Money!!

From here Mr Mdokosa took us to the neighbouring village, where he lives, explaining and showing us some of the many businesses and enterprises he was involved in, from Sunny Money, to teaching, having his own video shop and preaching on a Sunday and many more things in-between. His genuineness, energy, warmth and smiles I suspect contribute heavily to his success and before we said our goodbyes to Mr Mdokosa, we were gifted with a short visit with his family and received their wonderful hospitality setting us up for our 3 hour drive south to our accommodation.

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Today, the day began early as we proceeded to take the ‘remote’ to the next level having a 100km drive ahead of us, knowing that only half the journey was to be on tarmac (much of which is single track) and the other half being a very rough and dirty track. The lack of infrastructure makes many of these journeys incredibly hard and long – though Beth and I have never looked so tanned (sadly short lived)!

Our journey was worth it – we arrived in Mankanjira school where we met with Luka and Ivy, two of the Sunny Money team and the Head Teacher – Steve. Ivy is Sunny Money’s best and longest serving sales rep – now in charge of the largest region of Malawi, she attended today’s meeting to follow up with the head teachers in this district to take orders and distribute the PICO Solar Light. However in true african style, the meeting took place in a now vacant classroom come store room, storing sacks of cement. In the midst of the Head Teachers meeting, Ivy found herself opening her room up to an unexpected collection, making way for those traveling on the back of the lorry – coming and going with the sacks to load the lorry so they could carry on their journey. Despite this curve ball…. Ivy carried on professionally, successfully selling lights, answering questions and raising awareness of other products available in the range for the next follow up visit in a few weeks time. Even in the few meetings Ivy has had with these Head Teachers, trust and confidence exists and now anticipation awaits… as the introduction and education of the lights begins back in the schools.

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Head Teachers are an invaluable vehicle due to the respect, trustworthiness and status they hold by in the community, as a result Sunny Money continues to expand and build their network and partnerships so as to make full use of the access, influence and platform Head Teachers can offer, bringing greater impact than Sunny Money could manage on their own.

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Knowing the importance of sharing our last few days with you (with this blog only scratching the surface), I intially began by apologising for the delay in getting this post up, due to the lack of internet access…. however I came to the conclusion an apology shouldn’t be given on that basis. Beth and I had the privilege of visiting a small number of those who live a hard and challenging life, and being off line is the least of their worries.

Sunny Money through their incredible passion, work and partnerships are offering a lifeline of clean sustainable light to millions that live without electricity (and much more), it is with this heart that we share this little insight and we know you will understand why we have been off line.

Gifts

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Having arrived in the sunny and incredibly friendly Malawi, Beth and I find ourselves nestled in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Liliongwe’s Old Town also known as our temporary home and it is from here that the adventure has begun.

After what was a VERY welcomed nights rest, we set off this morning ready to embrace the day ahead. Trying to use every opportunity to take in the sites… we walked with confidence and the sun on our backs to our first destination – The Freedom from Fistula (FFF) clinic at Bwaila Maternity Hospitality.

We knew we had arrived when we say a large number of women queuing to be treated in the back of the jeeps parked in the hospital driveway, as the men and children sat outside the gates in the dust. Our task on arrival was now to find Margaret Moyo, the FFF clinic coordinator.

Knocking on the door of the office, we weren’t really sure what to expect…. and following the instruction from the quiet woman guard, sitting on a little stool in the corridor we tentatively opened the door. We were wrong to have worried because our host came bounding out of the side office to greet us, in her beautiful and friendly manner giving us a welcoming hug. Within a short time we were seated, being offered refreshments and catching up with Lois (The Gloag Foundation) and Natalie from (FFF, Madagascar) and a few minutes later we had the pleasure of meeting our lovely colleagues in person – Adrien and Brave (Sunny Money).

With everyone now arrived, we were kindly shown around the clinic, meeting some of the beautiful women being taken care of post op and in recovery, the incredible and passionate staff and hearing more about the wonderful work and gift…. FFF is giving women! This gift goes well beyond the treatment for fistula, these women are given a place to rest, recover, make friends, be educated in both self care and basic schooling, crafts and cookery lessons, be empowered and reinstating self worth – collectively it is giving these women the means and confidence to go home to a better quality of life.

We then soon turned to business – Sunny Money introducing the FFF team to the wonderful products available (a mini energy distribution hub and solar lights) to provide women with the means to have personal energy for their homes as well a means to earn money. A partnership and equipping of women that we eagerly await to unfold!!

In the afternoon, unknowingly to us, our market experience began as we sat having the quiet ice-cream, time we had hoped to have to psych ourselves up for what we were about to embark upon – gift buying for our loved ones in the local flea market (no expense spared). Without the seats even being warm yet we were approached by two very friendly entrepreneurs, keen to show us their art work (one being ‘our’ friend, James who we had the pleasure of meeting within 5mins of arriving into Lilongwe) and after a long negotiation – Beth is now a proud owner at a bargain price of 2000 kwacha of a lovely piece of Elephant artwork and from here were coxed into moving our meeting to James’s stall in the market place.

For the older generation (or perhaps just my own), we lived the experience of Ground Hog Day – each stall used the exact same sales pitch to woo their customers in and convince them that they were getting a ‘special price’. Everything began with a ‘hello, how are you?’ and a hand shake with the three staple lines to follow… ‘it’s free to look’, ‘can I show my artwork?’ and ‘I give you good price’ (but they never actually divulged the figure).

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Despite the market being only approximately 70metres long and should only take the average person 15mins from start to finish, Beth and I said goodbye to the last stall holder 75mins later!!

There is no doubting that these people are truly resourceful and talented and despite the stalls all holding the same products you cant get away of being in awe of how gifted and creative they are.

Day one has seen many different gifts…. we are truly grateful for the wonderful team and heart FFF have to care for those affected by fistula and for the wooden carved key-ring that every stall holder came to us like it was the first time we had seen it… so we ended our day on high as that’s our gifts sorted…

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‘I give you good price’