Thursday, 21 November 2013

Day 2 in the field

Hello Joshua supporters everywhere, I have had a brilliant, but exhausting second day in the field - the team here are determined that I will sleep well so they are working me hard from dusk until dawn.

The day started with visits to three of Joshua's feeding centres, Tikondane, Mwandika and Manyenji. A warm welcome was received at all, although the more rural things got the more likely the children were to be stunned into silence by my presence, which for 1-5yr olds is impressive.

The first feeding centre, Tikondane was built earlier this year by volunteers from the UK with Quest Overseas and is in a urban area which is very poor. 230 children are registered at the centre, with roughly 85 coming each day. They have 4 Caregivers/teachers who run the centre and they have a lot of energy between them

The second feeding centre was Manwdika, which has 37 Children who attend everyday. The centre was also built by volunteers from Quest Overseas and is in a rural location, it took us 20 minutes to drive there along a dirt track, which I would get into trouble with the trades description act if I called a road. The centre is run by an energetic group of 10 caregivers, who work in pairs to keep the centre open. Joshua provides them with cooking equipment, and Lukuni Phali to feed the children everyday. With some families earning less than £10 a month, the centre provides a vital service to this rural community. The children delighted us with a song, which I joined in with poorly, much to their amusement.

From Manwdika we drove to Manyenji feeding centre, which Joshua built and is now run by Marys Meals. Here 102 children are fed and given a basic pre-school education. The centre is at the end of the line, so to speak, before we reach a river, which is impassable during the rainy season.

This is the river which Joshua would like to build a footbridge over. At present 300 students from five communities have to cross this river to get to their local primary school, during the rainy season the river is subject to flash flooding, and as Joshua's field officer in the area John explained, last year a girl died trying to cross the river on her way home from school. The rocks we jumped on to cross completely disappear and for days and weeks students can be stranded, unable to get to school. The river also stops people from getting to market, and accessing vital health facilities. Having seen the need I really hope that this is a project we can find funding for soon.

From there we drove back over the fantastic road bridge which was built thanks to Rotary support in the UK and Malawi. This bride is also saving lives, and ensures that 15 communities are no longer cut off during the rains.

We also saw two bore hole water pumps providing rural communities with clan water, and another feeding centre before meeting Mrs Agnes Msosa, who is a caregiver at a rural feeding centre. Agnes has been given 100 chickens through a project funded by Fisherman's Rest. She is caring for and feeding the chickens, which she will then sell. She hopes to buy 110 once she has sold the first batch and it is hoped that this small business model will be replicated throughout the communities Joshua supports.

In the afternoon I visit four students, two of who have been sponsored under a new grant from Heathfield and Waldron Rotary club, and two who are still looking for sponsors. This was perhaps the most incredible part of the day, it was harrowing to hear the students stories, and in some cases it was hard just to see the poverty they lived in.

One of the students I met was 17year old Lamek Maukhwala who lost both of his parents when he was 12. He lives with his grandmother and four siblings in the Baluti area. The only way to describe this area is like a semi urban slum. They have very little money for food, and many days they do not eat. But thanks to support from Heathfield and Waldron Rotary Lamek will be starting Form 1 of secondary school next term. He is very excited to be starting and expressed his thanks for this incredible opportunity.

I will share more of the students stories including pictures and films when I am back in the UK. In the meantime, thank you to everyone for reading this, and thank you even more for supporting Joshua.