‘I am now a qualified teacher!. How does it feel???? Excellent. I have been teaching for the last ten years but I can now say I know what I’m doing and have found my calling. I have joined up the force of lifelong learning and love being back at Stepping Stones, the school I founded and built in Nkhata Bay.
(Note from editor: Alice did her PGCE studies and practice placements in Lilongwe, so has been living there with her two daughters for most of the year. She happily returned to Butterfly Space at the end of her studies in May, and will remain there until taking up a full-time teaching post in Lilongwe in September).
The school now has 100 children spread across five classes and the Malawian teaching team are doing a great job. Francis, a Canadian volunteer, who has taken on an admin, oversight and logistics role for the school, ably supports them. It has been so lovely to be a part of the school again these last two months and I feel safe in the knowledge that my vision and dream is being realised, even when I have to be away from it in Lilongwe. The next classroom block is almost complete as well as the school hall and we are blessed that a team from England will be coming in the summer, to help with making and moulding the remaining required bricks as well as building a playground for the children.
Another programme that is really thriving is Mpamba, a disability centre that Butterfly Space has helped develop over the past few years. The building was bought some five years ago and handed over to the disabled group to have vocational training in tailoring, carpentry and cooking. The tailors continue to be there everyday and are selling lovely bags that they have made. Also using the building are new members of the team learning about farming, and doing local crafts and blacksmith work. The building is also used as a nursery in the mornings and, on a part-time basis, for primary learners with one of the disabled members teaching. So all in all it is a very well-used building right at the heart of the project.
Another Canadian volunteer, Emmanuel, who is an occupational therapist, has been at the centre offering her services to over 80 clients that she saw during her stay. Many have been referred from up to 100 miles away and from other non-government organisations that will fit them for knee-pads and wheelchairs according to their needs. She has been so active visiting the centre every day and finding ways to reach the disability services for Malawians that our people find it harder to access when they are living in poverty.
On June 20th I was delighted to take a school class to an open day at Mpamba. It was a day of awareness campaigning and it had such an action-packed programme of photo displays, demonstrations, traditional dancing, drama, discussions about discrimination, and games for children to see what life is like with a disability. The day was a big success and people with disabilities met together and made plans, funded by Butterfly, to visit a nearby hospital to get the things they need to make life better. This visit to the specialist, and the assistive devices that they are hoping to get, will change their lives for the better in so many ways – it was wonderful to see the plans being made.
‘Disability is not inability’ is the tag line for what the members of Mpamba Butterfly Center stand for. Despite their disabilities they accomplish so many varied roles and take actions to bring changes to their lives. Having an occupational therapist for the last month in the surrounding villages and on individual basis on home visits as well as a community level has been amazing. She has worked with members, local leaders, and the hospital to get people to realise the activities wanted and needed through education, adaptation and rehabilitation by empowering the members.
June 20th saw the awareness day to reduce discrimination, gathering the people of all ages to participate in the different activities. Leadership, empowerment and initiative are key elements to a sustainable improvement of health and quality of life.
School groups from the UK will visit next month to take part in a range of programmes at Butterfly Space. These will include working with local schools to deliver educational activities, and other practical input. But the teams will also visit the Mpamba centre and witness as well as be an encouraging and enthusiastic part of the activities laid on by the centre members, with a special village tour, lunch and chance to buy their products all giving them money for survival and the project’s sustainability.