I am travelling out on Tuesday to work with a very small charity, Network for a Better World, which although based in Liverpool is currently working in only one area, an impoverished community in a village called Sitima in Malawi. N4BW has only been in existence since 2013 yet has already made a difference to the lives of many as a result of its interventions. One very notable project has been in supplying light in the form of solar lamps to households in the village. The project has worked like this; subsidised solar lamps are sold to households, with them paying back the cost over a 12 month period. During that time each individual household has the convenience of solar powered light after darkness falls at 6pm and can also generate an income by applying a small fee on others enabling them to charge electrical items such as mobile phones. Two local men are employed to manage the project and at the end of each year the money that has been paid back is used to buy more solar lamps and hence the project continues. Other activities have included teacher training, direct work in schools, work with disabled children, development of sport initiatives including ongoing football and netball leagues, provision of emergency grants following floods, planting of fruit trees and the purchase and distribution of mosquito nets.
Floods and drought in Malawi continue to cause issues for all with regard to food supplies and create extra hardships for those subsistence farmers and others who rely solely on agriculture for income. As a way of combatting this N4BW has embarked on an ambitious irrigation project in the belief that when completed, crops will not be washed out in years to come and local food supplies will not be diminished.
Whilst out there my intention is to focus on women and girls, partly through supporting women into self-employment and also working to keep girls in school through sharing with them methods of making reusable and washable feminine hygiene kits. Often the case is that girls miss 4 or 5 days of schooling every month, they then fall behind with their education and subsequently drop out altogether, thereby reducing their employment and income opportunities and the poverty cycle continues.
I have been to Malawi on a few occasions although the last time was March 1992. Sadly, in those 25 years the day to day living conditions for many Malawians have deteriorated and I keep trying to understand why. Recently I met up with a Malawian priest currently working in Liverpool and he presented the following as reasons which all influence the situation.
– the country itself is relatively small with no valuable natural resources
– Malawi is landlocked, meaning that the exportation of any goods is an expensive process
– weather conditions; serious droughts alternating with floods have played havoc with food production
– Malawi mostly relies on tobacco exports for its foreign exchange and with tobacco usage on the decrease, exports and related income are decreasing
– HIV has taken the lives of many often leaving widows and orphans in desperate situations. Recent reports suggest that more than 10% of the adult population are living with HIV
– and very sadly corruption exists
N4BW is particularly keen on not developing dependency but is committed to working in partnership with other organisations to work as a catalyst in getting the Sitima villagers activated and in a better position to ensure positive and sustainable livelihoods. This is going to take time and effort.
It is not just organisations that help but many individuals as well, including the large number of people who have supported me with this venture – people who have donated clothes, toys, stationery and books, particularly individuals in St Albans, Derby and Kendal, the women of Arnside and Kendal who as well as making the feminine hygiene kits have donated fabric and resources to go within the kits, a number of individuals who have made financial contributions for me to spend on emerging projects whilst out there and so many of you who have demonstrated interest and offered good wishes.
Thank you to you all for your generosity and support with this project and watch out for the next instalment.