Solar Installation training

​This years Christmas season was a bit different from all other years. I spent the most part of the season at a training with Age Africa and it was as good a way to spend the holidays as any

This particular training was on solar installation and it lasted for ten days,  from 19 to 29 December (We breaked for christmas and came back to continue).Normaly,  solar installation is done by boys but age africa went against this norm and succesfulky rained girls in this. The idea was to train girls who had finished secondary school from the AGE africa bursary with skills to install and repair a solar system in a home. At the beginning of the training,  i was very skeptical on whether the training wouod be a sucess but just after a few days,  i was very convinced of its success. 

The facilitator, and some participants

I particulary liked the trainer because she was someone the girls could identify with. She was someone who had geown up in a siliar sotuation like them but her life has changed for the better since she started working on solar installation and repairs. So this background helped the participants easily see themselves doing this kind of thing. And her method of teaching was very encompassing. We had practicals from the first day of training and she would repeat the topic until she was sure everybody had gotten it. 


At the end of the training,  it was interesting to me to see all the girls confidently go through the whole process. i was intrigued seeing the girls climbing on the roof like its nothing and doing their work there. The same girls who two weeks ago did not know anything about the elements of solar power were now working like pros and making light shine.

This was a fun experience for me and i learnt very useful things about electronic repairs from this tarining. my only hope now is that thesw girls go out and make something of themselves with the trainig they acquired here.

Three ways to have a mango

​Mangoe season has just began all over Malawi and it couldnt have come at a better time. My community was blessed with alot of mango trees,  of all shapes and sizes ; from those that are very small  to those that can wiegh a kg or 2. This is the happiest season for children because they can eat this sweet fruit however much they want. 

I have noticed three types of ways of eating the mango fruit that i  have seen in my community and would like to share. The first one is boiling them. All you do is get the mangoes and boil as you would eggs and you can either eat them with the covers or not.When i first heard of this,  it sounded strange to me. I was very skeptical at first so i did not want to try any boiled mangoes. But when i finally tried them,  i quickly knew why they are such a big deal around here.  Just two or three of them are enough to fill your stomach and with the ongoing hunger crisis,its easy to understand why they have become a substitute for meals. They are simply the best way to have a mango.

The boiled mangoes

The second one which is the most common all over the world i assume is just eating them as they are. Especially with the farming season which has also just started,  its not unusual to find a family sitting under a mango tree in the middle of their fields having some mangoes with their hoes besides them. This is another reason why the mangoes come at a perfect time i.e farming time because people can rest under their shades after the toilsome labour of farming and be soothed by the juicy mangoes. And people are very generous with their mangoes too; I cant visit someone without being offered a basin of mangoes or finding them with friends sitting around a basin of mangoes and being asked to join.

The third and last type of way to have a mango is the cubed mango. This is not so common in my community but a few people still do it. This is when you peel a mango (Preferably one which is still a bit hard and not very ripe) and cut it into cubes onto a plate. You can either have them with salt if they are not at all ripe. 

Mango season also comes with some few other things as well,  like some kids breaking their legs or hands because of falling from a mango tree and a few cases if diarrhea because one had too many mangoes or they were not properly washed. And of course the mangoes this season didnt grow very well as they usually do, But so far,  i think everybody is happy its that time of the year again and i intend to eat as many mangoes as i possibly can.

My Little Vegetable Garden

​During Pre-service training, we had a permaculture expert come and talk to us about perma-gardening and with the way he talked,  i saw myself starting a garden when i got to my community. 

After some months in my community, I excitedly told my neighbours and my friends i wanted to start a garden at my backyard and they all laughed and said i couldnt do it. Only one person believed I could manage it;a 15 year old boy named Innocent (and he has helped every step of the way) I quickly got discouraged and shoved the idea at the back of my brain. Until one day, I woke up and decided I was gonna do it despite what people said. So I woke up early, went to my neighbour, borrowed a hoe and started tilling the place. My neighbours kept coming by and asking what I was doing. I told them starting myself a vegetable garden. “Are you serious?” they asked over and over again. 

Innocent and a friend making the fence
Two weeks after planting

The next thing was to make a small fence for the garden. Once i said this people finally realised i was serious and were more than happy to help out. All materials needed for the fence were offered to me for free, some brought me manure  some gave me seeds, and some helped with the labour. So on 08 August 2016, I started my Vegetable garden journey. 

Its been exactly a month now and the vegetables are growing healthy and right on time. We planted Tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, rape (also known as Brassica rapa), beans and we recently added pumpkin leaves and maize. And this week i was able to get some bean leaves for lunch from the garden.It has been an exciting and educative journey for me. I have never done gardening before so I am learning as I go. Some things i have to be taught, other things i am figuring out myself. I have learnt  transplanting , experimenting with different types of manure and generally how to take care of my little plants as I watch them grow. The watering has been the hardest part. Sometimes I dont have the energy for it but i know I still have to do it. 

The progress after a month

One thing i like about my garden is that it has given me something to keep me busy on the days that I am not so busy, sort of like a hobby. If i ever get bored, i just go there and find something to do. It has also been a good conversation starter; people are coming everyday and giving me tips on what i should and should not be doing. What i am most excited about are the tomatoes, I cant wait until they are all grown and i can start harvesting them.

S.H.E Empowered

From 18-22 July, i was out of my site attending Age Africa’s 6th annual girls retreat. The theme of this retreat was S.H.E Empowered (Safety, Health and Education ) and it gathered 88 girls from 22 different schools plus 7 mentors, three faculty advisors and two Corps Africa volunteers (Myself and Vanessa Chimutu).  I went there with four girls from the Community Day Secondary School i volunteer at and in these five days,  i saw these girls get transformed for the better with the knowledge that they gained.  I also learnt a great deal of things.

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Each day had its own set of speakers with a different topic everytime. The first  speaker was a man, Mr Bunyonga, who talked to us about how there is a need for behaviour change in order to overcome the poverty crisis in Africa, Malawi specifically. He talked about the different types of poverty and how behaviour change can help eliminate them. He then proceeded to talk about how certain behaviours (especially sexual behaviours) contribute in causing some diseases like STI’s and Cancer and how these contribute to the poverty crisis. This topic captured the girls attention the most as they fired the man with question after question and had many myths they had been taught in the villages debunked.

The sessions would usually progress into the evening and on this particular eveni g, we had a film director, Mr Shamu Joya come and showcase to us his film “The seasons of life” which has won a number of awards across Africa. After the film had ended he told us of how as a child he had always wanted to work in the film indusrty and how he finally got to do it. He encouraged the girls to always work towards their dreams and soon enough they will get there. It is safe to say we all slept inspired this night.

On the next day, We had a speaker, Mpatso Jumbe talk to the girls about their bodies and how it works. Throughtout the session she kept on reminding us “If you dont know how parts of your body work, or how to use them, somebody else will come in and know how to use them”. She urged the girls to abstain from behaviours that could hinder their future and to say No to things they do not want.

Let me say here that these sessions where not of the sitting down and listening kind of sessions,  they were very interactive ones. There were so many activities and games included in the learning. Alot of singing, dancing and role playing were incorparated into the sessions that you barely notived time passing by. We even had two famous tv and radio comedians come and deliver a session in a very comedic yet informative way that left everybody laughing.

As i sat listening to all these speakers come in and share with the girls on different topics, i couldn’t help but envy how lucky they are. I wished i had the chance to attend such a retreat when i was in secondary school. I wish somebody had taught me all the different things the girls were being taught . But i also felt proud of being a part of it all. The change that happened with the girls in the few days was evident before the week was even over; They became more confident about their passions and it showed in how they spoke .

My favourite day of all was on wednesday,  and this was a day specifically reserved for motivational and career talks. I learnt so much on this day but i wont write about it here. But you can read about it and the rest of the retreat on my partner Vanessa’s blog

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Nsondole’s next generation of volunteers

As I briefly mentioned in one of my previous blogs, when I got posted to my sight, I was placed to work with an organisation known as AgeAfrica and we have weekly C.H.A.T sessions with a group of girls on Wednesdays and one of the topics in our books is Volunteerism. Me being a CorpsAfrica volunteer thought this was a very important topic that no girl should miss and knowing that the form 2 girls will be on holiday when we finally get to it and therefore will not have a chance to learn with us, I convinced the Faculty Adviser if we could just scratch the surface of it for the sake of the form 2’s. And so the Faculty adviser talked to the girls for a short while about volunteerism and how it is actually required of them as Age Africa members.
After the discussion, we decided that there had to be a practical aspect of it. That is when we started brainstorming on different activities we could do for our community. We decided we were going to go and clean at the Health clinic in our community known as Bimbi Health Clinic. We approached the people in charge of the clinic and set a day to do the cleaning. Finally the day came and we went out to do our work.

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On the way to Bimbi Health Clinic

As we were cleaning the grounds, a lot of people came to see us do the work. “Are you on punishment?” “Are you preparing to have an event here?” are just some of questions we were asked and every time we were asked one of our girls would proudly say “ ayi, tangozipeleka” (no, we are simply volunteering). Many people could not understand why a person could simply volunteer to clean at the clinic without being forced to. The hospital staff were just as surprised. They said ever since they could all remember, there had never been someone who volunteered to clean for them and they were very supportive by providing us with tools and also helping. We also had many women at the hospital approach us and express their gratitude for the work. This motivated the girls even more and they kept asking for more places to work on and they even exceeded my expectations with what we accomplished.

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Having all these people asking questions made the girls more proud of what they were doing and I could tell from the way they were responding to the people that they were excited of what they were doing.  Most of them had never done any volunteer work in their life before. They knew volunteers existed but they never knew you could also volunteer to do some small but beneficial things for your community and find satisfaction while doing it. They couldn’t have been happier when one staff member brought out gloves and dust masks for them to wear and this added to their satisfaction.
After all the work was done, we sat down to reflect on the days activities. The main point that was raised was when we could do this again. From the talks I have had with them, I know that most of them want to help out in their community, they want to do something for it, but they think it has to be some great thing. What this exercise taught them is that however small they can help out, it goes a long way in the hearts of people. “We should do this again sooner” said one girl “and maybe next time we can help the old women in our communities” said another and right there they started shouting out names of old women in the communities we could help and the chores we could do for them. Just watching this, I knew I was looking at the next generation of volunteers.

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The unsung heroes of Girl Education

If you were to visit my community, Nsondole, it would not take you a week to notice that most girls do not attend school. Most girls only get to attend lower classes of primary school, the numbers start dropping in std 7.The numbers reach a new low at secondary where only a few girls have the privilege of attending. So many situations lead to girls dropping out of school, some cannot afford secondary school fees, some get pregnant while in school and it is not unusual for young girls to drop out of school and get married as young as 14 years old.

Many organisations have come up to help with this problem and are doing a commendable job of sponsoring the girls with school fees and some basic necessities to make sure they stay in school. Organisations like AGE AFRICA, CAMFED and STORYTIME. Today however, i would like to talk about the unsung champions of girl education and these are the Mother’s group.

The Mother’s group Is an initiative by the Malawi ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) started in 2008 to support girls education. These are women from the schools catchment area selected to help with issues concerning girl education. They work as volunteers and their duties mostly lie in guidance and counselling or managing the school garden.

Nsondole mother group consists of 17 women; 10 from the primary school and 7 from the secondary school and it is heart warming to see that this group of women are taking girl child education seriously. I have seen these women sacrifice their time to make sure that girls continue to go to school. I have seen them walk tirelessly for long distances to save girls from early marriages.  I have witnessed them come together to do piece works just to buy a girl they barely know school uniform. They better not hear that you are marrying off your child, or they come knocking on your door the same day just like Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza is doing . Even when a girl got pregnant while in school, they will help her get back after delivery.
One woman told me she has been nicknamed “Oswantchito” roughly translated ” somebody with nothing to do”. People call her this because she does not get paid for her services but yet she works relentlessly to make sure girls go to school. Asked if this does not bother her, she said all she wants to see is many girls in her community get the education the she never had the chance of getting. She, and the rest of the group members strongly believe education is key to success and they will go as far as they can to make sure that not only do they girls go to school, but they also have a chance of succeeding.

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The chairladies of the primary and secondary mother groups

Recently, they have volunteered to look after the std 8 girls at their self boarding. This means spending nights away from their families and they are willing to do this for free because they really are passionate about girl child education. I am sure these are the kind of people Michelle Obama had in mind when launching the Let Girls Learn Campaign . There are so many remarkable things that these people are doing to support not only girl education but even boys education as well. As much as they cannot afford to pay school fees for any of the girls but in whatever way they can help, they do it whole heatedly and i believe these are the kind of people that are needed to advance the education of the girl child. So far, they are the group that have inspired me to do more.

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Me and the primary school chairlady
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With the secondary school chairlady sharing sowing skills

I think am gonna like it here

Ever since i was called for the training in Chongoni, Dedza family and friends had been asking what it is i was going to do after the training. After having answered the question a million times, i automatically came up with an answer i gave to everybody you would think was scripted. “I am going to live in a village and work with the community members …” was how it started. But that is easier said than done. The reality of what i had been telling people all this time started to sink in once they announced which community i had been placed in. Nsondole, Zomba.
I had never heard of that place before Andrew announced it was where i was going.(but then again, i have only heard of a few places in zomba). The next five days after the site announcements were hard. I kept coming up with images of what the place looked like, what the people are like, the wheather of that place and the like. I could have written a whole book of what i was expecting my site to be like. Then came the day to be dropped off. I dont rememeber a day i was as nervous as i was on this day, and when the bus stopped at the school, my legs almost didnt let me out of the car…but i came out of the vehicle anyway.

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my home for now

Just after having spent one night in Nsondole village, i realised that it was nothing i had imagined, i didnt even come close to getting it right. The wheather is not as i expected(we are close to Lake Chirwa so it gets really hot at times, but it has also rained everynight i have been here). I didnt get a host family, but instead got placed with some self-boarding girls and they are the sweetest.(I call then my host students) The people here were expecting a white person, they got me instead, but they are still very welcoming especially the students.

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My host students

As days are slowly passing, i have began to get used to this place and i think am gonna like it here! The nervousness is still there, but not as bad as before.One thing i have particulary come to love about this place is the accent of the people.Its the same chichewa i have been hearing all my life, but its just the way their words come out. They say its a mixture of Chichewa and Chinyanja. Who knew chichewa could sound so sweet, i have spoken the langauge all my life, but never once have i heard it spoken so sweetly as these people do. I could listen to their stories all day becaue of that accent. I hope after one year my tongue will have learned this trick of theirs. I should probably start working on it now!

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Another view of the house