Looking ahead to Sitima Summer School 2020

Looking ahead to Sitima Summer School 2020

When I returned from a two week trip to Malawi in July I knew I wanted to do more than simply watch and support others. I’d learnt so much I wanted others to learn from my experiences and potentially be able to experience and learn from their own adventures.

The effect on me has been profound and I think the last 6 months have been challenging me to listen not only to my heart but the hearts of those I met in the village of Sitima. I was given so much by people who have, (by the measures the western world uses), so little. The love and interest and care and attention was life affirming. There was no need for an exchange of any kind. As my friend Marian had told me, simply being there and taking an interest was enough for this community to want to share their love with you.

So if I could learn so much in a short space of time, what could others learn?

How could I encourage the love and care shown to me to others so that the ripples of love could go further?

Education in Malawi

extra classroom space needed

Extra classroom space needed. Not OK during rainy season

While I’m not familiar with all the details, I learnt that education is a priority to the country, yet is poorly resourced to achieve everything they want as a nation.

Primary education is free to all. The system works on achievement rather than age, so it’s not a linear way through for many children and young people. There’s eight years in primary education with a varied curriculum including English, Maths, Expressive Arts, Life Skills, Agriculture and Science. Exams are completed in English so this a fundamental part of the education system.

The government target ratio is 1 teacher to 60 pupils, but in the area I visited it was more like 1 to 100 in most schools. If you’re a teacher, can you imagine teaching 100 students at a time? The pupils have to pass the test for that year so they can progress to the next year. Wow! That’s quite an undertaking!

Many of the pupils went to school with no food, with some of the schools having charity or government feeding programmes. A couple of schools have volunteers who run their own feeding programmes as adults are well aware that nutrition is crucial to learning. It was a fascinating time for me seeing how dedicated people are committed to making their community a better place and encouraging their children to learn so that they may have more opportunities than their parents.

Education is not just a key sustainable development goal, it really is at the heart of these communities who are keen to encourage children and young people to learn so that all communities can improve.

Secondary education

secondary education in sitima malawi

Less older children stay in education

This has to paid for by families wanting children to continue in the 4 years of education offered by secondary schools. It may only be (to us), £10 a term to attend, plus uniforms, plus books, and potentially travel too, but many in the community I visited weren’t able to save this from their limited income.

To give you an idea of income in this area, ladies working on a gardening scheme are growing food for their families and then selling the rest. They may earn about 50p a day from their sales of produce. A local worker told me that it would cost about £4 a week to feed a family of 6 even with their own food stocks. The biggest employer in the area is a tobacco farm which pays about 70p a day. So it’s not easy to save pennies from this to grow a pot of £10 for each term for one child.

Have you seen the film The Boy who Harnessed the Wind? The film based on a true life book of the same name shows exactly how hard it is for people who live in rural communities with the land as their means of earning an income. Watch it or read it and let me know what you think.

For those children who live too far to travel to school everyday there are boarding schools they can attend. These cost about £90 a term. So can you see how difficult it can be for families to help their children achieve the national certificate which is the standard for getting better paid jobs? You can see the cycle can’t you – low wages = poor education.

How do we break the education poverty cycle?

Investment certainly and support to those families who need help when a crop fails, or a breadwinner dies.

My family now support a family who without our support wouldn’t be able to take up the opportunity of secondary education. My boys earn more from their paper round in a week than it costs per term. We all committed to this which is a small gesture yet will make a massive difference to the whole family we support.

Sitima Summer School 2020

Were your children occupied during their long summer holidays with all sorts of activities, trips, and fun things? Mine were. We took it for granted that they’d spend time with grandparents. We made it a part of what we supported for them to try different sports, or attend craft days. They went on scout camp and have had some brilliant memories of all they did during their “out of school” time.

This community near Zomba in south Malawi have nothing different for their children to do whilst school isn’t on. The teachers need their breaks, as do the children. But what do they do? I was there during term time so I’m not totally clear. However, from what I picked up, children will help with the family crops. They will roam around the area with their friends. They don’t have playing fields or playgrounds or balls to amuse them. Many of this community have no single toy to play with.

With families focusing on their crops there is no time to spend with children developing new skills, trying new things, or going to new places. What if we could make a small change by offering something different to these children? Will it make a difference? You betcha!

Sewing in Sitima

sewing in sitima malawi

Sewing a school bag after school

During my two weeks I helped about 20 children learn some basic sewing stitches and create a simple school bag for themselves. It was amazing the effect this had on these young people. They not only learnt a new skill and made something which was there’s to own and look after. But they saw that the skill could be used for other things. The first group I worked with wanted to make a t-shirt next. That was in the four days they spent doing about an hours sewing in the training room at Network for a Better World house. My friend Marian who I travelled with is currently back in the village helping these young people to make tops using just the couple of stitches we taught them two months ago.

So that got me thinking. What skills and activities could we help children to do in their out of school time, (we’d run the sewing club after school each day for four days each week)? They love playing and borrowed skipping ropes, frisbees and small car toys each day. What more could we offer if we dedicated some time to day time activities in what we may call a Summer Activity week?

After speaking with the charity about my ideas, they are fully supporting me to organise a 3 week trip for a group of up to six young people from England. The group will work with a similar size group of School Leavers from the village to work together to plan and deliver about 3-4 hours of activities each day for a 5 day period. It’ll be hot and there’s no idea how many children will turn up each day. But that’s not the point is it? We can’t use models that work in the UK for this as Malawi is very different. That’s why the two groups of young people working together will learn from each other the best way to do things for this community.

At the moment four young people have committed to raising the money they need to be able to go next summer. They have such enthusiasm to learn new skills and ideas from their counterparts in Sitima. They have their plans for what they’d like to share in the Summer School – music, drama, sports, science, English, sewing, health education. It was a joy to listen to them talk about their passions and what they’d each like to share.

There’s a long way to go to get on the plane (which is the most expensive part of the experience), but their determination to make a small difference to this community and a massive difference to themselves from the adventure is incredible. I know they’ll make a success of trip. I’m simply there as a guide and encourager.

Just like William, the Boy who Harnessed the Wind, young people have such imagination and the talent to make change. Let’s support them and make a difference to the education of one village in Malawi.

Can you help? Join the Sitima Supporters group and get to know the young people’s ideas.

I’d be happy to come to your group and talk about my experience as well as the plans for the Summer School and how you can get involved. Get in touch and let’s chat.

Education can change the world

Education can change the world

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

I’ve just returned from two weeks in a rural part of southern Malawi. I went with a friend who is doing some amazingeducation change world voluntary work for the small charity Network for a Better World. They aim to support people in this area who have limited support from other charities and NGOs, and even government support.

The quote above is in the training room of the volunteer house where I stayed. I’ve heard it before, but until I saw and experienced what I did, I didn’t understand how true this is.

Before I travelled my husband read up about the work of the charity and commented, “what they do is really simple isn’t it?”. Yes, it is. And what my friend had asked me to prepare was simple too – prepare some sewing projects to share with locals.

Me being me of course thought I needed to fundraise to buy the women’s group sewing machines as they only have one available to them, which isn’t well used. I now know that being even more simple is what’s needed in this community.

Education is simple.

The community I stayed in, at Sitima near Zomba live simple lives. Their focus is on surviving day to day, and very much at the base of Maslow’s hierachy of needs – food, shelter, warmth and rest. They wake with sunrise and start their fires to cook their simple porridge breakfast. Children go to school (free for the eight stages of primary education) whilst parents work on their small plots of land where they grow food for themselves or to sell.

There’s few jobs in this area. There is a tobacco farm which employs workers. A local man I got to know who works for the charity said, “it’s slave labour”, yet they do earn and some education is provided for the children of workers. Everything they do in their day is to help them buy their next meal or wood to burn to cook the meal, or provide some basics for family needs.

Question: Once your basic needs are met for food, shelter, warmth and rest, what’s important to you?

Education is key to change

As children and teenagers in the UK we’re told, encouraged and cajoled into learning, passing exams and preparing ourselves for the next stage in life. Whatever your belief about tests and exams, we are all very aware that education is a key factor in our development, and opportunities for the future.

As children and young people we may also learn lots of skills which we either continue to use or put to one side. For example, music, sport and crafts are all skills and part of our overall education and life skills. Do we value them in our society as much as we should? Maybe that’s a topic for another day.

Back to education as it’s generally considered.

education can change the worldIn Malawi the government aims to have a 1:60 teacher:pupil ratio . In the area I visited, it’s more like 1:100. I’m no teacher or education specialist, but that’s quite a challenge teachers and pupils alike have got to learn in that environment. Yet children are learning. There is a test at the end of each year and pupils need to pass this to move onto the next stage.

Primary education is free to all, so class sizes doubled I’m told, once this happened. There’s not enough teachers and in the area I was in a lot of schools didn’t have houses for the teachers, so they wouldn’t be able to recruit them to their school.

Question: What if we thought about education as more basic than going to school?

In my short time, (and my two weeks really did feel very short), I ran some sewing classes for children in the local villages. Sewing is not a skill that’s taught in schools as it’s one small part of the Expressive Arts curriculum. Schools don’t have the resources to teach all parts of the curriculum and certainly don’t have money to buy fabric, needles and thread.

My memories of sewing at primary school, developing my skills with my Mum and Grandmothers were of simple joyous times creating things with my own hands. Yes, sewing may be a basic skill to you and me, but to this group of people it’s not basic at all. Yet, sewing could be a skill which these young people could develop to make their own clothes, or make things to sell to others that diversifies the income of their family unit.

Whilst some of our young people dream of being professional sportsmen and women and developing their talents to earn an exceptional income, in some cases, the group I worked with wanted to learn how to make a t-shirt. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? It is achievable.

Question: What’s the one skill you’ve learnt in life that you would feel lost without?

Going back to Maslow, and basic needs, some of the work my friend Marian and her volunteer team have done is on cooking and nutrition. There is a need in the area to diversify crops grown, methods of cooking, and ensure nutrition is maintained for all family members. Each part of this is about education.

Whilst many in the western world are looking at the “best way to lose weight”, or “what supplement should I take for x”, this community, and others like it, need help with “how to maintain good nutrition when my harvest fails”. What if we started our questions in our lives the other way round, starting from our basic needs first? Instead of “what do I need to do to lose weight”, ask, “what food do I need today to keep me healthy and energised to do the activities I’m choosing to participate in”? Would we learn more if we started with basic questions and built up our blocks of knowledge again?

Education can change the world

You don’t have to think in terms of SATs, GCSEs, IBs, A Levels or degrees to help those around you change their world. I want to start thinking in more simple terms about education and what we can learn from those who are living at the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy for our western lifestyles. What if we responded to the requests of our children to explore something new. That’s education. What if we all took responsibility for educating ourselves and others rather than assuming it’s someone else’s job? That’s education.

Showing someone how to cook a simple meal, or clean the bathroom, or mow the lawn – that’s education. Sharing sewing school education in practiceyour skill or talent with someone else, that’s education. Taking an interest in someone else’s life, that’s education. We can all learn from others, and we can all teach and encourage others. I don’t believe it’s about kindness or mindset, it’s simply something we can all do in our daily lives wherever we live. The ripple effect will happen from one shared skill.

When I learnt to sew as a child, I’m sure my Mum and Grandmothers didn’t consider what ripple effect it would cause around the world. Yet it has. I’ve started something simple in a small community with 19 children who are craving to learn more, yet can already make changes in their own lives with the needle and thread I left them.

What can you do this week to help others become more educated in one small part of their life?


I will be continuing to support the work of Sewing in Sitima. Volunteers from N4BW will run sewing schools when they visit, and we’re running teacher training sessions as well. If you’d like to contribute to this work, £20 will provide materials for one class of 60 to make a simple school bag, please get in touch.

Letter from Marian – Home from Malawi

This is a letter from my friend Marian Kearney, who is an amazing and inspirational woman I’ve worked with. She’s now in retirement and filling her time with sharing her love, talents and inspiration to those less fortunate than herself. In sharing her letters, I hope that others will learn more about how much little things can make big changes in our world.

10th May 2017

Hi Everyone.
It is now Tuesday and since arriving home on Thursday I have thought about how I might end this round of emails and I am struggling. The struggle is there because  I do not know how I can adequately communicate to you the depth of my experience and also summarise how those who have so little can give such a lot. So in the end I have decided to sum up with a “letter ”  as if to the people I have left behind and here goes.

To the people of Sitima

As I have spent a few days in England reflecting on my recent experiences in Sitima l should like to offer a most sincere thank you to everyone I met for your contributions to making my stay such a happy one and in enriching my life overall.

You reminded me of many niceties in life especially in the way you took time to genuinely greet each other whenever you met. I practised this in Kendal today and it took me a long time to get around the shops! You taught me patience, focussing on the moment and not always jumping to the next thing on the list. You helped me to think consciously about how just by living in many parts of the world you can be held back from fulfilling dreams and achieving potential,- a lack of healthcare facilities, no electricity, no running water, disease and illness, limited schooling opportunities, difficult climate conditions, no roads and no local transport…. the list goes on.

community love in SitimaTo the villagers– never before have I received such a welcome. From the moment I arrived, you made me feel totally at home, comfortable with everything around me. You welcomed me into your homes and community, you shared your food with me, and most importantly you gave me your time.

You managed to get on with your everyday life without all the trappings that I think of as normal. You had no electricity or running water yet never did I hear a complaint about the efforts you went through day in day out to collect firewood from wherever you could get it and water from the pump in the village. Strangely the one really funny related story I heard was about the elderly woman who having bought a solar lamp is complaining of being tired as she now stays up later as she has light!

To the Women’s Choir – working with you on the feminine hygiene kits was both fun and humbling. As a group you looked after each other so well, you didn’t judge, you just helped each other whenever the need arose, teaching each other to sew and to draw around templates and evenly and fairly sharing out with each other the limited resources. You sang beautifully as you created the kits and you were even polite when I joined in the dances with you! You were very focussed on the task in hand and it was an absolute delight to watch you all walk off with your finished kits. I wish I had been better able to converse directly with you, but I promise you that on my next visit I will have a little more Chichewa.

To the ladies at the irrigation plot – how you worked in such conditions I will never know. The sun was shining, the soil rock hard, you had no shoes, yet you swung those heavy hoes to create beautifully turned soil in perfect drills. I guess by now the fertiliser has been applied and some of the crops are sown.  I am delighted that you are getting training in agricultural practices, budgeting and literacy. I wish you luck as your fertile farms benefit from the irrigation system and finally you will be able to sell some crops for income.

To the children – thank you for your constant smiles and enthusiasm for life. You were always so very cheerful, you had no toys, so very few clothes, often very little food yet you could always smile.

Visiting some of you in school was a privilege. I wish  your eagerness to learn and willingness to grasp every opportunity could rub off on some of our young people over here.  You were attending school, which like your homes had no energy, yet you still turned up, many of you having walked for more than an hour, to be taught in dark, overcrowded classrooms, with chalkboards being the major teaching aid. I loved watching your play specifically written by students for World Malaria Day; it really made me think of the fairly devastating impact malaria has on you and your families.

Outside of school I loved to watch your creativity, playing Bao, but instead of using a board you hollowed out shapes in the sand, using empty flour bags as dressing up clothes, singing and dancing at every opportunity and always looking after each other, particularly the toddlers, who always wanted to be with you.

As a very small thank you to you all I am making some promises:-
Firstly you might have heard that we have a general election coming up, so I think it is timely that I ask would be MPs how they and their parties will continue to support vulnerable communities across the world.
Secondly it cannot be denied that climate change is making life more difficult for you,     ( no rains in the rainy season means no food), so as well as taking whatever little steps I can on a personal level I shall also ask those same prospective MPs some questions on tackling climate change
Thirdly I will endeavour to support you in creating that very necessary clinic in Sitima removing that long bumpy hike into Zomba for medicine and first aid.

To everyone I once more say Zikomo  ( thank you)

Marian is travelling and working with Network for a Better World. 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. Any support you can offer, please contact Network for a Better World directly.


Letter from Marian – Teaching new skills for long term benefits

This is a letter from my friend Marian Kearney, who is an amazing and inspirational woman I’ve worked with. She’s now in retirement and filling her time with sharing her love, talents and inspiration to those less fortunate than herself. In sharing her letters, I hope that others will learn more about how much little things can make big changes in our world.

29th April 2017

Hannif from Sitima age 10I can hardly believe that within a few days my month out here will be ending and I will spend the next few days saying goodbye to so many people including Hannif my self appointed bodyguard. He is 10 years old and not attending school even though primary education is free of charge.

He tells me that it is because he doesn’t have any school uniform. I don’t know why not, as often our conversation with each other is lost in translation. We are at least having lots of informal English lessons most days. Here he is playing with some of the little cars I brought out; next time will bring plenty more of them.

Talking about English, I would first of all suggest that Enid and Jill sit down before reading further, as this week I have spent some days in the secondary school teaching English. But please don’t be too alarmed as I stuck to what I definitely knew. My teaching group was the whole of Form 1, two classes brought together each day to hear my pearls of wisdom. In that group were more than 100 students aged between 13 and 17.

villagers of sitimaHere in Malawi the system is that if a child doesn’t pass his / her end of year exams they stay down a year resulting in age groups in any given form being quite varied. I also did some after school sessions with Form 4; they were up to 20 years of age, and they told me that in their year group of 34 only 10 were girls.

Apparently girls drop out of school big time from about the age of 14, with most of them getting “married” I understand that the government is trying to make underage relationships illegal but is fighting against cultural norms. Most marriages in Malawi are common law with the local chief granting permission for the marriage to take place but with no legal standing.

In the first email I told you of my plan to work with girls and women to create feminine hygiene kits, and this photo making feminine hygiene kits malawishows some of the women happily posing with their completed kits. Making the kits was possible for a number of reasons, firstly the practical support from the Stitch-in-Time group in Arnside and the ladies from Kendal Catholic Church who prepared a number of kits for me to bring over here.

Secondly, generous donations from friends allowed me to buy a sewing machine and accessories as well as some beautiful colourful fabric and the services of a local tailor ( the only man in the photo). The project took several
stages, firstly meeting with the women, (under the mango tree), to assess need and willingness to participate, going into Zomba with the tailor to buy a sewing machine, fabric and other accessories and then holding a number of making sessions which were great fun with up to 33 of us at any one time working together in the training room which measures only about 15’x 12′. One of the interesting factors I hadn’t considered was the need to teach the women how to draw around a template, many of them are illiterate and have no experience whatsoever of holding a pen. The young lady in this photo just loved doing it . The women were all members of a choir and they sang as they sewed, melodious songs and beautiful harmonies, it was wonderful. I have a video of some of their songs often with a little dance thrown in as well.

As part of this project, I also spent time with three other organisations showing them how to make the kits and leaving samples with them – Catherine, the lifeskills teacher at the local secondary school, Caroline who is on a two year contract in Blantyre, supporting the work of the Christian Missionary Society and Rachael who is working in conservation but volunteering with the Malawi Women’s Empowerment Group. The message is spreading and I really hope that these kits will result in keeping a lot more girls and young women in school and work all through each and every month.

Will send a final note as I return.


Marian is travelling and working with Network for a Better World. 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. Any support you can offer, please contact Network for a Better World directly.

Letter from Marian – Travelling in Malawi

This is a letter from my friend Marian Kearney, who is an amazing and inspirational woman I’ve worked with. She’s now in retirement and filling her time with sharing her love, talents and inspiration to those less fortunate than herself. In sharing her letters, I hope that others will learn more about how much little things can make big changes in our world.

22nd April 2017

Fishing boats on Lake Malawi

Fishing boats on Lake Malawi

I was well spoiled over the Easter weekend, as I went up to Lake Malawi for a few days along with two Irish women, one of whom is based here in Sitima for a year and the other who was travelling around Central Africa providing training on child protection.

Lake Malawi has a number of tourist hotspots, but even they are very gentle and very small by our standards. We stayed in a particularly quiet place called Nkhudzi Bay, in a house on the lake owned by the Montfort Fathers.

The other two enjoyed eating fish and freshwater crabs brought to them by the local fishermen, fish as fresh as you could imagine.

Enterprise was evident with craftsmen appearing at the door selling carvings, paintings and basketware but I was

Enterprising children

Enterprising children

particularly impressed by the “band,” a group of young boys who came to entertain us with their music. Their home made musical instruments were made up of all sorts of scrap materials, yet they managed to produce a great sound. I have a video of their performance which I will happily play for anyone I see when I get home.

Meanwhile back at Sitima the harvest is on and I was fortunate to be able to accompany Fr Owen to one of the small communities, Kantambala, for a harvest service. Sitima Mission services 43 small communities spread across a vast area, with one community living on an island in the middle of a lake.During harvest time a service is held in every one of those communities where, just as at home, individuals donate food, in this instance maize, to be donated to those in greater need. The big difference here is the incredible generosity of the donors as they themselves have so little, yet they donate so much.

Yesterday I travelled into Blantyre to meet two women who are involved in different charities and they were interested in knowing more about the design of the feminine hygiene kits – more about this next email but I thought I would tell you a little about transport and the way of life here. I travelled each way using a car, buses and a taxi. The buses are tiny little minibuses which at home would just about seat 12 people. Yesterday I counted 20 of us in one of those as well as bags of maize and lots of other shopping. The buses stop and start a huge number of times with
individuals getting off and the drivers making sure they are always full to capacity.

Bike taxi malawi

Bike taxi malawi

My journey home was much more exciting though as the bus dropped me off at the end of the dirt road and I came home riding, for the first time, on a bike taxi. I loved it, the padded seat was really comfortable and it was great to feel the cool early evening air as we cycled along. For this 45 minute journey he asked me for the equivalent of 70p. I gave him some more as I felt he fairly earned his money transporting this hefty lump!

Really wishing you were here with me, experiencing the joy, the happiness and the sunshine.

Marian is travelling and working with Network for a Better World. 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. Any support you can offer, please contact Network for a Better World directly.

Letter from Marian – Sitima Village Malawi

This is a letter from my friend Marian Kearney, who is an amazing and inspirational woman I’ve worked with. She’s now in retirement and filling her time with sharing her love, talents and inspiration to those less fortunate than herself. In sharing her letters, I hope that others will learn more about how much little things can make big changes in our world.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Although I only arrived last Wednesday I feel totally at home with each day being busy yet different. I am loving every minute. This note will add more “meat to the bones” of the previous one, enlarging on the context I find myself in.


The village of Sitima is far more remote than I had envisaged; It is 23 Kms away from Zomba along a bumpy dirt road, taking about an hour in a car.  The isolation and lack of facilities contribute to the low levels of education and consequently the levels of poverty here.  Most survive on subsistence farming, the success of which varies tremendously often due to the very localised weather patterns. The local church has just been successful in gaining emergency funding to buy grain to feed those families who experienced low yields as a result of minimal rain throughout the rainy season in their particular area.

I have spent the evening with the headteacher of the local secondary school who filled me in on lots of background information. She struggles to get teachers and many of those she does get are of a low standard. The ones who stay at the school tend to be those that other establishments will not take  whilst those who perform well move on to centres of population where facilities such as housing, regular electricity, running water, medical care and shops are available. I was puzzled as to why she kept inept teachers but she explained that they are appointed by the Ministry and if she complains she is told that they are the only ones willing to work in this isolated area.

Women from Sitima Malawi

Women from Sitima Malawi

That said it is a really lovely community, very impoverished yet full of good cheer. Wherever you go you are warmly welcomed and made to feel part of whatever is going on. I don’t think I have ever seen so many smiles but for some reason faces often become serious in front of the camera.

As I returned home tonight, the grain mill was going full pelt and would continue through the night. The electricity has been off for most of the day so those women who had walked 8 or 10 Kms, to mill their grain, queued and waited in the hope that the electricity would kick in once more. Apparently there have been times when some have waited for 48 hours or more.

Yesterday I visited a building which until 10 years ago had functioned as a clinic, but when budget cuts were made it closed down and since then individuals have had to travel to Zomba for treatment or even to buy a painkiller. I heard of a case when very recently a 5 year old child, was badly scalded with boiling water across her abdomen and the only mode of transport available to take her to hospital along that bumpy dirt road was a bike taxi – yes a standard bike with an extra seat at the back!

N4BW is currently working on a feasibility study and researching funding opportunities for bringing that clinic facility back to life but not only will the building need to be completely renovated there will also be the need to create houses for a medical team. Then there is the question, as with education, about whether suitably trained, qualified and experienced staff will be willing to be based out here.

Irrigation Project

Women farmers in Sitima

Women farmers in Sitima

This morning I wandered down to the irrigation project where most of the 35 plot holders were busy preparing their land for fertiliser. These ladies, of all ages, were working from about 6.00am in order to take advantage of the lower morning temperatures. It is anticipated that the water pipes will be set during the next week or so and the irrigation system fully operational by the end of the month. The great advantage will be the ability to grow cash crops such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes during the eight month long dry season bringing in some very necessary income. To kick start the programme the women will receive subsidised seeds and horticultural training.

Sitima Children

It is totally refreshing and heart warming to enjoy time with the children of the village. I teach them English and they teach me Chichewa, although they seem to be much better learners than me! I have spent a lot of time playing cards with them – mostly concentration and snap as well as the inevitable kick around. Their creativity abounds. You might be able to see in the photo that the ball is a home made one; a blown up balloon, surrounded by plastic bags and tied up with string. It was surprisingly good.

In closing I wish you all a great Easter weekend and will be in touch with you again soon.

Marian is travelling and working with Network for a Better World. 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. Any support you can offer, please contact Network for a Better World directly.