Malawi

“School of NewDirection on Chiwaylands”

Short project description:
This project is about helping girls in the ‘Chitare’ village, ‘Ntcheu’ district in Malawi which need to attent secondary school. These girls now walk about 24 kilometers per day. Which leads to for instance ‘self boarding’ (hiring a house together near the secondary school). Which often leads to pregnancies and drop out (men ask for sexual intercourse in return for money). Creating a local secondary school can resolve this issue.  

How I got involved:
As mentioned in my bio, I was born in Malawi. In 2014 I went back for a visit of a month. I visited various orphan village / school sites. (See the archive journal page if you wish). In 2016 I run the Mont Ventoux, France, barefoot up and down to raise funds for these initiatives. Via Mathews Jafali, who I met in 2014 I got in contact with Alice Chiwaya, she is part of a Malawian NGO called ‘Save the Poor Foundation’. Iwanjka shared with Mathews his vision on a project in which:

  1. there would be a focus on helping orphans, ideally with giving them ‘newfamily’;
  2. there would be a school / education;
  3. there would be a focus on making the project / place self sufficient – no new (foreign) money would be needed every year;
  4. have a focus on bio divers / permaculture agriculture, and investigate ecological concept. Also see this ‘permaculture for the children’ group.
  5. ideally be a attracting place for visitors from all over the world, via an eco lodge or camp concept. In such volunteers can work with the children, have a good time, experience rural communal living and traditions, et cetera. And thus cultures can learn from each other and long term connections can arise.

SAPOF NGO mentioned they working on a project, which could have elements of the above mentioned. A first step was to do land surveying (measuring for Malawi administration) of lands given by a community to manifest a secondary school. I decided to give it a try, and trust the Alice and her colleagues, even though he had never met them in real life. I organized another Mont Ventoux run, via which my personal circle donated about 1000 euro’s.  As a result:

  1. 5 hectares has been handed over to SAPOF
  2. a variety of fruits has been planted
  3. an existing borehole has been repaired
  4. enough bricks for a warehouse (to store tools and so) have been produced by the local community (and the event funded food)

Travel expenses for monitoring and atunement were also provided for, the area lies at about 80km distance from Blantyre . The SAPOF team members all work voluntary.

Next step as from March 2019

SAPOF NGO and the Chitare community invited me for a visit to Malawi. I stayed during February and March one month in Malawi, of which about 5 days near the school, in rural communal living fashion. Alice and Richard (my SAPOF NGO hosts) did an excellent job in preparing the working visit, and hosting me. We spend much time together, visiting also officials, the CONGOMA Malawian NGO council, doing planning for next steps, investigating potential partners to help with building the actual school.

‘Eco camp forest’
In advance of my stay it proofed out that there might be more lands available, but then for sale. Just next to the 5 hectares of school lands. SAPOF NGO / the local community felt it a good idea to make that land available for the eco camp, and in later future, lodge. One of the ideas as well as that this might give additional income or resources to the school.

The upper area are the five hectares of ‘school lands’. The area below is the potential six hectares of ‘eco camp forest land’.

My focus will be to do fund raising for these lands. It consists of regenerating forest land. We intend to maintain it 90% forest. We need about 3000 euro’s for this in total, but we can pay each time a part. My idea now is to do 2 or 3 times the barefoot run, until the requires funds have been raised. With a bi-annual frequency, this can take up 3 to 5 years: The next run is intended to be August 2020, than 2022 and than 2024.

In addition I fund from my own financial resources the yearly CONGOMA subscription (about 100 euro’s per year) and website hosting (about 50 to 70 euro’s per year).

And I will communicate Dutch NGO’s working in Malawi to SAPOF NGO, to connect with.

The school and education
The project however requires also funding to build the school. A workplan you can find at www.sapofngo.org. You would make me very happy if you like to become ‘a friend of NewDirection’, see this link for more information.  (Already with donating 1 euro per month you become a friend). Or maybe you have ideas on NGO’s who build schools in Malawi, and might could help. Please send ideas and information to sapofngo@gmail.com.

How the school is build (construction type) and how education is organized lies in the hands of SAPOF NGO and the local community. A normal way of building is using (burned) bricks, and make 100 children big classrooms, and make teachers houses – in such the government pays the teachers. During my stay I read about a project in Uganda (bamboo village). In this village houses are not made with burned bricks (a reason for quite some deforestation in Africa, also causing CO2 in the air), but with bamboo. Via using bamboo, CO2 is taken form the air and stored in the houses. So, it works the other way around. However, there is no bamboo -yet- at the lands, so this might not be a usable material. But how knows this knowlegde inspires the Malawian policy makers to do start some bamboo plantages and start doing experiments with making buildings. Another advantage could be that the buildings will collaps less fast with rain, and if they collapse it will give less casualties. During my stay in 2019 the hurricane IDAI came across, and I saw the devastation of broken houses and walls.

The education type is normally done via teachers (appointed and paid by the government). As long as there is no school I can imagine alternative ways of teaching, like the one who know things share their knowledge with other. Also the including the parents. But this as well, lies in the hands of SAPOF NGO and the local community. And might be too difficult for now to organize. Here as well, maybe this idea can ‘catch fire’ at other area’s in the world: There are many ways to educate, I believe in general in a more ‘hybrid model’ of ‘schooled’ teachers and parents working more together in education. Also as a model for Holland, and ‘Western’ countries. And make education more modular, including already doing use full things for the community (say one day a week to avoid child labor dynamics).

NewDirection
A final note on NewDirection: This name has two viewpoints: One viewpoint is that it gives a personal new direction, or hope to the girls involved. Another viewpoint is that I aim for a ‘new direction’ of the whole country. Using also maybe different economic principles, as climate change shows us that ‘the West is not the Best’. Climate change needs system change.

Ubuntu Contributionism
I was happy to learn that people in Malawi made a swift connection with the ‘Ubuntu Contributionism‘ concept, complemented with a ‘social workflow currency‘. In a nutshell: As long as we use a currency created via debt (named ‘money’), the poor will remain poor -or even get more poor- and the rich will only get more richt. To break this cycle my personal hypothesis is to create currencies which are not created via debt. In theory Malawi -and other poor countries- can even free themselves from the so called international ‘debt trap’.

Realistic?
It might seem an utopie to think that in the rural areas with hardly an computer to organize work, and with hardly any education, this could catch fire. At the other hand, these kind of rural areas are the best soil to manifest a complementary currency, also see the Social Trade Organization website (a Dutch NGO). I worked two years on a proof of concept in Holland (under the name ziny currency), but countries in which debt is already so deeply penetrated, like Holland, a change is more difficult to manifest. And, even if it also does not start in Malawi, maybe someone on the world reads about these ideas, combine it with there own ideas and visions, and help things to manifest. And then share the concept to the rest of the world. In such also doing something crucial for climate change prevention. (Another hypothesis is that the money system which needs to grow, is a kernel – main cause, often not recognized- behind mass consumption and -production growth, and thus climate change. Migrating to a more cyclic and renewable driven economy helps, but does in the long end not help as long as money is the ‘blood of the economy’).

I am because we are – Ubuntu – documentary – coincidence?
The singer Madonna Ciccone made a documentary on Malawi. I watched it during my stay in 2019 in Malawi. While watching I was touched by her insight on how the West might also could learn from Malawi. With so much poverty, and HIV AIDS infections, people seemed more happy than in the West. How come? Richard, my host, said that his opinion was that in Malawi people still live more in a communal fashion. And can share backlashes more together, and are less isolated. I think it would be a good idea to have some specialist to do research on whether for example the ADHD syndrome also exists in Malawi. I think hardly, as well as a lot of other mental ‘diseases’ of which we have about 1 million in Holland, on a population of 17 million.

Also see: www.iambecauseweare.com

And than, Madonna choose to name her documentary ‘I am because we are’, which is actually a sentence meaning ‘Ubuntu’ (a concept from the Zulu culture). And I was already working for about two years to see if I could integrate Ubuntu contributionism and a different currency model / economic model.

Is that a coincidence, or does this synchronicity, or is does it mean something more, which might be very meaningful, and even crucial for the world?

Time will tell.

The link to the SAPOF NGO website (and the project): www.sapofngo.org

Link to Facebook fund raise event page: www.facebook.com/Malawithon
Donations: IBAN: NL09RABO0149987986, name Iwanjka Geerdink, description ‘School of New Direction, Malawi’.
Contact: iwanjka@gmail.com or Alice (Facebook)