Children’s Education

Sarah’s blog 8/8/22

In Malawi, children in their last year of primary school and in the second year of secondary school, have all been busy with exams. The fourth year of secondary school will sit exams in October. Just like for our children, it’s a stressful time and a lot of pressure for the young people.

However, unlike most of our children, the children supported by The Foundation, have faced huge trauma. Most children have had family members who have passed away. Children are being cared for by extended family or another family have taken them in. Even if children are still with their parents or one parent, there is not enough food coming into their homes to enable the children to eat properly every day. Some children may have one basic meal a day, others might have to go without food or try to find food themselves.

We send money to support The Feeding Programme which feeds 500+ children once a week. They get a substantial and nutritious meal. Some children walk up to 20km for that meal as there are no big agencies feeding children in schools in that area. We would love to be able to feed the children more often but costs are rising and we, along with The Foundation, are trying to work holistically, so that money is also going to future projects for the benefit of the whole community and for them to be self-sufficient.

Teachers have noticed a difference in the concentration of the children and young people who are supported by The Foundation just from that one meal a week at the Feeding Programme. Imagine the difference if they were able to have more food more often? Once the fruit tree saplings have matured and are producing fruit the children will be able to have fruit to supplement their diet.

Children have had clean clothes instead of the rags they were wearing and are attending school more regularly and their self-esteem is better. However, are they sleeping properly? Are they cold? Are hunger pains keeping them awake? Most of the children supported by The Foundation won’t have anything to eat before school. They certainly won’t have anything to eat during school…if they are lucky they may have something once they get home. Sponsored children receive a monthly food parcel to supplement the food in their homes. All children are malnourished to different extents. Some children have stunted growth due to lack of food and nutrients in their early life. All 500+ children need our help.

The nursery has been set up for preschool children three times a week. It was intended for 50 children but now 75 children attend. They are fed at each session. There is some porridge provided by Feed The Children, for which we are grateful, but it doesn’t last long so we are supporting feeding these hungry children. These preschool children still aren’t having enough food and nutrition but what they are getting is more than the older children. Year on year the children should have better nutrition. We also want to be helping expectant mothers, babies and toddlers.

I’m typing as the thoughts are coming into my head so I am sorry if this isn’t flowing as well as it should, but the children’s wellbeing is very important to me and I have so many ideas sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain!

So are we expecting too much from these vulnerable children and young people who are doing exams? Would we send our children into an exam without breakfast? Imagine if a child hadn’t been eating enough for a long period of time…how can they learn if they are hungry and tired? Basic needs have to be met first before children can start thinking about anything else. Have they slept properly on the ground in their very basic home? Unless they are sponsored, they don’t have a torch to do homework after 6pm when it gets dark each day. What about the trauma of people they love passing away? Girls had been missing out on school for one week every month until the Period Poverty Project was established. Some children had missed lots of school to try to earn a pittance to buy food.

The odds of achieving had been stacked against them. But things are changing. As long as the children are trying their best then that’s all we can ask of them or expect of them. Whether they pass exams or they don’t, they will have learned more being in school than out of school, also they are safer in school and there is less risk of teenage pregnancy and girls being married off too soon. Their literacy skills and numeracy skills will be better than if they hadn’t attended school. These skills will help the young people in future whatever they do. These children are doing brilliantly to do what they do each day, to learn at school. In the local primary, apart from year 8 all the children are sitting on the floor. Another issue we want to address when we can.

What I am trying to say is that the orphans and other vulnerable children, whether at primary school or at secondary school have had a very tough life so far and have missed out on some of the basics that every child should have. Hopefully, because we are introducing books in the nursery, library and primary schools and because children are having more nutrition, we should see literacy levels rise each year and children achieving better results in their exams. But, just like anywhere in the world, not all children are academic and so they should be supported to learn a trade or whatever they want to do. These children are brilliant. They are resilient. They are survivors. We are proud of each and every one of them. They will have brighter futures with a team supporting them at The Foundation.

We are looking to partner with businesses, clubs, families or individuals who will commit to a monthly donation towards the feeding programme. We have a few people already helping us with this and we’d love more people to help and share the costs so that these children can have at least two decent meals each week. We sent money for fruit tree saplings and we want to send more money so this is a future source of food and a source of income. If you would like to support the feeding programme with a monthly donation then please email me at contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . We will continue making a difference with your help and we will continue Changing Lives Malawi. Thanks for reading and supporting the children, Sarah x

Children in a classroom at Chambo Primary looking at the books that the school had just been gifted as part of The School Literacy Project.
These three photos are from approximately three years ago but I think they are very powerful. 1.Little children enjoying their meal at the Feeding Programme. 2.Volunteers & some older girls preparing food for all the children. 3. A big sister delighted to have something to feed her baby sister…they had both just become orphans.
The children in nursery have received new clothes and flipflops. They were also sent a preloved trainset. It was all put in the middle of the floor and the children were observed working out what to do with the pieces and the trains…it didn’t take them long, despite never having seen a trainset before!

Imagine a world with no school

Sarah’s blog 18/7/22

Imagine a world with no school. Lots of children might initially be cheering. But think of your life…if you’d not been to secondary school, would your life look very different now?

Would you be ok if your children didn’t have the opportunity to go to secondary school? I think we can all agree, no matter whether you liked secondary school or not, secondary school enabled us to learn more. Whether you liked science or languages or PE or arithmetic or music, or whatever subjects you had at your school, you had the opportunity to learn and to try different things.

You may have gone on to college or university or gone straight into the workforce. Could you have done that with just your primary school education?

The point of my rambling is that education is every child’s right. All children, wherever they live in the world, whatever their background or circumstances, should have a chance to go to school. We would be different people to the people we are now if we hadn’t had those opportunities. Please help us ensure that the children The Foundation supports have access to education. It’s their way out of poverty. It’s their way to a better future for themselves and their families.

Currently, there are not enough secondary school places available for the young people whom The Foundation supports in rural northern Malawi. Secondary school needs to be paid for. None of the children supported by The Foundation can afford to pay school fees, which is why we try our best to match children with sponsors to help pay their school fees.

Children can only go to secondary school if they pass their primary school leavers exams. However, because there aren’t enough secondary school places, even if you’ve passed your primary school leavers exams, if you don’t get picked for a place at secondary school then you can’t go. It’s heart breaking for these children who have so many problems in their lives not to be picked even though they have tried their best.

Also, as the nearest secondary school is a distance away, pupils who are supported by The Foundation and who are picked to go to secondary school, have to board at school making it even more expensive. Families and caregivers who rely on these teenagers for help with chores or looking after younger siblings also miss out on having them at home.

Bright Futures Secondary School is going to make a difference to so many. It is going to change lives. It will be in the village, for village children who cannot afford school fees. The first year classrooms will be built during the first year, then the second in the second year and so on until all four years are built. However, we cannot do this without you. We know it is a huge project and a huge ask but we have a responsibility to ensure that all children have an education. We want the same things for the children supported by The Foundation that we want for our own children.

Can you help us please? Can you make a difference? Can you change lives? Here is the link to our fundraiser for the school. https://gofund.me/44a92444 Even just a few £££ will make a difference. Here is the link to our kilometre challenge https://forms.gle/twQYfx7LRRrtvdhx9 and we would love you to get involved. It’s always about team work and we cannot do what we do without your help. Please?

We don’t want children leaving primary school and going straight into work. They would be working for a pittance with what prospects of a better future? One boy, who is now sponsored, was working for a farmer for the equivalent of £1.50 per month. We need to ensure all children have a childhood and have the opportunities they deserve. Please help us to continue Changing Lives Malawi.

Laston, the boy in the video, was the boy who was working for £1.50 per month and only had rags to wear. He is thriving since being matched with a sponsor. There are hundreds of children like Laston who need our help. What will you do today to help a child like Laston? Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Laston had no other clothes. His shoes had huge holes in them.

An Amazing & Busy Week for Levison

Sarah’s blog 16/07/22

Levison Mlambya is a humble man. He is an incredibly hard worker and he has a vision to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in his community. His friendship with William Stewart helped to make this vision a reality and Levison has been hard at work for long hours every day serving his community.

Since William died in January, 2021, Levison has had a difficult time, but he has kept plodding, day by day, ensuring he does everything he can for those in need who come to The Foundation every day.

There has been a lot happening for Levison this week and we, at Changing Lives Malawi, are delighted that he has had these opportunities. We are also very proud of him. He is making some great connections with people and what he and his team do at The Foundation, through the various projects, is getting recognised.

On Sunday, Levison and the children had a visit from author, Ndongolera Mwangupili who wrote ‘Sons of The Hills’ and who kindly donated a copy of his book to Emma’s Rainbow Library at The Foundation. Ndongolera was impressed with the library and spent time chatting with some of the children. Visits like this are so important so the children can see that they can aspire to be writers if they wanted to.

Levison was en route to Mzuzu and stopped off at Karonga on Wednesday. He was delighted to meet and have a meal with Mercy Sibande, Manager of The Maime Martin Fund in Malawi, and Alan Laverock, Treasurer and Trustee of The Maime Martin Fund and also Chair Person of The Bananabox Trust in Dundee. They had a good chat before Levison set off again to The Grand Palace Hotel, Mzuzu.

He was honoured to have been invited to ‘The Regional Consultation of The National Book and Reading Policy in Malawi’. Even more of an honour, Levison was asked to be a speaker about the literacy initiatives that are being implemented at The Foundation. We are so proud of you Levison for making a difference to so many children.

Of course, none of this could happen without our supporters. So if you have donated books, paid for the transportation of a box, driven boxes to Dundee, sponsored a vulnerable child so they can go to secondary school, or donated to the new school project….or anything else…THANK YOU! We value your help and support and we are glad you are on our team as we all do our own little bit to help some of the most vulnerable children in rural northern Malawi.

However, there is so much more to do and we need even more support. Here are ways you can get involved and help us:

  1. Donate £££ to our new school fundraiser https://gofund.me/44a92444
  2. Join in with our fundraiser by walking, running or cycling and logging your kilometres for our kilometre challenge https://forms.gle/twQYfx7LRRrtvdhx9
  3. If you live fairly local to me…can you donate children’s books? They must be in good condition and a few £££ to help towards transportation would be really helpful. Seventeen boxes of books were already gifted to Chambo Primary School and lots more schools have said they would like books too.
  4. Could you sponsor a box of books please? It’s £15 per box on the container.
  5. Pencils/pens/rubbers/sharpeners/pencil cases/maths sets/scientific calculators/English pocket dictionaries are always needed.
  6. Soap, toothbrushes & toothpaste are always needed and very welcome.
  7. There are lots of vulnerable children still waiting to be matched with sponsors. It’s only £25 p/m to be a sponsor, or you can split that cost with a friend or extended family. Also a club or a business could sponsor a child.
  8. Can you organise a fundraiser for us? A coffee morning? A sponsored event?
  9. Sharing our posts online is a great way of helping more people find out about the projects that are happening in rural northern Malawi.
  10. Can we come and speak at your event and show photos & videos from Malawi?

If you’d like to help in any way then please do get in touch contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com

Author Ndongolera Mwangupili gifted a copy of his book to the library

Levison met Mercy and Alan at Karonga for a meal
Levison (next to lady in green skirt) and other delegates outside The Grand Palace Hotel, Mzuzu
The invite to the conference

Preloved Books – The Gift of Literacy

Sarah’s blog 20/5/22

If children don’t have access to books…how can they learn to read? It’s a miracle that the orphans and other vulnerable children supported by The Foundation can read at all. They are all amazing and are desperate to learn.

In developed countries, books are available for babies at just a few months old. Care givers are encouraged to sit babies on their knees and look at books with them. Children learn from a very early age that a book means a story. Preschool children learn books contains bright pictures. They learn that books have pages that are turned one after the other. They then pretend to follow the words with their fingers, so even then they know that the words tell a story and give information.

Then there is all the environmental print that we have. Most children before they can read will be able to recognise the golden arches of a burger chain or the label from their favourite yogurt or snack or the sign at the local supermarket.

What if all of this was missing from children’s lives? So by the time they arrived at school they had not had all these experiences and practice. The children in Malawi don’t have the luxury either of scribbling and mark making on paper with different pens and pencils. So how are they expected to learn to hold a pencil and write properly too. They have been at such a disadvantage.

Whilst we can’t provide for everyone and give each child an endless stock of paper and pens….we are making a difference….we are changing lives. You are helping us in a variety of ways and we couldn’t do what we do without you.

  1. Seventeen boxes of children’s books have already been gifted to Chambo Primary School for the children to have access to a whole new world through reading stories. There are a variety of books going from preschool with lots of bright pictures and not many words to Harry Potter, encyclopedias, dictionaries and maps. Every person who has donated a book to us has given a child the gift of literacy.
  2. There are more books on their way for another school and we will keep going until all children in that area have been given the gift of literacy. As soon as Levison had delivered the 17 boxes of books to Chambo primary school, and I had put a post on social media about it, his phone started ringing from teachers at other schools asking for books too. Everyone is desperate to help the children have a better education.
  3. You have helped us supply books to Emma’s Rainbow Library at The Foundation. Book shelves were made along the length of a wall, using a donation we had been given. Now they have a good selection of books for all ages, including study books. More are on the way.
  4. The nursery, for 75 of the most vulnerable 4 – 6 year olds, has a basket of story books for younger children and there are more on the way. We are now making up care packages for children starting nursery, so we know that each child has received; a gym bag, 2 red t-shirts (nursery uniform), 2 pairs of pants, a blanket, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and a story book with lots of bright pictures. Eventually, almost every home will have one or two books. Hopefully, the adults can look at the books with the nursery children.
  5. Eventually, we want to be able to fund a member of staff to support adult literacy classes.
  6. Today, my husband, Stuart, collected 5 bags for life and one big box from a local nursery. Arnprior Nursery had received a grant for new books and they no longer needed all these ones. What a brilliant way of recycling these preloved books. Instead of them being thrown out or sold for a few pence, the gift of literacy is being given to vulnerable children in rural Northern Malawi. Thank you to the staff at Arnprior Nursery for this amazing donation that will help so many children.
  7. We are hoping to see literacy levels increase as time goes on. Already one little girl, Melise, who is 5 has been allowed to go to school a year early as she has been described as being very bright. Her brother, Mwiza, is disabled and has been given lots of picture books and toys to help stimulate him. Is she going to school a year early because she has been able to look at her brother’s books? I’m really keen to see how literacy levels start to rise.
  8. Together we are Changing Lives Malawi and we need you all to keep helping us. This is a relatively cheap way to change the children’s lives. The books have been donated. It’s £15 to send each box on the container. If anyone would like to sponsor this literacy project or pay for a box then please get in touch contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com Thanks for reading and supporting, Sarah x

Just some of the books generously donated by Arnprior Nursery to our School Literacy Programme

Melise who is attending school a year early. Her brother, Mwiza, has disabilites and cannot attend school. He has been sent lots of books and toys. Melise has been able to look at her brother’s books so has this given her an advantage over her peers?

One of the boxes of books had been opened for the children. As you can see there are no desks or chairs and, until this donation, hardly any books.
Boxes of books at Chambo Primary School – The gift of reading – The School Literacy Project

Each child deserves a chance

Sarah’s blog 6/4/22

These amazing children need a helping hand to reach their potential. To be the best they can be. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? Each of these children suffers from malnutrition. They need more food, clothes, education. Can you be a helping hand for one of these children? It’s only £25 p/m to sponsor a child. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com please look at each photo and help a child today. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Some of the most vulnerable children

These are the most vulnerable children and most in need of a sponsor. Can you be a helping hand to one of these children?

Sarah’s blog 5/4/22

I wanted to highlight some of the orphans and vulnerable children that Levison has taken photos of previously. He’s done this as they are some of the most vulnerable and most in need of a sponsor. It’s only £25 per month to sponsor a child and you can do that as an individual, a group or two friends. 85p per day will mean the world to these children.

I’ve highlighted each child with a coloured background because I think they deserve to be seen. They deserve to have the same chances our children have. They deserve to have food, clothes, education. They deserve to reach their potential. They deserve to have a helping hand. They deserve to know that someone cares.

Please…can you be a helping hand to one of these children? It might be one of the most important things you ever do. It might be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com thank you for reading and I hope to hear from some of you and match you with a child. Sarah x

This year’s S3 and S4 students

Sarah’s blog 30/3/22

Here are the thoughts of Angela, Naomi, Chancy and Tamiwe. Education features in most of the young people’s answers to the questions they’ve been asked and it’s interesting that the majority want to be able to help others who are in similar situations to themselves. Hopefully, because of the generosity of their sponsors, they will then pay that forward as adults by providing a helping hand to the vulnerable in their community. Thank you to the sponsors for enabling these young people to have the gift of education. Unfortunately, Angela wasn’t there on the day photos were being taken but we will get another photo of her soon. If you can help us with fundraising, a financial donation or would like to sponsor a young person for £25 per month then email contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com thanks for reading, Sarah x

This year’s S2 students

Sarah’s blog 30/03/22

Yesterday we had an update from the new S1 students so now it’s the turn of those in S2. It’s lovely to see photos of them and to hear their views via answering a few questions. If you are a sponsor then a big THANK YOU as you are making such a difference to the young person you sponsor. You are giving them new opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had. You are giving them the gift of education. Their self-esteem is growing because of you. Thank you so much. Hope you enjoy the photos and writing. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Video – Nursery Children ABC

Sarah’s blog 15/3/22

Now that we have the added bonus of being able to play videos on our website, I thought it would be nice to see this little video again that was previously shown on facebook. Tables and chairs were sent on the last container and this is the children from the nursery in Emma’s Rainbow Library.

These children (ages 4-6) are sitting at tables for the first time and have been given books to look at. Compared to our children they have missed out on lots of stages of pre literacy; sitting on an adult’s knee as a baby whilst an adult reads a story, learning whilst a toddler to turn the pages of a book to continue the story, looking at all the pictures and talking about that with the adult or pointing to items in the pictures. Then children usually will follow the text with their index finger, even though they aren’t at the right word they know by that stage that words go left to right and that the words make up the story.

Hopefully, now there are books in the library the children will have lots of opportunities to look at books and have stories read to them. There are nursery bags on the container that is about to leave Dundee next week that will be given to each child who starts at The Foundation Nursery. These bags contain; a blanket, two red t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, toothbrush & toothpaste, soap and a picture book. Each child will then have a book at their home and books and reading will become more of an everyday part of life. Enjoy the video, Sarah x

Another busy day at Changing Lives Malawi HQ

Sarah’s blog 6/2/22

When I say HQ I mean our house lol… we certainly aren’t a big enough charity for separate premises..and we have no employees…only volunteers. Luckily we have a very large shed in the garden where donations go until we start with boxing them up again and filling the car with enough boxes to go to Dundee to The Bananabox Trust warehouse to await the next container. Today and tomorrow are boxing up days. Yesterday, someone brought some lovely hats and some wool, there was also a donation of toothbrushes and pencils and someone else contacted me about children’s books. It’s so good that people are thinking about the children, getting involved and supporting our work.

I’m trying to find a sponsor for a year three girl in secondary school whose family can no longer pay her fees. Her name is Angela and I hope to have more details soon and a photo. She needs a sponsor for 2 years to help her stay in school and give her the security of knowing that she’s not constantly worrying about the next fees being due. Sponsoring a young person is just £25 per month.

It’s on our minds all the time about trying to involve more people in supporting the feeding programme. If more people are able to commit to £5 p/m to help feed the children then they will be able to have more than one meal a week at the Feeding Programme which feeds 500 malnourished children once a week. They receive a substantial, nutritious meal but we would love to be able to support an additional meal or a cup of porridge before school. How can children concentrate on learning if they are hungry? contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com

One of our other trustees is currently exploring the idea of using the round metal sections of old trampolines to send to Malawi to use as the structure for polytunnels to help with food production at The Foundation. After the recent storms, I’m sure he will get a few donations to recycle!

At Dundee, there are boxes ready for the container that we’ve made up for young people going to secondary school next year. Each box has supplies for two students and they will each receive a blanket, sheet, towel, wind up torch, a school bag, calculator, dictionary, stationery, soap and toothbrush and toothpaste. Levison will still have things to buy for the young people going to school, but it will help him a lot having boxes already made up to gift to the students.

Now I’m looking at making up care packages for the nursery children. There is a nursery at The Foundation for 50 children and it meets 3 times a week, supported by donations. The children are aged 4-6 and they are fed at each session. They’ve had uniform and blankets recently gifted to them but it would be lovely if each child starting nursery was given a bag with a few useful gifts in. So from now on, every child starting at The Foundation nursery will receive a drawstring bag containing; 2 red tshirts, 3 pairs of pants, a blanket, a picture book, soap and toothbrush and toothpaste. That way we will know that every child will have been gifted a blanket…. there are still lots of children that the Foundation supports who aren’t even sleeping on a mat…they are sleeping on the bare floor and covering themselves with whatever they can. Hopefully, by making small changes like this then life will keep improving for the orphans and other vulnerable children in Ibuluma.

People are very kindly starting to collect milk carton tops for us so that they can have letters or numbers written on them and be used at the Foundation nursery or at Chambo primary school which is the nearest primary school to the foundation and where 17 boxes of children’s books were delivered recently. Education is key in Changing the Lives of those in northern Malawi.

In the photo are some resources I’ve put together for Chambo Primary School to help with numeracy and literacy. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Chambo Primary School – School Literacy Project Visit 18/10/21

Sarah’s blog 18/10/21

Today Levison had arranged with the headteacher of Chambo Primary School to pay a visit. Levison was delivering 17 boxes of books that we had sent as part of the School Literacy Project. This is a project that has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of children living in extreme poverty.

Chambo Primary is the primary school nearest The William Stewart Foundation, Ibuluma Village in the Chitipa District of Northern Malawi. There are 8 classes in this school with 70-80 children in each class. Approximately half of them are children supported by The William Stewart Foundation, so today was very much about those children as well as their peers.

Imagine, as a teacher, not having the resources you need for your class (I know most teachers here dip into their own pocket to buy extra resources for our children, but this goes way beyond that). Imagine not having books at school. Imagine having no internet and computers. I can just about remember that but our children will never have been in a school without technology. Imagine not having desks and chairs and having to sit on the floor all day. Only one classroom at Chambo Primary School has desks and benches.

Literacy starts a long time before children go to school. Even babies look at picture books with their parents and grandparents. Toddlers know that the story continues by turning the pages in a book and that the pictures tell the story as well as the words and they follow the words with their fingers even though they aren’t reading. Children can recognise environmental print (think of them spotting their favourite fast food restaurant as you are driving past) but the children in Ibuluma have missed out on that also. So if there are no books in these children’s homes they have missed out on years of literacy and enjoying books before they even get to school.

When our children go to school they practice reading and writing every single day, even if it’s only a small amount of time. Paper is plentiful as is the choice of books. Most children will have books to take home to practise their reading. Not the children from Chambo Primary School, Ibuluma. Until today. Now 17 boxes of books have been delivered, along with strong ziplock plastic bags to protect the books. Children can now borrow these books to take home. Hopefully, they can read their books with their siblings. We want books to become an every day item….a very special and enjoyable item….but to be used every day. These children deserve our support and we want to thank every single person who has helped with the first delivery of this project. We are going to liaise with the headteacher and see how this project is getting on and if there is more we can do to support them. We want children to achieve as education is so important for them to be able to have brighter futures.

We estimate this project was about £350 – £400 to deliver. It didn’t cost us that much as we had many people donating the bags as well as the hundreds of beautiful books. Also some people were able to donate the £15 required to transport a box of books on the container. We think this project is £400 very well spent and we thank everyone who contributed. What we do is always about teamwork and if you’ve been part of this team then be proud as you are #changinglivesmalawi Get in touch if you’d like to help us. Enjoy the photos and thank you for reading and celebrating this success with us. Sarah x

%d bloggers like this: