Volunteering in paradise...update!

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February 7th 2014
Published: February 8th 2014
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It's been some time since I discussed the volunteering I have been doing at Butterfly and I can assure you it hasn't just been one big holiday for the past 6 or so weeks. Since the first week in December I have been teaching 11/12 kids from the ages of 4 to 7 in the morning. They study English from 8 til 9.30 with Alice, one of the co owner's then Maths from 9.30 til 12. From the onset, I have decided to not only teach Maths but to also include Science and of course Geography into their curriculum.

My mornings usually include lesson planning which means writing all their exercises in their books. As you can imagine from the age differences, their is a huge disparity in the ability of the children so planning isn't particularly easy. Having got to know the children, it is now apparent who the 'naughty' ones are too and it is a battle everyday to keep them focused. The children are very lucky here as due to various donations and the resources Alice has built up over the past few years, there are numerous text books for KS1 Maths and English which makes it much easier for us 'fake teachers' 😊 We use these on a regular basis to teach and often copy the exercises from the books.

Since starting to teach, the kids have progressed very well, even those who struggle with their English. In regards to their English, to say it is their second language, they speak extremely well for their ages and it is pleasing to see. Alice is doing a tremendous job of teaching English and you can see that our kids at the school are far superior to children who are 2/3/4 years older than them at the Government schools in Nkhata Bay. Obviously, the resources we have are a huge plus but having a ratio of 1 teacher to 12 children compared with 1 teacher to 100 children makes all the difference. From what I've seen and read of African schools, this tends to be the case as the schools lack the man power to be able to teach in an efficient manner. From a development perspective, I really hope these ratio's decrease not only in Malawi, but in the rest of Africa over the next 30 years as all children deserve a quality education. The International Aid that certain Sub Saharan African countries receives from the World Bank, the IMF and certain developed Nations needs to be streamlined into government schools, into increasing the resources of State schools. I appreciate that money is needed in many areas, but education surely has to be a priority in SSA. Here in Malawi, the country is classed as one of the poorest in the world, on a factual basis, it is the 4th which is peculiar to say it has resources such as Lake Malawi. Many of the poorest countries in the world suffer civil wars, drought, corruption etc but Malawi has been stable for a good decade. The problem here is that there is little or no private sector and the whole economy relies on the export of tobacco in April. The vast majority of people living in rural areas live subsistence lives and there is very little in the way of a cash economy in much of Malawi. Hopefully, in the years to come, Malawi can source a private economy and try produce a middle class which will no doubt improve things here.

Away from the development saga...the Maths I have been teaching has included; 1 to 10, 10 to 100, number patterns, addition and subtraction, odd and even numbers, breaking down numbers, shapes, measuring and more. Over 2 months, just from looking at their exercises books, one can see how far they have come in such a short space of time and it is very satisfying to see.

Science: I have started to introduce KS1 Science alongside Maths as I believe it is very important than Science not be overlooked. Topics have included plants and how they grow, sound and light, the human body and more. All these topics involve lots of drawing and coloring in which they live. Having taught for 2 months, you start to see how best the children learn and given their age, it's no wonder they prefer practical lessons where drawing and coloring is the order of the day.

Geography: Being a geography graduate and a somewhat geography geek, I decided I would start to teach the very basics of World geography ie where they live, where Malawi is on a map and so on. I also brought many nature and travel documentaries with me and every Friday, providing their is power, I always show one of my DVD's which showcases the many wonderful countries, mountains and oceans that we have on our planet. Amazingly, the first time I showed a Bruce Parry 'Tribe' DVD on the Dassanech tribe in the Omo Valley, Southern Ethiopia, they seemed more interested in the projector and surrounding equipment than the DVD itself. Also, on a Friday, Alice collects the disabled group from around Town so they come and join in with my lesson which is great for the kids as it is great exposure to them. Here in Malawi, it can be seen as a stigma to have a disability or HIV/AIDS and people can be easily marginalised because of this. So a trip to Butterfly provides a great day out for the group and they also receive a hot meal free of charge.

So the teaching is going very well and I hope to continue teaching the children for the duration of my stay. Alongside teaching, the football with Chikhale school as been very intermittent of late due to various cup competitions taking precedence in town but I'm pleased to say that we have been playing for the past two weeks. Yesterday, it was roughly 35 degrees as I was running up and down the pitch. It's no wonder everyone is objecting the Qatar World Cup being played in their Summer...it's too hot!!!

Youth club: Youth club has started up again and their are a few volunteers including myself involved with this project. Numbers tend to be influenced by football and the weather but we seem to have a core of 20 children who all come from Chikhale primary school. We always mix the sessions up but the aim is to have fun. Whether it is a DVD that I put on, or an assault course that Scott sorted to a mini Olympics that Amy and Harriet came up with, the kids always have fun and that's what it is all about.

Gardening: There is always maintenance to planting to do now it is the rainy season here at Butterfly and the schools and I try to spare some hours each week to get involved with whoever is going up.

Overall summary: I feel very much at home here in Malawi and my time here has been extremely memorable and rewarding. The hope is that I stay here until July/August before moving on. Whether I head north to Tanzania and Uganda or south to Zambia is another decision I need to make, but not for a while yet. Life here is very simple and one can't grasp how beautiful it is living by the Lake. The sunsets and scenery looking out on the horizon to Tanzania and Mozambique are extraodinary. The people here in Nkhata Bay are extremely friendly and they really support the work that Butterfly is doing which is great to see. I hope the coming months will continue to provide me with amazing experiences, I'm sure they will.

Half term is vast approaching us so Scott and I have decided to do 1 week of travelling whilst the schools are off. We will take the ferry to Ruarwe before returning to Nkhata Bay and leaving for the Islands near the Moz shore the following morning. Can't wait.

Speak soon


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