This week we have been focusing on preparations for our community based children’s centre that we aim to have functioning by the end of our time in Mzimba.

We have noticed that there are a lot of children and youths with nothing to do in the afternoons. The children are finished school by 1pm and many of the youths have completed school but are unable to find employment.

The aim of the children’s centre is to provide children with a safe place to play and learn whilst giving the youths an opportunity to learn new skills by volunteering at the CBCC.

We started by identifying youths who would be able to run the centre and explained the three areas that it could be divided into - a sports area, a quiet area and a creative area, each of which will give the children a chance to learn new skills and socialise.

We got suggestions from the youths for each of the areas and showed them examples of activities they can do with the children. They all seemed very enthusiastic at the idea of something that they would be able to run and could make a difference in their community, while giving them a way to spend their time better.

Positive changes

We have revisited the existing CBCC where we took a gift of maize so that they would be able to feed the children. We asked the volunteers to split the children into groups, as teaching them all together has proved difficult.

Half of the group went into the main teaching area to continue showing the volunteers new teaching methods that got the children more involved and included more ways of learning. This was very well received by both the volunteers and the children, who enjoyed being up and actively learning.

The other half of the group looked through the curriculum that was given to the CBCC, and listed activities that would make the syllabus easily achievable.

We have asked the volunteers to provide us with a plan for what they want us to do with the land they have been given by the village headman, so next week we can start work to create a garden.

We feel that the work we have been doing has been worthwhile as we can see positive changes in the teaching techniques, and by the time we leave we should have started a garden, where in time they will be able to grow food to feed the children. We are also able to use what we have learnt at this CBCC to help us run our own children’s centre.

HIV awareness

As well as training the youth group to run the CBCC we have been continuing work on the SAVE model, to widen their knowledge on HIV. This past week we started the group by doing various trust building exercises, to bring the group closer together. We have looked further into A - accessibility to resources and medication and V - voluntary testing and counselling.

We explained in more detail what these meant and why each is important to help combat HIV and AIDs. The youth group produced lots of work in the form of poems, drama, art and raps which were all great and can be used when they do outreach work in villages and schools to educate people about HIV.

Visiting and learning

During our free time we have visited a primary school of over 1,000 children, where we learnt that only 10 people from each year would get the chance to go to secondary school. At the school we helped the teachers with the large classes of up to 100 pupils by marking books and teaching English lessons. This also gave us the opportunity to learn more about the children and how they work, which will help us with our CBCC.

We have also visited another village where we carried out general duties. The girls helped with shelling and attempting to pound maize, in a large pestle and mortar, to prepare it to be turned into nsima (Malawian’s stable food), picking vegetables from the fields, preparing and cooking them for a meal for the village as well as smearing the floor with mud to create the effect of concrete, while the boys spent much of the day herding goats and helping with the animals.

It has been a good week where we have seen positive changes to the work we have been doing and we look forward to next week when we should be opening our own children’s centre.

By ICS volunteer Charlotte Issac. We don't have photos yet from Charlotte: the internet connection in their village is not good enough to send photos! The photo above was taken by a team of ICS volunteers in Malawi in summer 2011.