Two weeks in and Team Chinombo have finally got to work in Rumphi with the local communities. After weeks of planning, it was great to get started with work in a very challenging and rewarding week for the team. Even after the first week we had already encountered various scenarios, which have challenged the team but everybody has pulled together and managed to overcome them. Before we got to work the team was split into three groups to maximise the amount of different projects we could visit each day.

On the first day, Group 2 visited the Village Loan Savings Association (VLSA). Here the group went to learn about how the community are performing and how they work in the VLSA. The group say they found it very informative and learnt it was very important for the communities as they don’t always have enough time to visit the bank, but thanks to the VLSA, they can save their money easily and create small businesses. 28 community members also attended the VLSA session.

Group 1 visited a small community to train them on how to make manure. This training allows communities to create cheap fertiliser, which is important as due to lack of funds they can often find it difficult to buy other alternative fertilisers. The session was attended by 11 community members, which the group were very satisfied with, and afterwards everybody was confident that the community were now very well aware of how to create manure, allowing us to achieve our objective. 

Group 2 went to visit goat kraals in Chiskombe where they monitored six goat kraals. Part of the group’s efforts to monitor these goat kraals was to see whether they had followed the advice of our local partner organisation SPRODETA (Small Producers’ Development and Transporters Association)  in how to build an effective goat kraal. This included them using specific materials recommended by SPRODETA. Three goat kraals were very well built, however the other three weren’t built as recommended as the communities claimed they didn’t have enough funds to get all the materials.  The group did however find this experience very interesting and gave them an insight into community life. 

Group 1 were the team lucky enough to go to the pond and do tiresome labour with a committed local community. It was very rewarding to get involved and meet these people who are going to be benefitting from our volunteering. We spent the day discussing the best way to make the pond work as effectively as possible.  This involved talking about the best places to locate an inward and outward pipe for the water to flow.  After this discussion, the team got to work and removed rubble from the pond for what seemed like a very long time. Once our work was finished, we were complimented by the local community members about how much work we had got done.

Group 3 went on a visit to monitor fruit trees, which involved meeting many different community members, in order to find out how many of their fruit trees had survived. They found they had very varied results of success, with some people having as many as 19/20 surviving, whilst others only had 2/20.

The car park, which was partly built by the previous team of ICS volunteers, was further completed by our team this week. Overall, all three groups visited the car park on two separate days so that we could get as much done as possible.

Group 1 went there to lay the bricks of the car park out. This was a very tiresome day for the group as they had to carry many bricks around and lay out intricately so that the car park would be as flat as possible. Three other members of the community participated, which helped the team get this done as quickly as possible, while a fellow volunteer discussed with them his plans to create a small footpath, which would help increase accessibility for customers.

The other two groups visited the car park on Friday, where they helped make cement and lay the bricks in place with the cement. This was a very challenging day for the team in the sun, however they were helped tremendously by some community members who used their experience to get the job done as quickly as possible. By the time the team left the car park, all of the bricks were laid and cemented in place, which was very rewarding for everyone!

Overall the group have had a very challenging week in the heat of Malawi, however the general feel in the team is that it has helped bring everybody closer together. We believe the work we have done has been very successful and we are looking forward to continuing this momentum throughout the placement.

Written by ICS volunteers Andy Jeffery and Kate Nyirenda