Mphatso Children’s Foundation currently runs 12 Nursery Schools in the Nkhata Bay district. These Nursery Schools are located between Kachere and Mkuzi. Each Nursery school employs two teachers as well as two cooks while our larger Nursery Schools also employs an an assistant teacher. Nursery Schools run 5 days a week, starting at 7 am and finishing at 11 am, and each child receives a cup and a bowl of nutrient enriched porridge. The curriculum includes literacy, numeracy, developmental play and physical education. The teachers make many of their own resources and teach the children in three different languages using a variety of creative techniques including singing and dancing. The nursery schools range in size from 30 students, in the more remote areas, to 120 students in the more populated areas.
Baby Feeding program:
Parents in Malawi do not name their babies until their first birthday, due to the high rate of infant mortality. This program helps address this issue, by feeding babies and infants whose mothers have either died or are too unwell to feed them themselves. The number of babies on the program varies from 20 through to around 30 depending upon the need at any given time. Babies are assessed before being put on the program, both for malnutrition and also for the family’s circumstances. Babies come fortnightly or monthly for assessment and to receive formula and a nutrient enriched porridge mix. The babies are weighed and their medical records checked each time they visit to ensure that they are improving and if further medical assistance is required, then transport money is provided to enable them to attend the local hospital. As well as this, when each baby joins the program they are given clothes and a blanket.
Community feeding program:
Those on the community feeding program are the most vulnerable in our area. Generally these are elderly, disabled or terminally ill people who have no family to provide for them, or to help them tend their gardens, which leaves them unable to grow their own food. These people are assessed for their level of need and those found to meet our requirements are given a bucket of milled Maize each month to supplement their nutrition. These individuals, as the most vulnerable in our community, are often assisted in other ways as well, including mosquito nets and transport money to the local hospital when needed.
We currently run three English classes for varying levels of ability. These classes run twice a week for two hours at a time. The students are taught conversational spoken English, reading, comprehension, spelling and grammar. The students are assessed twice a year with exams and are given weekly homework assignments. The majority of our students are women and the ability to read, write and speak English not only increases their confidence but also gives them a skill set that makes them more employable. We employ three people to teach English.
Tawonga sewing groups:
Mphatso has two sewing groups. These groups provide a formal but relaxed setting for women to socialise as well as learn new skills and work together towards common goals. One group sews uniforms for Mphatso Nursery School children and the other sews uniforms for the local primary school at Seka. The money made from selling these uniforms is used to buy more materials and then any profits made are shared amongst the group.
Positive living groups:
This is a group of around 30 women who meet weekly to support each other. Each of these women are HIV positive. When the women meet they knit, sew and watch and dance to music DVD’s together. The women share a simple meal of sweet potatoes or rice and a cup of tea. Each woman attending is given transport money once a month to enable her to get her ARV medication and see a doctor as required. Each woman in the group is also sponsored with an amount that will enable them to buy a little extra food, soap or other essentials.
Women’s Bible study:
A group of around 40 women meet each week to sing, dance, pray and learn from the Bible together. This group is led by Margaret a local Pastor who has a passion for God’s word and loves to teach. This group ranges in age from late teens through to some in their 50’s and draws people from a number of different church backgrounds.
Girls and Boys club:
These two groups meet weekly and are designed for youth aged between 15 and 20.The groups teach life skills as well as seeking to develop these youth spiritually and relationally. Boys Club and Girls Club are led by some of our teachers who then become mentors and role models to these youth. These teachers are chosen for their character, integrity and compassion. These youth are the next generation of leaders in our village and by working with them and helping to shape and develop them spiritually, Mphatso seeks to impact the future of our communities in ways that benefit everyone and care for the most vulnerable.
School and College sponsorship:
Mphatso formally provides school and college sponsorship to a number of students. Each of these students has shown academic potential as well as good character and a strong work ethic but has been unable to attend school or college because their family cannot afford to pay the fees. Four students are currently being sponsored to two boarding schools in Mzuzu to give them the best possible chance academically. We are also sponsoring one student to attend Bible College in Lilongwe, studying leadership development. School sponsorship involves not just fee payment but also a monthly allowance and basic school supplies and uniform.
Informally, Mphatso supports a number of students to attend a local high school by providing ‘piece work’ to earn fees and/or uniform and basic school supplies. These students are often able to pay some of the fees themselves but are unable to find all of the money they need and would be unable to finish their education without assistance.
Every day Mphatso Children’s Foundation receives requests for help. Each request has to be judged on its merit with staff needing to determine if the need is genuine, and if it is, whether we can help. Many of these requests can be met within our existing programs but some fall outside the scope of these. Community assistance can take the form of ‘one off’ assistance with food, transport to medical attention, or clothing. Assistance is often provided, where the recipient is able, by offering ‘piece work’ to earn money.
Mphatso currently supports five football (soccer) teams and three netball teams. These teams range in age and ability. Four of the football teams are children and youth from our local village and the other football team is the senior team, the Homesweeper Magpies, for our village. Similarly two of the netball teams are made up of children and youth from our village and we also support the senior Netball team as well. Sponsorship takes the form of providing equipment, uniforms and piece work when transport money is required as well as transport to some games and a place to camp and bond before important games. Football and netball are two of the most important community connection points in rural Malawi truly bringing everyone together and being a part of these teams and helping to develop teams for the future is an important part of Mphatso helping to build the community we live in.
Staff and teacher training:
Mphatso runs regular training for teachers. This has taken a variety of forms from one off workshops to a two week intensive required for Government registration. We have also been offered and utilised training for some of our teachers by the local Government. Experienced teachers also assist by training new or less experienced teachers.
Other staff are also offered training both formally and informally from carpentry and welding through to agriculture and driving. In 2013 we trained two staff in welding, two in carpentry, and a number in agricultural practices. We also have one staff member being trained in leadership development at a Bible College.
Our Maize mill not only provides employment for two staff but also allows us to mill our own porridge cheaply and more efficiently. Our mill is also used by the wider community and offers competitive rates. There is no mill near ours so having a maize mill where we do greatly benefits women who often have to carry a 20 kg pail of Maize many kilometres to have it milled.