Benjamin Franklin said that “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” and the time that Emily Stapleton Jefferis invested in an educational project in Malawi has certainly paid off.
Thanks to a £300 Individual Grant for Volunteering provided to Emily by the Jack Petchey Foundation, she was able to join 11 other volunteers, from both the UK and Malawi, to work with Malawian charity SPRODETA (Small Producers’ Development and Transporters Association) through the UK volunteering charity Progressio.
The charity aims to help small producers improve their lives and livelihoods by educating communities about hygiene, sanitation, and irrigation farming, to reduce the prevalence of diarrhoea and cholera, and to improve crop yields.
The project involved delivering educational presentations to community members to encourage good hygiene practices. This included giving practical demonstrations to community members on how to construct simple hand-washing facilities, dish racks and rubbish pits. The volunteers also staged two community-wide presentation events involving songs, dances, drama performances and poems, as a way to educate and include all the community members.
The volunteers also helped the economic development of the community. For example, a cooperative of farmers were supported to grow extra crops on a shared piece of land, providing extra food which could also be sold for profit. Emily and the other volunteers helped with the manual labour too and donated a treadle pump to the members to make the watering process much easier.
The project was very successful, with a large number of households constructing their own toilets, hand-washing facilities, dish-racks, kitchens, bathrooms and rubbish pits, which will help to significantly lower the likelihood of diarrhoea and cholera outbreaks. The farming cooperative has reported that the irrigation farming technique has improved their crop yield dramatically. This not only allows farmers to sell their produce and pay for necessities such as soap and school fees, they are now able to grow a wider variety of crops, providing the community with a more nutritious diet.
Emily also benefitted enormously from the experience saying “I learnt so much about Malawian culture and also developed skills in event planning and management, along with how to work well in a team of diverse characters.”
Her favourite part of the experience was staying with her Malawian host family. Saying “they were so friendly and welcoming; I truly became a part of their family whilst I was there. It was also wonderful to be so welcomed by the community members of the villages, and to see their way of life; despite their struggle for survival they were still generous and happy.” She found it “inspiring” to work with the Malawian volunteers and to see how committed they were to improving the lives of vulnerable people in their country.
She added “There is still so much development work to be done in the country with many obstacles including corruption, so I am very happy to know I have played a tiny part in helping improve the life chances of those living there.”
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