We visited three pre-schools during the trip, the first one about 2.5 hours out of Blantyre, and for me, the most impressive one. Situated at the village of Manjuwa and occupied by the Ngoni tribe, this is a school in its first year of operation that started in August 2017. Since a formal school building has not yet been built (usually gets built in the 2nd year of the program), the school is currently being run out of the village church.
It was just impressive to see how the teachers – all volunteers!! – were passionate and engaged despite not even having a proper building! There are currently 92 students enrolled in the program, of which about 60% are orphans. Here an orphan is not just a child who has lost both parents, but in some cases also when the primary income earner has passed or left the family, leaving the family to support themselves. This very first school sticked out by presenting their low-budget and creative way to craft educational materials, from music and arts and crafts to fine tune their motor skills, to library where they learn their fundamental knowledge.
The kids also receive one warm meal through the school which is based on donations from each household. For some kids this may be the only meal for the day!
All projects need the active approval and involvement of the village chief that typically dedicates land to the school. Also, the schools are built by the community itself and WeSeeHope provides only the materials. This way, the projects are being owned and sustained by the villages. 40 schools have been so far built and not a single one has closed.
In this and also in most other visits, we therefore always met the chiefs, the entire volunteer group, the facilitators as well as parents. This had a format of a formal meeting where we introduced ourselves in the local language Chichewa and heard speeches from the various community leaders. An out-of-this world experience!
Pre-schools teach a lot through song and dance, and the children were more than happy to show us everything they have learnt, from the alphabet, sounding out vowels, days of the week, months of the year, and the numbers 1-10.
To any pre-school we came, the children and teachers welcomed us with song and dance as we got off the bus, which was an incredible emotional experience. Seeing the dedication of the teachers, which are all volunteers and spend half of their day with so many orphants and vulnerable kids, building their own materials was a truly incredible and inspiring experience.
We had visited two kids clubs during the four days. Typically, vulnerable kids, mainly orphants, are aged between 6 to 18 and they aim at improving the psychosocial health of the children in the village, those who have gone through traumatic situations with losing one or both parents or having been abused.
The main purpose is to help the kids talk about these traumata and see that they are not alone. This way they can connect with each other and help each other overcome these hurdles together. This is being guided by various psychosociological tools such as developing the family tree, a tree of life diagram, a memory book and a me-bag. With more “physical” tools like the spider web, the kids learn to rebuild trust and support each other.
I was astonished by the quality of this approach. The children learn to communicate their past, present and future, learn teamwork, problem solving skills, very practical things to help them in their lives from a psychosocial perspective. Another amazing program funded through the efforts of the WeSeeHope team.
In the Family Tree tool, the child maps out their last three generations to become aware of where they come from and build on those positive relationships. Here, the teachers identify the extremely vulnerable children, especially when a child has no knowledge of their family tree. It helps the child to start thinking of their remaining family who are still alive and to search them out, enabling them to both realize and get assistance from their relatives.This was by far the most enjoyable part of our visit. As we drove up, the children were always ecstatic to see us. We sat and watched several presentations of the family tree and some teambuilding games that build trust and cooperation in the children. We ended to visit with playing with the children with some bubbles and toys we had brought back with us from home, which the children had a simply amazing time with.