A Message From Shanil


A Message From Shanil

January 11, 2011

It’s been an amazing year for Empower and on a personal front. I can’t think of a better way of savoring this year than by spending time in Malawi and seeing the impact of our collective efforts.

James and I will be meeting with the local project team to address project planning, impact measurement and implementation. We will be meeting with partner organizations such as Solar Aid (Solar Lanterns), Care & Support (Solar Lanterns), and BEED (entrepreneur development).

• • •

We will be spending a minimum of 4 days in Zatuba Village (Dec 6th-10th) and we look to implement three key activities.

1) Solar Lanterns: Covering the upfront cost for 35 households. Each will repay approx $4 per month (equivalent to current kerosene costs) for a year to ensure cost-recovery and community ownership.

2) Introduction to Microenterprise development: A manual developed by Empower, delivered by the local project team. This will focus on introducing Zatuba’s entrepreneurs to the realities of micro business and basic business principles to screen business ideas. We will focus on practical role plays and pilot projects to transfer core learnings.

3) Design for Change: This simple but intuitive program developed in India is targeted towards enabling children to be changemakers. We will be focusing on children in the local school between 7-14.

The program involves getting children to “feel” towards a community problem that bothers them, “imagine” a solution they can implement in a week, “do” to bring about change and finally “share” the impact. I am very excited to see what the children come up with. We believe this will encourage children to connect with their own capacity change with internal resources.

Beyond this we intend to bond with the community, develop mutual trust and most importantly listen to their aspirations and challenges. It will be a pivotal experience for James and myself to actually live amongst the people we serve.

We hope to transcend the “us and them” complex that tends to surround such projects and focus on discussing the creation of a new reality for the community as opposed to addressing “lacks”‘or “deficiencies”. As we see it, we are partners.

• • •

On a personal front, It’s been 15 years since i have returned to Malawi. This is the realization of two dreams – one being to return to the place of my childhood and the other being to make a meaningful impact. It’s early days but it’s so gratifying to be on this journey.

We hope to spare some time to soak in some of the local culture, scenery and wildlife. We are particularly interested in Nyika National Park, Likomo Island and Mt. Mulanje.

James and I will report on our adventures! We look forward to sharing this journey with all our friends and supporters.

Thanks to everyone who contributed towards making this happen.

Shanil Samarakoon


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