Joining Empower Malawi: The Journey Begins!
Our newest staff member in Malawi – Bright Msuku (Assistant Project Manager) blogs about his journey to join the team and his first visit to Kapita.
It started like a cat playing with a teddy bear when I met Ben Cole an Australian citizen who is currently consulting for the United Nations International Children’s’ Education Fund (UNICEF) in Malawi. I worked with Ben for over 14 months as a driver under UNICEF Malawi, taking him to different rural areas of Malawi. This encouraged Ben to have discussions with me concerning my career status and he was so passionate to learn that I went a bit far with my education than just being a driver. My journey to Empower Malawi started with Ben having connections to Shanil Samarakoon the Executive Director for Empower Inc., and Jones Ntaukira a young passionate Executive Director for Empower Malawi. This brought the passionate Shanil and Jones to learn about the growing up and the expansion of Empower’s team hence they enthusiastically offered me, Bright Msuku, an internship for six month with high opportunity of turning into a full time position upon satisfactory workmanship. I am a holder of a Diploma in Information Systems Analysis and Design from the Association of Computer Professionals (ACP) London.
Monday, 21st January 2013 was the day I attended a Partners meeting in Mzuzu. Present at the meeting were Jones Ntaukira the Executive Director/project manager for Empower Malawi, Victor Phiri the project coordinator. Mzuzu University TCRET staff Mr. Gondwe and Mr. Gogoda, BEED Malawi’s Mr. Kili as well as permaculture advocates Lieza and Kenneth from Lukwe Eco Camp and Organic Gardens were all present. The meeting covered a couple of development strategies regarding prosperity of the project. This included a rapid review of 2012 highlighting project milestones and challenges as well as looking forward to 2013 as a year of more actions and prosperity. All this was to look forward on how the project shall effectively help Malawians living in remotest rural areas in particular people from Kapita. Jones led the meeting in conducting a SWOT analysis to identify merits and demerits of the project in the year 2012.
- From the renewable energy
Mr. Gondwe outlined a couple of activities lined up for 2013 i.e establishment of an Agro processing cooperative in Kapita where members will process fruits to produce fruit juice. Maintenance of the school block at Kapita primary school which the work is underway was also mentioned as a pre requisite and a sign of community commitment for the school to be installed with solar electricity. Training is also to be provided to the selected members on a short course basis teaching them on how to install the panels so that they can become entrepreneurs.
- From BEED Malawi (banking and entrepreneurship)
BEED, which will ensure the establishment of cooperatives, has scheduled the activities to start in the first quarter of 2013. Further, business loans will be rolled out to people of Kapita and also provide training sessions on small scale businesses development and management. Other services expected to be rolled by the bank are the renewable energy gadget loans and agro input saving plans. Village development loans are to be established by April, 2013. Women group loans is another activity, solely to empower women to operate their own small scale businesses.
- From Permaculture
This is one of the project components which completes Empower’s model for sustainable development projects. A good job is being done by Lieza and Kenneth at Kapita Primary School. Lieza is currently engaging with the school management committee, parents, teachers and the learners to introduce a breakfast program at Kapita primary school. They have already embarked in the introduction of eco-sanitation and a training was already done in 2012. A permaculture garden at the school is now flourishing and different fruit and shade trees are growing.
MY VISIT TO ZATUBA VILLAGE:
Zatuba Village is indeed a remote village, very far from the townships of Mzimba. It is approximately 60km away from Main Highway connecting Lilongwe and Mzuzu Cities. Kapita area has more school drop outs since the place is very remote. Children don’t have role models to influence them to work hard in school other than working in the maize and tobacco fields. This has even influenced Zatuba and the whole of Kapita area’s development to grow very slowly. Driving is about two and a half hours due to a bumpy gravel road. I understand that before Empower came in to Kapita area people were living a life of no hope. When Empower passionately started working at Zatuba, it was like green grass growing on concrete slab because it is so hard for the area to have access to development. People of Zatuba received Empower Malawi with warm hands seeing their dreams come true. As the project started operating in three areas namely community banking, renewable energy and permaculture, people of Zatuba and Empower Team did not hesitate to expand the project to the whole Kapita area in which a committee was developed by the name Kapita Development Committee (KDC) led by Joyce Mwale as chair lady to overlook the 38 villages in development. I had a chance to interview two members from KDC to find out the general feeling about the project or the coming of Empower Malawi in the area. The views from these interviewees gave me a great picture that the people from Kapita are so keen to work hand in hand with Empower Malawi as far as they get quick response from what they ask for i.e. the solar lanterns issue has brought more interest to the people of Kapita.
Finally I would like to take this opportunity to thank Shanil Samarakoon, Jones Ntaukira and all partners for the great work being implemented in Kapita, Malawi. I can foresee that Empower Malawi will spread all over the country to building self reliant communities. Once again thanks everybody who accepted me as the new team member for Empower Malawi. I am so passionate to work hand in hand with the whole team members in this 2013. Let 2013 be the year of prosperity for Empower Malawi.
Kind regards to everyone.