Success for Abundance Fundraiser; eLearning Center secured for rural Malawi!

Abundance graduated from the GlobalGiving Accelerator program, becoming a regonised partner, through successfully raising $5,538 from 60 unique individual donors in 18 days in June 2018 to support their project, "Build an eLearning Center in rural Malawi!".

eLearning provides many benefits to rural community, as through this they can stay up-to-date with information that can help improve their lives. Abundance therefore sought help through GlobalGiving to fundraise for setting up an eLearning center at the village we work in. Donations were received from USA, UK, Canada, Malawi, Singapore, South Africa, India, Qatar, Swaziland and many more. Sustainable Futures in Africa network  partners also donated to support this. The funds received will be used to purchase solar panels, Keepods, keepod-ready laptops, furniture and for holding training sessions at the eLearning center.

GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. Having participated in the June 2018 Accelerator program, Abundance has been vetted and approved and are now recognized partners of GlobalGiving.

Here is the link to Abundance’s project: http://goto.gg/33386


Reflections from Glasgow

Reflections from Glasgow

by Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil

I believe it was serendipity that lead me to work at the University of Glasgow this year. Two years ago, an unexpected e-mail from Mia Perry, a lecturer and leader of many projects at the University of Glasgow came into the mailbox of “Abundance” a non-profit organization in Malawi which I co-founded with some friends in 2016. She was searching for organizations working in Malawi and had stumbled across our website. Since then, Abundance became part of the “Sustainable Futures in Africa” network, an inter-disciplinary network of academicians and practitioners in UK and Africa working across disciplines for making research more relevant for the developing world.  Through this network, I got an opportunity to do a secondment at the University of Glasgow for a few months early this year, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The time I spent at Glasgow was filled with interesting meetings at the University. But I also could enjoy some solitude, which gave me a chance to reflect on my experience. During my reflections, I jotted down five things I learnt and I am happily sharing them with you:

  1. The leap of faith

I was fully aware that to some extend I was jumping into the unknown as I agreed to take up the consultancy and residency at Glasgow. I was to connect researchers at Glasgow with organizations and researchers in Africa and also shape their research to be more development oriented and appropriate for the developing country context. While I had worked in Africa for over 17 years, I had not done this kind of consultancy before. However, when I looked within, I had faith and the work “felt right”. I became conscious that this is the work I love and am passionate about, so saying “yes” was easy. Furthermore, the opportunity came through Mia, whom I trust. The work went smoothly, particularly because I was working with a fantastic colleague Lynn McCorriston who went out of her way to ensure that the work and meetings went smoothly and that my stay was super comfortable. I feel satisfied that I made a contribution and I learnt that it’s okay to take the leap of faith.

  1. The power of networks

The networks I have made in my professional and personal life have always supported me over the years. Because I spend so much time in my work, I find that my professional colleagues become my good friends and mentors. The LEAD Network is one such network where I have mentors and friends in Malawi and around the world. Indeed, during the consultancy, I linked the University of Glasgow with former colleagues, organizations such as LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa as well as members of the LEAD Fellows network, who, as a result, would be undertaking collaborative projects with the University of Glasgow in the near future. In some of the projects, I am involved too, hence I would get a chance to work with people I love, what an amazing blessing from networking!

  1. Making most of the circumstances

The period I was resident at Glasgow, I witnessed a once in 33 years snow storm called “The Beast from the East”. Some reports said it was the coldest month of March in 100 years in the UK. I had hoped to see some snow, but being snowed in for three days was not exactly what I wished for. It would have been easy to brood and indulge in some self-pity or cabin fever, especially for someone like me who is used to the moderate and sunny weather of southern Africa. But, I decided to embrace the situation and following the hourly weather updates, I took a chance to step out when it was safe and soak in the beauty of the snowy cityscape. As a result, I got some stunning photographs and videos. Lynn and I braved the cold and visited the People’s Museum and Botanical Garden, which was just spectacular surrounded by snow all around.

  1. Change work routines

At Glasgow, I got a new routine of walking about 40 minutes to work every day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Leaving a bit early from my apartment to explore a new route every day, I got a chance to appreciate the architecture and the many historical buildings in Glasgow. I also enjoyed people watching at Kelvingrove Park which was en-route to work. The cute dogs are taken on walks by their owners, the students cycling, school children rushing to school, elderly taking strolls and, the statues and fountains made this a wonderful morning routine to cherish. The University of Glasgow staff were extremely friendly and helpful. As the campus is big and many departments were spread out and a bit distant from each other, we held meetings at café’s which were located conveniently for colleagues. I felt we got a lot of creative ideas and discussion flowing more freely when we stepped out of the office for a bit and enjoyed a coffee and a light meal, surrounded by cutesy artsy café décor. I enjoyed the chats over coffee and meals about research projects, art, politics and philosophy with many colleagues including Lynn McCorriston, Mia Perry and Carlos Galan-Diaz.

  1. The power of technology

Not to sound like a gushing fan of technology, I do have to say that it touches my life on a daily basis. I walked to work every day guided by Google Map’s navigation lady’s voice. Through Facebook, I connected with a Glaswegian friend and attended her birthday party. I also connected with a classmate of mine after 20 years through facebook and booked my bus tickets online to spend a weekend with his family at Aberdeen. For travelling within the city, I used Uber and an app that allowed me to buy bus tickets online. Most of my meetings with people outside the UK was through skype or Zoom or Go-To-Meeting. During the snow storm, we continued to work and had skype meetings. I don’t know what I would have done without my daily evening video chats with my family through whatsapp. Not to mention the many minutes I save every day from doing simple things like checking in online for flights, or ordering gifts online and planning my day according to the weather forecast. As much as technology has its problems, I realised that we can’t do without it and it makes our lives so much easier.

The beautiful city of Glasgow, its museums, café’s, friendly and humorous people and the rich intellectual atmosphere at the University of Glasgow was an inspiring experience for me. Through this serendipitous connection with the University, I have made new friends, new connections and become part of new and exciting collaborative projects. There is an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I thank the University of Glasgow (Lynn, Mia and Molly in particular) for this walk together and making me feel part of a bigger team and a greater vision. Looking forward to the journey ahead!


Art and Development walking hand in hand

by Stewart Paul

I was fortunate to be amongst those who helped organize and participate at the workshop on “Exploring the role of Arts in Development Projects” held in Lilongwe at the beautiful Child Legacy International premises on 17th of January this year. As part of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network, this workshop was amongst the many activities done in Uganda, Malawi, Botswana and Nigeria where SFA members are based. For Malawi, I felt it was high time that artists and development practitioners work together on sustainability issues. This will help them to think out-of-the-box and come up with new and creative ideas to solve sustainability challenges. As part of Abundance, I attended the workshop with Abundance’s Director, Ruth Mumba and felt that it was very well organized and participants appreciated this endeavor. Initially, we had no clue what the workshop outcomes would be as it was such a novel concept. But after the workshop ended and when we reflected on it, we have realized that it was indeed an enriching experience.

Elson Kambalu, a visual artist who is also a film-maker introduced the workshop and talked about the need for artists and other partners in the development sector to work together and he explained his plan to produce a documentary of the workshop for the next SFA meeting which was to be held in Lagos, Nigeria. The ice-breaker session was interesting and Sharon Kalima got the participants to play games and get to know each other. I had a chance to present about the SFA network and share some views from the SFA meeting I attended in Botswana last year.

Helen Todd of Arts and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) introduced the World Café method of participants working together and developing ideas. We all sat in mixed groups of artists, development practitioners and academicians and brainstormed on sustainability topics and how arts can play a role in such work. Some of the ideas that emanated were that Government should incorporate arts into basic education, introduce more art trainings and provide funds to artists. Organizations must include art through engaging creativity of artists into development projects, we felt.

One challenge discussed was that of how art could solve ecological and social challenges Malawi faces. Solutions aired by participants were many including composing traffic jingles for civic education, imparting knowledge through art on cultural heritage and importance of ecological sites, documenting cultural art and disseminating it through libraries, etc. Overall, participants agreed that artists must be included right from inception of any project, after all art is close to people and people can relate to art. We must promote arts as a platform for discussion of development issues. Local songs, dramas and creative messages can help advocate for sustainability issues such as promotion of renewable energy.

Ruth Mumba got a chance to present about Abundance’s work and Helen Todd presented about how ArtGlo had successfully incorporated art into development projects in Malawi. The participants were treated to a tour of the Child Legacy International premises which is a sustainably-built center. On our way back to our homes, we all felt that we made new friends and learnt a lot. I hope this is just a starting point and a lot of projects can be generated from the ideas generated from this workshop.


Reproductive Health at Mbando Village: Dispelling Myths

Making informed choices regarding reproductive health is something that is taken for granted in developed countries with good access to health services. This is often not the case in developing countries, and particularly so at Mbando village which is located by the shores of Lake Chilwa, in Machinga District, southern Malawi. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi faces a number of challenges, including poor access to reproductive health services and inadequate awareness. Mbando is a small village with 95 households consisting of mostly subsistence farmers and fishermen. It is vulnerable due to being prone to droughts and having few livelihood options. However, there is a vibrant youth community at the village. They have organized themselves into a club called “Wonderful Youth Club”. Being concerned about the high number of teenage pregnancies and many misconceptions regarding reproductive health, this club requested Abundance to hold a training session to discuss sexual and reproductive health.

Stewart Paul, Secretary of Abundance and a person of multiple talents, offered to undertake the training and was the right choice, being a youth himself (22 years old). On the 22nd of July 2017, Stewart joined Ruth Mumba (Director of Abundance) and others to Mbando village to meet with the youth to discuss this important yet often neglected topic. The youth face many challenges including poor access to contraceptives. They said that the nearest clinic was 3 km away and contraceptives were often unavailable and when it is available they were distributed to more established youth clubs in surrounding villages. Youth could not access any “counselling” or knowledge on sexual and reproductive health. Often girls were uncomfortable approaching older women to request for contraceptives at the clinic because they feared being judged immoral.

Stewart Paul talks to the youth, as Ruth Mumba (left) looks on.

It was surprising for Stewart to hear about the myths and misconceptions regarding this topic from the youth:

“Artificial contraception methods lead such as using pills lead to sterility or infertility.”

“When boys use contraception, over a given period of time they lack sexual prowess and stamina”.

Through the training Stewart dispelled some of the myths and provided much needed information to youth about sexual and reproductive health and how contraceptives work. The need for family planning was emphasized and he explained that good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The importance of taking care of the reproductive system to avoid injuries and infection was also emphasized.

The session was only for a few hours and the youth requested for more such sessions to be organized for continued awareness raising on these matters. The access to contraceptives remains a challenge to be overcome. Abundance hopes to collaborate with organizations that provide these services and work towards improving access for youth at Mbando village. We envision a Malawi where all youth will be free to take informed decisions regarding reproductive health. This training was a small step towards that vision, but many more needs to be taken.

 

For more information visit: http://www.abundanceworldwide.org

 @abundanceworldwide

 @Abundance_ww


Periods; Let’s talk about it!

Menstruation is the most dreaded time for adolescent girls and women in poor communities such as those in Mbando village, Machinga District, Malawi, where Abundance works. Why is such a natural health cycle, so difficult for them? The girls describe it as a time of anxiety and worry.

“When I get periods, I use pieces of cloth and am worried that it will fall off when I walk. That would be so shameful! So I don’t go to school those days. Also, it is difficult to sit on the floor while having periods, as our school does not have desks and chairs and we sit on the classroom floor.”

-A girl in Chirimba Secondary school, Mbando village.

Our rapid assessment in the village revealed that lack of access to and inability to afford proper sanitary napkins, caused the girls to resort to poor menstrual hygiene practises. Only three out of 53 girls surveyed at Mbando village have ever used proper sanitary pads. Lead by Abundance Director Ruth Mumba and her team, a one day training workshop (22 July 2017) was held at Mbando village on production of reusable sanitary napkins. The training was in response to a request from mothers in the village, who were concerned about young girls’ menstrual hygiene and related impacts.

Abundance Menstrual Hygiene Training

Grace Moyo began the training by first removing the “social stigma” on menstruation. “It is healthy to menstruate and you should not be ashamed of it. If you are a girl, you will menstruate”, she told the girls. She reiterated that being teased by their peers should not let them down, in fact, menstruation should be viewed as a sign that they are fit. Reusable sanitary napkins are made from used cloth and shaped like proper sanitary pads, but have an addition of buttons on the sides to secure them. Thus the worry that the cloth may fall off is no longer there and this gives confidence to the girls. Furthermore, the pads are something the girls can make on their own with a little training. They can be washed and reused, thus being an inexpensive and sustainable solution.

In the large classroom of Mbando village’s Community Based Child Care Centre, girls grouped themselves into groups of 6 and began making the pads with help from Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo. Used cloth was sourced by Ruth from the local markets and sewing kits were purchased which was distributed to each group. Every girl got a small sewing pack which she could take home with her and continue making pads at her home. Care was taken to include aspects of washing pads with soap and drying them thoroughly before use, in the training.

Present at the workshop was the “Mothers Support Group”, which is a volunteer group of women in Mbando village who support women and children and help bring back children who drop out of school. They welcomed the training as a means to reduce girls’ absenteeism in schools. But there were also a pleasantly surprising cascading effect from the training. The Chairlady of the group said, “Because of this workshop, I believe that not only will the girls help themselves, go to school during periods, but, they can also use the skills to make pads and sell them for an income.” The possibility of income generation movement from this workshop was a positive spill-over that Abundance’s training did not expect, but happily welcomed.

Making reusable sanitary pads is not just a menstrual hygiene project, it has multiple benefits of improving confidence in girls, reducing absenteeism of girls in school and possible income generation venture. This is one small way Abundance is trying to help communities in Malawi. Let us break the silence about menstruation and promote dignity for girls!

Written by Deepa Pullanikkatil (PhD)

Founder & President of Abundance.

Follow Abundance on Facebook

 


Abundance: The “Giving and Training” Event

One the 24th May 2017 Abundance held a 'Giving and Training' event at Mbando Village, Machinga, Malawi. This was an event to showcase the skills acquired through the recent training programmes ran by Abundance. Attending and participating in the event alongside Abundance included the Wonderful Youth Group, Mothers’ Support Group, Home-based care, and Gogo Group, and the following guests: Representing the ward councilor: Mr Erik Kazithe, Senior Group Village Head Mbando and other Development Committee members and village heads. 

The Abundance team received a very warm welcome as songs were sung as women danced around as the materials were being offloaded from the vehicle. An opening prayer was made, followed by a poem by a member of Wonderful Youth Group. The poem highlighted some problems the youth are facing. The poem also hinted at massive deforestation that is happening in the nearby Chikala Mountain.

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Scoping Trial, Malawi

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda and Botswana as they develop.

Malawi Research Project: Creative Geovisualisation

This research trial took place from 24th - 26th May 2017 through a collaborative partnership including:

Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil departed from South Africa and Dr. Boyson H Z Moyo from Malawi for Glasgow on the 22nd May, arriving 23rd May. The research team was based in the University of Glasgow for the 24th, 25th and 26th May.

At the end of May, Philip Nicholson, Deborah Dixon, Brian Barrett, and Hazel Long were joined at the University of Glasgow by Glasgow PhD alumni Boyson Moyo from Malawi, and Deepa Pullanikkatil from South Africa. From the 24th to the 26th of May they spent time collaborating, sharing research, and discussing methodologies, working on a creative geovisualisation project on the theme of environmental sustainability in Malawi.

For the project they focused on two sites in Malawi, the Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, an organic farm, and the Likengala River. In preparation for the meeting, participants collected and shared various kinds of data sets for those sites relevant to their own expertise. As a result, the first day involved discussions around the nature of the data, i.e. how it was acquired, what methods were used to capture it, why was it captured, who owns it, and so on. The following two days were focused on a collaborative effort to bring these different types of data together into a narrative structure using the storymap format as model.

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868489776621645826

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868200955719946240

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868044176570580992

In Partnership with


Legal Wallet

Sustainable Futures in Africa is delighted to have our partner Stewart Paul as part of the team. Stewart Paul is the Managing Director of Legal Wallet:

www.legalwallet.org

Legal Wallet

About Legal Wallet

Legal Wallet founded by Alfred Andrew Kankuzi, is a non governmental organisation that connects ICT, Law, Education and Governance. Established in 2015 the organisation uses technology to combat some of the governance pressing challenges and legal Issues that affect Local Malawians. It is motivated and driven by a passion for enhancement and entrenchment of rule of law, citizen participation in the democratic process, respect for human rights and access to justice. It recognises that the ignorance of legal information has led to untold human rights abuses and victimization, observing that the well-being of a society and its subsequent socioeconomic progress cannot be separated from access to legal knowledge, further observing that there are is a knowledge gap between the people of Malawi and the laws that govern them and that access to legal information is essential to the social economic development of any nation.

Vision

Legal Wallet envisions an empowered society full of citizens with necessary tools to fully participate in all democratic processes.

Objectives Of The Organisation

The objects of the Registered Trustees of Legal Wallet shall be to fulfill the following outlined objects:

a) To bring the laws of Malawi closer to the general populace by conducting sensitization campaigns on electronic and print media, tour of rural and peri- urban areas, primary and secondary schools and drop in Legal Wallet Centers that will be established throughout Malawi.

b) To provide the legal aid services to indigent individuals and vulnerable groups such as women, children and prisoners among others and such services shall include but not limited to advisory and litigation services.

c) To protect citizens from unscrupulous individuals purporting act as legal aid service providers.

d) To partner with other local as well as international legal aid service providers in providing legal aid services to indigent and vulnerable individuals.

e) To partner with government and other non- governmental organizations in inculcating democratic governance, rule of law, an enhanced knowledge of the law and participation in development related activities.

f) To provide and promote a synergy between technology and governance issues in Malawi at the grassroots through development of software and mobile applications in the governance sector.

g) To conduct research and conferences on such topics as access to justice, impact of certain laws on different sectors of our society, human rights, rule of law, governance, development and other related issues.

Read more about Legal Wallet here: http://startupcompete.co/startup-idea/social-entrepreneurship-it/legal-wallet/56791

Follow Legal Wallet on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Legalwallet/about/?ref=page_internal  


Telling Stories about Community Development; Why “Abundance” takes an integrated development approach

abundance-ngo-13_1

Written by Deepa Pullanikkatil

Post Doctoral Fellow, Rhodes University

Founder, Abundance

“A world of abundance, where there is plenty for humans and where nature is thriving”, is the vision of our non-profit organization in Malawi called “Abundance”. We have often been critiqued to be an organization that is focusing on too many things. “So, what is your area of focus?”, “Aren’t you doing too many different things, could you not narrow your projects down to one or two?” These are some of the questions people often ask us. To answer them, I tell stories; real life stories about people I have met while working in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in our world. These are the people who inspired Abundance, to take an integrated approach to development.

Supporting community participation is key

We were working on a climate change adaptation project in Lake Chilwa Basin in southern Malawi. It is a lake basin with 1.5 million people, predominantly subsistence rural communities with natural resource dependent livelihoods. We were confident in our thinking that we were providing ideal interventions for climate change adaptation to communities in the Lake Chilwa Basin. Feeling quite satisfied in the knowledge that we knew exactly what the communities needed to adapt, we brought forth interventions such as solar fish dryers, fuel efficient stoves and efficient fish smoking kilns; we promoted conservation agriculture, we provided trainings on climate change and with the communities we planted,  lots and lots of trees.  But when we went to the villages, we realised that women’s participation was not as good as it should be and that men had other challenges they wanted to share with us. Men came to us with their two main concerns, cholera and bilharzia (a debilitating disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes affecting the urinary tract) and asked us if we could do something about that. Women said that poor access to family planning and reproductive health services were the challenges they faced. The reasons for their reduced participation was now clear. How could men attend meetings when disease burden was so high? How could women participate actively when they had so many children or so many sick people to care for?

Why interconnectedness matters

Faced with the dilemma of how to address the health and family planning needs of communities through a climate change adaptation project with a specific livelihoods and environment focus, we realised that the way forward was to use an integrated approach. We could no longer take a sectoral approach, because communities did not live their lives in compartments. They lived integrated lives with needs that were interconnected. If we wanted to help them adapt, then we had to understand and work with interconnectedness. These often cuts across sectors and does not fall under a narrow themes of livelihoods or environment.  We had to open our eyes to these new perspectives.

In order to address the cholera and bilharzia challenges, we environmentalists were required to learn about disease and parasitology. We learnt that the challenge of bilharzia was partly created by well-intentioned irrigation coverage expansion. This was a method intended to help communities improve agriculture and adapt better. But in areas where bilharzia is endemic, increasing irrigation coverage allow snails which host the bilharzia causing parasite to spread to such waters, thus spreading bilharzia in to areas where previously it was not prevalent. In such a situation, environment, irrigation and health are intertwined. Without integrated planning there is risk of creating negative impacts through well-intentioned projects. We collaborated with health institutions and undertook research. We found prevalence of bilharzia was indeed high – up to 49% in some areas. The publication of the research was shocking to many and since then, a lot of attention shifted to the neglected disease of bilharzia, and help poured in.

It’s nice when people think you’re an expert

While doing research on bilharzia, as environmentalists, the first hurdle we had to overcome was that of our own ignorance, or lack of interest to work on a field that we knew nothing about. Mostly it was the fear of appearing ignorant, after all don’t we all like being the “experts”? We as environmentalists had to learn about health, about parasitology and diseases. Going beyond our comfort zone was a humbling experience and finally, in the end, as thousands of people got treated for Bilharzia, it was satisfying to see community needs met, exactly the way they should be met.

Starvation or prostitution: Families seeking solutions to problems caused by climate change

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