Why Volunteering is so Rewarding

By Ruth Mumba, Director, Abundance, Malawi

I read somewhere, “Volunteers are love personified”. I think that phrase truly defines what volunteering is. It’s a service beyond self. A journey that cannot be summed up in financial terms but with immeasurable returns. My volunteering journey led me to be part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2019. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which began in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. The Fellowship provides outstanding young leaders from Sub- Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return back to their home countries. Fellows engage in Academic and Leadership Institutes, meet with U.S. federal, state, and local government officials, participate in community service, visit organizations to gain professional development, and make friendships and professional contacts with Americans.

I have been volunteering since I was 17 years old. But I never imagined how key volunteering would be for my life. Back then, I did it to get enough credit hours in order to graduate high school. When I got to university, I paid more attention to why I was volunteering. I realised I did it to help other people to see a different perspective to life. We would go to a rural village every Saturday morning to teach children early childhood development skills. We played games, sang songs and had discussions on various aspects of life like education and the importance of good health. I felt so fulfilled in those few hours I spent with the children and got a new energy for the new week of classes, assignments and lecture hours back at university.

In 2016 I started working with Abundance Worldwide and became part of a larger group of volunteers on a more professional level. Abundance Worldwide is part of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) and amongst our partners and networks, we have created a platform where we can remotely volunteer and contribute to individual partner projects from activities including website development to grant applications.

There have been days I thought that I was biting more than I could chew. Communities sometimes have expectations far beyond our capability. But by working together, I have experienced an ease doing developmental work. Together, we were able to resolve conflicts in communities, help develop technical skills of the youth and built an E-Learning centre that the whole community has access to. We have engaged student volunteer to teach and mentor their peers in deprived communities.

While in the United States of America, I had a first experience of being an international volunteer, in a developed country! I had a chance to cook for the homeless, went to a farm to harvest produce for a food bank and planted trees at a local park. I realised that the world has the similar problems. We cannot sit back to wait for institutions or governments to fix them. Sometimes, it is up to us, the people, to come together, pull our resources and help those who are unable to.

I believe that one reason I made it into the Mandela Washington fellowship was due to my leadership and volunteering spirit. To see a sustainable future of Africa is to imagine the possibilities and act on it. Volunteers go far and beyond boundaries. This month at Abundance, we are hosting a Volunteer from France, Julie Charmetant. We are sharing notes on our individual volunteering journey. We want to teach, give health related advise, provide financial literacy and many more. Equipped with passion to see change, volunteers can leave a long lasting impact in individuals and communities they work in. We at Abundance are striving to do just that.

Ruth Mumba on the right, with a volunteer from France at Mount Mulanje, Malawi

About the author

Ruth Mumba is a Geologist with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Earth Sciences and Geography from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. She has been working for the past five years at the Geological Survey Department under Government of Malawi focusing on geological mapping and geothermal resources exploration. She is a Mandela Washington Fellow (2019) and the Director of a voluntary non-profit organisation, “Abundance” (member of SFA network) which supports a village in southern Malawi using an integrated approach. Her passion is volunteerism and supporting vulnerable communities and works towards supporting communities in Malawi use their natural resources in a sustainable manner, have access to quality education, technologies and health facilities.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Skills Development for Community Youth

ECOaction has partnered with a local girls school, Nabisunsa Girls School, to motivate youth in the community to reduce, reuse and recycle! Reagan has described how their school grounds have been transformed into a colorful urban garden with greenhouses for growing crops.  It is hoped that the skills that these pupils will gain through this experience will help the youth tackle unemployment.

Dr Grace Lubaale of Kyambogo University spoke to The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper praising Reagan's community work, outlining that:

“Instead of many educators clinging to old and increasingly ineffective methods of teaching, it is better to use innovative teaching methods. This will help to produce a type of students that think outside the box, who can use what is available to bring about something new,”

“The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing because we have no proper disposal policy and if all our students are trained on how to manage this waste, they can extend the knowledge to the bigger communities,” says Reagan Kandole of ECOaction village, Banda.

Read More at: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Education/Students-recycling-plastic-for-innovation-/688336-4729956-gpvfb8z/index.html

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Read more


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


A 'short and sweet' visit to the SFA Hub, Kampala

By Molly Gilmour, SFA Administrator, Glasgow

From the 14th to 17th May, Sustainable Futures in Africa Principal Investigator Dr Mia Perry and Sustainable Futures in Africa  (SFA) Glasgow Hub Administrator Molly Gilmour traveled to Kampala, Uganda for what can only be described as the definition of a ‘short and sweet´ meeting.

Tuesday 15th May 2018: Makerere University

On May 14th Mia and I arrived to the University Guest house where we stayed during our visit. Arriving at almost midnight, we could still see the buzz of the city – people sharing meals by the road, small traders bustling around the city’s streets, a city that felt inviting, warm and friendly.

We spent the morning having coffee with Alex and Anthony, SFA Hub Coordinator and Administrator respectfully, when we then walked to the College of Education and External Studies. It was fantastic to see where my counterpart, whom I work so closely with, spends his 9-5. After having the privilege to meet many of the respective Makerere University Deans and Heads of School, we embarked on a SFA Uganda hub meeting. At this meeting  we caught up with network plans which have developed, especially those that were made during the recent meeting at the University of Glasgow – which our Ugandan partners were unfortunately unable to attend due to (what I would describe as draconian) UK Immigration authorities. We looked back at recent events in order to look forward; how can the SFA network develop - concerning research as we ask ‘how can we develop methodologies through arts based practices’, and ‘how can we ensure the core coordination of this network continues’, as it was evident through our short visit how imperative SFA Administrator Anthony is to our Ugandan colleagues.

That afternoon SFA spoke at the weekly lunchtime seminar. It was attended by both students and academic staff from across the college. PI Dr Mia Perry spoke about the SFA Network and shared a presentation about the methodologies created and used by SFA. This had a fantastic impact on the attendees, as PhD students enquired as to how they could undertake a PhD placement with the network, and the Dean of Education outlining that he will introduce the SFA ‘Reporting Back Method’ to the Board of Directors  for the Makerere University Graduate School.

Wednesday 16th May: ECOaction

One of the highlights for me - So many serendipitous moments, uncomfortable moments, moments of realisation … dancing and laughing moments...

Walking through the slum-like-squatted area of Kampala, the smell of burning plastics and the dust being kicked up by school aged kids reminded me of my former missions with Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières; Something I wasn’t expecting which brought both a sense of familiarity and discomfort. Yet, arriving to the bright, warm and safe space which is ECOaction, and hearing the music, seeing the dancing, I felt right at home! Reagan welcomed us wholeheartedly as we arrived; Mia, Anthony, Alex, Vincent, Richard and I.  Reagan, as accurately reflected in his projects, is an energetic, warm and a colourful character.

Sitting in a room, one constructed by the community of recycled bottles, Reagan facilitated an introduction to SFA, SFA’s partners and introductions were conducted around this room. We met with Nilotika Cultral Ensemble, who performed for SFA partners alongside the community’s youth. Nilotika Cultural Ensemble shared their experiences of working with Western Organisations, and one member shared the challenges he endured during his previous partnerships with a quote ‘I am asked to sign at the expense of my culture’, that the financial stipulations by Western funding bodies allow for little/no autonomy for African partners. Being in this space as a University of Glasgow representative, an institution who have historically wholeheartedly embodied these extractive partnerships, I was faced with discomfort, but also the realisation that these partnerships must change: That there is a lot of work to do in building both trust and real relationships. There were countless examples of these damaged power relations throughout the three day visit which I experienced, and will continue to reflect and learn from.

The evening was spent conducting ‘strategic planning’ with key stakeholders at ECOaction. More will be shared come on this in the coming months!

Thursday 17th May: 32 Degrees East

Another cool, colourful and creative space in Kampala, SFA Partner 32 Degrees East is a multi-purpose resource centre including hosting artist in residence, meeting centres and art studios. Mia and Is final day, Thursday, was spent on future planning. What future research projects is SFA going to undertake next? What funding is best suited? What partners will be involved? Anthony and I, the SFA Glasgow and Uganda research administrators, created communications strategies and Impact toolkits for the research hubs.

Mia and I finished the day sitting by Victoria Lake with Richard, Alex, Twine, Reagan and Arnold conducting ‘Knowledge Exchange’ on ‘how to take the perfect selfie’


Team Botswana ProgressThe SFA Botswana hub, based in the University of Botswana, has made excellent developments over the recent weeks. The official hub report has been shared amongst core SFA partners alongside core SFA Botswana stakeholders, particularly the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Deans of faculty of Environmental Science and Adult Education, alongside the Office of Research and Development in the University of Botswana. Currently we are working towards a stakeholder dissemination workshop, where we will report back to the community which were partners for the research trials of summer 2017, This will be held in Mmadinare with members of this community in the month of July 2018.

The team has finalised on the New Arts and Culture partnership during the Hub meeting held on the 18th April 2018. Mr Tom Ketlogetswe from Thapong Visual Arts organization was introduced to the team and they all welcomed him as a representative of Botswana SFA partnership with Thapong Visual Arts organization: https://www.transartists.org/air/thapong-visual-art-centre. Thapong Visual Arts Centre  is located in Gaborone and seeks to promote unity and excellence within the Visual Arts in Botswana in all communities, through sharing skills, enabling personal growth and development and promoting arts locally and internationally through networking.

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Of late we met with another potential Environmental partner, Botswana Community Based Organisations Network (BOCOBONET). The organization works with communities on issues of the environment and natural resources to promote Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program. (https://trickleout.net/index.php/directory-pilot/botswana/bocobonet-botswana-community-based-organisations-network)

The Botswana SFA Hub coordinator, and administrator met with a team of  BOCOBONET delegates on the 8th of May 2018 for an introductory meeting. We extended our invitation of partnership to them and they enthusiastically accepted. They will be introduced to the team in the next meeting where it will be decided upon partnership with them.

-- SFA Research Administrator

Goitsemang Mmeko

 

facebook-transparent-logo-png-0 https://www.facebook.com/thapongarts.bw/

ECOaction

SFA partner Reagan Kandole founded a Waste Management Education Project “ECOaction” where he engages the youth and the community in handling waste

We’re a registered environmental, non-profit organization, currently located and operating within in Banda, one of Kampala’s slum areas.  Since 2011 we support disadvantaged youths and women from this area, through multiple activities, aiming to build sustainable livelihoods as well as new and additional income opportunities.

Over the last seven years, our main beneficiaries and partners have been a group of garbage collectors, who lived in the Banda area. This community consists of 106 individuals, mainly single mothers and children, who collect and sort garbage, like plastic bottles or scrap metal, for saleable items. For specific activities, the group was always joined by several other, unemployed youths from the area. Some of the activities carried out have been: engaging in urban farming (kitchen gardens and poultry); briquette making from biodegradable waste; composting; greenhouse construction; construction of children’s playgrounds; building bathroom shelters out of plastic bottles; public art installations; school libraries or conduction of waste management workshops.

The outcomes, especially given the very few available resources, have been impressive and have led to a significant improvement of the livelihoods of the involved people and their environments. Unfortunately our community was then suddenly displaced in 2017, as the landlord decided to develop the land and evicted everybody within a week of notice. Since then the community members are dispersed and live under extremely vulnerable situations.

But this unforeseen event also gave us, as a very young organization, the chance to evaluate and review our structures and processes. To learn from the experiences we’ve made and to identify the necessary steps to sustainably implement the concept of Zero Waste and make it available to everybody. Because our vision includes, but yet goes far beyond, the improvement of individual livelihoods. Our goal is to create an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash, and where empowered and responsible citizens live in harmony with their environment.

Vision Statement:

An empowered and responsible society where citizens live in harmony with their environment, while sustainably creating new job opportunities for the most marginalized urban youth and women through innovation in waste management

Mission Statement:

Creating an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash through capacity development, community empowerment, innovation and partnerships across sectors.

For more information and for more colourful and creative photos check out the ECOaction

https://www.facebook.com/524175797672978/videos/1711759998914546/

 

 


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.


Africa in Motion (AiM)

Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual African film festival, taking place in Scotland, consisting of film screenings and complementary events. It was founded by SFA partner Dr Lizelle Bisschoff. Now in its twelfth year, AiM brings the best of African cinema to Scotland—making it possible for Scottish audiences to engage with African stories and industry professionals from the continent.  Our 2017 festival was a great success, attracting diverse audiences to events in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. We presented a varied programme with a range of genres and events, with over 80 films from 28 countries. The programme included a number of dine-and-view events that paired food with films from the continent, community screenings, films accompanied by panel discussions and Q&As, workshops and even a club night!

Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of Africa in Motion, and at the 2017 festival we further developed our efforts to create an inclusive festival programme. This is hugely important for AiM as 27% of our audiences come from a BAME background. Many of our events were free, and we offered free tickets for refugees and asylum seekers for paid screenings (in particular we partnered with the Unity Centre offering free screenings to their members). Our programme was also inclusive in terms of gender, with 18 of the films in the programme being F-rated, meaning they were directed by women and/or have a strong female focus.

For more information, see: www.africa-in-motion.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/aimfilmfest/

 

https://twitter.com/AiMfilmfest


Art & Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo)

The Art & Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) fosters creative leadership and implements innovative, arts-based, health-oriented programmes that inspire and mobilise. We believe in the transformative power of the arts to facilitate experiential learning, strengthen communities and foster empathy and cross-cultural understanding. Our vision is to serve as an “incubator” for arts-based approaches to actionable social change, creating replicable models that challenge barriers to healthy living.

Three programmes, MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, Students with Dreams and 'Umunthu', are the core of the Art and Global Health Center. MAKE ART/STOP AIDS brings together uses participatory arts to address issues of stigma, fear, prevention, testing and treatment, culminating in the creation and execution of action plans. Students with Dreams empowers young leaders to create and implement innovative programs in response to challenges they see in society, such as: gender inequality, education, human rights, HIV/AIDS and more. The 'Umunthu' Programme uses the arts to catalyse reflection and discussion, providing a platform to address issues of stigma and discrimination through the lens of “Umunthu.” Art and Global Health Center Africa also ran a successful project in 2016 and 2017 in partnership with World Food Program using Theatre for Development as a methodology for engaging communities around issues relating to food security and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

For More information:

https://www.facebook.com/aghcafrica/

http://www.aghcafrica.org/

Read the ArtGlo 2017 annual report here: ArtGlo Annual Report 2017 (low-res)

https://twitter.com/aghcafrica1

 


32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust

32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust is an independent non-profit organisation, focused on the creation and exploration of contemporary art in Uganda.

Our multi-purpose resource centre is based in the capital city Kampala and includes studios, accommodation for artists in residence, a contemporary art library, computers & editing suites, meeting areas and outdoor workshop space. Our programme offers artists in residence and members one on one drop in sessions for critique and professional development, workshops for practical skills and our regular discussion series, Artachat, for social engagement.

For more information

  • https://www.facebook.com/ugandanartstrust/
  • http://ugandanartstrust.org/

[vimeo 127914137 w=640 h=360]

KLA ART 014 Trailer from 32º East | Ugandan Arts Trust on Vimeo.