The Friendly Gecko Guest House in Malawi enables help2kids to run several projects in the small fishing village of Lifuwu. The projects are located in our community and can be reached by foot within 10-15 minutes. The Guest House is situated directly in the local community and through our projects we work to improve the living standards of the local people, focusing specifically on children and youths.
In Malawi education is not compulsory. Only 50 percent of children attend primary school. Of the children who attend primary school, only 25 percent graduate. Even for those who do graduate, many regions of Malawi lack secondary schools. Most schools do not have basic resources such as desks, textbooks, exercise books, and pens. Classes are often held outdoors because of a shortage of classrooms.
There can be up to 170 children in a single class and teachers often must teach two classes at once. Only 2/3 of teachers have completed 2 years of formal training. The illiteracy rate in the country is one of the highest in the world (at around 61.3 percent).
help2kids works with two government-run local primary schools in Lifuwu. The primary schools offer education to children between 6 and 16 years old (Standard 1 to Standard 8). The size of classes vary between 60 and 170 students. help2kids aims to support the school by sending volunteers to assist teachers and provide after school programs, donating learning materials, such as exercise books and pens, and helping maintain the facilities.
In Lifuwu village help2kids supports a pre-school which offers provision for children between the ages of three and five. The pre-school is managed by the Tiyanjane Aids Fighters, a Community Based Organization (CBO) which is run by local volunteers with the purpose of improving the lives of vulnerable children. The pre-school offers a nursery school and a day-care center to over 100 children. Most of the teachers are local volunteers with little or no formal training in education and often speak very little English.
In 2013 help2kids renovated the existing classroom, painting the inside with fun educational lessons. Additionally, we built a completely new classroom including desks for up to 50 children. This new addition has enabled us to divide the day-care children from the nursery school children for better learning environments that cater to their different skill levels. At the beginning of this year help2kids hired a nursery school teacher to implement a more structured curriculum and work specifically with the nursery students. In addition to funding the salary of the nursery school teacher, help2kids is providing a stipend for the local volunteer teachers. We continue to contribute educational materials to help foster creativity in the teaching methods and pay for breakfast to ensure that all of the children who attend the pre-school receive this important meal.
In Malawi, the ratio of patients per doctor is 50,000 to 1. For dentists, the ratio is even higher at 450,000 to 1. In 2012 it was estimated there were 45,600 deaths due to HIV/AIDS. 10.8 percent of the adult population (aged 15-49) is currently living with HIV/AIDS which is the 9th highest prevalence rate in the world. The primary reason for poor medical care is a lack of skilled medical professionals and a shortage of financial resources. Malawi has a three-tiered system for health services. At the local level are rural health centers or clinics which serve several surrounding villages. Each district then has a hospital and finally there are three central hospitals (one in each region Northern, Central, Southern - of Malawi).
In Lifuwu village help2kids works with the rural health center assigned to the area. The clinic has one medical assistant, Mr. Zakeyo, and two nurses who deal with common diseases such as malaria, fractures, infections, HIV testing, and provide counseling. Additionally, the clinic assists pregnant women throughout their pregnancy, giving birth and with family planning. The clinic also provides outreach services to the neighboring villages which are far away from the health facilities. This includes monitoring and assessing the growth and well-being of children under five, providing appropriate vaccinations for these children and a supplementary feeding program when the supplies needed are available.
As so often in rural areas in Africa, local clinics lack the basic equipment and machines to run smoothly in order to provide the patients with decent and adequate service. Just to name a few things, the clinic in Lifuwu is short on bed linen (pregnant women often lie on dirty mattresses), hot plates for sterilizing delivery equipment, and lack thermometers. help2kids aims to support the clinic by providing volunteers (both medical and non) to provide general assistance and to help with administrative tasks and awareness activities.
Lifuwu is a remote fishing village on the shores of Lake Malawi. The people subsist mainly from fishing and farming. Some prominent features in the village include its two primary schools (each with over 700 children), the local health center, and the Lifuwu Rice Research Station. The village has a small market where basic food items such as tomatoes and bread can be purchased. There are restaurants at the nearby resorts, however, these resorts are approximately a 45 minute to an hour walk. Malawi is described as "the warm heart of Africa" and this definitely applies to the people of Lifuwu. The people are extremely friendly and helpful. Malawi is probably one of the safest countries in Africa.