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 Assisting preschools in Malawi

Alena and Marta are working as international development volunteers in Mzimba, a quiet rural community in the north of Malawi. Here, they work as assistants at a preschool project. One of their main tasks is to improve the learning conditions for the children by building playgrounds.

 

An important foundation for life skills

The preschools provide activities for kids who are three to six years old. The schools constitute an important foundation that kids need before starting in primary school. Preschools are important because they are the places where the children start to develop their social and emotional skills; they start to interact and share with other children and to act in a different environment. Children at this age can learn valuable life skills, as long as they are guided in a healthy and supportive environment.

Since the preschools are not supported financially by the government, it is the local communities themselves who organise the running of the preschools. Though local leaders and parents take it upon themselves to put their children first, they lack good materials for the structures of the buildings. Also, there is a lack of teaching materials and other resources, as well as continuous training of the caregivers (teachers) for them to develop their teaching methods.

 

The role of international volunteers

The caregivers are volunteers, mostly mothers, from the community who are eager to learn new skills and strategies to teach the children in the best way they can.

The role of the international volunteers is to work with the community to encourage, empower, and mobilise local enthusiasts with the aim of providing as good an education as possible for these young children. The volunteers are there to share their knowledge and assist caregivers with new tools and new resources – for instance playgrounds – to improve the learning environment at the preschool

It is important to note that it is not the role of the international volunteers to interact directly with the children and form relationships with them. That is the role of the caregivers. Of course, the international volunteers meet the children when they build something together, but the emphasis is on the volunteers assisting the caregivers by providing services they cannot manage themselves in their busy lives.

 

23 preschools and counting

In August 2019, the project included 23 preschools but more schools have expressed an interest in registering to join the project.

The preschools are run by local forces and all staff are local volunteers. The projects will run with or without external support, but the efforts of international volunteers add to the projects since they are able to assist with tasks on top of what is already being done by parents, local leadership and volunteer caregivers.

Each generation of international volunteers bring new ideas, support and care. Through this process, they can continue to build on the work of past teams and further the development of facilities like kitchens, toilets and playgrounds. Bit by bit the preschools are improved with the combined efforts of local and international volunteers.

Alena and Marta are excited about the project:

“The first step for us was to visit all the preschools and get to know the communities. We saw buildings in bad conditions. If a kitchen and/or toilet were available most of them were built with grass roofs and soil instead of cement to keep the bricks together. Also, most of the preschools did not have a playground, which are crucial to a child’s physical development as well as the development of their social skills and manners. “

“Despite these conditions, we saw kids happy to be in school and communities working together to make quality education for their young children possible.

Each preschool has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some have strong buildings and have been assisted by other volunteers, so we are continuing the work that other people have been doing for some years.”

 

The next steps

“A priority is to get proper and durable materials for the buildings. Especially roofing is important because during the rainy season roofs are prone to collapsing unless they are made from metal sheets. Not only would this jeopardize the integrity of the entire school building itself, but it would also put children and caregivers in immediate danger.

Second, after the roofs, proper concrete floors are needed. Then the walls. From there on, we will paint the walls with letters, numbers, animals and shapes to create a more fun and educational environment. Without proper materials, the buildings can be destroyed easily during the rainy season, and with resources being limited, it could be nearly impossible for the community to be built without help.

Therefore, we are raising funds for building materials such as roof sheets, timber, cement and paint. If we can, we will also invest in learning materials such as books, writing utensils and games.”

 

Building playgrounds with locally sourced materials

In the meantime, Alena and Marta are working with the communities around the preschools to build playgrounds since most of the preschools don’t have one or has one that needs to be repaired.

The building of the playground is a joint-venture: the communities provide wood, mosquito nets (to make swings) and tires, Alena and Marta provide the nails and know-how. Together they build spaces for the children to play. In the process, everyone is learning new skills that will be useful in the future.

This is a good example of things can be done, in unison for mutual benefit.

 

Follow Marta and Alena

If you would like to follow the progress of the project that Marta and Alena are assisting as international volunteers, please follow their account “Tawonga Chomene” which means “Thank You” in Tumbuka which is the local langauge in Mzimba. 

 

“I decided to join a volunteer program because it’s an opportunity to know a new culture, new people, a new country and do it through sharing and helping each other. To get experiences to make us aware and make others aware about another reality”
~ Marta Pujol, Spain

 “I joined this program to take a step forward in starting my career as a humanitarian.
I have a love for people and a responsibility to use my privilege to lift others up.
Also, I know what it´s like to be helped and I want to return the favour.
The lessons I learn here I will carry with me for the rest of my life”  
~ Alena from the United States of America

Day of the African Child 2019: Children's Rights First

About DAPP Malawi

Development from People to People (DAPP) Malawi is a locally registered NGO that has worked in Malawi since its establishment in 1995.  DAPP Malawi works with communities and engage local and national leaders to implement local solutions for sustainable development.

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

 Assisting preschools in Malawi

Alena and Marta are working as international development volunteers in Mzimba, a quiet rural community in the north of Malawi. Here, they work as assistants at a preschool project. One of their main tasks is to improve the learning conditions for the children by building playgrounds.

 

An important foundation for life skills

The preschools provide activities for kids who are three to six years old. The schools constitute an important foundation that kids need before starting in primary school. Preschools are important because they are the places where the children start to develop their social and emotional skills; they start to interact and share with other children and to act in a different environment. Children at this age can learn valuable life skills, as long as they are guided in a healthy and supportive environment.

Since the preschools are not supported financially by the government, it is the local communities themselves who organise the running of the preschools. Though local leaders and parents take it upon themselves to put their children first, they lack good materials for the structures of the buildings. Also, there is a lack of teaching materials and other resources, as well as continuous training of the caregivers (teachers) for them to develop their teaching methods.

 

The role of international volunteers

The caregivers are volunteers, mostly mothers, from the community who are eager to learn new skills and strategies to teach the children in the best way they can.

The role of the international volunteers is to work with the community to encourage, empower, and mobilise local enthusiasts with the aim of providing as good an education as possible for these young children. The volunteers are there to share their knowledge and assist caregivers with new tools and new resources – for instance playgrounds – to improve the learning environment at the preschool

It is important to note that it is not the role of the international volunteers to interact directly with the children and form relationships with them. That is the role of the caregivers. Of course, the international volunteers meet the children when they build something together, but the emphasis is on the volunteers assisting the caregivers by providing services they cannot manage themselves in their busy lives.

 

23 preschools and counting

In August 2019, the project included 23 preschools but more schools have expressed an interest in registering to join the project.

The preschools are run by local forces and all staff are local volunteers. The projects will run with or without external support, but the efforts of international volunteers add to the projects since they are able to assist with tasks on top of what is already being done by parents, local leadership and volunteer caregivers.

Each generation of international volunteers bring new ideas, support and care. Through this process, they can continue to build on the work of past teams and further the development of facilities like kitchens, toilets and playgrounds. Bit by bit the preschools are improved with the combined efforts of local and international volunteers.

Alena and Marta are excited about the project:

“The first step for us was to visit all the preschools and get to know the communities. We saw buildings in bad conditions. If a kitchen and/or toilet were available most of them were built with grass roofs and soil instead of cement to keep the bricks together. Also, most of the preschools did not have a playground, which are crucial to a child’s physical development as well as the development of their social skills and manners. “

“Despite these conditions, we saw kids happy to be in school and communities working together to make quality education for their young children possible.

Each preschool has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some have strong buildings and have been assisted by other volunteers, so we are continuing the work that other people have been doing for some years.”

 

The next steps

“A priority is to get proper and durable materials for the buildings. Especially roofing is important because during the rainy season roofs are prone to collapsing unless they are made from metal sheets. Not only would this jeopardize the integrity of the entire school building itself, but it would also put children and caregivers in immediate danger.

Second, after the roofs, proper concrete floors are needed. Then the walls. From there on, we will paint the walls with letters, numbers, animals and shapes to create a more fun and educational environment. Without proper materials, the buildings can be destroyed easily during the rainy season, and with resources being limited, it could be nearly impossible for the community to be built without help.

Therefore, we are raising funds for building materials such as roof sheets, timber, cement and paint. If we can, we will also invest in learning materials such as books, writing utensils and games.”

 

Building playgrounds with locally sourced materials

In the meantime, Alena and Marta are working with the communities around the preschools to build playgrounds since most of the preschools don’t have one or has one that needs to be repaired.

The building of the playground is a joint-venture: the communities provide wood, mosquito nets (to make swings) and tires, Alena and Marta provide the nails and know-how. Together they build spaces for the children to play. In the process, everyone is learning new skills that will be useful in the future.

This is a good example of things can be done, in unison for mutual benefit.

 

Follow Marta and Alena

If you would like to follow the progress of the project that Marta and Alena are assisting as international volunteers, please follow their account “Tawonga Chomene” which means “Thank You” in Tumbuka which is the local langauge in Mzimba. 

 

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

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