International Aid

International Aid
by Evans Munyemesha

Over the past two years we have seen amazing women in Northern Malawi take hold of their lives and empower themselves. Their success is based on a simple premise that the very poorest can do the impossible when allowed to come up with and act on their own plans. It is called self help and is done with a little inspiration, education and challenge with NO external financial inputs. When I say none I mean NONE.

I just grabbed this short bit so that someone might read it!! because it shows up, what we are doing, for the monster that it is. Maybe we can look at the current situation as the poor in the developed World donating to the rich of the developing World with a large portion going back to the rich in the developed World. It might be amusing if it were not so serious

With international ‘aid’ to soon reach $100 billion a year (from $60 billion), it will be the final kick in the teeth of the poor, crippling further their Third World economies. Indeed, (as I have found out after researching through reports and what-not), it’s often profoundly dangerous to the poor and inimical to their interests to have ‘aid’ imposed upon them: It has financed the creation of monstrous projects that, at vast expense, have devastated the environment and ruined lives; it has facilitated the emergence of fantastical and devious bureaucracies staffed by legions of self-serving hypocrites; it has sapped the initiative, and creativity and enterprise of ordinary people and substituted the superficial and irrelevant showiness of imported advice; it has sucked potential entrepreneurs and intellectuals in the developing countries everywhere into non-productive administrative activities; it has created a ‘moral tone’ in international affairs that denies the hard task of wealth creation and that substitutes easy handouts for the rigors of self-help; in addition, throughout the Third World, it has allowed the dead grip of imposed officialdom to suppress popular choice and individual freedom. Call it what you will—but I will call it for what it is: Noble Colonialism! Ain’’t that a ‘female dog’?

And there’s more to come

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Who said that Malawians need AID?

Getting the best return

Mary often asks me who I’m writing for, but I never really know, who reads or who cares, but being just off the plane after 32 hours travel, maybe it’s therapeutic!!.

Six weeks in Malawi was again exciting, enlightening and generally crazy. We had the sudden death of the President, his body sent to South Africa to allow time for an attempted coup, the grand tour in the golden trailer RIP 1, the millions of dollars, allegedly, found in bags in his bedroom and in his gold plated mausoleum, the vice president sworn-in, a palpable sense of relief and hope among our village friends, and the certain possibility of a better future. We’re told,  by our Malawian friends, that Ireland, almost alone, supported him to the bitter end, something they always question.

In Malawi, this was the hungry season when most villagers are down to one meal a day, still in the cold, rainy season. The maize has grown if you have fertilizer and the wet, red soil sticks to everything.

We had hardly drawn a breath of the rarefied air, before we were reminded of our commitment to a 200 strong women’s cluster in Doroba. Four of their representatives had trudged 30 km, in the downpour, to our pump factory, in the city to say thanks for the fifty pumps, but what about our preschools? In only one year of self help success, these shy, helpless and hopeless women had become eloquent, forceful and focused. Yippee!! They knew their community needs and our requirements and had a list of five areas where preschools had already begun operations, with carers, the use of a building, a school committee and the chiefs on board. Mary decided that we should meet each community separately and make sure that they all understood that they needed WORKING committees and school gardens for a feeding programme. By the end of six weeks we now have 11 new preschools (17 in all), where all the carers have had one day’s hands-on training, with Mary and her crew, just to get them started. I have’nt mentioned the cratered tracks, the desperate journeys, the nightmares for the bony-assed!, the magical scenery and the dire poverty. All that matters now is that these communities have a common mission, to get their little ones to school and keep them there. In these remote rural areas education is prized.

Meanwhile we opened our second adult education class in another deprived area of Mzuzu. Both will be models in a new push for adult literacy. While working closely with the District Education Manager we will continue to move the process forward in the villages with preschools.

Continuing with education, our volunteers from DIT, continued work on an English language project, for secondary school begun last year, while Mary gave the keynote address, and a workshop, at an In-service day on School Management. Plans are well under way, with the Education Ministry, for a two week training programme, by experienced, Irish teachers, to enable Malawian teachers to deliver training to their peers.

Despite the fuel, forex and sugar shortages, we managed to deliver 160 pumps to our partners in Zambia which will enable them to bring clean drinking to over 70,000 remote villagers. Considering the population of Roscommon is 63,896, I figure this is a bit of an achievement!

Oh, Our beehives are going great and we bought 2 piglets for breeding on the farm.

Land ownership in Malawi is very low especially for women, but in the last ten days we managed to buy 23 acres of land, in trust, for a group of 21 women and three men to enable them to set up a model, commercial, co-operative farm

It has the backing of all nine chiefs in the area, as well as support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro forestry, all of whom attended the hand-over meeting, at one day’s notice, under their own steam and without allowances. (maybe a first)

All this was achieved by a unique farmer, Dupu Mshanga, who will facilitate the project.

The Wells for Zoë  funding will be repaid by the end of four years and then passed on to a similar project elsewhere.

They have plans for cows and pigs, (with the help of the Ministry) paprika (for which we have a market) and pidgeon pea, Bananas and bees (we have a market for the honey), sunn hemp and velvet bean, no organic fertilizer or chemical pesticides.

These self help women will achieve all this because they are women, and because they are inspired. They will empower themselves, because they are the only ones who can do that. The final remark by Dupu was that they were never the recipients of Aid, they can do it by themselves and while they appreciate our help, he agreed that, in five years, W4Z would have convinced them that they had done it all by themselves.

John (and Mary Coyne): http://www.wellsforzoe.org

A year for solutions

Malawi

Malawi is a country with a myriad of problems.

“The human rights situation is degenerating rapidly. This year has seen the government, headed by President Bingu wa Mutharika, become an authoritarian regime openly resistant to criticism and human rights governance

In July, citizens of Malawi took to the streets to protest against fuel shortages, high cost of living, unemployment, repressive legislation and poor governance

The police opened fire on unarmed protestors, allegedly resulting in the death of 18 people. Journalists in particular were singled out, and were arrested, harassed and beaten. A media black-out was ordered and the press was banned from airing live broadcasts of the protests.
(Sanyu Awori, December 16, 2011, Nyasa Times)

Acute shortage of forex and fuel is resulting in shortage of even the most basic of foodstuffs like salt.

The expulsion of the British High Commissioner (the first ever in the Commonwealth) has resulted in withdrawl of much needed funding for the health care system.

Other foreign donors, including Germany and the US have suspended aid to Malawi as well, citing poor governance . The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights recently passed a resolution that calls on the Government to end the campaign of intimidation against civil society.
(Sanyu Awori, December 16, 2011, Nyasa Times)

The fertilizer subsidy, on which the whole plan for food security was based has been drastically reduced, where even the extremely poor will not benefit this year. Even though this exercise was hailed and supported by all the gurus of the Aid World, there is no exit strategy or plan B in place. The plan supports maize production using hybrid maize seeds and chemical fertilizer which is subsidised by a grant worth 80% of the cost. In Northern Malawi where we work, years of use of such fertilizer has depleted the soil, made it acidic and robbed it of organic material. Anyway, who knows where intergovernmental funding ever goes in Malawi or in many other countries where accountability is difficult to achieve. Boxes are ticked and more money comes. Now ordinary, thinking Malawians wonder where all the donor money has gone and what has it all achieved.

OUR SHORT HISTORY

We went to Malawi in 2005 and got a brief glimpse of a sub Saharan country for the first time. My abiding memory is looking at hungry women and girls, needlessly hauling dirty water long distances, for family needs, while an array of broken pumps lay unfixed and certainly unfixable by local communities. I also noted that the depth of the water table was in the 3 to 6 metre range. (Six months later, I visited a pump where I celebrated its installation, with hundreds of villagers to find that the water level had dropped and the pump was useless because it had a limit of 6 meter depth, a normal story).

Abandoned Pump

Pump broke and was removed. Villagers returned to the stream.

I woke up at 4am one morning before we left and vowed (after I ranted) to do something about it. It wasn’t easy. I sent hundreds of emails to individuals and organisations. The organisations who did reply suggested I give them the money, they were the experts and what would I know about it anyway. Of course this attitude prevails. Finally I contacted Professor Richard Carter, then in Cranfield University,UK and now Technical head of Water Aid and Chairman of RWSN, and then we were on our journey. We located Richard Cansdale, in Hartburn outside Newcastle in the north of Englsnd. He had spent years developing a pump originally designed by Alan Jones in New Zealand and our quest was over. This was and is the pump which really does what it says on the tin!

SOLUTIONS

Malawi is a pretty simple place technologically. Its not really a place for big, all singing, all dancing solutions, out of scale with what they already have have. Forty years of major funding has left the country poorer. Yes, the country was better off before all this democracy and Aid arrived. Throwing money at the problems of Sub Saharan Africa has not worked (but money, on its own, rarely works anywhere).Malawi instead is about simple solutions, like earthen dams, open pollinated seeds, green manure, locally brewed pesticides, simple pumps that can be fixed by local women. All the broken pumps we fix were hailed as village level maintenance, but no one ever said what village and what range of equipment it should have. Many pumps are installed by experts who then disappear, without a trace or worse still a maintenance plan or the where-with-all to implement it, if it existed

Our attitude is to solve problems where we find them, simply, sensibly and sustainably

  1. This year, we decided to source all pump making materials in Malawi so we redesigned our pump to suit the materials available. We now make it with less manufactured parts, with readily available materials and after field trials, its a winner.
  2. Seed retailers in Malawi have only hybrid seeds, so we bought land, imported O.P. seeds and multiply them. This year we produced about 500kg of seeds.
  3. Apples from Irish Seed Savers

    Malawi grows no apples, so we brought out rootstock and scions (with European Passports) from Irish Seed Savers in Scarriff, Co. Clare and we had our first crop after two years. This year we have nearly 600 seedlings with the scions generously donated and delivered by the staff at Irish Seed Savers.

  4. Vitamin C in a diet helps the ARV drugs to give improved quality of life to HIV/AIDS sufferers. We began a project to produce improved variety citrus seedlings by budding on to local lemon rootstock. We produced over 10,000 improved variety citrus seedlings over the last two years for distribution.
  5. After water, firewood is a huge chore for women, so we encourage villagers to grow thousands of acacia trees. We give them the seeds, which are inexpensive, often in return for lemon seeds!
  6. We have researched in excess of a hundred plants on the farm. One is red amaranth. I recently found that in Northern Zambia they label it the plant for pregnant women!. High in iron, it helps greatly with anaemia and as post natal hemhorrage, is a huge maternal killer in Malawi, we are spreading the message and the seeds (1 amaranth plant can produce 60,000 seeds). We now grow it at the birthing centre and ask Lilian to promote it at her pre natal classes and among women generally. In fact we come across it regularly in villages but they think it’s a weed and seriously undervalue it. Such good news spreads fast
  7. A recent survey with our SHG cluster showed lack of labour as a real issue at maize planting time. We went to our friends in Zambia to look at their conservation agriculture programme using minimum till. With the use of lime and local maize seeds give much increased yields. We have sent our guys to work and learn in Zambia and will mainstream the system on their return. Big problem, simple solution. Of course changing culture and tradition is never easy.
  8. Maize won’t grow without fertilizer and that’s too expensive is the mantra of subsistence farmers. In researching a solution we found a range of plants which add nitrogen like sunn hemp, velvet bean and tephrosia, which we have now used for 4 years with seriously improved yields and no bought-in fertilizer. This year we have added a new contender, Faidherbia Albida which has the best potential of all for the small scale, subsistence farmer. Its a big tree, which loses its leaves in the rainy season, contributes enough complete fertilizer to grow 4 tonnes of maize per hectare year after year. What a plant
Canzee Pump in action

Canzee Pump in action providing clean, safe, drinking water

The Canzee pump, conceived in New Zealand and worked on for years, by Richard Cansdale, in the UK, is an amazing piece of simple ingenuity. Mainly plastic in construction, it consists of two pipes one inside the other, with two simple non return valves using the inner tube of a bicycle, has one moving part with no friction, it seems to last forever, costs 30 Euro to make in our factory in Mzuzu and most importantly, if it does go wrong (rare occurrence), the women who use it can fix it with three nails.

The parts for this pump came initially from the UK and with the duty charged by Malawi Revenue, were now expensive. The solution was to design a new version of the pump with all materials available in Malawi. In the redesign process we have fewer manufactured parts. These new Zoe pumps are in use since June and working without a hitch.

2011

We visited Malawi three times this year, April/May, July/August and Oct/Nov. Many of our friends and neighbours now ask are you coming or going? Malawi is now our second home and we continue to experience the wonderful hospitality of Br Aidan and the St John of God Community in Mzuzu and all our friends in an ever expanding area, impacting thousands of people, all very poor, all amazing to be as good as they are. We know our people and they know us, Its a wonderful place to be, frustrating and maddening at times, reasons to laugh and cry every day, but never mundane. With everyone’s help we have had amazing successes since this time in 2005. The following is a glimpse of what we have been up to

  • Clean water to 125000 villagers, for the first time
  • The success story continues, with 10 pumps recently brought to the copper belt region of Zambia, by Chris and Daniel from Lifeline in Zambia(a Danish NGO), who have a plan to install 1000 of our pumps in the next three years. The first pumps will be made in our factory in Mzuzu, followed by a new pump factory in Zambia, with expertise and training from Malawians, their nearest neighbour
  • 31 acre farm

This is now a University of practical learning for many farmers in Northern Malawi, where the hostel on the farm provides accommodation for students. The co-operative management, planning and day to day hard work is done by four men and five women. Next year we will mainstream a new programme on Conservation Farming when our people have had training in Zambia.

Growing and multiplying green manure seeds, Sunn hemp, tephrosia and velvet bean, for distribution is important, as is research on the use of Tephrosia, Dahlia and others to produce an effective local pesticide.

High on the agenda is the production of improved variety citrus, Mango, Guava, avocado and apples. At the moment we have about 9,000 various seedlings ready for distribution, as well as trees for reforestation. At the moment we have 108 varieties of plant, (this includes 5 types of spinach and 4 varieties of sweet potato.)

The farm is based in Lusangazi, (11 km from Mzuzu City) where we support many other community efforts, like:

  • The Birthing Centre continues to meet many needs, including ante and post natal clinics, early childhood care, and home based care for HIV/AIDS.
    Weighing in

    Birthing Centre in action during a visit from the Central Hospital

    A new health centre with a house for a resident nurse and attendant is now planned following a decision by the Ministry to appoint and pay the medics. W4Z will assist by providing cement and roofing, while the community take care of site, bricks, sand and all labour

  • Padre Pio is the local secondary school. We supported the building of the school and the construction of a hostel for girl boarders.
  • Gogo Club brings us into contact with grannies who have to rear orphan grandchildren. We provide vegetables and fruit trees from the farm, regular gift parcels (soap, oil, sugar, salt and matches)

ACTIVITIES IN OTHER AREAS

  • Over the time we have built 1 Volunteer house,1 Hostel on the farm for accommodating student farmers,1 Boys quarters, 4000 sq ft factory unit, 6 Staff houses. We have also managed to build a birthing centre, and support the building of 18 primary school classrooms, 1 classroom for a girls secondary in Chitipa Catholic parish and one Secondary school and hostel for girls for the Capuchin order.

    Preschool in Mgomphola

    Latest Preschool Building in Mgomphola (unfinished as yet!)

  • Support 6 preschools with 500 two to six year olds.
  • Casca is our preschool trainer and caregiver. He visits the six preschools we support on his bicycle, and has empowered the village caregivers and porridge ladies by supervising and encouraging them. He gives weekly reports on all their activities.
  • Have developed and deliver an in-service programme for primary teachers in co-operation with the District Education Managers and School Inspectorate, in the Northern region, which is becoming the basis of professional development in schools.

The second course was carried out in July and August by Niamh O’Brien, Fiona Gearty, Maureen McFeeley, Noreen O’Riordan  Máire McHugh and Mary Coyne, in conjunction with Anna Sichinga, District Education manager, Mzuzu. 200 teachers attended in 4 centres. As English is the language of education our objective was to facilitate the teaching of English in the early years through games, activities, songs, poems and dance. We used the Malawian curriculum and demonstrated practically wit 50 to 100 children.

As a follow up, Mary visited 5 schools and 20 classrooms in Oct/Nov. The teachers were delighted to demonstrate their newly acquired skills Phase 2 is planned for Summer 2012, so we are actively seeking volunteer teachers. Can you, or anyone you know help?

Partnership projects

  • The Irish Trinity of SJOG, W4Z and Ungweru, 3 NGOs are now working more closely together in many projects areas.
  • Patnership with SJOG, led by Br Aidan Clohessey was furthered when we got involved with their Self Help project. They work with 40 groups of women who have a savings system and provide loans to each other. To date we have provided new pumps and prepared others. Cluster Representatives from the groups regularly visit the farm to learn and take home seeds and seedlings.
  • Ungweru under the leadership of Fr John Ryan, professor of mathematics in Mzuzu University, (30 years in Malawi), engages with communities, identifying needs, facilitating community participation and providing training to communities on HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, Rights. W4Z install and maintain pumps and provide seeds, citrus seedlings, expertise and training in all aspects of conservation agriculture and food security.
  • We also work with Mzuzu University, Mzuzu Technical College and The Natural Resources College in Lilingwe,(the biggest such College in Malawi) who send us interns and students to the farm, to learn practical aspects of all elements of their Degree courses.
  • We partner Every Home for Christ, a Malawian CBO, Global Concern, an Australian NGO, Lifeline in Zambia, A Zambian/Danish NGO, Ripple Africa, a UK NGO, on pumps and the provision of clean, safe drinking water water
  • We partner CADECOM the Catholic Church relief agency on Citrus Seedling production and Numerous farmers co-ops on seed production and green manure seeds in particular.
  • We also partner Mzuzu City Assembly, Mzimba District Assembly and The Ministry of Agriculture with whom we have Memoranda of Understanding.
  • We are a member of CONGOMA, the association of NGO’s
  • We have developed a wide range of friends/advisors on the net, from all around the globe, like Professor James Brewbaker in Hawaii, William Hatcher from ECHO in the US, Professor Richard Carter, RWSN, UK, and others in India, Israel, Uganda, Germany, Norway, and Brazil, who keep up to date with what we’re doing and regularly send information and advice

SCHOOL SUPPORT

Our Lady's School, Terenure

Our Lady’s School, Terenure, Mini-Marathon in Dublin

We have an amazing array of schools and teachers helping us out, from Our Lady’s in Terenure (our longest association) to St Michael’s House Special Primary School in Ballymun, where the President of the INTO visited last week to thank them for their huge efforts. I’m sure the in between schools won’t mind being unmentioned, but we have thanked them personally. Having been in Education ourselves, we know the value of visiting schools and explaining what we do and how we do it, helping out in Religion, Science, Geography and SPHE classes, and delivering a message of huge inequity in our World, but also immense hope for a better way and a better future. A special mention here to Wooton Bassett School,UKfor their enormous efforts for an organisation they know only from the internet and for a people they will never see (Thanks Hester)

We thank everyone most sincerely for their trust in us to deliver 100% of their donations to the people who need it, without Black holes, Bureaucrats or Bean Counters.

DIT

Support from DIT is ongoing and extensive. W4Z is now a DIT Society enabling us to benefit from their many fundraising and information activities. For the past four years, we have been supported by Easter volunteer students from Business and Management, Engineering, Journalism, Early Childhood Ed and Manufacturing Engineering. 4 students from Computer Science did their placement with us in 2011. 5 students from Social Care, 2 from Chemistry and 3 from Broadcasting and Film Making will join us for placements on 2012

DIT Students

DIT Students Easter Volunteering in Malawi

We became fellows of the College last year. W4Z is one of the many very active societies. Mary is also on the advisory board of DIT Community Links project, Students Learning with Communities, with whom we work closely, providing opportunities for students and promoting the needs of the developing world

FUNDING

We have developed a three year Strategic plan (not a word I like, but to be in the NGO business, you must have the lingo). We now package all elements of what we did up to date and attach them to already established Women’s Self Help Savings groups (like 20 member credit unions of women already achieving what I consider to be the impossible with no input from us except advice)

Self Help Gathering

Women’s Self Help Group meeting in a village before they get down to business

Even after less than a year of success (with the guidance of SJOG services and support from Germany), these women have, regained their lives, grown in confidence, grabbed their voice, can verbalise what they need: things like clean drinking water, preschools and adult education and are hugely motivated, knowing that all their success is attributable to themselves: We will also work with them on community gardens, to demonstrate the possibilities of Conservation farming and alternative foods. The final piece of the jigsaw is, a new cash crop, for them, Paprika, to replace the failing tobacco business. Our partners ECO have the market and we are now growing our first crop for seeds as the seed in Malawi is of poor quality after years of re-use.

We call it our POP: a Permanently out of Poverty project and it certainly has all the ingredients needed to achieve this amazing turnaround in the lives of some of the world’s poorest, but amazingly spirited women.

It will operate it, in the Mzimba District, an area with 850,000 remote rural people, barely scratching out a subsistence existence. There we will work with the traditional authorities and hope to engage with up to 150,000 villagers. We plan 50 preschool buildings used also for Adult Education

The plan includes:

150,000 more people with access to clean, safe drinking water, Hygiene Education and sanitation

50 buildings with equipment and training for preschools, supporting communities to break the cycle of absenteeism and dire poverty, encouraging attendance by supplying one meal every day and facilitating transfer to primary school, 50 community gardens providing a hub for teaching and demonstration. These buildings, with full community support will double for Adult Education and often be used as clinics and even Churches.

Also on the plan is 500 Bee Colonies, 100,000 acacia trees, 20,000 improved variety, citrus seedlings (some from Florida,California and Israel) which we propagate on the farm and a variety of Mango, Avocado, Passion fruit and apples all from our farm.

We also enable girls to attend secondary school, by asking all of you to pay their fees which gives real hope for the future. Of course some will be married off, become pregnant or drop out, but, in the long term, the future of Malawi will be determined by the education of its girls. We are really passionate about this, where one term can cost as little as €20, (plus books, copies, pens, and sometimes a bike) in a Government Secondary school where they have qualified to attend

By centering our programme in motivated and successful women’s groups, putting all this in place IS possible and gives a village an opportunity to become self sufficient and maybe even realize a fraction of their potential.

Sorry to go on about the Women’s Self Help groups. The first level is with village (or groups of villages). The second level are clusters of groups, (where we work) and the top level is a planned Federation (a Political Voice, which will be heard, because these women are not for stopping)

Will it be easy? Of course not.

Will it take time? Yes

Will it be worth it? CERTAINLY

Can we do it?

We have the money in the bank to fund the first two years at the moment, we might live for three more years and our guys in Malawi are becoming more capable by the day, however:

Charity Shop

A teddy bear’s picnic at the new charity shop in Smithfield, Dublin

If you feel that there is inadequate attention to financial, socio cultural and institutional sustainability can you advise and see how you might help. Besides this ambitious plan, we plan 1000 pumps for Zambia as well, bringing clean water to more than a quarter of a million villagers. In this we will have the support of Lifeline in Zambia, who are already on the job.

FUNDING IN THE NEAR TERM WILL BE DIFFICULT

We applied to Irish Aid for funding for this initiative, but they tell us they have better and more rewarding things to fund. So we are really taking up begging in a big way.

We will soon(!) open a Charity Shop in Smithfield, Dublin.

As usual any help would be great.

Considering that the cost of giving a villager clean, safe drinking water is just one Euro, small money makes a big difference.

CLEAN WATER CHANGES EVERYTHING!

A video by our friends at Charity: Water is worth a look

More Stories on: https://wellsforzoe.wordpress.com/

Pictures: http://blipfoto.com/wellsforzoe

More pics www.wellsforzoe.org/news-flickr.html

Face book: http://www.facebook.com/wellsforzoe

Volunteers Page: http://w4zvolunteers.wordpress.com/

People think we’re mad, but we know its true.

Being mad allows you to do lots of crazy things!!

If you know any, even slightly mad teachers, maybe they might join us for a few weeks in summer 2012.

They could do amazing things, like change lives forever, maybe even their own

Thank you to all our family, friends, wellies and volunteers who continue to encourage and keep us going

May you have a Happy Christmas and the New Year you have dreamed of.

Mary and John Coyne

An oasis in a desert of appalling misery

Just back from three weeks in the Mzuzu area of Northern Malawi, with mixed emotions of delight, sadness, frustration, rage, joy, appreciation of my life and the opportunities it has afforded me, gratitude for the freedom that the hard work of my parents and ourselves has given me, freedom to do and give to others, freedom that an accident of birth has given me and which I am now hell bent on giving back.

In August last I got my first taste of urban poverty in Malawi, well in fact Mary did. I had been asked by three very positive and forceful women from the Mbawemi women’s group to look at their orphan day-care centre and see if we could help. I really had no interest in Orphanages; taking children from their communities, families and land rights… and only a little more in orphan day-care. I felt there were too many people doing it, with so many scams, waste and corruption, while I was trying to adhere to my abiding business philosophy of sticking with what you know. So like every good husband I chickened out and left it to Mary.

She checked the women out, in so far as one can and found an amazing bunch of sisters, who were volunteers; nearly as poor as the people they were helping, driven and desperate. They had begun this project in 2005, their building was awful, their hearts were big, their dreams were in technicolour, they were doing something, and they needed a hand – a helping hand and not a handout. We decided to, give it a go.

In November son number one, Éamonn and myself spent a busy week, doing a land deal, making the purchase, and employing a local builder. Bad mistake with the builder, as he was slow, just as useless as most men in the area and he stole half of our cement, but TIM (this is Malawi), corrupt from the top to the bottom, all Christians, very little Christianity. So we terminated him and his crew.

The blessing in disguise was that we found Peter and his gang, who are as hard working as you could meet. They took over on Dec 29 and the official opening took place on February 10. For the past few weeks we worked against all the odds; the rainy season, an unhelpful, and most times intoxicated chief, an indifferent and obstructive male population, dire poverty, a wet, low lying site, unhelpful neighbours and official bureaucracy who couldn’t care less. In fact very much like Ireland when you are trying to build something.

On the final morning, Mercy, one of the women hugged me and apologised for all the difficulties we had needlessly encountered, I just laughed and explained how I felt very much at home, very much like the planning process in Ireland I explained; You apply for permission on land where building is allowed and all hell breaks loose, obstructionists come out of the woodwork, like termites she asked; very much I answered; they object, tell lies, question your motives, defame your character, spread rumours, cost you money and after about two years the final level of bureaucracy say yes: always yes in my case. So what’s new: we laughed? She said you’re a tough customer, I smiled and let her know that we WILL realise all of our dreams.

In the circlePart of the dream was realised on February 9 with the opening of Áras Kate, a 1700 sq ft wonder. 260 little ones will be cared for and fed here every morning from 7.30 till 11. The one meal of porridge made from maize flour, soya, ground nuts with a little salt and a lot of sugar, will make a serious impact on their lives. Later in the year the sweetener will be honey from our 330 hives in the forest, the maize, soya and groundnuts will come from our land in Lusangazi and the vitamins from dried moringa leaves.

The process is simple really; its just community at it’s best. Of course it’s not a million kids, it’s not a Madonna affair, it’s only each one of 260 beautiful creations, who may now be given a shot at life by the generosity of a doting grandfather six thousand kilometres away.
Next we plan a drop in centre for battered and bruised women, for grannies and carers, a place to meet and laugh a little; a homework club for students, a little enterprise centre, small business loans at zero interest, first or second chance learning for young and older mothers and whatever needs arise.

All this is happening in the middle of the most serious depravation, starvation serious male alcoholism and all the abuse that goes with it.
Did someone mention a UN charter for children; would that person stand up and be counted?
If you think you can help, I assure you that you can.
Lend us your hands.
Thank you all for allowing me a little rant after a 32 hour journey!

Microcredit drives real development

Views on a powerful force: Posted by charlsking on June 14th, 2007

The extension of the small loans to the poor, who don’t qualify for the traditional bank loan, can be called as Microcredit. These small loans give the poor a chance to develop their business as well as to develop them financially. In microcredit system money is given to the people many times when they need it and for this reason it helps to generate monetary transaction. Ultimately the economy gets the necessary boost.

This program is better accepted by the poor women rather than the men because the women have proven to be the better manager of their loans; they pay them promptly most of the time. Naturally a woman is better controller of many things and it includes finance. Now they feel more confident about their future. They were suppressed either by others of by their husbands. Because most of the time they were dependent on them. Now as they earn their own livelihood and also help their child’s education, they feel comfortable and confident.

Some features of microcredit program:

Evaluating credit as a human right.

Helping poor families to overcome poverty by their own help.

Getting loans on trust.

Creating its own methodology for maintainance, not following the normal banking system.

Encouraging self employment.

Bringing the bank to the people to provide financial help.

Continuous flow of funds if paid in time.

Voluntary saving programs to the poor borrowers.

Availability of concurrent or simultaneous loans to the borrower.

Interest rates at lower than normal rate.

Giving high priority to establishing social capital and promotes education.

It also creates concern about the environment.