By Josie Redmonds
March started with a whirl of activity related to our first Permaculture Design Course held here at Butterfly Space. In total we had 24 people attending the course daily, with seventeen of them staying on site at Butterfly. It was a real mix of people with some coming from Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania as well as other places in Malawi. We also managed to subsidise places for people coming from locally, such as Temwa in Usisya, Phunzira in Ruwarwe and local permacutlure trainers linked to the Education Department here in Nkhata Bay. It made for an interesting group of people and there was great enthusiasm from the start.
Tichafa Makovere was the facilitator and with many years experience teaching and getting his hands dirty he certainly proved an inspiration to all participants. The mornings were spent in the classroom, or the reception area here at Butterfly, while the afternoons involved us doing practical work around site here at Butterfly as well as up at Gulugufe nursery school and Chikale First Primary school. Our kitchen is already receiving salad from the garden and Memory, our gardener, learnt a great deal from the course. In the evenings we watched different videos which helped us bring the learning we had done during the day into context. The staff and I were massively busy the whole two weeks, organising and feeding them. The course was an amazing success and we are hoping that we can continue with the start made by holding one a year, and taking the work at the schools even further.
March also saw Alice and Kumbu heading off on their honeymoon, which after stresses with visa’s and tickets, was a great relief. Gill came over and looked after Ezmeekie and luckily we had another volunteer here, Piramila who was able to help out with the youth club and especially the Special needs youth club, keeping the classes running while AJ was away. Piramila had also met up with Tichafa Strawberry Fields eco-lodge in Ethiopia and formed a group of people who had heard about the PDC and were keen to get involved. Gail Harland also visited and helped out for a time and we hope this won’t be her last visit. Many thanks to her mother Maddy, the editor of Permaculture Magazine UK who helped us advertise the course here and also supported its running with a donation. It would have been impossible for those kids’ programmes to continue if it was not for Gill and Piramila, as I was so engrossed in the PDC there really was no time for me to do anything else other than sleep. A massive thanks to them both for their contribution.
We also saw the return of a good friend Charlie who had travelled through here last year on a bike, and amazingly was on his way back north, after reaching Cape Town. What an effort. Like last year he got himself busy and finished off all the jobs at the media centre; a roof for the recording booth, painting, varnishing and lots else and before we new it we were ready to open. This is another great milestone here at Butterfly. It has been a long time coming, as we have had to build two new toilets and showers in order to house it and there have been many helpers along the way so thanks to everyone. But things always seem to happen at the right time and no sooner were we closer to opening than I received an exciting email from Danny Savage and Gavin Lawson, expressing their interest to come and help out. These guys are from Leeds and are involved in exciting musical events there- check out The Warehouse and The Musiquarium, and came over for three weeks with loads of equipment to help us stock the room and loads of enthusiasm. We had been blessed by the return of Kwame to our ranks, who is now the media centre manager after an excellent offer from Andy Jacobs to fund his wage. Massive thanks for that as Kwame really is a star and a pleasure to work with.
Gavin really took to him and had loads of lessons with him teaching him djing and the like, he even had him dj-ing at a couple of parties, one mammoth one down in Butterfly Bar, which brought people in from Mzuzu and all around and another one down at Kaya Papaya in town. He will regularly be djing now at Butterfly Bar on a Friday afternoon and it is such a pleasure to see someone learn so quickly and enjoy themselves so much as well.
Frank, a photographer and another guy who enjoyed Gavin and Danny’s company, also taught Kwame on the virtues of Photoshop and we are hoping more people can come through that will teach more of this type of thing. The aim is for the media centre to be a place where people can have time to learn and practise different types of editing, whether it is linked to music, film or photography. The radio group benefited from some lessons from Gavin as well and it was an amazing day when Mr Chunda came down and saw the room full with people and equipment and literally buzzing. He was so excited and has made further progress on applying for a radio licence and met with the Government a few times top see about a property in the centre of town for the eventual radio station. A committee had been set up with all chiefs in the area and after not knowing where our journey would take us when we visited Mzimba Community radio last May; we feel we are making important steps in the right direction.
Kwame will also be in charge of other interesting developments at the media centre. We hope to show weekly films on the projector there are will be having podcasts downloaded in areas that we feel are of interest to the community. This will be a learning curve as we learn what kind of things people are into and also what is out there. There is such a lack of accurate, up –to- date material in Malawi that this will be a great addition. The media room equipment can also be used by teachers giving more in depth lessons and learning sessions.
Gavin recorded a number of local musicians during his time here, and worked a lot with the radio group working upon their presentation and editing. They also came up with a jingle for the station which was great to listen to. The youth club also came down for a session recording and the whole centre was buzzing the whole time these guys were here. They are hoping to return later on in the year and are already busy as we speak organising some fundraisers for Butterfly in the UK. Watch this space as they have a bicycle ride from Leeds to Liverpool planned as well as a sky dive, not for the faint hearted. Good luck lads.
We also saw the return of Jim, an engineer from the US who had been helping us organise the water pump and send the relevant information to the Engineers without borders team at Sheffield University. We are hoping they are now on with their design and if all goes well then a team will come out in august to try and build the prototype here at Butterfly, with the longer term ain of installing others in different farming communities. This time Jim got himself busy with building the guttering for the rain water system, which was no easy feat. Together he and Amos worked on the rigging and when it was completed he ran up there in the rain to check it was all going in the right direction….. literally.
We also had a really active pair of volunteers who came over from Mayoka daily to help out. Phillip and Fiona are both physiotherapists back in the UK and had a great idea of how to make a supporting chair for Chifiniro from the Monday group. They had got the information out off the internet and it was all made out of cardboard, paper mache and glue which they made out of flour and water. There were many different sessions, moulding the seat, drying it and building up extra layers, until the end product was brightly painted and proved to be very robust. It’s great to see what can be achieved with a bit of imagination, information and determination.
Two guys from Volunteer Alliance also visited and expressed their desire to help us network more and get more volunteers here. They are only working with organisations that they have seen themselves and that do not charge people to take part. One of the main aims of the site is to put potential volunteers in touch with past ones so that people can really be fully informed of what opportunities there are. It is massively important therefore that we have lots of past volunteers who put up there experience on the web-site and make themselves available for contact. So please if any of you can find the time, visit this web-site and help us spread the word. www.volunteeralliance.org We have so many projects going on now that we really need to get more people out here to help us along.
We also have new additions to Butterfly, with three chickens joining the fold. They are layers so we are hoping that they will produce some eggs but at least they have already provided some amusement for Ezmeekie… and Yuka. Well it is promising to be a busy summer with lots of volunteers expected and although I am in England for a couple of months, I cannot wait to get back in the media room. Take care and see you there!!
“Hidden in our hearts is a longing to live deeply and with purpose and joy, to know and to be known, to be concerned with another; and to make a difference. In this dance of giving and receiving, we create our community, our World and ourselves”