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Stories of Change


Karonga Chipita



Mzuzu Mzimba



Mchinji Lilongwe



Mwanza Zomba Blantyre Thyolo


100 km 60 mil

Stories of Change


Introducing VSO Letter from VSO Malawi country director Health Life-saving microbiology taken closer to TB sufferers Empowering health workers to improve patients lives Education Building classrooms and futures in Salima district Child-friendly schools get learners back in the classroom Using art, dance and drama to educate young people about HIV and AIDS HIV and AIDS Developing skills to improve the impact on the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS Catch Them Young: Bringing vulnerable children and orphans back into the classroom Secure livelihoods Sharing business skills helps community livelihoods to flourish Farmers learn to maximise on irrigation and improve food security Investing in milk to improve a nations nutrition Conclusion Acknowledgements

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Stories of Change

Introducing VSO

Our world is rich enough for everyone to live free from poverty. Yet vast inequality remains much of it based simply on where someone lives. In 2009, more than 1.4 billion people survived on US$ 1.25 or less a day, and rising food and energy costs have left a further 2 billion people living perilously close to the poverty line.
VSO is different from most organisations that fight poverty, because we know that it is only through the power of people that real change can happen. Since our foundation in 1958, we have been bringing people together to share skills and knowledge. In doing so, we create lasting change. Our volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to fight the forces that keep people in poverty from education and health through to helping people learn the skills to make a living. They invest in local people, so the impact they make endures long after their placement ends. Were also focused on gender equality and, increasingly, climate change. And we help poor people to get their messages heard, gathering public support and advising influential decision-makers. Since VSO Malawi opened its doors in 1959, we have been placing volunteers from around the world with local partners with the aim of making a difference in the lives of poor and marginalised people. Our work in Malawi has progressed from offering purely technical support in the shape of teachers and clinical lecturers in the 1960s, to providing a much wider range of support in 2012. Every year, around 50 volunteers specialising in areas like midwifery, HIV and AIDS, agriculture, fundraising, IT and in educational, business and financial management are placed with local NGOs and various levels of government. Our volunteers live and work in communities for one to three years, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the local issues, work with others to confront challenges, and have a lasting impact. The collection of stories in this booklet offers an insight into the life-changing work our volunteers are carrying out across Malawi. They are working with local counterparts and communities to improve the lives of vulnerable and marginalised people through programmes focused on health, education, HIV and AIDS and creating secure livelihoods. In the area of health, Kenyan microbiologist Antonio trains laboratory technicians in remote locations to diagnose TB, while Dutch medical doctor Klaas shares his knowledge with colleagues in detecting and treating the lifethreatening condition pellagra. Improving access to education, Child-Friendly Schools advisers Mariska from the Netherlands and Sue from the UK work with teachers and local communities to build new classrooms and reduce the number of children dropping out of school. Kenyan volunteer Caleb works with young people to find creative ways of educating others about HIV and AIDS. Focusing on issues surrounding HIV and AIDS, volunteer Emmanuel from Uganda shares his skills with members of community-based organisations in home-based care and writing funding proposals. Kenyan volunteer Humphrey works with education organisation Catch Them Young to get vulnerable children and orphans back into school and educate young people about HIV and AIDS.

Stories of Change

Letter from VSO Malawi country director

These stories of change reflect the culmination of many years of VSOs programming in Malawi. Demonstrating our core values and strengths as an organisation, the programmes featured in these stories illustrate how our change-focused bottom-up approach has a sustainable impact on the communities in which we work.
VSO/Sarah Oxley

Working to create sustainable livelihoods, Kenyan volunteers Jonathan and Denis are based at opposite ends of the country where they help cooperatives improve yields and diversify crops. Belgian volunteer Wouter shares his marketing knowledge with Supa Cream Milk with the aim of improving peoples nutrition by providing affordable milk. These 10 volunteers, along with the many others in Malawi, form part of our global movement to fight poverty. So far, more than 40,000 VSO volunteers of 94 nationalities have brought about lasting change by sharing their skills in over 90 countries. Collectively, we have helped to transform the lives of more than 26 million people.

We want to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to working in Malawi in close collaboration and partnership with the local communities, the Government of Malawi and other development partners to bring long-lasting changes in the lives of the most vulnerable people in Malawi. These are the people who constantly inspire us with their courage and determination in fighting extreme poverty, despite the many constraints and challenges that they face every single day. As a document, the collation of the stories of change is in line with our strategic priorities as an impactoriented, partnership-focused learning organisation. We are determined to ensure that the traditionally voiceless have a forum for sharing their experiences. We are also serious and committed about learning, not just from our successes, some of which are recorded here, but also from our failures. We hope that these real-life accounts of how our work has positively supported the development of communities and individuals will act as a source of inspiration and motivation for the VSO team including our staff and volunteers, as well as for other development partners. I hope you enjoy reading them.

VSO has played a vital role in the Malawi health sector. The lives of many Malawians have been saved by VSO volunteers who filled the gaps in critical professional services in many hospitals and improved the quality of training in the training institutions. The VSO volunteers also helped to maintain the health system and the public confidence in it
Lista Amon, Programme Manager, Results and Evaluation Team, UK Department for International Development

Manoj Kumar
Country Director VSO International, Malawi July 2012

Stories of Change

Stories of Change


Life-saving microbiology taken closer to TB sufferers Empowering health workers to improve patients lives

VSO/Sarah Oxley

Stories of Change

Life-saving microbiology taken closer to TB sufferers

VSO volunteer Antonio Memusi spent two years at Ntcheu District Hospital in Malawis Central Region using his microbiology knowledge to set up specialised laboratory services, share his skills with others and, ultimately, save lives.
Challenge Ntcheu District Hospital is one of many hospitals in Malawi where staff are overburdened and there is not enough equipment. The hospital serves a local population of approximately 472,000 and additional patients who cross the border from neighbouring Mozambique to receive healthcare. In the past, people in Ntcheu district suffering from tuberculosis (TB) and other deadly infections faced an uncertain future because the hospital didnt have the means to effectively diagnose and treat these infections. Particularly at risk were those living with HIV and AIDS, as many AIDS-related deaths result from catching TB. After their trip to the hospital in Ntcheu, patients with suspected TB would have to travel over 100km to either Lilongwe or Blantyre hospital. As TB devastates the body with fatigue and fever, infected patients in the Ntcheu area were often unable to make the long journey for treatment, reducing their chance of survival. The hospital didnt have the funds it desperately needed to develop its laboratory services to include microbiology. Funding priority allocation goes to other services perceived to be an immediate concern for the districts health, like ambulatory services and medical drugs, explains VSO volunteer Antonio Memusi. And so, thousands of people in Ntcheu were unable to receive the care they needed to live. Catalyst An inadequate budget was not the only problem microbiology specialist Antonio faced on his arrival at the hospital. There was also a lack of staff with the necessary skills in this area. Antonio shared his specialist microbiology knowledge with his colleagues, training three health service assistants (HSAs) to diagnose TB and other infections. He also took his skills to colleagues based in five remote healthcare centres in Kasinje, Bilira, Tsangano, Katsekera and Matanda: I trained five TB microscopists and five malaria microscopists, thereby decentralising lab services to the community population, he says. With a small grant from VSO, the hospital was able to buy three microscopes, allowing a quicker and more accurate diagnosis of TB than had previously been possible. Patients are no longer left waiting for a diagnosis that was not even guaranteed to be accurate. Before services were brought to remote locations, samples were collected until there were enough to make a delivery to Ntcheu District Hospital. Referrals for simple haemoglobin, malaria and TB tests are now undertaken at the health centres, says Antonio.

Stories of Change

Results With the addition of the microbiology department and newly trained HSAs to run it, diagnoses for meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases and intestinal infections are also now successfully completed at the laboratory. Laboratory technician Chimango Limani says: Antonio scaled up the microscopy at the hospital. He brought a lot of change. He left us with knowledge in most areas of our work, and especially in microbiology.
VSO/Sarah Oxley

Community diagnosis has been embraced at the health centres, says Antonio. The decentralisation of microbiology diagnosis to remote health centres in the district has been a success. Alfred Elias, who was trained by Antonio in 2010, commented on the changes that have taken place at the hospital since Antonio arrived: The number of TB tests being conducted at Ntcheu has reduced a lot. We used to process about 2,000 samples a month, now its only about 400 a month. This dramatic decrease in tests means that patients receive care closer to their homes, and allows the laboratory staff to dedicate more time to other life-saving work. Former laboratory manager at Ntcheu District Hospital, Scott Santhula, says: We are really grateful for VSOs efforts; we now take pride that TB services can be accessed at the village level. Previously patients had to travel long distances to access these services. The HSAs have also become more specialised in diagnostic services through the training provided by Antonio. They will be able to roll out the training to other health centres in the district.

The skills Antonio shared with his colleagues continue to save lives
The skills Antonio shared with his colleagues continue to save lives. His placement has had an enduring impact on his laboratory colleagues and people living in Ntcheu district who can now be tested and treated and cured of various infections much closer to home. However, Antonio is cautious about his success: The problem is not over yet. More needs to be done to improve life for the helpless and disadvantaged communities, wherever they are. VSO continues to work with health partners in Malawi to recruit highly skilled volunteers such as Antonio so our work can transform the lives of people living in poverty.

Stories of Change

Empowering health workers to improve patients lives

VSO volunteer Klaas Koop, a doctor and medical officer from the Netherlands, was placed at the district hospital in Thyolo in Malawis Southern Region. Working side-byside with local clinicians, Klaas has been able to share his knowledge, motivating health workers and increasing their confidence to diagnose and save patients lives.

Challenge There are only 1.6 doctors and 28.6 nurses to care for every 100,000 people in Malawi. At the district hospital in Thyolo, there is a chronic shortage of medical staff, with only 350 beds and 30 clinicians to provide care for the half a million people who live in the area. In this desperately under-resourced environment, it can be hard to access essential equipment, drugs and assistance. Health workers can struggle to stay motivated while being overworked and trying to cope with the lack of basic resources. This leads to patients suffering unnecessarily, with treatable illnesses left undiagnosed because of lack of human resources and knowledge. One patient was a 70-year-old farmer suffering from skin wounds and dementia. After numerous visits to health centres without a correct diagnosis, he came to the district hospital in Thyolo in search of help.

Catalyst A clinician asked Klaas to take a look at the patient and he recognised the signs of pellagra. Pellagra is caused by a limited diet containing insufficient amounts of vitamin B3, but prior to Klaass arrival the illness had not been accurately diagnosed at the hospital, and patients suffered. People who eat only maize are particularly at risk of developing this disease. It is a disease of poverty a small improvement in diet would have prevented this. Untreated, the course is fatal, says Klaas. The patient received a treatment of vitamin B, and within two weeks his skin wounds were healing and his mental state was steadily improving. Klaas used the successful diagnosis and treatment of his patient as an example in a training session for fellow hospital staff.

Stories of Change

VSO/Mikkel Allison

Not long after that, two clinicians came to me, saying I think I have found a patient with pellagra. We discovered that the disease is much more prevalent than we knew before. But the most important thing to me was that these clinicians were visibly proud of their discovery: they had been able to apply their recently acquired knowledge in real life. The pride and satisfaction this brings was clear from their faces, says Klaas. Results Klaass VSO placement has helped to improve the quality of healthcare for people in Thyolo. With more accurate diagnoses of illnesses

such as pellagra, along with safer practices for the delivery of babies and fewer unnecessary caesarean sections for mothers, Klaas has been able to improve healthcare in the hospital and save lives. By training others, who will in turn share their knowledge, Klaas has ensured his impact will continue to be felt long after he leaves. Whyson Mkandawire is one young clinician who has benefited from Klaass instruction over the past year at the hospital. Whyson wants to become a doctor in order to help people and work to reduce the patient-to-doctor ratio.

Ive found Klaas to be very passionate, hardworking, and he has been great for the hospital. Above all, he has a passion for helping both patients and colleagues. I wouldnt have the skill set I have now without Klaas. Its important to share knowledge, so we can train more people in health and increase the number of doctors, Whyson says. In district hospitals across Malawi, volunteers like Klaas are treating patients and spreading their knowledge of medicine so that a high level of patient care becomes the accepted norm among all domestic health workers, with more people receiving quality care.

Stories of Change


Stories of Change


Building classrooms and futures in Salima district Child-friendly schools get learners back in the classroom Using art, dance and drama to educate young people about HIV and AIDS

VSO/Mariska Westdijk

Stories of Change


Building classrooms and futures in Salima district

VSO volunteer Mariska Westdijk is a Child-Friendly Schools officer based in Salima district in Malawis Central Region. Training teachers and communities, local people have come together to make their schools prosper in more ways than one.
Challenge Chenjerani Junior Primary School in Salima district opened its doors in 2000. At its inception the school had one classroom block for more than 100 learners from standards one to three. Students in standard three learnt in a makeshift classroom, sitting in the sand under a tree all year round. With no classes for standard four students, pupils were forced to walk long distances to the neighbouring school in Yambe to continue their education after standard three. The physical school environment wasnt the only barrier to pupils learning. The teaching methods used for children to learn to read stressed memorisation of whole words. This proved to be ineffective, and the school had been recording low levels of literacy among its pupils. Schools across Malawi face similar problems. Lack of resources and facilities and under-qualified teachers have a negative impact on pupils learning, sometimes leading them to repeat a standard or drop out of school altogether. Catalyst Volunteer Mariska Westdijks role as an officer for VSO and UNICEFs Child-Friendly Schools initiative involves her supporting the needs of 10 schools in Yambe zone, Salima district. An experienced primary and secondary school teacher and education adviser in the Netherlands, Mariska focuses on integrating the five key elements of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative into educational management in Salima district. She works with head teachers, school management committees (SMCs) and parentteacher associations (PTAs) to improve the school environment across five areas: inclusivity and childrens rights; academic effectiveness; safety and protection; gender equality; and school/community linkages. As part of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative, members of Chenjerani Junior Primary Schools PTA and SMC attended a two-day workshop facilitated by Mariska. They discussed their roles and responsibilities, the ChildFriendly Schools initiative and the Malawian Primary Curriculum and Assessment Reform (PCAR). They also observed a literacy lesson and identified the strengths and challenges of their school, then prioritised the list of challenges. The outcome of this workshop was the

VSO/Mariska Westdijk


Stories of Change

Inspired by what they can accomplish when they work together, the community wants to continue building on its school
decision to plan the building of an additional school block: The construction of the new school block was a community project. People in the community took the initiative after attending a VSO training in which they wrote an action plan for the construction of a new block, explains Mariska. The whole community took part in building the new school block: They moulded thousands of bricks, collected river sand, dug the foundations together and raised funds to hire a skilled person to do the labour. The children no longer have to sit outside to learn, which has improved the learning environment. However, its to VSOs initiatives inside the classroom that Chenjerani Junior Primary Schools Head Teacher, Synoden Wame, largely attributes his students progress. With Mariska, weve benefited from all things, like our methods of teaching and improved literacy for

standard one learners, he says. Mariska has trained teachers like Synoden across 10 schools within Salima district on how to use phonics to make words from sounds. She has also introduced a printrich environment in the classroom. Teachers now use locally available resources to decorate the classroom walls with eye-catching, educational posters that have improved students ability to learn. Results Chenjerani School has doubled its enrolment in recent years. With Mariskas help and the Child-Friendly Schools initiative, the school now has two classroom blocks, has added standard four, and aims to expand into a full primary school up to standard eight by 2014. Inspired by what they can accomplish when they work together, the community wants to continue building on its school. Mariska recently helped the school to write another proposal to the Friends of Malawi Association for financial help to buy cement and paint for the next construction phase. With the planned expansion, learners will no longer need to walk another five kilometres to attend standards five to eight.

Thanks to Mariskas training in phonetics, early literacy rates in schools have improved, with learners in standards one and two showing great progress in their ability to read and write. Before VSO, the way we used to teach made it difficult for students to learn. Now with this project from Mariska our students can read and write, says Synoden. But there is still room for improvement. With Mariska, head teachers from schools across Salima district are compiling a report detailing shortages of teachers guides and learners books in Yambe zone. This will soon be discussed with the coordinating primary education adviser to see what can be done to address the problem.

VSO/Mariska Westdijk

Stories of Change


Child-friendly schools get learners back in the classroom

Retired primary school teacher and VSO volunteer Sue Mitchell spent two years working as a Child-Friendly Schools officer in the district of Thyolo in the Southern Region of Malawi. Sharing her skills with communities and school staff, Sue has worked in 21 schools across the district to make them more child-friendly.

Challenge Malawi has a high rate of primary school enrolment, but many of the students drop out and only 25% move on to secondary school. There are a number of reasons why learners drop out of school. These include early marriage and pregnancy; caring for younger siblings in child-headed households; and schools lack of facilities and resources such as toilets, seating, textbooks and writing materials. Some children only have one meal a day, which makes it hard for them to concentrate. With such competing pressures, young learners can fail to see the immediate importance of completing their education. Even with lots of young people missing school, there was no sense of communal responsibility for learners absenteeism: The community were doing their own thing they wouldnt question if learners were at the market during school time, says Biston Gama, Primary School Education Advisor for Nansato zone. Mercy Limited, a pupil at Nansato Primary School, is one of the many learners who dropped out of school early. An orphan since she was one week old, Mercy lives with her elder sisters. She had to look after their children while they worked. Mercy couldnt afford a uniform or the pens and books she needed to go to school.
VSO/Sarah Oxley


Stories of Change

Mercys sisters work at the tea estates. When they first went to work they told Mercy that she would not be fed if she continued at school and didnt care for the three children, says Sue.

the Malawi constitution, on which staff hadnt previously received any direction. Together they discussed ways to discipline children and how to improve the teacherpupil relationship. Encouraged by Sues training, teacher Thomson Mwale who had taught Mercy before she stopped attending school went to Mercys house to discuss her absenteeism with her sisters. Mercy was a hard worker, but shed stopped coming to school, he explains. He discovered that Mercy could not afford her school books and uniform and so she was afraid to come and learn. He decided to help Mercy buy some books and writing materials, and other members of the community donated clothes to Mercy to wear to school. Across Malawi, Child-Friendly Schools officers are training teachers, implementing action plans and introducing effective management and leadership skills into schools. They are sharing the knowledge and enthusiasm needed for people to make a difference in their own communities.

Results At Nansato Primary School where Sue has volunteered since 2010, student enrolments are now at an all-time high. During her placement the school has increased its enrolment by 402 students, and more than half of those enrolled are girls. Teachers feel more confident in their relationships with learners and employ the methods they learned from Sue. Pupils now feel comfortable in the school environment. We are continuing because we have the knowledge now, and learners are more eager, says Biston. Before, there was a lack of community linkage. As for Mercy, shes now back at school. Sue says: Though it is difficult for her to study at night caring for the children and having no electricity she is doing very well at school and is catching up with the other learners in her class. Im sure [Mercy] will do better, because theres encouragement, says Thomson, confident in her ability to succeed now. I enjoy school now. I like maths and English as well as reading, says Mercy.

Catalyst Sue and Biston worked with the local community, including parents, head boys and girls and the village head, to pinpoint the issues surrounding education in 10 schools in Nansato district. Issues such as absenteeism, a lack of resources and seating, and learners not having enough to eat were brought to the forefront and began to be addressed. Parents used to look at the infrastructure as the only challenge, says Biston. After the consultation, Sue worked with Biston and the community to tackle some of the problems facing learners. Teachers at Nansato Primary School participated in Sue and Bistons training which included looking at case studies and the UN Convention on Human Rights and learning about

VSO/Sarah Oxley

Teachers feel more confident in their relationships with learners and employ the methods they learned from Sue

Stories of Change


Using art, dance and drama to educate young people about HIV and AIDS

VSO volunteer Caleb Muchungu is currently on a three-year placement working as an audiovisual production officer with the Malawi Institute of Education in Domasi in Malawis Southern Region. In his spare time, Caleb set up a youth group to offer support, combat stigma and share learning on HIV and AIDS. Two and a half years on, the group is having a district-wide impact in educating others about HIV and AIDS.

Challenge Over 10% of people in Malawi are living with HIV and AIDS, and the number is increasing. Young people are particularly at risk; more than half the population of Malawi is under the age of 24, and approximately half of the new HIV infections reported each year occur in people aged 15 to 24. HIV is twice as prevalent in the Southern Region of Malawi as in the central and northern regions, meaning the youth of Domasi, where VSO volunteer Caleb is placed, are at extreme risk. The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS means that people just dont talk about it. Schools dont dedicate resources to teaching on the issue, so young people remain uninformed and vulnerable to infection. Twenty-one-year-old Issac Lawrence lives in Domasi. He says: Many of the youth here dont know the facts about HIV. With VSO volunteer Calebs help, Issac has been working with young people in the area to inspire and educate others about the virus through his involvement with youth group Domasi Youth Alive!

VSO/Sarah Oxley


Stories of Change

provided by the Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) in Zomba. The show incorporated a performance about the risks and routes of HIV infection and raised awareness and educated the audience about its prevention.
VSO/Sarah Oxley

are. Weve learnt about how to care for people with HIV, how to prevent it, how to help others. The group has recently expanded its focus: Weve begun preventive work with primary schools in the area, to get younger pupils involved before their sexual debut, Caleb explains. Domasi Youth Alive! is currently working on an HIV-themed advertising competition, running sessions with local schoolchildren who are designing posters illustrating their thoughts on HIV. The entries will be exhibited and celebrated at an awards event. Theres still much work to do to raise awareness of, and change attitudes towards, HIV in Malawi. However, Calebs work shows the huge impact that one volunteer can have on the lives of people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

Catalyst During Calebs volunteer placement producing educational films and training future filmmakers he saw how important it was to engage local young people in a dialogue about HIV to start combating the discrimination and stigma associated with the virus. Caleb set up the HIV outreach programme Domasi Youth Alive!, a group that has grown from an initial seven members to an active core of 20 young people that holds events once or twice a month. Through song, dance, drama and art interventions, the group inspires people from the surrounding communities to participate and learn. The interventions aim to educate people about HIV, to fight the stigma that stops them from being tested and to encourage them to seek counselling and receive treatment. A talent show organised by the group attracted an audience of over 500 people to a venue

Under Calebs supervision, Domasi Youth Alive! has learnt to use the audiovisual labs camera and editing equipment to spread its message further. Weve shown our film to our friends. Theyre proud of what were doing, says Issac. Results The success of Domasi Youth Alive!s interventions in raising awareness and tackling discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is clear. Members of the group are frequently stopped in the street by young people who want to know more. They come to ask us questions [about HIV] because they know were part of the group. This project has helped a lot. We try to raise awareness in youth about HIV: its not a crime, not a sin; you can still live for the future, and contribute to the development of our country. Were proud of the change in attitude of youth here, says Issac. Another member of Domasi Youth Alive!, 22-year-old Dyson Msewu, says: Theres a high HIV prevalence in our area, so VSO coming here helps change lives. Testing has become acceptable within the group everyone knows what the benefits

We try to raise awareness in youth about HIV: its not a crime, not a sin; you can still live for the future, and contribute to the development of our country. Were proud of the change in attitude of youth here

Stories of Change



Stories of Change


Developing skills to improve the impact on the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS Catch Them Young: Bringing vulnerable children and orphans back into the classroom

VSO/Sarah Oxley

Stories of Change


Developing skills to improve the impact on the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS

VSO placed volunteer Emmanuel Osillo at Ntcheu District Council Office in Malawis Central Region. Working alongside his counterpart, the district AIDS coordinator, Emmanuel shares his financial and management knowledge with community-based organisations to improve their impact on the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS in the district.
Challenge Ntcheu district has a population of over 400,000, of whom more than 20,000 are living with HIV and AIDS. Over 140 community-based organisations (CBOs) in Ntcheu district are working within their communities to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, combat discrimination, encourage testing and educate people about how to care for those living with HIV and AIDS. CBOs are accessible sources of help and information for those who need it most. However, they may lack financial and organisational management skills, along with knowledge of how to access funding, which makes it hard for them to reach their full potential. Chitungu, a CBO based in Ntcheu district, is one organisation that needed support to achieve its goals. Chitungu aims to raise awareness of HIV, combat stigmatisation and improve the quality of life in the community. The groups priority is to help orphaned and vulnerable children to complete school, and to see that elderly and disabled people and people living with HIV and AIDS receive home-based care. Group members generate funds by activities such as growing and selling maize, building houses for lease to the public and poultry farming. This creates jobs for young people. But the group needed to improve both their income-generating business model and its HIV outreach work to ensure they reached the people in the community who most needed their help. Catalyst Originally from Uganda, Emmanuel Osillo wanted to volunteer and put to use the financial management and organisational leadership knowledge he gained during his career at The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO). I wanted to share my skills elsewhere, and gain new skills myself, he says. Ntcheus District AIDS Coordination Committee (DACC) works to support and represent HIV-and-AIDSfocused CBOs. This it strives to do as effectively as possible, though faced with a lack of resources and gaps in its IT knowledge and management.

VSO/Sarah Oxley VSO/Sarah Oxley


Stories of Change

Working with his local counterpart, District AIDS Coordinator Peter Munthali, Emmanuel coordinates the provision of HIV services to people in Ntcheu. They work to improve the flow of information, representation and resources between the community and the district government. Staff of CBOs like Chitungu are also trained as community care providers to relieve shortages in the health sector. CBO members receive training on two main themes: life skills and home-based care for people living with HIV and AIDS. The training consists of group work and discussions around issues to raise awareness and find solutions as a group, says Emmanuel. The training is followed up with mentoring to offer continued support to CBO staff. This allows Emmanuel and Peter to assess how effective the training was. So far Emmanuel and Peter have delivered four life-skills training and six home-based care training sessions in selected areas where help is most needed. Theyve also helped CBOs to develop their proposal-writing skills. Emmanuel also trains CBO members in improved financial management and organisational leadership to ensure that funds are accounted for properly and allocated to those who most need them. For example, he worked with Chitungu to support the organisations income-generating business model and its HIV outreach work so that it now offers an improved service to local people. On average, 18 people from each CBO participate in the training offered by Emmanuel. They go on to train others in their local communities, each reaching another 50 people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS in the community. They then share their new knowledge with their families and neighbours.

Results Thanks to Emmanuels training, CBO staff around Ntcheu district have gained the confidence and ability to submit their own funding proposals. Thirty-two out of 40 proposals have been successful, amounting to MWK 9 million (GBP 21,000) worth of funding for the region to help raise awareness and educate people about HIV and AIDS. John Kathewela, representative for all CBOs in Ntcheus DACC, worked alongside the VSO volunteer and says: Ive benefited a lot from the capacity building that Emmanuel has provided, especially in proposal writing, but also in HIV research and assessment work. Peter is equally glad of Emmanuels support: His presence is positive, hes doing a lot hes trained me on Microsoft Office and taught me other technical skills. He also assists me in planning activities. His input is very important. Chairperson for Chitungu, Dorothy Chatuluka, says: We appreciate VSOs support. Through their training and sharing of knowledge weve been able to improve our services to the community. With continued support, Dorothy and the group hope they will soon be able to register Chitungu as a local non-governmental organisation (NGO). Over the next year and a half, Emmanuel will work with Peter to train members of each of Ntcheu districts 140 CBOs. Some of these are in hard places to reach, up to six hours drive from the district office. Lacking the relevant knowledge and resources, these remote communities are particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, and so need access to assistance and information the most.

Stories of Change


Catch Them Young: Bringing vulnerable children and orphans back into the classroom

VSO volunteer Humphrey Imbisi, social worker and health, disability and HIV manager, is working with Catch Them Young, a VSO partner organisation based in Rumphi district in the Northern Region of Malawi. The organisation aims to educate young people about HIV and AIDS and helps get children who cannot afford school back into the classroom.

Challenge More than one in ten Malawians are living with HIV and AIDS, an illness that is largely responsible for the country having more than 1 million orphaned and vulnerable children. William Banda is a softly spoken, strong-willed 15-year-old who enjoys science, maths and poetry classes and lives in Rumphi district. When he was seven-years old, his parents died of AIDS-related illnesses and he and his sister became orphans. Left with no financial support to pay for school fees, books and uniform, William and his sisters future was unsure. With so many children left in this vulnerable situation in Malawi, financial support, social welfare and education about HIV and AIDS are badly needed to prevent the next generation from experiencing the same problems.

Catalyst VSO partner Catch Them Young (CTY) works with the Department for Social Welfare to identify young individuals who need financial help, in the form of government bursaries, to get them back to school. Volunteer Humphrey Imbisi, trained in social work, assists the district AIDS coordinator. He explains: William had dropped out of school due to the fees. He was part of the CTY out-of-school programme. It was through this that we (the teachers and CTY secretariat) identified him as an individual who could benefit from continuing his schooling. CTY also works with teachers in schools across Rumphi district to find children both in and out of school to be peer educators in CTYs programme. They then teach, advise and counsel learners on issues related to sexual reproductive

health (SRH), HIV and their schooling in general. As an NGO, CTY cant continue its interventions without funding. This is where Humphrey has played a vital role. His Masters in Social Work and experience in mid-level management in health, disability and HIV for civil society organisations assisted CTY in completing a successful funding proposal. He trained three staff members at CTY to complete a fundraising proposal, and the organisation now has a greater capacity to raise funds. The funding that Humphrey helped to secure for CTY has been invested in training teachers, and influential members of the community such as chiefs, religious leaders and respected seniors. This has assisted a change in the communitys behaviour towards issues relating to SRH and HIV.


Stories of Change

VSO/Ben Langdon

William is now back at school, and the government bursary he received will allow him to finish secondary school
Results Thanks to CTYs help in identifying his need, William is now back at school, and the government bursary he received will allow him to finish secondary school. He is eager to stay in the classroom and to eventually become a teacher so he can give children the opportunity to learn and lead a better life. CTYs successful funding proposal on which Humphrey advised has allowed the programme to grow. It is now able to provide an education to vulnerable and orphaned children like William throughout Rumphi district.

Catch Them Young patron Sydney Mbunge says: We wish to thank VSO Malawi. We cannot take for granted this support. We thank you for your vision in Rumphi and leadership capabilities in directing and for thinking about the future of the youth. We will have a bright and strong generation if we prevent the youth from contracting HIV by participating and taking part in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Information equals behaviour change. Humphrey concludes: William will make it with the support he is getting. Its sad that talking about sexual reproductive health and HIV should be a taboo. There is inadequate knowledge and misconceptions about this issue. With CTY we hope to nurture a future generation free from HIV. Its with this hope that we remain optimistic that the future generations will not have HIV orphans like William.

With CTY we hope to nurture a future generation free from HIV

Stories of Change



Stories of Change

Secure livelihoods

Sharing business skills helps community livelihoods to flourish Farmers learn to maximise on irrigation and improve food security Investing in milk to improve a nations nutrition

VSO/Mikkel Allison

Stories of Change


Sharing business skills helps community livelihoods to flourish

VSO volunteer Denis Latebo, an agricultural manager from Kenya, is on placement as an agribusiness officer at the Chitipa district Ministry of Agriculture in the Northern Region of Malawi. Thanks to his work, members of cooperatives throughout the district have learnt new skills to enable them to improve their businesses and bring themselves out of poverty.
Challenge Approximately 90% of the Malawian labour force works in the agricultural sector, with the majority of people living in rural areas engaged in subsistence farming. There is a need to increase food security and Malawian farmers income, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable people in Malawi, such as female-headed households and small-acreage farmers. As the primary breadwinner in her household of six, Elina Mwenitete who lives in Kameme, Chitipa, struggled for years to feed her family with what she grew on her acre of farmland. When she joined the Hanga Sunflower Cooperative, her life began to change. Along with other subsistence farmers who decided to organise their informal businesses together, Elina dedicated her time and effort to invest in her community. The Hanga Sunflower Cooperatives 10 members worked to produce enough to sell and make money at the market, but lacked the investment and financial knowledge to advance their business any further. Chitipa districts Ministry of Agriculture wasnt able to offer any support to local cooperatives that were working together to bring themselves out of poverty. Since volunteer Denis Latebo began his three-year placement at the ministry, this has all changed. Catalyst Drawing on the transferable skills he has gained from managing a farm in Kenya, Denis has trained cooperative members across the district, including those from the Hanga Sunflower Cooperative. Members have gained skills in marketing, communication, leadership, financial management, crop diversification and production, as well as HIV and AIDS awareness. Denis has also introduced the concept of revolving funds to the ministry. It gives a small loan to local cooperatives to invest in their livelihoods, for example to buy a mobile phone to coordinate business. With the Hanga Sunflower Cooperative, Denis has helped to establish a revolving fund to which each member contributes a monthly fee. The fund is used to develop other small-business enterprises, to purchase inputs like seeds and equipment, and to support families in the community with money for school fees, especially for orphans and vulnerable children. I work with members of cooperatives to help them to develop their own ideas in their context, Denis says. By sharing skills and having the chance to discuss their ideas openly, cooperatives have the opportunity to improve the work they do together.


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Results So far members of nine cooperatives in Chitipa district have developed their business skills thanks to training provided by Denis and his counterpart at the Ministry of Agriculture who will continue to train cooperatives after Deniss departure. On average, 50 members are trained from each cooperative, and the development of their skills will in turn have a positive impact on the lives of another 450 people. Working closely with his colleagues at the Ministry of Agriculture, Denis has seen a change in the way they work, too: Theyve learnt training and facilitation skills. My counterpart has really improved at conducting meetings. I feel Ive brought fresh ideas which allow people to open their minds, he says. Now vice-secretary of the Hanga Sunflower Cooperative in Kameme, Elina is doing well. The cooperative has grown from 10 to 42 members as more people have seen its potential. Ive benefited a lot from the business management training Denis provided, she says. With Deniss assistance, the Hanga Sunflower Cooperative members action plan has improved their income and nutrition, with increased sunflower oil yields, greater food production and off-season crops that command a higher price in the market. Oscar Sinkutwa, Chairperson of Hanga Sunflower Cooperative, says: We are trying to implement what we learn through the training we have received to

improve our quality of life. Our growth in just a year gives us hope and confidence that we can improve the community. I dont know how things would be today without VSO. This is a very poor area, but we are very thankful to VSO because we need to grow. The benefits are felt and seen throughout the community. Incomes have improved both for the cooperative members and for the people they have employed. With increased income and crop diversification, Hanga members do not struggle to feed their families throughout the year. Perhaps one of the most sustainable aspects of Deniss help is the entrepreneurial mindset that now exists in the members of the cooperative.

Our growth in just a year gives us hope and confidence that we can improve the community

VSO/Mikkel Allison

Stories of Change


Farmers learn to maximise on irrigation and improve food security

VSO volunteer Jonathan Mwania, an irrigation agronomist from Kenya, works closely with the Chikoleka Farmers Group in Mwanza district in Malawis Southern Region to help them make the most out of increased access to water and investments.

Challenge Only 30% of arable land in Malawi is irrigated. This lack of irrigation causes various problems for those whose livelihoods depend on successful harvests. In the past, farmer Henry Bamusi could only harvest maize once a year, with little left over to sell for income. During the dry season, he was forced to leave his children behind and move to neighbouring Mozambique in order to find work to feed his growing family. Like most subsistence farmers in rural areas of Malawi, Henry depended on the rain to grow his crops; when it didnt rain, there wasnt enough food to

last the year. In an effort to gain the greatest possible yield from his farm during the rainy season, Henrys children had to work on the farm, rather than go to school, to ensure that the family had enough to eat. Catalyst The Chikoleka Farmers Group, of which Henry is treasurer, is the beneficiary of a joint project of VSO and Irish NGO Gorta. The project provides farmers in Mwanza district with a viable water source from which to grow crops. Water tanks and distribution boxes now channel water from a freshwater stream roughly a kilometre from the groups collective 25 hectares of farmland.

To assist the farmers group in using the new source of irrigation to its full potential, VSO placed irrigation specialist and volunteer Jonathan Mwania. Jonathan works closely with the farmers to ensure they make the most of the increased access to water and the small grant received from Gorta to establish a revolving fund for seeds, maintenance, and repair costs. Since 2007 Jonathan and four of his colleagues have trained 1,200 farmers. When he leaves, his colleagues will continue to share the learning gained during his placement.


Stories of Change

VSO/Mikkel Allison

Results The reliable source of irrigation and a new Farmer Field School in the area mean that local farmers can diversify their crop production and increase the number of harvests to three or four a year. Since Jonathan initiated new irrigation methods in 2007, maize yields per farmer in Mwanza have increased 250%. The acreage of land for farmers who take part in the irrigation scheme has increased 274%, creating a larger income and food security for farmers like Henry and their families. Today Henry grows tomatoes, onions, cabbages, maize and bananas. The increase in income and food security has enabled him to send his children back to school, and his oldest daughter recently graduated from secondary school. Understanding the value of education, the farmers group decided to divert spare water from the scheme to a nearby primary school to improve sanitation for the learners.

Since Jonathan initiated new irrigation methods in 2007, maize yields per farmer in Mwanza have increased 250%
The next big step is to introduce a drip irrigation method to distribute water more efficiently among the members and further increase yields. The group hopes to expand membership, cultivate more fields and develop into a formal cooperative with access to larger markets. Jonathan is positive about the impact hes had: I feel Ive been able to really help people. Were very grateful to VSO for the training received. Jonathan taught us how to use organic methods and the ability to advise others, says Henry.

Stories of Change


Investing in milk to improve a nations nutrition

VSO volunteer Wouter Verelst from Belgium works as a dairy adviser with Supa Cream Milk in Blantyre in Malawis Southern Region. He shares his skills with his local counterpart Simeon Danger. The pair have successfully transformed the milk-producing venture into a profitable business that helps to improve the livelihoods of local farmers.
Challenge The World Health Organization recommends that a person drink 200 litres of milk per year. Malawi has the lowest milk consumption per capita in the world, at only five litres per year. This contributes to chronic malnourishment in the population, and underweight and stunted children. Aware of the problems related to low milk intake, businessman Simeon Danger started Supa Cream Milk with the goal of selling highquality, affordable milk to the poor in southern Malawi. Supa Cream is the business arm of Shire Highlands Milk Producers Association (SHMPA) and is operated as a social franchise. Like any business, Supa Cream Milk aspires to expand and make a profit. Simeon chose to run his business in a way that also allows smallholder dairy farmers to participate in the commercial market and thereby improve their quality of life. Lacking investment, Simeon began by selling his product from home to minimise expenses. He used to sell 200 litres a day and struggled to expand his market. Catalyst VSO volunteer Wouter Verelst, a marketing adviser from Belgium, was placed in Blantyre to work with Simeon. Together they began work to ensure that Supa Cream Milk reaches its full potential. Wouter works closely with Simeon, Supa Cream staff and SHMPA to share his knowledge on marketing and business planning, taking a hands-on approach with the milk sales agents and officers through participatory training. Wouter encouraged Simeon to take on an entrepreneurial mindset, do market research, and share knowledge among fellow small-scale milk producers. I tried to make it more like a business and less like an organisation waiting for money, he says. Im learning so many things from Wouter, says Simeon. I have a very good relationship with my counterpart. We built the organisation together, setting it up as a business operation and thinking as a business, not a donordependent organisation, says Wouter. In 2012 Simeon won VSOs Making Markets Work for the Poor project entrepreneurship award. This was another boost for Supa Cream Milk, and the prize money went towards a fridge and generator along with publicity materials.

VSO/Mikkel Allison


Stories of Change

VSO/Mikkel Allison

Results The company has grown remarkably over the last few years, with a new store located in downtown Blantyre where milk is processed and packaged for delivery. Sales now reach over 2,000 litres a day, and Simeons sales agents provide more than 3,000 households with fresh milk each week. In 2008 there were six milk sales agents in place and a sales supervisor. Nowadays Supa Cream Milk counts a shop manager, three sales supervisors, two milk drivers, a marketing officer, and 26 sales agents, says Wouter. Were just helping the poor customers to buy and farmers to sell milk at an affordable price,

says Simeon. And they are doing this with great success. As a result of the improvement in Supa Cream Milks marketing and business planning, SHMPA has been able to scale up production. It now has access to a market beyond the relatively expensive formal channels, such as supermarkets, that sell milk at prices beyond the means of poorer families. Supa Cream has seen a tenfold increase in sales over the past year the demand for fresh milk has skyrocketed. Wouters positive impact on Supa Cream Milk is clear, and with his colleagues having learnt through his training, the knowledge he has shared during his placement will have long-lasting effects. I think

they will be okay without me. Once Ive gone, there is an accountancy plan in place theres still a lot to improve, though, he says.

Supa Cream has seen a tenfold increase in sales over the past year
Along with the successes of the last year, Simeon and Wouter have faced challenges. Production was suspended for a period to accommodate an examination by the Malawi Bureau of Standards, which is unaccustomed to regulating unpasteurised milk. They are now lobbying the government to adapt the current milk law to standards that are more tailored to Malawian realities.

Stories of Change



This cross section of VSO volunteers work illustrates how one persons skills shared at a local level have an important impact in the fight against poverty. Our volunteers work with individuals and communities so they become better equipped to meet the challenges they face. And the skills our volunteers share continue to be used and shared more widely even after theyve left. Looking to the future, VSO Malawi has developed a new strategy for 2012-15: Innovation, influence and impact. Taking inspiration from VSOs global vision of a world without poverty, we envision a Malawi without poverty, and an improved quality of life for the most vulnerable and marginalised people. Well continue to work with local partners, placing volunteers where they are most needed. Well be focusing on gender equality and improving the lives of children and young people in 10 targeted districts in Malawi. VSOs global network is not just its volunteers. Its our donors and supporters too and the people from the worlds poorest communities themselves. By supporting VSO, you can support the work of our volunteer nurses, doctors, health professionals, teachers, experienced managers, IT specialists and more.


Stories of Change

VSO Malawi would like to thank the following people and organisations for their continued support and assistance in making these stories of change a reality: VSO Malawi and VSO International staff, our volunteers, our partners and our donors DFID, CIDA, UNICEF, Irish Aid, and Accenture. With special thanks to Mikkel Allison and Sarah Oxley for producing this document.

Stories of Change

ISBN 978-1-903697-36-8

9 781903 697368

VSO Malawi Private Bag B300 Lilongwe, Malawi 1st Floor, British Council Building Plot 13/20 Capital City, Lilongwe 3 Malawi T (+265) 1 7724 96/43/45 F (+265) 1 772497 Email: Facebook page:
VSO Malawi is a registered INGO with the NGO Board of Malawi (NGO/R/12/03). VSO is a registered charity in England and in Wales (313757) and in Scotland (SC039117). Published August 2012