Welcome to the "Warm Heart of Africa"
In the summer of 2019, 4 people embarked on an adventure to Malawi, where they had the experience of a lifetime. A country unfamiliar to many people, Malawi is a country known for it’s kindness, earning itself the nickname of the “Warm Heart of Africa.”
Two teenagers, Jenny and Jeffery, (plus a parent each: Catherine and Frank, the founders of WHoA) – 13 and 15 respectivly, – independently developed a summer camp: preparing teaching materials, lesson plans, and personally carrying heavy bags full of books and laptops to be donated to a school in Malawi.
First of all, where is Malawi?
Malawi is located in South East Africa, sharing borders with Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking #170 among 188 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index list. 70%+ of the population lives on a daily expense of less than $1.90. 90% of the country has no electricity. Education remains a big challenge. Overcrowded classrooms and scarcity of teachers result in drop-out rates as high as 70% in elementary schools. It is not uncommon for teenage girls to marry early, which often limits their future.
Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, has a population of approximately 1 million, and is where our student teachers taught for the duration of their trip.
The ultimate goal for The Warm Heart of Africa Foundation (WHoA) is to help children in Malawi by improving their learning environment. Sponsoring schools in need, importing high-quality educational resources, and building connections with children outside the country are the goals of WHoA.
Mercy High School
Our young student teachers classroom was in Mercy High School (https://mercycaremalawi.com). Mercy High School is serving students from Grades 9-12. They also provide another afterschool program supporting 150 elementary school students on the verge of dropping out of school. These students come from families that live on less than $1 per day and don’t see any hope of receiving an education.
The founder of Mercy High School (MHS), Peter Gamula, gained his passion for improving the state of education in Malawi based on the hardships of his own past.
Peter strives to provide for and motivate the students at Mercy High School. He knows that education is a critical step in helping the children in Malawi escape from poverty, and is commited to improving the quality of education in Malawi. He has even opened a second high school in a village 50 kilometers away from MHS. One of the biggest challenges for students in Malawi is that of distance; walking 50 kilometers to get to school is essentially impossible. That’s why the work of someone like Peter is so important: He’s giving students access to life changing education, that just might help alleviate some of the challenges of poverty.
The Summer Camp
In our summer camp, Jeffery and Jenny chose to focus on 3 things with their students in Malawi: public speaking skills, computer basics, and art class. With the guidance of Frank and Catherine, they created a curriculum designed to give their students some of the skills they’ll need in the future to find the success they striv for. As first time instructors, Jenny and Jeffery were nervous, but after years of training in Future V, (not to mention some focused rehearsals!) they were able to lead the class effectively, educating and entertaining their students with style.
However, it wasn’t only Jenny and Jeffery who excelled; in each class, the MHS students never failed to surprise with their passion and creativity. They fully embraced the ideas taught in class, bringing an enthusiasm that’s tough to match.
As we know from our speaking classes, communication skills can give anyone a leg up in life, allowing us to share our ideas and emotions with those around us in a way that builds connections that can last a lifetime. The students in Malawi demonstrated this flawlessly, giving impassioned speeches that showed their optimism, sincerity, and energy. Often having no prior public speaking experience, these kids showed that a willingness to learn is the first step necessary to finding success.
Students shared their dreams and aspirations, showing how they wanted to help change the world. One student said “I always wanted to become a pilot since I was little. But my teacher told me that our nation is too poor to own enough airplanes for us to fly. Therefore I have made up my mind to become a businessman so to develop our nation’s economy.” Another student showed off her singing ability, ending her speech with a beautiful song that earned her a massive round of applause from the audience.
Just like every child around the world, children in Malawi have nearly limitless potential. Their earnest efforts in their studies reflect the goals and dreams they set out for themselves. Only with the opportunity of education, comes a greater chance in realizing those goals and dreams.
Our instructors were truly impressed with the improvements they saw in their students speaking abilities. In the end of camp showcase, the students wowed the audience with their speeches, demonstrating the power of education, and public speaking.
PC's and Paintings
Jeffery was the head teacher of our computer basics class. This class was originally intended as a coding class, but many of these students had never even touched a computer before, letalone learned how to use one. Jeffery then focused entirely on the basics, starting with how to turn the computers on, and how to type with more than one finger! By the end of the camp, students had to create a PowerPoint Presentation showing a creative solution to a problem. Their presentations were creative and effective, showing the audience the power of technology when put in the right hands. Using the 10 computers donated by WHoA, these students will continue to hone their computer skill until their masters of technology, and are ready for Jeffery’s coding class!
In the art class, students got a crash course on Picasso, taught primarily by Jenny! Students at MHS rarely (if ever) had a chance to learn art, due to the high cost of art supplies. However, despite their limited experience, these students turned out to be inspired artists, creating beautiful Picasso style portraits. Jenny, an accomplished artist herself, remarked that she could “see huge potential in those students!” The week started with the students having never heard of Picasso before (this prompted Jenny to write his full 20 word name on the board!), and ended with them demonstrating just how skilled they were with a pen and paper.
Of course, one short summer camp isn’t enough to overcome all the challenges children face in Malawi. When not teaching, the WHoA team went around Malawi to visit different people learning their stories and finding out what still needs to be done.
In one visit, the WHoA team came to know Laundani, a college student aspiring to become an educator. Sitting in a run-down, shoddy house, they heard Laundani’s story of the challenges of growing up in poverty. Laundani is one of the college students that Peter financially supporst. Laundani’s dream is to return to his hometown and become an educator, to help more children improve their lives.
At a school called Chatata Elementary School, the team met a principal that oversees 2500 students. He was constantly worried about a shortage of funding and a lack of teachers. The school can barely survive on the meager $1000USD the government provides them per year. Many students can’t even afford the $2 tuition fee per semester. Hunger drives students to leave school before the school day ends. The accumulated student drop out rate by graduation can be as high as 70% and only appears to be growing.
Reading is another challenge. There are only three state-owned libraries across the entirety of Malawi. The majority of students don’t have access to books other than their textbooks. Wako, the founder of the Readit program, wanted to build a library on wheels, one that can travel to schools and villages.
The WHoA donated 160 books to the Readit program which came from two sources – generous audience members who attended the “Warm Heart of Africa Speaking Contest” held by WHoA and Future V Institute in June of 2019, and, Wendy Pye Publishing, one of the biggest children’s book publishers in New Zealand.
Wako was thrilled when receive those 160 books saying: “It helps me to be closer to my dream”.
WHoA also donated a $900 lunch fund for 150 students at MHS.
But more still needs to be done.
But What Can I do?
“How can I help support the project in Malawi?” This question was repeatedly asked by many people. There are so many things you can do wherever you are!
- Found your Warm Heart of Africa Club at your school. Campaign for fundraising activities and get more people involved;
- Advocate support for Malawian students on social media and Youtube channels, making the public aware of what the team is doing;
- Support the WHoA public speaking contests, raise money, used laptops, books, etc.
- One-on-one student sponsorship for talented and diligent students like Laundani to help them have a better chance to go to college. Warm Heart of Africa Foundation will support you on your club founding and events!
Peter’s words: “I specifically wanted to help those girls because they are the hope of the families in the future. I tried to provide them dormitories but most of the time there’s no electricity. I planned to install a 5kW PV solar system for the new school.” The estimated costs to install a 5KW off-grid solar PV system is $15K . “We are in extreme need of textbooks. The books on average cost $10. Our classes would need 400 books for 16 subjects for the entire year.” As we left, Peter watched us and said, “Please come back!”
With more people!