Updated: Dec 10, 2019
The Global Good bloggers have been touring Malawi, visiting some brilliant projects run by tireless, dedicated NGOs. In this first part of our Malawi series, we report on some highly ambitious infrastructure projects run by Fisherman's Rest - a family-run charity creating unimaginable impact in the south of Malawi.
Fisherman's Rest was founded by The Chichlowski family in the 1990s and is still run by the family today. The Chichlowskis moved to Malawi in 1991 and quickly witnessed the need that local families had for sustainable incomes, and saw opportunities for empowering them to have their own businesses. In 1996 the Chichlowski family were due to move back to the UK, but instead bought 'Fisherman's Rest' - an old fishing clubhouse - that was soon to become their long-term family home and guest lodge. The guest lodge provided income which the Chichlowskis used to support their community, and there began the first of their projects. Guests staying at the lodge have always been encouraged to participate in projects, and currently guests can enjoy involvement in one of Fisherman's Rest's nine fantastic community projects.
We visited two primary schools in the local area, and the difference was astonishing. The first school comprised two classroom blocks, one of which had been funded by the Government, but funding had stopped during political elections and the building remains unfinished. Another older building was dark, infested with termites and the old brickwork was crumbling. The children at this school were taking lessons either outside or in a small room designed for an office, and the many books that had been donated by Fisherman's Rest were squeezed into a tiny room, to create the humblest of libraries as well as a store room.
In sharp contrast, the primary school we visited at Chimwabvi comprised three new classroom blocks, all funded by Fisherman's Rest and their project partners. Roof-lights are integrated with the robust metal roof sheets which make the large classrooms light and welcoming. The new buildings also incorporate a large library, filled with books donated by Fisherman's Rest.
In Fisherman's Rest's neighbouring education zones there are only three secondary schools with a total of just 1,200 places, yet there are some 17,500 children completing primary school each year, so only 7% of primary school leavers can get places at these secondary schools. Those who miss out on one of these places will have to walk up to 3 hours to get to school. Fisherman's Rest are now constructing a new secondary school at Chimwabvi, which will create places for 20% of primary school leavers each year. One classroom block is already in use, while three new buildings comprising classrooms, offices, a library and toilet facilities are under construction. The building work is project managed by Fisherman's Rest themselves, who even make and supply the modern ecological bricks!
Chimwabvi Secondary School under construction. (Photo: The Global Good)
Fisherman's Rest have also constructed classroom blocks, kitchens, libraries and toilet blocks in 4 other schools. The building and library facilities have boosted the selection rate of pupils into secondary schools in these education zones to the highest in the district. Mpemba school was the first local school to have a dedicated library built and fully stocked with thousands of books. The next closest library that the children could have access to is a 6-hour round trip walk. As a result, the level of reading and comprehension has dramatically improved. Allan Bawindow, English teacher, said that before they had the library,
“the children had to share a few books with very limited content and those books were often damaged and had large chunks missing”.
Joel Mwakula, aged 11, is often found in the library and explains how the library is helping him to pass his exams:
"The exams are in English, so when I read in the library I know I will be able to do better in my exams because my English is getting better and better...When the library arrived I struggled to read English but now I can manage many many books".
Joel is one of many children at Mpemba school who has benefited from the library. He dreams of being a journalist, a dream which now has the potential to come true.
If you know of schools emptying their shelves or libraries re-stocking books and you would like to re-home them in new school libraries in Malawi…. please contact Fisherman's Rest.