The Chinthowa Development Trust is a small charity working in the UK and Malawi. Our journey began in 2001 when Margaret and Brian were moved by the poverty and hunger that was spreading through Africa at that time. Initially the aim was to raise £500 to send out to Malawi, it soon became apparent that this would be woefully inadequate and so the formation of the Trust began. While much has been accomplished, thanks to the support of our dedicated trustees, countless individuals, schools, churches groups, organisations and the business sector, much remains to be achieved.
The Trust was founded on the principles that, we would pay no salaries or expenses, and that all overheads would be paid from our own pockets, these remain our core principles.
We are a registered charity
UK Charity Commission Number 1122548
There are no administrative charges, all volunteers work for free and cover their own expenses. Every penny raised is used for the benefit of the orphans and the villages. Visits to Chinthowa by Trustees of the charity are paid for out of their own pockets.
We ask support from anyone who will listen, local schools, Churches, charitable organisations, friends, relatives and neighbours.
The Trust is registered with the government in Malawi, CONGOMA C1023/2016, this recognises us as a Non Governmental Organisation.
History of the charity.
In 2001 we met the Mdala family from Malawi. Flora was a nurse and had come to England to work in the NHS. This was to enable her to send money back home to start a school in her ancestral village of Chinthowa. Her husband Stanley was working in security and their daughter aged 10 years was attending our local school.
We invited them to our home and were eager to learn what life was like for the poorer people of Malawi. During the next couple of years Malawi like all of Sub- Saharan suffered from famine so severe that the people were eating grass and roots. Informaly, we asked friends and family if they would like to help the village of Chinthowa, they readily agreed and money was sent to the village to supply them with maize, cooking oil and blankets.
In order that we could really understand what was happening in Chinthowa, Flora sent out an old second hand camcorder for them to show us the village and their lifestyle. We could see their farming methods, the water hole, the houses and children having some lessons under a tree given by one of the young men who had received secondary education. The schools were too far away for young children to walk there. One of the scenes should an old woman with 8 children around her, we were told that these were some of the orphans of the village and she looked after them. The orphans were allowed to collect the scrapings of the floor in the flour mill and the old lady would make it into maize porridge. This was the only help they had.
Orphan Sponsorship Programme Begins
In 2003 we started an official sponsorship scheme for these orphans and they were sponsored for £5 or £10 a month. The scheme worked really well and before long there were another 30 orphans by nearby villages who asked to be sponsored. Money was transferred every two months to a family member who saw that the children were well fed, clothed and had all that they needed.
Children and adults were constantly suffering from water borne diseases because the water hole was used not only by humans but also the village animals. After giving a talk to a local school, St Thomas More Secondary School in Nuneaton they offered to pay for a new bore hole to be constructed. It cost £1000.
First Visit to Malawi
By 2006 we were planning a visit to Chinthowa covering all our own expenses to see that everything was going well, we were to be joined by the Mdala family.
May 2007, our first visit to Chinthowa. The villagers gave us a very warm welcome giving us gifts of chickens, sugar cane, groundnuts and papaya. They are a very happy people who love to sing and dance. Seeing the village was a shock, it was almost like going back to the Bronze Age! There was no electricity or running water, the people lived in mud huts with no furniture. Pigs, goats and chickens roamed the village. The harvest had been gathered in and 2007 had proved to be a very good harvest.
One evening, speaking with the Primary Education Advisor and discussing the distance the children of Chinthowa have to walk to school, Brian volunteered to build a primary school of 8 Standards and 8 teachers’ houses in Chinthowa.
On returning to the UK, a period of intense fundraising began, holding Coffee Mornings, Mulled Wine Mornings, appeals to local organisations and schools, jewellery parties and race nights.
The villagers were given the task of making and firing all the bricks that would be needed By 2009 we were ready to start the building.
The Beginning of the School Project
The villagers were given the task of making and firing all the bricks that would be needed. May 2009 we were ready to start building the first phase.
We were living in the village in one of the brick houses belonging to Flora’s family. We had sent out all our necessities by shipping container, camping beds, mattresses, bedding, cooking items, a small stove, kettle and toaster and a porta-loo.
Setting out and laying the foundations of two classroom blocks and the staffroom were completed quickly using only spades and the traditional hoe. But when it came to the actual bricklaying we realised that the men did not have the skills. It was decided that an Apprentice Piece was needed to teach all the skills the men would need. After discussion with Chief Michael Chinthowa he was gracious enough to give us some land in the village to build a small house.
This was built in a matter of six weeks, the men learnt the skill of bricklaying, putting in windows, trusses and putting on a roof and plastering. The house consisted of a small sitting room and a small bedroom with a veranda along the length of the house. The veranda was used as the kitchen area. We were very pleased with the result and then the real bricklaying on the school could begin.
I returned to England after two months but Brian stayed on until late in October. By that time the men were sufficiently skilled to carry on with the building of the classrooms and four large teachers’ houses.
Progress with the building was quite slow as we had to raise the money as we were going along. We returned again in 2011 to help with the building and to look after the large amount of orphans that were being sponsored.
Brian returned in 2012 to make sure that everything was ready to open the first phase of the school in September. Everything was going well, the buildings were complete, the staff and head teacher had been appointed, the only thing that was left to do was the construction of the bore hole for the school and the teachers’ houses. Brain had a message to say that the company would not be able to come to the village until October. This meant that the school would not be able to open. Immediately he got in touch with Joyce Banda’s secretary, (Joyce Banda was the Prime Minister of Malawi at the time and had visited Chinthowa and had a look at the school as it was being built) and asked if the PM could suggest an answer to the problem. Within ten minutes a message was sent to Brian to say that the bore hole company would be in the village on the following Tuesday. What it is to have friends in high places!
Registration began on September 1st for Standard 1, over 350 children turned up. We had planned only to have 60 in each class. It was decided to have two Standard 1’s and two Standard 2’s, a Standard 3 and a Standard 4 class.
The school opened on September 5th 2012.
Floods & Drought
It was another two years before the second phase of the school was finished, Standard 5 to 7, in 2014. We could not have the final year in our school until we received a Certificate of Examination so that the pupils could take their final examination before going on to secondary school. We hope to receive this certificate shortly.
At present pupils in Standard 8 attend the Majiga Teacher Training School about 4 miles away.
From our earliest involvement in Chinthowa we have encouraged the girls to stay on and complete their primary education and to go on to secondary school. Unfortunately many children drop out before they reach Standard 8. However those that do pass the final primary examination have the possibility of going on to secondary school. The Trust pays all the fees. The nearest secondary school is about ten miles away.
2015-2016 were very difficult years for Chinthowa and all of Malawi. They had horrendous floods, people drowning, houses, roads and bridges washed away. The crops were destroyed in particular the maize crop which is their staple food. We knew that the villagers would go hungry so we introduced a feeding programme for the children. We bought in maize flour and a meal of nsema was made for the children at the end of the school day. It did mean that more children were coming to the school, possibly just to get the meal. We did not consider that a problem. We were feeding up to 1200 children a day.
At the same time it was noticed that many of our old people were becoming malnourished so a programme was introduced for them they were to be given maize flour and cooking oil until times got better.
Unfortunately times did not get better there was a drought and once again the crops withered. The feeding programmes continued.
A Good Year
2017 began well, the rains had come, the crops were doing well, they were double cropping on the same land, soya beans and sunflowers both of which could be sold as cash crops. The harvest in April was a bumper harvest not only the soya beans and sunflowers but groundnuts, potatoes, tomatoes and cassava.
The final phase of the school is being built during 2017, an IT block. During the early part of next year the solar panels will be delivered to power the laptops and desks tops, donated by local schools and firms, that have already been sent over to Malawi.
The IT Block is Completed
The year did not begin well with the partial failure of the maize crop due to late rains. We sent money so that seeds could be bought and the fields replanted. A good harvest was achieved in March/April. The villagers continue to be worried about climate change.
The IT Block at school was completed, research continues in to what will be the best solar panels to use. 988 pupils are on role at Chinthowa School. All children are receiving a meal after school, including the Nursery School children run by volunteers.
The secondary school students received bicycles to enable them to cycle to school daily rather than have to board away from their families.
Mdwata Monthimba has been selected to go to Lilongwe Medical School.
Simeon Sandfolo is going to Chayamba Secondary School for Blind Students. He is 18 years old. The fees are expensive, 58,000 Mkw per term. The Ladies Guild at St. Anne’s Nuneaton are sponsoring him.
In August our shipment arrived in the village. Due to new regulations the MRA (Malawi Revenue Authority) came to the village to question the people about the shipment and asked what they received. They were very pleased with their responses and congratulated Duncan on his organisation and distribution of the shipment.
Inner Wheel Area 6 have agreed to buy some desks for the school. Duncan was able to source some second hand desks and they were delivered in October.
4 new boreholes were constructed in the local villages.
8 secondary school students passed the entrance examination to go onto tertiary education to study, electronics, computer science, bricklaying, and teacher training.
100 fruit trees were bought as a trial, to see which would grow best in the area, including mangoes, guavas, oranges, papayas, lemons and apples.
Christmas gifts, school items and clothes were given out.
has been a somewhat turbulent year for Malawi, the main feature being a very controversial election result that caused rioting and widespread discontent with allegations of corruption and vote rigging being the driving force. The ‘Electoral Commission’ upheld the complaints by the opposition and ordered the President to re-run the election, this has so far not happened as the President has lodged an appeal. The restoration of law and order was undertaken by the armed forces (always beyond politics and corruption) this meant that the questionable police force did not have to be used. During this period, the villagers were told to keep out of the larger towns and cities and stay local.
Sadly, we also lost two of our disabled orphans that we have looked after for most of their lives, Gabriel Gedion aged 17 and Eliase Mbewe also aged 17 from pneumonia and cerebral malaria, respectively. Also, one of the headmen of the village and a very influential member of our council Mr. Koffiman passed away following a short illness, he was 71 years old, he was an ardent supporter of all of the projects and was fearless in his promotion of our work in the corridors of power, his enthusiasm and support will be missed especially by Duncan.
Hurricane: A considerable amount of time and effort was spent dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Aida, although the villages in our area were not too severely affected. The rebuilding of properties and bridge took place. One person was killed.
Boreholes: All of the 14 villages in our area of operation now have boreholes.
Fruit Trees: The trial of fruit trees was not successful, only the guava survived as they didn’t protect the saplings from the marauding goats! We should have been far more specific with the instructions.
Education: The school continues to thrive, 1567 on role, at present awaiting the appointment of a new head teacher. We continue to provide a hot meal to all the students each day, some of the teacher’s wives have taken on the responsibility for this. Our support for secondary education continues to expand, we are currently supporting 60 pupils at various schools in the area.
The solar panels were fitted to the IT Block at school and 30 refurbished laptops provided by RBH were received by the school.
There are 9 students in tertiary education, plus 4 young ladies were sent for training to a vocational college in the south of the country called Green Malata, they are now setting up a business venture with our support.
Elderly: We continue to give support to the more elderly members of the area with food during the ‘lean time’ before the harvest is brought in.
Christmas presents, clothes, school items were distributed. More laptops were sent to the school from RBH for the teachers.
In the re-run of the Presidential Election, the opposition candidate was elected with a substantial majority, an orderly and peaceful handover of power was achieved.
Coping with Covid 19
After three days of heavy rainfall at the beginning of February 2020 the road between Chinthowa and Majiga was flooded and much damage was done to the surface of the dirt road. The Health Centre buildings in Majiga were all damaged and most of the equipment and stores were lost. Most of the Health Visitors cars suffered from flood damage.
The crops which are nearly ready for harvesting in Chinthowa village fortunately survived the torrential rain and should be harvested at the end of March or the beginning of April.
Our newest orphan Born 2006. He lives with his mother only as his father has died. He has two sisters and one brother. He has been unable to walk all of his life. On February 9th 2020 Fickson’s family came to the Chinthowa Office asking for assistance. Fortunately we had a wheelchair available that we were able to give him, this will make life easier for him and his mother. Hopefully he may be able to go to school now. He also received clothes and blankets. He is now on the register and we will continue to support him and his family.
Our Sponsorship Scheme supports both the child and the family where the child lives. Sometimes the orphans live with a single parent or a member of the extended family. £10 per month covers all the needs of the child, supports them with clothes, school equipment and food. If you would like to support one of our orphans, please contact us on 07502240034 and we can explain our Standing Order system. It is very simple to do and you are always in control. If you cannot afford £10 per month, maybe you can ‘share’ an orphan for £5 per month.
The first case of the virus in Malawi was confirmed on April 2nd, the first death was on April 8th. It increased to 3 deaths on April 23rd and 4 deaths on May 24th. In the statistics there have been no more deaths. May 31st another 4 deaths and 284 confirmed cases.There are 17 intensive care beds in the country shared between 4 hospitals.
We have been able to give advice to the villagers • To stay within your village and not travel around. • To wash hands thoroughly and often. • We managed to find a leaflet in the Chichewa language about the virus and sent it to Duncan in order to give the villagers more information. • Instructed Duncan to only go into the capital when absolutely necessary. (To the Bank)
At the beginning of April all the villages were visited by health visitors and they brought soap and gave advice about the importance of hand washing. They were very pleased that the villagers were already taking precautions.
Harvest. The harvest was gathered in, in April, it was a good harvest so there was plenty of food available, but sadly they were unable to sell any of their produce at market and this is usually the time when they can earn a little cash.
We were able, during this period of lockdown to promote the ‘Micro Loan Business Start up Scheme’, we primarily though not exclusively targeted the students who have successfully completed their secondary education, the first of these has been up and running now for a few weeks and is progressing well. Three girls have started a tailoring business, the trust has provided sewing machines and materials in order for them to get started. They use treadle machines but it is hoped that they will be able to tap into the ‘solar system’ this will be a great boost for them. There were three further applications for funding, each of them looked quite interesting and will probably be granted the assistance they have requested.
The Trust provides interest free loans to suitable projects that show benefit not just to the individual but also to the wider community, the loans cover a period of 16 months under normal circumstances with the initial 6 months being a repayment holiday.
As our responsibility and governance of Chinthowa School decreases we are provided with an opportunity of moving further toward our Mission Aims of making Chinthowa village increasingly self-sufficient. While over the years, there have been several successes for the various projects, for 10 years our focus has been mainly on the school and encouraging more and more students to persevere with their education.
During the past couple of years we identified one of the less acknowledged sources of poverty within the Sub Saharan African nations and that is ‘Land Poverty’; this is where people outside of the urban areas don’t have access to land that would allow them to farm even to subsistence levels. During the lockdown period in the UK, we have been able to set up an agricultural cooperative by acquiring 25 acres of prime farm land with access to water, this has been given to 25 of the poorer families who fell into this ‘land poverty’ trap. The trust has covered the initial set up costs which included, rent until June 2021, the supplying of tools, treadle pumps, fertilizers and various seeds. Initially the land will be used for the growing of maize together with a ‘barrier crop’ this is used as a form of pest control.
Their small gardens, 72m x 72m approx., can then be used for growing cash crops such as tomatoes, Chinese leaf, vegetables, and groundnuts. The resulting income should be sufficient for them to cover the second year’s operation. This is only a trial scheme which if is as successful as expected could be expanded.
The Sewing Bees Ellen, Patrish, Modester and Catherine, trained at Green Malata near Blantyre, sponsored by Chinthowa Development Trust,
The first assignment for the ladies was to make and distribute re-usable sanitary wear for the girls in the villages where we operate, following this they began tailoring school uniforms for both girls and boys having first created their own patterns from which to work, Chinthowa Development Trust was of course their first customer, making uniforms for our orphans.
With the onset of the Corona virus pandemic production was switched to the making of re-usable face masks that were distributed free of charge throughout our villages.
The Farming Cooperative In September the Cooperative began preparing the the land for the start of the rainy season. Everything went well! The maize crop grew well and was very healthy, it seems that the planting of a barrier crop as a pest control worked well and has proved to be a successful trial; this can now be rolled out and used by all of the villagers, it is a simple and cheap alternative to pesticides. The cooperative has a committee of five members, three men and two women with one individual Lemani Wilson emerging as a natural leader and driving force of the project; he is one of our former sponsored students who is himself struggling to raise two children, Lemani has no land of his own to fall back on.
The harvest was gathered in, a bumper crop of maize during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Absolutely fabulous, from planting to harvesting was just 14 weeks, there will be no hunger time for the villagers this year! They collected 14 ox carts full of maize. The potential now is immense, we can make the 2 harvests per year a viable option and still allow time for the land to rest. Future plans are to grow tomatoes, Irish potatoes and onions.
Other micro loans have been given for starting a small group of ladies with a pig farm, a grocery shop, a butcher’s shop, and an agri business selling seeds and fertiliser.
What a roller coaster ride 2020 has been; happily I can report we are ending this year very much on a high! The children and families gathered together to receive their Christmas presents on Christmas Day, the rains had stopped and it was a beautiful warm sunny day, the children were very excited and very noisy, the adults sat apart resigned to the fact that they had lost control so may just as well relax and enjoy the fun. Duncan and Chief Michael were Santa for the day and gave out the presents, all of the young orphans received theirs first and then all of the children from Chinthowa, Mpani and Njolo received theirs, quite a day, lots of laughter and high spirits, thanks to all who contributed in any way at all to this memorable day. Zukomo Kwamberi.
When the school is completely finished we will concentrate on the orphans encouraging them to complete their education and supporting their families.
Climate change has affected Sub-Saharan Africa possibly more than any other part of the world. More water conservation ideas will be explored.
We hope to be able to plant more fruit trees in the village to help with soil erosion and to improve the diet of the families.