The Chinthowa Development Trust came into existence in 2001 and operates mainly in the North Warwickshire area and Malawi. A great deal has been achieved to enable the village of Chinthowa to become more self sufficient with support and help from local organisations, friends and family. The Trust has helped to look after approximately 750 orphans, providing funds to enable their extended families to care for them and pay educational fees. We raised funds to build a primary school for the village and trained the local people in brick making and construction to build it, skills they can now use to earn a living wage. We have provided mosquito nets for the families of the local villages, along with medicines and health aids to help the local medical centre. We have created 6 wells to provide safe clean drinking water for the village and its neighbouring settlements and are working with farmers to promote sustainable, environmentally friendly and profitable farming techniques.
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 village. 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.
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.