Dear Friends and Family,
It’s been a very long time since I gave you an update on the school and clinic activities. A lot has happened during this break, which I will share with this update.
This has continued to be the foundation and one of the successes of our school. We have continued to provide breakfast and lunch to all 89 full-time students and an average of 100 to 150 kids who attend over the weekend. This program has continuously received support from all of you through a matching grant. Central Coast Children’s Inc. provides half of the funding, which has been matched by all of you.
This year the budget was pegged at $13,000 CAD and all of this was raised in full. Thanks to all of you for this initiative. We have seen an improvement in the nutrition status of the majority of the kids we serve. The only challenge we have faced with this program is the rise in the price of food. The country is going through a severe food shortage and there is a demand for food for parents coming from very far rural areas who have no income to buy their own lunch while they wait for the service.
We have continued to maintain the number of staff and support staff and the addition of a full-time specialist teacher. The specialist teacher has enabled us to conduct assessments on time, and Individual Education Plans are communicated to the parents and guardians on time. This has been a great contribution to the program.
Special thanks to Harvey for making funding available for the teacher for one year, and for making top-up allowance available for our therapy staff member, Sneed, who is also my deputy in the job. From where we have come from, to now, we have made good progress in the quality of staff. It’s my hope, and indeed the hope of the board, to have more qualified staff.
At the same time let me make an appeal to those therapists and students who want to spend time in Malawi to support the development of our work to join us. We can take volunteers for any duration they plan to spend outside their country. All positions will be voluntary and we will help with finding reasonably-priced accommodations.
We still have a doctor, nurse, and a social worker who visit us occasionally to support our work.
Equipment and Materials
We have continued to provide adaptive chairs to all kids with sitting challenges. The chairs are made at the school by a local carpenter who gets the measurements from the therapy staff. This has been a good program as we have seen kids improving in a lot of areas like posture, feeding, and many activities of daily living. The majority of these chairs are being used in their family homes and schools outside ours.
We have also received a donation of teaching materials which were purchased from South Africa by Harvey. One box is on literacy development and the other is on numeracy. Thanks for this donation. We also received few assessment manuals for speech and language development from a therapist in Alberta, Canada, who was introduced to what we are doing by someone on this network.
Rental and Utilities
We have continued to operate from a rented house in Blantyre, Malawi. All the rental money this year has come from your contributions and the fundraisers we did when I visited Canada at the end of last year. The availability of rent money has enabled us to operate freely and concentrate on other important things. Special thanks to you all. All the extra funding we have received from all of you has gone toward utility bills, and items such as soap, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies.
I have managed to have meetings with directors of special education in two regions in Malawi. We discussed opportunities for the continued collaboration with government in lobbying to have centres like ours be affiliated with their activities. The outcome hasn’t been positive.
In Malawi, special education starts at primary school and falls under the Ministry of Education and the issues of disability and preschool activities are under the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare. Despite that we have received a lot of calls for us to expand our services. So far we have offered support to Kondanani Orphanage, who have established a clinic under our direct supervision. Two more orphanages have also requested our support with support staff training.
I have referred their request to the board, which is meeting next month.
Due to the increasing demand for our services and an increase to the number of kids on the waiting list we started a weekend program. The kids would attend on Saturday and Sunday and have the opportunity to be seen by a therapist, have an assessment done, and then be provided with a home program. Some of the kids on the waiting list have benefited from chairs to use at home, thanks to Harvey and Sarah.
This program has been reduced to Saturday only, as there is pressure on my staff who are already doing a lot of work. For this program to succeed in the future we would need extra staff to take the weekend program, who would then join the normal program so that staff can switch shifts to share the experience.