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28th Jan, 2022

North Worcestershire Rotary Club's fund-raising helps improves the lives of African children and young people

FUND-RAISING by Rotarians in North Worcestershire has helped improve the lives of African students following the latest completion of new school toilets.

The refurbished toilet block at Isyalikila Junior School in Malawi marks the third collaboration between North Worcestershire Rotary Club and The Bwengu Project, a Rugby-based charity which funds and undertakes education and community projects in the world’s third poorest country.

Half of the charity’s 64 projects to refurbish toilet blocks since 2006 have been Rotary-funded which the founders are immensely grateful for.

The Bwengu Projects Malawi is a small charity run by Tony and Sue Melia and their daughter Samantha, son-in-law Rob and granddaughter Abi.

Tony said: “The project involved the complete rebuild of the toilet facilities for girls at the school, which not only improved hygiene but also encouraged many more youngsters to attend regularly in this very deprived part of Africa.”

He added the existing toilets were ‘not nice’ and were a major factor in older junior school girls going absent.

Washrooms were added which increased attendance and exam pass rates.

“The support from Rotary has fundamentally changed the lives of many thousands of children and adults.”

Other Bwengu projects, which range from renovations and building work to providing school furniture, teaching kits and devices, have also been supported by Rotary clubs across the county.

More than 18,000 children at 19 schools have access to Rotary-funded teaching equipment such as projectors and tablets.

Tony added: “The whole of the Junior and secondary Malawi national curriculum lessons are now projected onto school classroom walls instead of using blackboards.

“Another example of the impact the Rotary have on our charity is in the realms of adult education.

“Where we work in the far north some 37.5 per cent children leave school (if they have ever attended) unable to read, write or complete simple maths (Malawi GOV stats).

“Since 2008 in 12 villages free adult education lessons have been run for six months at a time in reading, writing and basic maths. So far some 1,400 adults have achieved the basic academic requirements.

“Rotary Clubs have funded at least six of these village adult education projects, with one club – Rugby Rotary Club – funding four villages, the last one being Isyaliklia Village where some 147 adults, mostly female, achieve a pass grade.”

Headteacher at Isyalikila Junior School, Dawin Sikwese, said: “We sincerely appreciate this great gift to the people of Isyalikila, it has really transformed their lives.

“They are now able to read, write and complete simple maths, but more importantly, know their rights. They can engage in development activities, without resistance because they now understand their rights and responsibilities.”

According to The International Monetary Fund, Malawi is the third poorest country in the world where one in 10 adults live with HIV/AIDS and one million children have been orphaned by the disease.

Graham Mackenzie, Deputy Chair of North Worcestershire Rotary Club Charity Committee, said: “As a club we wanted to focus our efforts on the most deprived and underdeveloped countries where the need is greatest such as Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda.

“Our preference is to work with small and hands-on type charities which don’t carry a lot of overhead in the way that some of the bigger charities do.”

More information about The Bwengu Project can be found at: https://bwenguprojectsmalawi.org/

Donations can be made through their JustGiving Page at: https://www.justgiving.com/bwenguproject

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