Updates from Malawi: Week 1

AK Parker is an Art Director from BBH London who is currently on TIE in Malawi. She’s working at Joshua Orphan & Community Care, a grassroots organization that supports community-driven programmes assisting HIV/Aids orphans, vulnerable children and their families in Blantyre. Since the first week of her placement, she has been sending her agency back home some updates on her experiences on the field – and they are awesome! It’s always exciting for us to get to know the everyday learnings and insights from our participants, so we thought you might enjoy them too.

Muli Bwanji!

Much to everyone’s surprise, I made it to Malawi. On time.

I’m out here for 30 days working with Joshua Orphan and Community Care.. Joshua are a small charity who educate, feed and re-home children who have often been orphaned by HIV. The office sits at the top of a leafy hill overlooking a mountain range and Mango trees.

It also has the worst internet in the world and a sawn off old electricity pipe sticking up through the carpet in the middle of the room.

Health and Safety may not always be up to scratch in Malawi, but the people and their names definitely are. I’ve met a male charity worker called Blessings, and some of the kids at the school are called Hilarious, Excellent, Trouble, Replacement, and Last one. Then there are the Rastas at the lake who have taken the names: Dangerous Liquid, Cheese Burger, Happy Coconut and Chicken Pizza. Hungry? That’s a question, not a name.

I arrived 7 days ago with a vague plan. I thought I would make a film and look at the website and social media communication. The latter I am doing, with help from a digital team at BBH.

But after speaking to the very lovely team at Joshua, I realised that making a film was not the most valuable thing I could do for them.

Life in the villages is very basic. The kids live in huts with no running water, electricity, possessions or access to basic learning material. It means they are incredibly unstimulated by the time they start school at 5, falling way below the average world education standards.

To help combat this, Joshua are pioneering a pre-school education programme for 2-5 year olds.

The problem is that educational material for this age group does not exist in the local language, Chichewa. That’s where I come in. Over the next 3 weeks, I’m going to work with the ECD (early childhood development) team to help create educational material for these children.

With colleagues at Joshua and BBH production, we will write a children’s book about life in their village for the teachers to read to the kids. Alongside this, we will design an exercise book with tasks inspired by their villages. E.g. Colour in a picture of your Chief.

This week I will visit and photograph some of the 14 villages, to collect as much material as possible. Then use this research to write and illustrate, bespoke stories and exercise material.

Once we have produced the material, I hope to sell the colouring in books for kids in the UK to learn about life in the villages of Malawi. All the proceeds would go back in to Joshua’s education programme and bring greater awareness to the charity.

However, before all this happens, I need to get permission from 14 village Chiefs. Finger’s crossed that they are Happy Coconut kind of Chiefs.

Watch this space…

If you would like to follow my progress on Instagram, you can find me @Akparkermalawi.

And if you would like to donate to Joshua you can, through my Just Giving page or through Joshua’s website.

I have seen first had how hard they work, to ensure every single penny they receive is carefully accounted for and spent wisely, on bags of food for the schools, housing and education for kids in the poorest country in the world where a typical annual wage is £360 per year. Even the smallest donation would not go to waste.

Thanks so much and tiwo nana!


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