Masambiro was founded in 2005 by Mandy Wilkins and Jason Strelitz. Below Jason tells the story.
We were travelling on our honeymoon through Malawi, and were in a small town on the travellers trail called Nkhata Bay. We were staying in a guesthouse called Njaya, overlooking Lake Malawi. I began to chat to a man doing some paintwork and he explained to me that he was a teacher but had not been paid for three months and had to do some extra work. I explained that Mandy and I were interested in education and he invited us down to the school; the rest is what you see!
Against all the odds three young men were running a school for a handful of children many of whom would otherwise in all likelihood get no education. However the school was extremely basic and fragile, not least the tiny space, which they rented without even the most basic of equipment and resources. When we asked how we could help, the teachers said what they needed was a proper school where they could teach effectively, and which would allow the school the space to grow and meet its potential.
Before embarking on the project we thought it was important to get advice from people with experience in this area. The Hunter Trust a charity with over 20 years experience of supporting Malawi education projects visited the school and gave the project big thumbs up; they also recommended an independent project manager, to jointly oversee the building project. The Charities Advisory Trust took us under their wing providing advice, administration support and the first £2000. We’re very grateful to the support of all of these partners.
When we asked the teachers of the school what the project should be called they said unanimously that it should be MASAMBIRO. Masambiro in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, means education but it carries so much more resonance as a word than here. Malawi is the 4th poorest country in the world, it has no natural resources, and when the rains fail, or are too hard, and the basic crop fails, people queue for food handouts. Most people live subsistence lives. Education is therefore the only opportunity for Malawians to develop themselves and they society.
Masambiro is about laying the foundations for the next generation to fulfil their potential through education. This vision of the trustees of Kunyanja Educational Trust is to lay the foundations of their community, so that the future can be built on education and development.