13 villages received 2000 miracle trees
This spring, Moringa miracle trees were distributed to about 450 families in 13 of the originally planned 15 villages. The trees were previously grown in nurseries in the villages by volunteers, so-called Moringa Ambassadors.
You can read more about the background of the project further below.
In every village, the distribution of the trees was celebrated with live music and dancing.
Green Spark volunteers planted trees together with the families for demonstration. Step by step, it was explained what is important for the little trees to grow big and strong.
Afterwards, the families took their previously ordered trees home and planted them on their own. Green Spark charged a small fee per tree. This, together with a bonus, was passed on to the volunteers as a token of appreciation.
Background: In early 2019 I was approached to start a tree planting campaign in a community of 15 villages. It was a great fit with my goal to promote the Moringa miracle tree in Nkhata Bay, my second home. In other parts of the country, Moringa has been established for many years with the aim of improving people's nutrition. Why? Because Moringa is truly an energy miracle package. I think this article describes the benefits of Moringa quite well.
The project did not have the great success as originally hoped for:
In the end, there was only a demand for 3000 trees.
What I learn from this: don't start such a big project from far away (I was in Germany) without being on site during the planning phase and being able to double check the assumptions by yourself.
This has its own background: as one of the poorest countries in the world, there were and still are many aid organisations in Malawi that, to exaggerate, throw money around: For example, it is common practice that people are paid to attend seminars instead of paying something for it. I know this from my own experience. You come home from a 3-day seminar with a minimum monthly wage! This happens over decades - it leads to expectations and corresponding inner mind-set and attitudes.
What do I learn from this: in addition to the actual project, transformation work must be done so that the inner attitude is normalised, keyword: mind-set change. I am now tackling that too. See below.
Moreover, not all the trees ordered were actually collected.
So in the end only 2,000 trees were distributed.
What I learn from this is that there is always shrinkage!
Resume: The next moringa outreach project will be set up in a different way.
52 Moringa Ambassadors successfully complete their training
We did not grow the moringa miracle trees mentioned above on our own, but the idea of the project was to help people to help themselves. So we trained others to grow the moringa trees and process the leaves.
We accompanied a total of 56 volunteers for one year. They were given practical knowledge in empowerment sessions.
52 of them stayed until the end and successfully grew trees for their village.
I was particularly pleased that 4 of the ambassadors continued to run their tree nurseries after the end of the project, growing and selling moringa trees. Mission Help for Self-Help has thus borne fruit: the green spark has been sustainably ignited in these four people and they now have a regular additional income.
6 participants successfully complete the 2-week organic farming training
In March, I was able to offer a first intensive training in organic farming in cooperation with an external trainer. This was mainly to train my own team, but also to offer the possibility to others. At that time there were only training providers in the central and southern parts of the country.
Three volunteers and three external participants successfully completed the two-week intensive training. In practical sessions they learned about: Compost, plant fertilisers and pesticides, useful companion plants, water management, different forms of planting beds and also the basics of garden design.
I hope we can repeat this next year. Demand is there!
200 children receive school materials - education instead of plastic
The ecobrick swap shop did not boom quite as much as last year. Background: In the swap shop, so-called ecobricks (plastic bottles filled with plastic) can be exchanged for exercise books and pens. Primary school children in particular take advantage of this offer to equip themselves for school. We were able to reach 200 children in 2020.The fact that it was quieter this year than last year was partly because Green Spark had "competition". The children were torn between the leisure activities of another organisation and our ecobrick swap shop. And on the other hand, we closed the swap shop in March due to Corona regulations - the schools were also closed.
In the meantime, the schools are open again, everything is going as normal - there are hardly any new Corona infections.
We are talking to the other organisation about how we can work together and how we can integrate the swap shop with them. Because we don't want the children to have to choose between English lessons and school supplies.
On our Facebook page you can find out how the ecobrick swap shop will continue.
Susanne treated several Malawians. People in the village talk about the white "natural healer"
Every now and then people knock on my door who need help.
Not only do I give out home-made teas and creams, of course I also give sound instructions - something that is often not done in the hospital here (!). But I also give them seedlings so that they can grow the plants themselves and heal themselves. 90% of the plants are native here anyway and can be found in the bush. Help for self-help :-)
Because I believe in what I teach.
You might be wondering on what basis I do all this? I have completed two intensive trainings in tropical medicinal plants and their application with the German organisation Anamed and have been practising for more than 1.5 years. I know my possibilities and limits. First of all, I always send people seeking help to a conventional doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Due to time and financial constraints, I do not advertise here locally about my work as a natural healer. If at this point the thought occurs to you that this could be a source of income - unfortunately not really. Many people here live from hand to mouth on less than 1.50 € a day.
Next year, the Green Spark team will expand. There will also be people who are interested in herbal medicine. Together we will see how we can reach more people.
In March, the first Corona cases were reported in Malawi, Green Spark subsequently scaled down its work and team
After many countries around the world were severely affected by the Corona pandemic, dire predictions were made for African countries. After the first Corona cases, schools were closed, borders were sealed and restrictions on daily life were imposed.
However, when a lockdown was announced, many people took to the streets and demonstrated. A lockdown would have had disastrous consequences for so many people. One must not forget that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and many live from hand to mouth.Green Spark certainly stuck to the restrictions. We were a team of five at the time. The three volunteers returned to their families. Ernest and I remained at the training farm - it is our home.
I used the quiet period to teach interested young people to sew their own masks with needle and thread. One of them subsequently started sewing masks at home and selling them to his neighbours.
Susanne has worked intensively with 6 volunteers this year, sharing her knowledge and passion for the environment
Every now and then, interested people find their way to Green Spark. Some drop in for a day or a week. Others stay longer. Young men as well as women. Right here from the village or from other parts in the country.
Volunteering with me means being involved in everything. From organic farming, to waste management, to building with natural materials and waste.
Together we have:
Come and visit me and get involved :-)
Everyone is welcome. Malawi is not called the "warm heart of Africa" for nothing.
Since November Susanne has been offering transformation training - change starts from within!
I dream of a better world; of a world in which we humans live sustainably and with respect for each other and for nature.
To achieve this, everyone has to start with themselves. I can only do my best to set a good example. Active steps must then be taken by everyone for themselves.
To stimulate this process of inner change, I have been offering transformation training for my team and other interested people since November. We go slowly, one unit per week.
For this, I draw on training material by Lois J. Ooms, a woman with almost 40 years of experience in transformation and personal & community development.
The training aims to make clear that everyone is created in God's image, with dignity, choice and the ability to take control of their own circumstances. This means not waiting for outside help for grievances, but activating the existing community and working out a solution to problems oneself using existing resources.
This is the ultimate help for self-help!
The internship programme started in December - 5 interns will accompany Susanne for 1 year and learn from & with her
Instead of working with long-term volunteers, I will work with interns in the future. What is the difference? Interns come to Green Spark with a specific desire to learn for an agreed period of time.
With the volunteers, I had the impression over the last year that they come to Green Spark because they have nothing better to do, not because they primarily want to learn something. However, there are so many inquisitive young Malawians with green hearts. These should now be given a chance. My aim is to create green sparks. With interns, I see greater chances of triggering the butterfly effect.The programme is open to all, regardless of country. Malawians, however, have priority.
In response to my call for applications in October, 12 young people came forward. Of these, we had some good applications. One trainee joined us in December. We are expecting another 2 men and 2 women in January 2021. All 5 interns want to spend a year at Green Spark gaining experience and getting involved - yippee !!!! :-)
The interns live with me on the training farm. This way there is a closer connection and the young people become part of the green community and the Green Spark family.
Accommodation and half board are provided by Green Spark. Other expenses are covered by the interns themselves.
I am still urgently looking for (monthly) donors to secure the 5 internships for the coming year. More information about donations can be found here.
I offer internships in the following areas:
If you are interested in doing an internship yourself (at least 3 months) or would like to volunteer, you are very welcome. We have plenty of space :-)
Creating space with a heart - if you live in Germany then your old clothes can help to provide a young person with an internship
My good friend Beate from Hamburg has registered Green Spark for the German based competition Platz schaffen mit Herz (creating space with heart).
Only if we make it into the top 100,
we'll get some of that €70,000
If you made it this far, you got a good impression of all my activities. I have only listed the most important things here. In addition, there are many, many hours of desk work in the background: bookkeeping, finances, other bureaucratic stuff, social media, website... and all that during power cuts (sometimes more, sometimes less) and internet via mobile phone (reception is good most of the time, but not always).
As a one-woman-show, all this only works with full commitment, a lot of motivation and a strong belief that this world can still be saved and that people can change ;-)
If you would like to support my courage, please contact me. Donations of time, money and goods, everything helps.
Green Spark is also a registered association and recognised as a non-profit organisation in Germany. This means that donations reduce your tax burden if you pay taxes in Germany and therefore less has to be paid / if applicable, more is paid back by the state. So you are not only doing something good for our planet but also for yourself ;-)
Best regards from Malawi,
Nkhata Bay, Malawi | 17.12.2020