Blog Malawi

The Extra Mile


The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kidsJohn, Mustafa, and Heidi. Some of the money John and Heidi raised will fund Mustafa’s last year of secondary school.
Heidi and John are both primary school teachers from the UK who engaged in extensive fundraising and planning before coming to Lifuwu to volunteer with help2kids. In addition to carrying out typical volunteer activities such as assisting the teachers at Tiyanjane Nursery School and helping health centre staff during outreach, they planned and conducted teacher trainings for all pre-school teachers in Lifuwu and all primary teachers in Lifuwu complete with donated teaching materials for all in attendance. Their fundraising supports our programs at the nursery and primary schools, a tree nursery at Kazembe, a garden for maternity patients and their attendants at the health center, and our secondary sponsorship program. They are kind, thoughtful, vibrant people who will not soon be forgotten at help2kids or by the people of Lifuwu. What follows is their guest blog chronicling their experiences going the extra mile to do great things. What can you do to help Lifuwu’s children realize their dreams?

Guest post by John Barnes and Heidi Greenwood 

Back in April 2014, we sent an email to a charity called help2kids whom we’d been put in touch with by one of the families in our school. Sixteen months later after 12 months of planning, 8 months of fundraising, and 3 months of arranging inoculations and schedules, we finally found ourselves in the Warm Heart of Africa. And as we quickly realised, there couldn’t be a better nickname for it.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids                                                                                                Friendly faces abound in Lifuwu.
The people here are so warm and friendly and they were very happy to embrace us and welcome us in to their community. Speaking with Nicole, the field manager out here, we found out that the people of Lifuwu were historically somewhat distrusting and wary of asungu (white people), but such is the impact of the work the charity has done, they are now welcomed just as any other person would be and we have both been blown away by the kindness we have been shown whilst visiting, especially when invited to join a family for lunch one afternoon on our way to the nursery.


the extra mile, education, malawi, help2kids Can’t get enough. These students know that education leads to future opportunity.


The thing we have been most taken with has been the positivity of the people here and their commitment to improving their own lives and the lives of their families. Having seen many fundraising films in England, you find yourself believing the stereotypes about rural African communities and imagine them to be quite down beat. But the reality is very different. People here just accept the present whatever it may be and look to improve the future. We met one lady who was a single parent with five children, but was completing weekly English lessons, often with the children in tow, just so she would be in a better position to help her children with work when they are older. This is so evident in the young people we have had the privilege of speaking to in the community. Although there is much work being done to improve attitudes to education, there are certainly real strides being made towards this in Lifuwu and many of the teenagers here speak so passionately about their education and what they hope to achieve in the future. The idea of school being ‘boring’ and a ‘chore’ just does not seem to exist for many, and those that have managed to gain entry to secondary school view it as a real honour. This was perhaps best seen though in a young 6 year old lad whose job was to look after his 12 month old sister. After walking to school independently carrying her, he then had to leave to look after her as she was not well. His disappointment at having to leave school was immense, but an attitude that will take him far as he grows up.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Children study hard in Lifuwu to find new opportunities.
The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Some things never change. Football is a constant, the world round.

Another thing that has really stood out to us both in our time here are the similarities between our two cultures as well as the differences. A love of football, boys just kicking a ball against a wall, girls enjoying a French skipping game, teenagers comparing clothes, a group of people watching a football game on TV and cheering on their team, market vendors calling out best prices: all completely common place in England. And each day seems to bring up something else where you think ‘it’s just like home’.

Whilst we have been here, we have been lucky enough to experience many of the positive things happening here in Lifuwu and have met some truly inspiring people from those in positions of authority to those we have just had a chance encounter with in the village.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Mr. Zakeyu works tirelessly to improve the over-burdened Lifuwu Health Center’s Services.

The medical centre is doing some wonderful work and with Mr Zakeyu heading up the facility, ably assisted by Mr Yona amongst others, things will only get better. There is so much he has improved in his four years such as encouraging people to use the maternity wing and move away from home births. Since he started, the percentage of infant mortality has dropped rapidly and his plans for where to go next are clear. And all this from a man who works 5 days and 5 nights every week.

One of the greatest things we have heard came from the local clothes maker who said ‘the lazy man eats no food’ and this reflected his whole outlook on life. Our main focus here as teachers has been on the primary schools and nurseries, however we have managed to fit in meetings with others and see what is happening around the community.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Mr. Dzozi and Mr. Soko look on with interest at the workshop.

In the primary schools, we were able to meet the heads of Lifuwu Basic Primary School and Kazembe Primary School and carry out two workshops with their staff. The thing that most stuck us about these two people is their commitment to their jobs and long term vision for their schools. They work closely together and look to support each other throughout the year. It was a real honour to work with Mr Soko and establish the partnership between Kazembe Primary School and our own and we very much look forward to working with him in the future. One of his plans for Kazembe’s development is to encourage more girls to complete their primary schooling and with a leader like him, the school will only go from strength to strength.

Working with the nursery teachers has been a real joy. It has been wonderful to see some of the practises they are doing and to see their commitment to improving their future practise. We spent a week carrying out workshops with the staff in the afternoons then supported them with implementing the ideas the following morning. They have been more open and receptive to it than we could have hoped for and we have already started to see them carry out some of the ideas we introduced to them independently. Nursery teachers in Malawi receive no formal training, yet they look to do the best they can. Watching them engage in the workshops, the passion they have for their role is clear and to see them looking to adjust their practise for the benefit of the children is great to watch. We look forward to hearing about it continuing once we have left.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids A session on active story-telling.
The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Some one-on-one time with Annie and Heidi.


There have been so many experiences for us both out here, but a real stand out day was accompanying the four secondary sponsorship students on their first ever day trip out together. There are so many important projects which help2kids manages and runs, but amongst them, the plan to provide their four students with a day out to reward and recognise all the hard work they are doing was a wonderful idea and an experience they will long remember. We accompanied them on a day trip to Kuti Wildlife Reserve and not only was it the first time we had seen African animals in the wild, it was also the first time for them. Great to see their reactions, but slightly sad as well to think that they have been unable to see these animals which are a part of their heritage. But not only did they get to do this, they also got to experience using a camera for the first time, taking a selfie, a car journey and eating ice cream. It really was a privilege to spend time with this wonderful group of students.


The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Godfrey and Mark gaze at Wildebeast for the first time in their lives.

The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids

The group happily poses in front of the herd of zebra.

The whole trip has been heart warming, uplifting, positive and inspiring and we will most definitely be leaving a part of ourselves here in Lifuwu when we leave. The experience has been incredible and if there is anyone thinking about trying it out for themselves, all we can say is go for it, you won’t regret it!


The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids A high five for a correct answer!
The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids John and Agnes discuss a lesson plan she prepared during a session.
The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids Heidi and John demonstrate active teaching techniques.
The Extra Mile, education, Malawi, help2kids John, Heidi, and the pre-school teachers proudly pose with their training certificates.