Suma member Rebecca visits Butterfly Space Community Volunteer Project in Malawi
Josie moved out to Malawi four years ago when she bought Butterfly Lodge with her business partner Alice Leaper. When they bought the lodge they wanted to turn it into something more than just a back packer accommodation, and the concept of Butterfly Space Community Volunteer Project was established. The project is a unique community space aiming to bring together Malawians and passionate volunteers, not only working on community projects but also seeking to be respectful of the environment and encourage ways to sustain and develop its extraordinary beauty.
The three main pillars of Butterfly’s work are:
Community – encouraging and developing ideas and projects which have a positive effect on the local community, with the long term aims to provide local people with increased opportunities. Examples include the free information room for local people which provides information on issues such as health, agriculture and business. There are also computer lessons and workshops, access to the internet and various hand-outs and educational material. There is also a free youth club run by Butterfly which I was lucky enough to help out with during my stay. They take part in activities such as football, netball, art and drama.
Environmental – Butterfly is situated in easily one of the most beautiful places I have visited, right on the lakeshore and carved amongst beautiful trees, with a wealth of stunning wildlife. Butterfly aims to preserve this environmental beauty and develop sustainably. They provide information and encourage ideas to the wider community. They have built a compost toilet (which has the best views of any toilet I’ve used!), and encourage Malawians to realise the health and environmental benefits of compost toilets. They use a clay oven built from local materials and try to grow as much food as possible on site, and have a seed bank on site to give access to those interested in healthy diets. The buildings around the site use local materials where possible. The mains electricity is derived from hydropower, so although solar power has been thought of it’s not a priority.
Volunteers – all of these things would not be possible without the help of the amazing volunteers that have stayed and worked at Butterfly from all over the world. Volunteers can stay for as short or as long as they wish, and relevant skills and ideas put to great use. Anyone who volunteers at Butterfly is able to stay in Butterfly Lodge for half price. The lodge has a wonderful variety of accommodation from dormitory to private chalets with balconies overlooking the lake, or even camping.
Looking forward, Butterfly is aiming to increase links with schools in the UK with the possibility of sending teachers between schools. They also hope to work with the government to set up a programme for skilled volunteers. They are also seeking donations of items such as computers which they can use in the Community Resource Room. If you would like any more information on Butterfly Space please go to www.butterfly-space.com, and if you think you have anything which could be useful to them they are working with a local company in Huddersfield called Cart which transports items overseas, and this can be arranged by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org
It really was a privilege to be able to stay and work with everyone at Butterfly and experience a taste of all the work they do. Oh and did I mention the food there is amazing! If you are ever in Malawi I can recommend a visit.
Rebecca Kinnard – Suma Member