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Remote African Schools Now Thriving Due to Efforts by SoCal Nonprofit

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Remote African Schools Now Thriving Due to Efforts by SoCal Nonprofit

Students at a Blossom Project site at the Nanyanje School in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

John Fredricks

John Fredricks

11/27/2023

Updated: 11/27/2023

MANGOCHI, Malawi—At a village one hour from the nearest paved road, girls wearing green school uniform dresses at the Nanyanje School smiled as they posed for a photograph in front of a freshly constructed building that will serve as a private hygiene center for the school’s female students.
“We were already seeing an increase in students even when the idea of private hygiene centers for the girls began to spread around the villages,” Headmaster Shadrach Chibondo Moses, told The Epoch Times. “Now with a water well and the Blossom hygiene facility, we have hundreds more students that are now enrolled, many ... new female students.”
Since the completion of the hygiene center in June, there are now 460 female students at the school, nearly double the enrollment since the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the installation of the water well in May 2022 and the hygiene center there has been a major increase in our female student enrollments here at Nanyanje,” Ms. Moses said.
According to undated statistics by UNICEF, Malawi has the highest school dropout rate in the Southern Africa region. Most are reported to be female students with reasons ranging from financial difficulties to missing classes due to morning walks to collect water, which can last for hours.
“Because of the water well, our students are no longer missing lessons,” Ms. Moses said. “Students now have overall better academic performance, and we are able to now mold bricks for buildings like our new female hygiene center.”
Students at a Blossom Project site at the Nanyanje School in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Students at a Blossom Project site at the Nanyanje School in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Help Begins With Water

The Southern California-based nonprofit, Water Wells for Africa, has been constructing water wells throughout rural Malawi since 1996.
For its president, Kurt Dahlin, the bricks mean students and villagers now not only have safe water but the ability to build infrastructure in Malawi. What’s known as “The Warm Heart of Africa,” the area has consistently been listed, by the United Nations for the last decade, as one of the most impoverished countries in the world.
“There can be no community development out here without having access to clean water first,” Mr. Dahlin told The Epoch Times.
According to Mr. Dahlin, 120,000 bricks were made using water from the well to build the new hygiene center.
“They will soon be used for teacher housing, offices, and new restrooms for the students,” he said.
President of Water Wells for Africa Kurt Dahlin in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on June 7, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

President of Water Wells for Africa Kurt Dahlin in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on June 7, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In Malawian culture, women and young girls bear the responsibility of getting their family’s water supply. According to the nonprofit, many unwanted pregnancies caused by rape have occurred while young girls travel long distances from home to fetch water. Husbands beat their wives for being gone too long.
That has all ended with the water.
“When a well is installed, it even fights human trafficking, domestic violence and ends child prostitution due to the fact that it eliminates long treks in the dark where the majority of these abuses occur,” Mr. Dahlin said. “We are so happy about this because each well creates a long-term positive impact on the family and community in every possible way.”
According to Mr. Dahlin, clean water is the first step out of poverty, and that those without access to it should have it first.
Villagers use a water well installed by Water Wells for Africa in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Villagers use a water well installed by Water Wells for Africa in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Each water well that is installed by the nonprofit can serve up to 2,000 people and meet their basic daily water needs.
Aside from drinking, cooking, and for hygiene and bathing, the water wells also provide the ability to create infrastructure and agriculture projects, giving villagers opportunities to generate income.
With a lifespan of over two decades, earlier water well projects by the non-profit continue to be fully functioning serving their communities.
“Before these water wells, villages and schools were full of sickness, and disease,” Mr. Dahlin said.
And under what the nonprofit calls “The Blossom Project,” the hygiene facilities “will give the girls the privacy and dignity they need to continue their classes,” he said.
Students at a Blossom Project site at the Nanyanje School in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Students at a Blossom Project site at the Nanyanje School in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Where the girls formerly had a dirt hole in the ground surrounded by thatched walls known as a “chambozi,” the Blossom Project will allow them to remain at school and not have to return home during menstrual cycles, according to the non-profit.
Teachers at the Nanyanje School have not only reported to The Epoch Times an increase in female students, but also better performances “across all subject matter.”
This year’s launch of the project was funded through a donation by the Brian and Joelle Kelly Family Foundation, which provides grants to selected nonprofits.
The foundation also helped fund Blossom Projects in schools in nearby M’Bawa, and Kasengwa villages.
At a school in M’bawa, it was nearing completion in November as workers smoothed concrete placed over bricks that were created from a Water Wells of Africa well installed on schoolgrounds in 2021.
A man smooths concrete at a Blossom Project site in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A man smooths concrete at a Blossom Project site in the Mongochi District, Malawi, on Nov. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

With the well, that school has also grown in size from 155 students in 2021 to 460 this year, with girls making up more than half of the enrollment.
“Attendance and performance are up because we now have water, and the girls will be able to learn more effectively with the upcoming finish to our Blossom hygiene center,” Renford Mvula, headmaster at M’Bawa school, told The Epoch Times.
According to data collected by the nonprofit, schools that now have wells report having healthier and cleaner students, academic performance has improved, and dropout rates are lower.
With the launch of the nonprofit’s new hygiene center, Mr.  Dahlin said he is optimistic that education in Malawi is finally changing for the better, giving girls an equal opportunity as their male counterparts.
“The Blossom Project is literally allowing female students to maintain their schooling,” Mr. Dahlin said. “These kids are Malawi’s future, and Malawi’s future brightens with water.”
To donate to Water Wells for Africa and its Blossom projects, visit the organization’s website.
John Fredricks

John Fredricks

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John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

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