‘With your help, we are living a good life – we are very happy’ – Monitoring & Evaluation in Malawi

Image of 2 elderly Malawian women

 

Ritta and Dorica both lost their homes when floods destroyed their village in Chickwawa, Malawi. They lost their bedding, their farming tools and all of their food – everything but the clothes they were wearing.

Thankfully, we were able to provide them and their neighbours with ShelterBoxes filled with all of the essentials to replace what they’d lost, from a sturdy, family-sized tent to kitchen utensils and blankets.

One of the items they found particularly useful was the LuminAID solar light, which can last for up to 16 hours on one charge. The inflatable design means that it is waterproof, can float and is light enough for even a small child to carry.

In this video, we see the villagers receiving their LuminAIDs and learn how something as simple as a solar light makes such a difference to the lives of people like Ritta and Dorica:

 

 

You can help people like Ritta and Dorrica by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

7.5 Million Viewers For ShelterBox And LuminAID On ABC TV In US

Inventors of the Luminaid solar light inside a Shelterbx tents in Malawi, surrounded by glowing Luminaids

(L to R) Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta with ShelterBox and luminAIDs lightening the darkness of Malawi’s floods

ShelterBox was one of the earliest backers of luminAID, an innovative solar light that is proving an essential aid item in disaster zones. Its inventors, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, travelled to Malawi with ShelterBox to see luminAID being used by flood victims, in a feature shown by ABC TV to its US viewers.

ShelterBox delivers aid all over the world, and occasionally radio and TV stations connect with its Response Teams, and newspapers and photojournalists cover its work in disasters and conflicts.

But rarely does ShelterBox have a shop window to an audience of 7.5 million. This happened last Friday on America’s ABC programme ‘Shark Tank’.

Architecture and engineering design graduates Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork first appeared on ‘Shark Tank’ in early 2015 seeking backing for their compact, waterproof solar-powered light named luminAID. The product was an instant hit, and with five offers on the table (a rare event on the Emmy award-winning programme) Andrea and Anna eventually cut a valuable deal with sports, movie and cable TV mogul, billionaire Mark Cuban.

As early as 2011 ShelterBox had spotted luminAID’s potential in disaster areas where power lines have gone down. Impressed with its weight, size and durability, the charity became an early investor, including the LED lights in its standard ShelterBox contents. 50 luminAID packages can fit into the same space that eight torches would occupy. Its unique inflatable diffuser makes it ideal in wet conditions such as floods and storms.

At the end of last year ‘Shark Tank’ broadcasters ABC were in contact with Alan Monroe of ShelterBox USA, interested in filming Andrea and Anna on deployment with ShelterBox. Arrangements were made for them to travel to Malawi the scene of massive floods in 2015 with hundreds of thousands of families displaced to see LuminAID in action, lightening the darkness for people who had lost all their possessions to floodwaters.

Alan Monroe hosted the deployment and ShelterBox videographer Liv Williams filmed the Malawi sequences within the episode, allowing us to produce broadcast quality footage in-house and on deployment for the the ABC network. It produced a very moving piece, with warm welcomes from smiling beneficiaries.

Rob Mills, ABC Television’s Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials & Late Night, says, ‘Shark Tank thrives on discovering and supporting innovative businesses and products. It was a privilege to follow luminAID into the field and see it being used as part of an aid package by ShelterBox to help victims of flooding in Malawi, Africa. It is always good when there is a link between invention, investment and improving the lives of people in need.’

luminAID is a multi-award winner, including the 2013 Clean Energy Challenge, the 2014 Toyota ‘Mothers of Invention’, and a prize at the Chicago Innovation Awards. Last summer it was also featured in a White House showcase for technological and scientific achievements hosted by President Obama.

ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace says, ‘ShelterBox continually scans the market for products that will help families overwhelmed by disaster. luminAID is a very clever product, and we are pleased to have been among its earliest backers. I’m not at all surprised that Anna and Andrea won support on American Dragon’s Den, and we’ll be watching these young inventors to see what they come up with next.’

Watch ShelterBox on ABC’s Shark Tank here:


Read more about LuminAID here.

Brightening Lives – How A Simple Solar Light Makes A Real Difference

Image of ShelterBox relief tent at dusk with a Luminaid solar light hanging in the porch

 

The sun sets quickly in Malawi. There is little twilight and it gets dark all of a sudden. For many people living without regular access to electricity, this darkness is complete and can hold many dangers.

This is why we provided LuminAIDs to people who had lost their homes during the monsoon rains and floods that swept through the country almost a year ago. LuminAIDs are lightweight, inflatable solar lights that can provide up to 16 hours of light on just one charge and we pack them in every ShelterBox we send out.

William Namakoka and his family, from the Malawian district of Zomba, received help from ShelterBox when waist-deep floodwater completely destroyed their mud brick house.

It took four months for the waters to recede enough for the family to be able to move their ShelterBox tent to the site of their old house and to start picking up the routine of daily life again.

As the family save for the materials to be able to rebuild their home, the contents of the ShelterBox they received have become incredibly important to them, particularly the LuminAIDs.

 

William and Annie Namakoka in front of their ShelterBox tent in Zomba, Malawi

William and Annie Namakoka in front of their ShelterBox tent in Zomba, Malawi

William said: ‘As well as using the solar lights to work and cook by inside the tent, we also use them to guide the way to the toilet at night. There are snakes around and light helps us to avoid them and stay safe.’

William has built a pit latrine for the family using the tools provided inside his ShelterBox. In the dark, the journey from the tent to the latrine is full of many dangers. The monsoon months, from December to February, bring deadly snakes such as black mambas. Outdoor latrines and the rubble of destroyed homes like William’s provide the perfect place for mambas to nest.

The solar lights are also waterproof and float, so the family will still be able to have light even if the floodwaters return.

In the pitch black, these clever LuminAIDs not only have the ability to brighten someone’s life, but to safeguard them too.


People in Malawi receive LuminAID solar lights

We need your help to pack every ShelterBox with solar lights, to make sure that no family is left in the dark this winter. Please donate now.

Shelter Kits Provide The Tools To Rebuild Family Homes

Image of a Shelter kit in a duffle bag

 

Losing a home, through damage or total destruction, is devastating for anyone, but for some people, their home means more than bricks, mortar and memories. For people like 21-year-old Eliza, who is blind and epileptic, home is a safe place that she can navigate by touch and feel.
When floods and heavy rains deluged towns and villages early this year, her thatched roof was weakened and a large vertical crack appeared at the back of Eliza’s home, destabilising the whole building.
Unfortunately, there was no one who could take in Eliza and her five-year-old son, or even help to fix the crack. She is a single mother and her own parents have passed away from AIDS. Her elderly grandfather and a neighbour provide Eliza and her son with food when they can, but they have little to spare.
A ShelterBox response team were told that Eliza might need assistance. They travelled through dense fields, many of which contain crops ravaged by the floodwaters, to reach Eliza’s mud hut.
Using a shelter kit to repair the damage made by severe rains and flooding meant that Eliza and her five-year-old son were able to stay in their family home. (Credit Steven Tonkinson/ShelterBox)

Using a shelter kit to repair the damage made by severe rains and flooding meant that Eliza and her five-year-old son were able to stay in their family home. (Credit Steven Tonkinson/ShelterBox)

 

When they arrived, the team decided that instead of moving Eliza and her son into a ShelterBox tent, which would be wholly unfamiliar, they would do their best to make the home habitable again.
They used the contents of a shelter kit, which includes heavy-duty tarpaulins and other tools to make repairs and create temporary shelters, to reinforce the building and weatherproof it against future bad weather.
They also provided the family with mosquito nets, blankets and insulating groundsheets to ensure that that they were safe and comfortable.
In Malawi, our team distributed a variety of aid, from ShelterBoxes containing sturdy tents, to shelter kits and other essentials like mosquito nets and blankets. We tailored our response to meet the different needs of communities and families to make sure that people like Eliza could move on from disaster and return to normal life.

Aniya And The Malawi Floods – ShelterBox Reports

 

ShelterBox beneficiary Aniya Hassan now has somewhere safe to look after her five orphaned grandchildren.

ShelterBox beneficiary Aniya Hassan now has somewhere safe to look after her five orphaned grandchildren.

 

Earlier this year, Southern Malawi suffered from some of the worst floods in more than 40 years. For almost three months, ShelterBox response teams worked to reach people in the districts of Zomba, Chikwawa and Mulanje who had lost their homes and possessions to the floodwaters.
One of these people was 90-year-old Aniya Hassan, who takes care of her five orphaned grandchildren by herself. When the river started to rise, one of the children raised the alarm and Aniya called for help. She has trouble walking, so some of the villagers came to help carry her to the safety of higher land. They managed to dig out a few possessions, but the flood washed the rest away.
In this video Aniya talks about the disaster and how much she appreciates the help she has received from ShelterBox and its supporters.

Video: Rebuilding Homes In Malawi

Two women with Shelter Kits balanced on their heads

People in Malawi receive shelter kits to help repair homes damaged by heavy rains and flooding. (Rachel Harvey/ShelterBox)

 

During our recent response in Malawi to extreme rainfall and flooding, which destroyed many homes and left others uninhabitable, ShelterBox provided a mixture of aid items tailored to the needs of each community.

When intense rainfall at the start of the year caused some of the worst floods Malawi had seen in more than 40 years, ShelterBox started a response that lasted almost three months. In that time, the response teams not only worked hard to find vulnerable families that had completely lost their homes, but also those who needed assistance in repairing and waterproofing damaged homes.

In this video, ShelterBox response team member Rachel Harvey shows us how the teams identified people who would benefit from shelter kits, which contain items such as tarpaulins, nails and tools, to help people repair damaged structures as well as make temporary shelters if needed too.

Rachel and her team also visited one of the recipients of a shelter kit to see how useful it had been. While they were there, they were able to help make a few adjustments to ensure that the family’s new tarpaulin roof would remain secure and waterproof.

During our response in Malawi, we were able to provide shelter to almost 2,000 families in total (including 1,224 ShelterBoxes)

‘At night when it rains we cannot lie down. We just have to stand’. News From Malawi

ShelterBox beneficiary Alice sitting in front of what used to be her house in Mulanje, Malawi. (Becky Maynard/ShelterBox)

ShelterBox beneficiary Alice sitting in front of what used to be her house in Mulanje, Malawi. (Becky Maynard/ShelterBox)

 

ShelterBox Response Team member Becky Maynard (UK) is currently helping to deliver shelter to communities in the district of Mulanje in Southern Malawi, following devastating flooding that first started in January. Becky shares her experiences of visiting a makeshift camp near the village of Chisamba.
‘I was awoken at four this morning by driving rain on the tin roof of the room I am staying in. Maybe the surface made it sound more ferocious than it really was but I can’t go back to sleep. All I can think about is what it must have been to live through rains like this, and so much worse, with just a flimsy shelter, or more terrifying, with nothing. Nothing to protect your children or your elderly relatives, and no idea of what help might come for you or when.
‘Although the team often works in blazing sun and sweltering conditions, the weather in Malawi can still be truly fierce, even as we draw towards the end of the rainy season. In the last week we have had periods when it has rained incessantly for 48 hours and, with the winds driving the rain into every available space, any gap in a shelter is victim to the downpour.
‘A week ago we visited a camp, near the village of Chisamba, in the Southern Malawian district of Mulanje, which had been set up in the grounds of a school. Families whose houses had been completely destroyed by the floods in January had been living since then in makeshift shelters made out of sticks and thin plastic sheeting, sleeping at night under one of the school porches with just a blanket for protection or in the outhouses of their neighbours which themselves were cramped and leaking.
‘The plastic shelters had been badly degraded by the extreme sun and ripped by the gales; the gaps in the roofs offered little protection against the extreme conditions. One of the young women told us: ‘‘At night when it rains we cannot lie down. We just have to stand.’’
ShelterBox beneficiary Alice, takes a first look around her ShelterBox tent. (Becky Maynard/ShelterBox)

ShelterBox beneficiary Alice, takes a first look around her ShelterBox tent. (Becky Maynard/ShelterBox)

‘One of the villagers is a widow called Alice. She isn’t sure how old she is but she had lived in her home since 1949, most recently with her three grandchildren, before it was completely destroyed by the flooding and storms. Now nothing remains of her house except for the slight rise where its foundations stood and the vegetation that has taken over the soil.
‘It is almost impossible for families like these to rebuild during the rainy season as they can only afford bricks made of sunbaked mud which will disintegrate in the rain before they can be hope to be built into into a home. The local roofing materials won’t have grown until July at the earliest and even these are at risk as the flooding damaged many crops and the sand that was carried up onto the fertile land has made growing crops even harder.
‘Along with the eight other families whose homes were completely destroyed by the floods and rain, we provided Alice with a ShelterBox, which includes a tent that will keep her and her grandchildren safe and dry until they are able to start rebuilding their home with the support of their community, along with other essentials to replace their possessions that were washed away in the storms.
‘Tonight I am back in my room and after a brief respite in the afternoon the rain is hammering on my roof again. In the last two weeks our team has provided shelter for more than 450 families and the thought of them sleeping safely in tents or under decent roofing gives me comfort as the storm continues.’
So far, our teams in Malawi have provided aid to more than 1,400 families throughout the districts of Chikwawa, Zomba and Mulanje since January this year.
You can help families recover from natural disasters like the floods in Malawi by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

 

Thoughts From Flood-hit Malawi – An Australian SRT Volunteer Reports

Australian SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard from Valla Beach, NSW reports from his first deployment, to flood-hit Malawi.

Image of Australian SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard with local Red Cross volunteers

Australian SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard with local Red Cross volunteers

Zikomo (thank you) Malawi” for your hospitality and warmth.

The local people I worked with on deployment with ShelterBox displayed a level of generosity rarely seen in people who own many possessions. Days were long, beginning by collecting local Red Cross volunteers and others from Govt buildings and loading up the 4×4 vehicles for the long, rough journey to isolated villages. Working with true empathy for  their countrymen’s plight, with little to no financial gain, I have the greatest respect for them all. Malawi, while landlocked in the heart of Africa, is about one-quarter covered by Lake Malawi. The area my team worked appeared to be the flood plain which links the massive  lake to the Zambezi river in Mozambique. The level of destruction and need in the small villages is staggering, particularly given the lack of international media attention. I am told, it is estimated that 200,000 people have been left homeless. So many mud homes reduced to a pile of soil, which, for want of a better solution, now supports a healthy crop of corn while families take refuge in the schools and churches. A bag of cement costs less than $1.50 here, but this is a luxury these people cannot afford. Therefore their mud homes, made solely of the silty soil, are washed away by heavy rains and flooding.

Local women pack sand bags to protect tents from further flooding

Local women pack sand bags to protect tents from further flooding

Initially, we continued to focus on shelter in the form of camps, often located in the school grounds, due to people’s home sites remaining flooded. However, as the ground dried, the change to home deployment occurred, aiming to free up the schools so that the children may resume normality. While far more time-consuming and physically demanding, locating people at their home sites also saves the long walk to and from their crops each day to tend them.  I will remember the huge smiles of stunning women navigating the rough tracks which link villages, often carrying large bags of food balanced on their head, a small child strapped to their backs with a colourful sheet of cloth. These tracks wind through corn fields (the staple food made into a flour, then cooked to become firm, like mashed potato), with occasional tobacco, sunflowers, and rice. Seemingly all small farms with grassed roofed, mud huts dotted throughout. 80% of the population (13 mill) work in this subsistence sector, while the rest primarily in the processing of the crops.

After a hard day's work, the family can enjoy their  new home

After a hard day’s work, the family can enjoy their new home

Probably the most obvious shock coming from collecting beneficiary data is the clear effects of HIV on the family make up in many villages. So many single mothers or grandmothers caring for 5 – 9 grandchildren, some sadly also on medication for the illness. The most difficult decision is in determining the most vulnerable as limited shelter will not go close to meeting the  needs of each community.

Families receive ShelterBox aid, outside of Zomba

Families receive ShelterBox aid, outside of Zomba

Life is harsh, but people are tough, simple things light up the faces of these poorest of people. A hand shake awakens a grin from the heart and laugh from the belly. Banter between the men and women have them slapping knees and gossiping wildly. An empty 500 ml water container handed to a child makes their week, and has them running to show friends. A boiled egg given to a small child is shared between 6 siblings. I do not remember being asked for anything once in my time there, but the Zikomo,s (thank-yous) were everywhere, along with spontaneous clapping of homeless women realising they may receive shelter.

SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard with a local volunteer in the ShelterBox camp in Chikwawa

SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard with a local volunteer in the ShelterBox camp in Chikwawa

 

You can support ShelterBox’s efforts in places like Malawi by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Australian SRT Member Reports From Her First Deployment

Image of Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a 'train the trainer' session in Malawi

Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a ‘train the trainer’ session in Malawi

Retired teacher and ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Peita Berzins has recently returned from her first deployment, to flood-stricken Malawi. Peita, from Bateau Bay on the NSW Central Coast, is the first female Australian ShelterBox Response Team member to deploy overseas and recounts below the steep learning curve of operating in a disaster zone.

Malawi

With the worst floods in forty years, and hundreds of thousands homeless, ShelterBox deployed from mid-January to this small and very poor, agrarian based African country, assessing where the most need was for our emergency shelter. Many people found safety in school buildings and churches, and after the floods receded began to return to their villages if possible. 

I spent almost three weeks there in March on my first deployment, and can affirm Malawi’s reputation as “the warm heart of Africa.” We had teams in Zomba, Nsanji,  Chikwawa and Phalombe.

On my “nine-dayer” in October 2014, the course you must pass to become a ShelterBox Response Team member, a wise SRT said that deployment is “like drinking from a water hydrant…full on!” And my time in Malawi was exactly that….a huge learning curve of new environments, witnessing displaced, stoic villagers, collapsed mud brick houses, warm handshakes and laughter, rounds of meetings with officials, local chiefs and Traditional Authorities, government and other Non-Government Organisations, women with colourful ‘chitenje’ wrapping their babies tight around their back, intense heat and dripping perspiration, green hills and fields of corn, paperwork and phone calls, and our experienced driver Jonathan negotiating bad roads and avoiding a myriad of pedestrians and cyclists.

SRTS

My experience was quite varied, spending some days in Blantyre, where ShelterBox ICC (In Country Coordinator), Alice Jefferson was based, and journeying to assess the outlying district Phalombe, past the huge Mulanji Mountain, with waterfalls cascading down. Finally, we were based in Chikwawa in the south, where my two-person team, after some intense negotiations with local officials, was able to distribute 124 ShelterBoxes to vulnerable households.

The situation in Chikwawa differed to other districts like Zomba, because land rights was a troubling issue. Farmers in the lowlands had their homes swept away in the floods, and the government indicated they must relocate to higher ground, which caused conflict as this land was owned by another Traditional Authority. Detailed verification of those most in need of shelter – the elderly and infirm, single-headed households, lactating mothers – was required. Some desperate people missed out, and this was hard to decide.

Image of Peita Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Another key learning experience for me was how crucial it is to work closely within the cluster of other emergency agencies. Shelter must coordinate with WASH groups ( Water and Sanitation Hygiene), which, for example UNICEF may help arrange. A camp can only be set up if WASH is in place, with a water source like a bore, latrines and bathing facilities. There was a real danger of disease like cholera? spreading through the camps.

A special moment was issuing ownership certificates to Kalima village. These 29 vulnerable households had been living in school outbuildings for two months. This ShelterBox certificate affirms that the tent with all the NFIs (Non Food Items) like solar lamps, blankets, water containers, cooking pots and tools, donated by generous people around the world, is now their property. The joy of these people, as each household head came forward to receive the certificate, was very moving. A sort of dance ensued as I mirrored the recipient’s bow or curtsy, and soon there was much laughter and the women began to uulate, a kind of throaty cry of happiness.

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

It is only due to donor generosity that ShelterBox can continue this important work, tailoring the need for the many people suffering around the world after disaster has struck. It is a privilege to volunteer as a ShelterBox Response Team member, and I look forward to my next deployment and the ensuing roller coaster of learning, experience and aiding beneficiaries.

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ShelterBox is currently distributing 1,000 ShelterBoxes, 650 Shelter Kits and 500 tarpaulins in Malawi. You can help us respond to disasters and humanitarian crises by donating here: PLEASE DONATE