In September of last year, James Dixon set off into the unknown to volunteer in poverty-stricken Malawi.
Now, after an eye-opening three months filled with sun, sweat and serious hard work, James returns to Eastbourne having made a difference to hundreds of people’s lives.
The 22-year-old travelled to a small village named Mdeka in the south of Malawi working with a local NGO (non-governmental organisation) named People Serving Girls at Risk in conjunction with Progressio - a charity that helps people overcome poverty.
James, a former Cavendish School pupil said, “I didn’t know what to expect before I left but we were welcomed into our village and kept busy with a multitude of work that ranged from teaching class sizes of more than 100 children about water sanitation to building an entire new school building.”
In a village with no plumbing or running water, villagers rely on a network of boreholes (water hand-pumps) and shallow wells for water. A typical borehole is designed to serve 250 people in a 500m radius but volunteers found some that were being used by 1,000 people.
James and his team travelled over rocky dirt roads to carry out a survey and index on the local boreholes, visiting 30 water distribution points and assessing their surroundings and general conditions.
The volunteers focused on boreholes near schools, where if one was to become out of service, children would have to either trek miles to access safe water or resort to unsafe sources such as the local river.
The team broke new ground in Malawi by turning their data into a fully accessible and open to edit Google Map, leading the Blantyre District Commissioner, A.G.Chibwana, to deem the work ‘unprecedented and the first of its kind’ while also wanting to ‘congratulate and commend the (team) sincerely for all their incredible work’.
While Malawi has a long way to go in terms of development, volunteers like James make such a difference in the quest to combat poverty in the Sub-Sahara country.
James added, “I am immensely proud of the work my team and I completed and wish the very best for all the wonderful Malawian people we met and worked with over the three months.”