Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lusekelo Simwela
Meet Richard Tamera, he doesn’t look like much at first glance, standing at no more than 5 feet nothing, he is tiny. He has this small but hoarse voice that made me chuckle the first time I saw him or rather heard him. He was one of the participants of a workshop I was invited to by BuildOn, CorpsAfrica’s partner NGO that I am working with. The workshop was to teach facilitators a new adult literacy program. I was late, or at least that’s what it seemed like, I found Mr. Simon Gondwe leading a discussion on topics handled the previous day as Richard raised his hand to comment, the tiny man, I barely heard what he said as I sat down looking at my phone that said 7:50. “I thought they said they will start at 8:00 am?”
That thought quickly disappeared in my mind as facilitators, one after another presented on different topics. They were centered on facilitation and leadership skills, they touched on group dynamics and several other important skills. That day ended with Richard not even crossing my mind. It wasn’t till the next day after lunch that I had a chance to converse with the group. He was the first to speak, I asked him 5 why questions as my field manual said I should. That was when he started his story, from the very beginning.
He had finished his form four education and like thousands of young Malawians like him he had nothing to do, he engaged in odd jobs one after another. He lived in an area called Madzi Aphitsa, which means ‘water has been overboiled’ this is because of the hot water Springs that the area is famous for. It is a remote and hilly area that is barely accessible even by motorcycles. He came from there. I realized that his story was remarkable when he told me the distance he had to travel to attend school. He and other young people like him had to travel 8 kilometers to the nearest primary school and even more to the nearest secondary school. But he persevered even though most of his friends dropped out finishing his education and waiting for the next step.
While most could have seen his education as a ticket out of the village, he thought of the youth of the village who like him had to walk 8 kilometers to school. He then decided to do something about it. Equipped with only an old wood as a blackboard and a few chalks, he started a school for the children in the community. Teaching grades 1 and 2, those who were too young to walk 8 kilometers every day. He taught these children until the village got inspired by his actions and went to the district commissioner’s office who helped him with books and other learning materials. This caught the attention of BuildOn who last year built the first school block, right next to the tree he taught at. He continues to teach the children but has now taken on an even bigger challenge. He has just finished training for the village’s first-ever adult literacy center. The young tiny man, Richard, is the most inspiring person I have ever had the privilege to meet.