The Margaret and Jean Stewart Resource Centre
The Resource Centre, built on a piece of land gifted by the Chiefs to the Foundation, was begun in April 2018. The land was cleared of rocks and vegetation, and the first build was latrine blocks, followed by the Whittard Kitchen. Sophie’s Skills Shed was then erected, with stores and an office. The Centre was opened in December 2018 and here is a timeline of Foundation milestones. In 2020 the Skills Shed was extended to encompass the Emma Buchanan Rainbow Library, named after a young girl who had always wanted to visit Malawi but never had the chance to go. Her memory and her name live on in Ibuluma. Read Emma’s story here.
The Centre, at the weekends particularly, is a hive of fun and activity, the epicentre of the children’s lives. When it was built, we visualised that there would be perhaps in excess of 200 children who would benefit. In fact, within a year, the numbers rose and greatly exceeded that speculative figure. Regularly there are 600-700 children, many of whom walk long distances across rough terrain.
They want to learn; they want to have fun; they want to be fed. That lunch, in so many cases, will be the only square meal of the week which they eat. If maize is in short supply, and/or the price is too high for ordinary families to afford the staple food, then they will go without – it’s as simple as that.
The Centre has become their place – their home from home. The children learn life skills in the Skills Shed and in the Foundation fields and gardens. They read books and play with toys; they especially like educational or construction toys. Part of their day is spent playing football, netball, skipping or on the swings. Or dancing, or marching, or playing Malawian games such as Chimbwi na Mbelere (The Hyena and the Sheep). At lunchtime, they eat their meal, in sittings, with the little ones going first, looked after in their lines by some of the older children whom Levison has made ‘captains’.
None of them wants to go home, ever. They have to be sent home so that they all reach safety before darkness descends. They love the place, and they love to learn. Theirs is the generation which will try their hardest to lift themselves and their fellows from poverty. Have a look at what some of them see for their future. And why shouldn’t they achieve their goals in life?
During school time, pre-school children, too, started to come to the Centre and Levison would bring out some games and footballs for them. But, thanks to a very generous family, a nursery was trialled with about 50 children and these little ones are also learning well and being fed too.
At the end of 2019, there was huge excitement when, for the first time ever, Ibuluma had lights. Electricity came to the Resource Centre. This has been liberating, for the people, for the children, for Levison and for the Foundation’s work. It was a very gratifying reward for the work which the Foundation has done because the electricity board electrified the Centre in recognition of what we do.
The Resource Centre is not just for the children, although they have had to take priority. It is for everyone. The able-bodied elderly folk of Ibuluma came to the Centre in 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed their day too. As time and resources allow, we hope to repeat those days for them. Elderly folk who are not able to travel have been visited on outreach and given gifts according to what there is in the stores.
The Foundation Farm
The Foundation Farm comprises the crop fields and the John Curtis Vegetable Garden, named after the friend who sent, and continues to send, a variety of seeds and bulbs. John lived and worked in Africa for over 40 years and is a great support to us.
The Foundation has had three bumper harvests of maize, groundnuts (peanuts) and soya beans.
In the vegetable garden there are tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, sweet potatoes and carrots, all of which have done very well, and other seeds and bulbs have been planted in the dambo – the wetlands by the River Chambo.
The children are split into groups to learn agricultural skills. Even some of the little ones want to be involved and run after the groups as they go to the gardens. And so Levison lets them stay and learn how to do weeding.
Also on the farm is the herd of goats and flock of chickens, which Levison adds to as good stock becomes available, or is increased as the herd or flock breeds.
Again, the children learn how to take care of the stock.
Faith with Action
The Foundation began with ‘faith with action’. ‘Faith without works is dead’ – James 2:14-26.
Not only does Levison, as do many in Africa, have an abiding faith, he is a man with vision. He’s survived not only acute poverty but incidents which should have killed him, and did kill others – see his story Saviour Amongst the Saved which he dedicated to William, who has the same deep faith.
He could, having been able to complete his education and achieve a BSc in Agricultural Education, return to teaching, but the Foundation is his mission – what he is sure he is here to do and he is tireless in his work. He uses his qualifications and experience to teach, but unpaid and in a different setting.
Outreaches, to people who are in need or distressed, continue. However, there are also many now who come to the Centre if they have a problem. We’ve highlighted some of those issues in Foundation Counselling.
Levison has plans for spreading the Faith with Action arm of the Foundation and is training up some of the older children to be competent in this field.