Some people are born with a golden heart; selfless and always looking for ways to make the lives of others better.
From the age of 15, 23-year-old Patience Musiwa has volunteered as a tutor, mentor, educator, community mobiliser and nutrition assistant.
She volunteered at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe doing triage in the under-fives clinic, with World Camp as a translator and facilitator for health education; and conservation clubs in rural primary schools. Musiwa also translated and post operation counselled with Operation Medical.
All that volunteering set her up to run her own non-governmental organisation (NGO)- Fount for Nations, which was registered in June 2015.
“I teamed up with an amazing friend, Joe Wire to register the NGO. Our chief aim is to inspire a breakthrough in education by empowering teachers with skills and tools to better engage students, particularly those with special learning needs,” she says.
Through the organisation, they are currently working in government primary schools, hospitals and communities, engaging the youth through their volunteer programme.
“The youth volunteer programme allows them to learn basic work skills, engage actively with community development challenges and develop life skills. We also engage parents and caregivers to create a platform for community dialogue and cooperation centred on learning which is not limited to the core learning in school, but more broadly on social development and change,” the young woman points out.
The charitable organisation has a team of seven volunteers in Blantyre, who according to her, facilitate weekly creative art sessions in the two primary schools they work with – St Pius and Lunzu primary schools.
“This tool has been proven to help learners better retain information in class. They also facilitate home visits and parent sessions for continuity of education and learning support,” she says.
Fount for Nations has so far oriented 44 non-specialist teachers on different teaching methods and identification tools for referrals to the resource centres.
The organisation is also responsible for organising the first ever showcase for children with special education needs, which has now become an event for every term at the two primary schools in Blantyre.
In addition, she says Fount for Nations runs a hospital play therapy and education centre at KCH where a team of eight volunteers facilitate 10 therapy and academic sessions per week reaching over 60 children a day.
“Our target is long staying patients or those that have multiple hospitalisations including cancer, malnutrition, surgical and orthopedic children. We also have guardian/caregiver health care and education sessions,” says Musiwa who is also employed as a nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation.
One might wonder how this first born of four took the children with special needs route for her charity.
She says: “While I was volunteering as a remedial tutor after college, I met children with special needs that were not supported by their teachers, friends and sometimes, sadly, even parents.
“I discovered that children with special needs have compensatory talents that very few people have the patience to find out.
The nutritionist adds that apart from that, she found out that there are few resource centres in government schools.
Musiwa cites Blantyre which out of 216 primary schools, only 18 have resource centres, most of which are severely lacking in resources for the smooth delivery of special needs education.
She also notes that the lack of resources de-motivates teachers.
“This is why Fount for Nations is bridging that gap by providing resources every term; teacher orientation, trainings and the creative art model which the teachers enjoy using as much as the learners enjoy learning,” she says.
Put together, the programme directly benefits 191 people in Lilongwe and Blantyre, the majority of which are children.
Among other challenges, the charitable organisation is lacking in funds and human resources. However, having run the programme for a whole year since its inception on money that she and Joe put together, they are now being funded by the Segal Family Foundation.
“In May last year, I gave a Tedx Talk on ‘differently abled’. From there, I was introduced to Segal Family Foundation, an American based private grant making foundation.
Fount for Nations was part of the first cohort of the Social Impact Incubator (SII). The SII is a seven-month programme designed to build capacity and networks of emerging organisations.
“Going through the programme has helped us build systems and networks for a more effective and efficient approach for maximum impact. Through our volunteer programme, we are in the process of recruiting personnel in the fields of monitoring and evaluation; accounting, fundraising and communication,” she explains.
This year, the organisation plans to raise funds to set up a play therapy centre in Lilongwe and to replicate their creative art and volunteer programme in more schools across the country.
“We have several other activities lined up; a crowd funding social media campaign to renovate the classrooms in Blantyre and fill the play room with toys and books at KCH. We are also running community awareness campaigns to educate on early identification and support for children with special needs.
Musiwa, who comes from Lunzu in Blantyre, was born on January 1 1994. She grew up mostly in Lilongwe then later moved to Blantyre. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science.
She also recently set up banks for clothes and toiletries for mothers, caregivers and their children at KCH pediatric ward.
“These mothers come from far and usually stay in the wards for long periods of time.
As a start, the banks will be at the Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation reception for people to put in clothes and toiletries.
“We are looking for women’s clothes, wraps, children’s clothes, bath and laundry soap; toothpaste, toothbrushes and anything you have the heart to give. I want this to be a year round thing. So we are accepting the stuff all year,” she says.
The collection will then be handed over to the social welfare department who will identify the beneficiaries through their needs assessment exercises.