utu 2014 project: 

Timing is everything and our Project 2014 could not have been at a better time as Malawi’s national “HTC Week” (HIV testing & counseling) happened in conjunction with our “Learn and Live” presentations and mobile testing. Our initial results show that we more than surpassed the goal of 20,000 HIV tests for Nakata Bay North District. This was a huge event involving the Health Ministry, Nakata Bay Hospital staff & testers, our partner organization Temwa and utu. It was extremely rewarding to be part of this. 
 
A typical day was for mobile testing to begin in the morning in a village, around mid-day the “Learn and Live” presentation would start a question and answer session with student body and staff delivered by Fishan Msafiri (accomplished Temwa project director) and myself.  To engage the students, utu donor Ted contributed hundreds of pencils, rulers, erasers, pens, etc. to be rewarded for correct answers; the response was remarkable.  A session would last two to three hours, delivering accurate information, clarifying misconceptions and eliminating myths.  The value of the student feedback was immense for us and for the fellow students to witness as well.  Thirty minutes before dark, the generator, projector and screen would be set-up, and with a brief introduction the outdoor videos would begin.  Not quite “Movie in the Park”, but with the work day done, the audience was now a mix of all ages.  With strategic breaks in the videos, the Q&A became more intense and beneficial; the motivational gifts worked their magic here as well. By 9 we were done and in one to two hours back at our home base with plans set for the next day.  One of the Hospital coordinators summed it up with his compliment “Your presentation was incredible; the videos have great impact; exactly what the community needed. THANK YOU!”

Along with the above, another accomplishment happened as well. Through the generosity of utu donor Karen K., Mgonapasi village has a classroom block for students who had been schooling outdoors; complete with doors/windows, metal roof and desks. It’s difficult to put into words the emotions which occur when the village elders, parents and school staff hold a ceremony in appreciation for the gift; men my age on their knees thanking us. A village elder through an interpreter stated “Temwa came and said their partner utu in America wanted to help us; we did not believe it. Two weeks later the materials began to arrive, we still could not believe.  Another two and the bricks were being laid and the classrooms will soon be complete; they made it happen!  Please know our appreciation.”

I will close with the same message I deliver in Malawi: “Teamwork is how this is possible-utu, Temwa, HCT staff and the communities; working together making positive results.”

This year some 2000 children and adults attended our Learn & Live AIDS film screenings. That brings the total of those we've reached with these life-saving films to over 37,000.

Suti, Sanga, Mtawa, Thotomsinje …. these are all most likely places you’ve never heard of, yet these are places you have touched.  These lakeshore villages and many more are where utu’s Project 2012 was able to reach and perform vital HIV testing in combination with “Learn & Live” video presentations to over 2,000 attendees.  While the number may not seem large, one must consider the remoteness of the region.  Many of these villages have a few hundred inpopulation and are accessible only by water or a 5-hour hike to the nearest town.  When faced with the decision of fish/farm to feed your family or hike for an HIV test, most opt to forgo the test.  This is the beauty of our program; we offer this free service and education in a way that can be utilized.  An audience may start with a few and end with 200 by night’s end.  Unfortunately we did find some tested HIV positive…fortunately we did find these before a single case spreads through the village.  Now these individuals can protect themselves and their community as well as receive appropriateavailable treatment as needed.

 

utu provided the fuel, transportation and per diem for two trained tester/counselors and the program coordinator from our collaborating on-the-ground community development partner organization, TEMWA. Accessing fuel and a sturdy vehicle for the poor road conditions can be challenging; by the time the 2012 Project was complete, we were on vehicle #3 and our lake travel was cut short with a minor boat mishap leaving the boat out of commission.  Despite these slight set-backs and less funding than in past years, our project was incredibly successful.

 

This time of year, there are not many tourists in Malawi and you will mostly run into volunteers and staff of other NGOs.  I have met many inspiring individuals. However it never fails to amaze me when we compare budgets and programs; with utu’s commitment of not using funds for airfare, lodging/food, other personal expenses or overhead, our funds are then able to be used directly for equipment, materials, in-country transportation, and other direct costs of hosting the presentations and testing services.

 

This year I want to extend a special thank you to our donors, all of this would not be possible without teamwork. It starts with You and then the line-up of the staff of utu, TEMWA and the Nakata Bay counselors.

 

I’ll close with a neat example of how a small gesture can make a huge difference.  I met Mathews Mvula on the streets of Mzuzu; he sells plastic bags to shoppers of the market. Unlike here where the bags are free, the bags sell in Malawi for 20 kwacha (.07 cents). Mathews was using rubber gloves to protect his hands as he dragged his legs behind on his way to his spot of business on the sidewalk.  For 27 of his 32 years; this is how he made his way.  He hires a bicycle taxi for 200 kwacha to transport him the 2km to and from home. For a very small amount of money, utu had a special hand pedaled bicycle made and delivered to Mathews, eliminating the taxi expense, providing safe mobility and leveling the playing field somewhat. I think his smile says it all.

 

Mark Williams

 

 

 

utu 2010 project: building a school in usisya, malawi and screening 'learn & live' films

This year, utu focussed efforts on Malawi and worked together with the UK/Malawi-based organization TEMWA – Sustainable Community Development.

 

TEMWA's objective is to help build a sustainable future for the people of Malawi through community-based projects and their goals are kindred to those of utu. Read on

 

utu in action: Making a Difference in 2009

utu works with local communities and partner organizations to offer HIV/AIDS prevention education and to invest in projects that improve conditions for children impacted by the AIDS pandemic.

utu believes that by working together, we can halt the spread of AIDS and improve the lives of children.

LEARN & LIVE PRESENTATIONS

utu visits rural schools and offers HIV/AIDS prevention education through 'Learn and Live' events. The central focus of these events is the screening of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention films provided by organizations such as WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Street Kids Int'l and others.


These free screenings are central to our fight against the AIDS pandemic and we've consistently received extremely positive feedback from the students and adults who have participated in the past.

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TEXTBOOK DISTRIBUTION

In conjunction with the 'Learn and Live' presentations, utu distributed over 18,000 donated math and science textbooks to 57 rural schools with severely limited resources.

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BUILDING

We believe that AIDS education alone will not save lives if poverty is rampant, therefore we invest in projects that provide opportunities for children. This year, we replaced a condemned stick and mud classroom at Owedegi School.

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