Dez 13 2013
Report about my stay in Malawi from 28th of September to 29th of November
As my colleagues wished to be able to read my report as well, this time I will write about my stay in Nkhotakota in English language
This year my husband Kai, a computer technician, joined me for almost five weeks to see how it is to live in Malawi and to help the Muona Optical Centre (MOC), the St. Annes hospital and two secondary schools with computer knowledge, fixing machines and much more.
My bags included:
- 20 frames plus hard cases and cloth from Adidas and 20 sunglasses from Silhouette
- 20 ready-made reading glasses from Hamburg Eyewear
- 20 polarized sun clip blanks from Breitfeld & Schliekert
- 100 frames and 100 sunglasses donated from Optiker Müller, Frankfurt
- several magnifying lenses also electronical donated from Optiker Müller
- several cleaning cloth (about 300) from Optiker Müller
- a box of mineral lenses from Martin Mütsch / Brillenwerk
- a PD measurement machine and 20 frames from Höhere Fachschule für Augenoptik Köln
- about 100 frames / sunglasses donated by EDA
- two cross-cylinder, workshop material like scissors, 500 plastic blanks, inlay (Brilleneinlage), lens cement, nylon string, soldering wire and soldering paste from my own
- about 20 childrens frames from an optician in Hamburg, Kais colleague knows
- ready-made reading glasses and string for glasses which where remaining from last time (they couldn´t fit in my bag) from I need you
- Smaller items like reading chart in English from Rodenstock, lens-pens from Hoya, PD rulers from Hoya, washing liquid sanitizer from AMO.
- As we already have been in Africa P&P Software GmbH send us a customer management software to use at the MOC for getting rid of all the cards which get lost sometimes.
Many thanks to all our sponsors! Thanks as well for Brillenwerk to pay most of the transportation cost from the airport. With 5 big bags, two back bags and two additional laptop bags we couldn´t use public transport.
Kais bag included:
- One notebook including a notebook bag for the MOC, which will be used by the new employee Kaleb Pumbwa
- One notebook including a bag for the Bishop Mtekateka secondary school in Nkk
- One notebook including a bag for the Linga Community secondary school in Nkk
Those notebooks were donated by Kilian Eichenlaub
- One projector for the Linga school, from money collected by Kais colleagues
- One notebook for the St. Anne´s hospital donated by Kai himself
- notebook charger for the St. Anne´s chaplain
- additional discs with soft ware, external hard drives, chargers, extension cord, around 10 English/German adapters, spare parts…
All the notebook were prepared by Kai with an offline version of the Wikipedia, for the school including the Wikipedia for schools and the khan academy lite, with many training videos.
This was also spread to the MOC colleagues, staff members of the hospitals and schools, the Nkk cultural center which is run by a Norwegian organization (NYO) and all other interested people.
Problems we are facing and plans:
Since our last stay, two other employees quit their job, so we have a new staff member, Kaleb Alexander Pumbwa, a brother of our long-term colleague and manager Hezekia Pumbwa. One reason for quitting was a (way!) better salary in governmental institutions. So we have to calculate a new and better salary for all employees at the MOC to satisfy them.
For Kaleb we agreed on the salary, which is already approved by Brillenwerk for the upcoming six month. We see this as a kind of “student” salary because in the first period of time he can´t work as a skilled worker and still needs support from colleagues. This salary is just 3000 MK per month more than the statutory minimum wage in Malawi per month. To compare: 1. year MOC: 17.000 MK, Hospital: Lowest paid workers (gardener, guard) 30.450 MK , Patient attendant (with IC Diploma) 33.600 MK , Clerks (MSCE) 40.800 MK
It´s the salary for the first year, yearly increasing and the salary before taxes (30%). Below 20.000 MK you don´t have to pay taxes. I had a closer look at all the monthly reports to see, how much money is left for increasing without touching the MOC account and the savings. As the octobre income was around 10 times higher than the average income, we have to observe the situation for a longer period of time, but there is an amount of money already in discussion.
As an immediate help and for the good work done so far I wrote an additional working contract up from octobre 2013 which says, that the MOC will pay up to 3000 MK per month if medical healthcare is needed and a receipt is shown. St. Anne´s changed the conditions and even staff members have to pay 30% of the treatment and consultation fee now because too many just took some treatment and sold it in other places.
Also we want to give some other benefits to our malawian colleagues: If possible from German site, every employee will receive a notebook which can be used in the MOC within the first year of employment. After one year the notebook will be him or her own notebook. If somebody quits within in the first year, the notebook will be given to the next one. We agreed on this in our new general rules and signed it all together. Also we leave our mobil phones because Pumbwas phone is broken and Kaleb never had one.
Advertisement / Promotion:
Pumbwa said in his last report, that we need to do more advertisement. He was thinking about buying some “radio-time” because many people don´t buy newspapers but listen to the local radio. You can present a program in your name, which is mentioned after the program.
Also he had an interview once together with the cataract surgeon Mr. Chizala from the governmental hospital on the radio, where they talked about eye healthcare. Pumbwa should find out, if there will be another chance of such an interview or documentation maybe even in our rooms.
Pumbwa also wants to participate at a market near Kasungu where you can have a market place for free. He will find out about the dates and about transportation costs, so that we maybe can have a marketplace there to sell ready-made reading glasses and sunglasses and also to make advertisement for the MOC. He wants to have a megaphone for this. I think, when for example Christine is joining: As long as you have an azungu (=white person) you don´t need a megaphone
To reach our better-off customers and also to speak to sponsors and international interested people I created a facebook account for the MOC. This is for free and our customers are impressed. We also have a new e-mail address now, email@example.com which is also more professional, when Pumbwa is talking to customers or the insurance MASM.
We counted 16 hospitals in Nkhotakota district. We wrote an information sheet for the administrators and an information sheet for patients in the waiting area, one in English, one in Chichewa. We will spread them in those hospitals and also give the staff members 10% discount for optical glasses as a thanks for that. We also think, that some people still don´t see the positive sides of glasses. When they see, that even there doctors are wearing glasses, maybe they can be “convinced” easier.
A similar program we also want to do in all the schools in the surrounding, like the screening we did last year. There is an agreement with Linga, that the MOC can borrow the projector for that presentations and screenings when needed. So we should keep on screening while Christine is staying in Malawi. Afterwards we could also leave the advertisement sheets for the information board.
Rural areas are uneasy to reach. There was a mobile ambulance once but after the found organization went away, St. Anne´s did not keep on doing this. If there will be another mobile clinic again, we will ask them if we could participate. This of course would not increase our income much, but would be a help for Malawian people in the villages.
For reaching Likoma island again (last visit of an optican 2009 by Marcel and Pumbwa) Christine was going there and sold ready-made reading glasses and sphere myopic glasses after refraction. I couldn´t manage to join because training for the theoretical exam and finishing the contracts was more important. The trip was very unsatisfying because she just sold one pair of ready-made reading glasses. This was caused by a lack of information: The message, that Christine will come to Likoma was not delivered. Furthermore some people believed, that the glasses were given for free. Many people expected an eye doctor and came with medical problems to consult her. The language barrier was a problem as well. She collected some numbers of contact persons in Likoma. If there will be another trip, Pumbwa will join her.
Theft became a bigger problem in Malawi than before. One day 12 frames were stolen out of the box and we can´t tell how it happened. Another single frame was also stolen. To have a better overview of our frames we alined them to see better, if there is a gap. Also with the sunglasses we just put 5 in every row now to have a better control. We put a mirror in the workshop to see our entrance while working in the separate room.
Education for Pumbwa / all the next employees:
Martin found a school in Germany (Berufsschule Bad Dürkheim), which prepared an exam for Pumbwa in German language. I translated it into English and also re-translated Pumbwa answers into German again. We spent a lot of time for the preparation and finally did the exams (26th of octobre practical, 23th of novembre theoretical) so that Pumbwa will get his certificate soon. The theoretical exam was configurated by Hans van Hauth in Bad Dürkheim, the practical exam by me.
The Malawian government still wants to have another certificate for refraction. So we have to find a solution, especially for his time as a self responsible manager after may 2014. I wrote to several South African Universities if they are offering “single” refraction courses. In addition I wrote to four German schools, if they could offer courses in English language. Two responded so far, that they can´t manage to do this, the other two I will call, when I´m back home.
India is not an option anymore. Uganda could be possible, I will call Mr. Spirgatis after my return because he didn´t answer my message. There are also some machines needed to certify an optical centre such as slit lamp, even medicine and much more. Maybe coming in a container?
Material / container:
On the homepage of Hilfe für Malawi we could read, that they agreed with St. Anne´s, not to send any more material to Malawi. The administrator of the hospital and also Lay Jesman, head of the secondary school, didn´t know about such an agreement so we have to find out, if it could be possible to send another container to Nkk including the material which was meant to be for the MOC. Kai will call Rainer Weiß.
In the month, MOC had no new frames to offer, the income went to zero. So we need to find a way to get material on our own. This is also one of the aims of the EDA, when they take over the sponsorship in may 2014.
I had a mail conversation to Rainer Liebhäußer who leads the optical project in Nkhoma, to ask him, if he could need some of our broken machines as spare parts and the other way round if he has stuff that could be useful for us. He said, he is coming himself, when there are problems with the machines (all 3-4 years) and doesn´t need the parts. He is getting his material also from donations or buying it for cheap, but he didn´t answer my question, if the goods are coming in voluntary’s bags or containers.
I also wrote a mail to an optical centre in Balaka, founded by a catholic church. As they also didn´t answer I suggested a “field trip” for Christine, to visit that centre and to ask for details.
I talked to Sascha, the branch manager of A/C Opticals Lilongwe City Mall and Axel, the boss of A/C Opticals working in LLW Old town market as well. They think about a cooperation with us to give us the chance, to order material together. They have a contract with DHL and we just have to pay a part of the transportation cost, tax and duty on the ordered subjects. They order many lenses in South Africa, (because Chinese quality is no quality at all) and many material from Germany. We stay in contact. He suggested us the line: Beyond. One frame would be around 8,– Euro, so around 4000 MK. Vistan frames sometimes sell single items for 1,– Euro, so 500 MK when they are limited in stock. Other companies such as sunoptics also have a hugh choice of single frames out of stock for cheaper prices.
Axel, the head of A/C Opticals donated us a grinding machine as well, which we collected, when we picked Christine up from the airport. He also has a machine for us which is cutting plastic blanks. It is still in Blantyre but they ship it to Lilongwe so when we are around next time, somebody can collect it. Unfortunately we found out, that the grinding machine has a broken belt, for which we didn´t have any replacement. At least there are other working parts inside, which we could use to fix another grinding machine again.
Pumbwa knows some guys selling glasses who get there lenses from Tanzania. He also wants to find out, which source they are using.
Contracts with the St. Annes hospital / The Anglican Church of Nkk:
As the EDA is taken over the MOC in may 2014 we needed new contracts between the Anglican church and the MOC. Furthermore there were no regulation what should happen with the building when the old contract in 2027 ends. Another important content of the contract is the financial independency from the MOC and St. Anne´s hospital. The new hospitals account manager wanted to have an inventory list, valued the MOC 15 million Kwacha and presented another organization from the US the MOC as a project from the hospital! They also deleted Pumbwa from the list of signatories for the MOC current account. This is why we don´t know our account balance for around three month now, because Pumbwa is even not aloud to collect a bank statement anymore. Of course it was invalid to delete him, due to the old contract and they might not have seen the significance of somehow “betraying” the German donors. But this was again showing the importance of separating the two institutions and making the MOC independent from the St. Anne´s.
So Pumbwa and me sat together hour per hour to design the new contract between the church and the MOC. I also went to Mr. Abele twice, where we made some changes again, based on his experience with working contracts and his knowlegde of “contract” English. Mr. Baird Mponda, the very Rev. of the Anglican church and one of the new signatories, agreed immediately.
After presenting this contract to Mr. Luke, the Administrator and Accountmanager of the St. Anne´s, we found out, that he had never seen the old contracts. So we gave him some days time to read everything. I had to make clear, that deleting Pumbwa was not legally compatible. He wasn´t that comfortable with the idea of giving Pumbwa managing responsibility and called together with the body of St. Anne´s for an emergency meeting. He told me then, that the one signing the contract should be Dr. Malenga, chair of the body. I met her and the chief deputy on the 27th of novembre, my last day in Nkhotakota.
She was very interested in the situation and asked a lot of questions about the future of the relationship between Muona and St. Anne´s but finally was comfortable with signing the contract. She is also a member of the Malawian health council, where we have to get registered now.
Improvement for the MOC / other upcoming plans:
Things Kai fixed for the MOC:
- killed viruses on all PC´s / notebooks, installed Linux on the PC, as they wished
- placed a router at the MOC so that we and most of the hospitals offices can access internet now.
- Installed an accountsoftware for the account manager / did the job a so called professional IT specialist should have done for St. Anne´s
- Gave Paul Chiona several network tutorials and taught him basic knowledge about IT skills
- fixed Tomey automatical lensmeter
- installed P&P customer software on the stock-notebook.
- Improvement of the stock system: Last time the stocknumbers increased all the time. This time, when we add something to the stock, the program searches the available number and fills gaps
- managed the cable chaos at the workshop
- Tried to fix the Topcon lensmeter: cleaned it and could improve the screens figure. Another problem was a broken circuit board in the inside. He asked the company, if there a spare parts: Unfortunately no! The people in Nkhoma don´t need it, so I suggested to sell it. The copper etc. inside should bring some money
- Tried to fix the autorefraction: nearly done, but belts are broken! Maybe sending to Paul Chiona, the hospitals electrician
- Started fixing the eye sight screen > done instead of one missing bulb, which Paul was buying and some adjustment of the screen which I could finish
- Swimming lessons at the Pottery
Things, I explained / taught the boys:
- Introducing the height Y for grinding glasses
- Improving filing plastic blanks: for right axis using lensmeter on plastic blanks to file the form and for PD using the nonius to center the blank exactly
- The P&P Software and the new stock system
- Communication with a customer, especially for the practical examination
- Repetition (for Pumbwa): Sun-clip on filing, soldering, Adjustment of frames, Refraction, PD measurement now also with PD machine and new: measuring height
- a lot of theory about optic for Pumbwa and basics for Kaleb
Branch in Salima:
As Pumbwa mentioned before, he wants to open a branch in Salima with a refraction unit and a selection of frames, sunglasses and ready-made reading ones. The workshop labor will be done at the MOC. Marcel had a good idea: He said, he would start this, as it started with the St. Anne´s and also the association with Dwangwa hospital. This means finding a hospital there and to go there at first once a month, than all two weeks, to establish before we invest a lot.
Mr. Baird Mponda, the very Rev. of the Anglican church in Nkk, supports the idea and knows the pastor of the Anglican church Salima in person. The day before I left to Germany Pumbwa and me were going on a “field trip” to meet people and inspect the rooms. The pastor of the church in Salima was convinced and will support us. Pumbwa sent Samun for eye tests to Salima until she quit and as the pastor said, after that, people continued asking for eye tests at the church.
Pumbwa will go there at first all two weeks for one day. When we start like this, we don´t need another employee immediately. Nevertheless it would be a good thing to have somebody new until Christine is still around to educate him or her and to raise the branch in Salima soon.
As Marcel wants to buy the motorcycle, we will have a sale proceed around 250.000-380.000 MK which we could also use for that project. Then we are not touching our savings but have enough start capital to buy additional tools and new frames.
New support from Germany:
As I did last time, I will have a presentation at my old school, Höhere Fachschule für Augenoptik in Köln, about my stay here in Nkk. Last time many students were interested and one girl already told me, that she is coming to Malawi in octobre 2014. I will also try to keep up the contacts to all the other interested people to tell them about the work here.
I also wrote some FAQ and published them at the Brillenwerk homepage for interested people.
Kai also wants to go to his old school and hopefully will find other technicians to come to Nkk because we also need them. I agreed with Pumbwa, that they can also stay at the MOC apartment for reduced prices (about 1000MK per night) for energy etc. Kai also suggested the Administrator to send Paul Chiona to a computer school in Lilongwe.
We will also try to get in contact with Hilfe für Malawi to find agreements for container shipping.
2014 we can´t come our self but we try to arrange this again in early 2015.