SURCOD in floods

The Alliance in Action: Classrooms for Malawi and SURCOD

By Seonaid Stevenson, Safe World Correspondent

Seonaid 3Seonaid StevensonAs a Management Committee member for Classrooms for Malawi, a Scottish based charity working in education, I regularly travel to the warm heart of Africa – Malawi. Being in Malawi never disappoints – working on our projects, meeting with our partner schools, and catching up with old friends is always a pleasure.

This year, I had the added privilege of meeting with a fellow member of the Alliance for a Safe World, January Mvula, Executive Director of Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation (SURCOD),

FounderJanuary MvulaSURCOD is a charity working in Nsanje, in the south of Malawi. SURCOD and Classrooms for Malawi share many underpinning values – from advancing gender equality to empowering local communities.

Classrooms for Malawi’s core work is building educational infrastructure and increasing access to education, an equally high priority for SURCOD. Discussing success and failure is vital to informing good international development work and therefore meeting others working in Malawi is always an exciting experience for me. Meeting January was an incredible opportunity for us to both share and learn – and one for which I am very grateful.

Devastating Floods and Sharing Experiences

SURCOD in floods 2Photo: SURCODA key focus for us in our discussion was the devastating floods which hit Malawi earlier this year.

Nsanje, where SURCOD is based, was hit particularly badly.

It is estimated that approximately 200 died and 200,000 were displaced. For both charities this was a difficult time.

At Classrooms for Malawi, we were inundated with information about damaged schools, many of which were simply washed away.

Thousands of children did not attend school for months thereafter, particularly due to displacement.

SURCOD in floods 3Photo: SURCODSURCOD too reported devastation in their communities, with many moving into makeshift camps.

However, while this was a troubling time for both organisations, discussing this frightening experience with several months of hindsight was wonderfully helpful.


Reflecting Together is Crucial

Responding to an emergency situation is never simple and reflecting on this experience with others is crucial in preparing for any future threats. Listening to January’s experience of documenting displaced persons gave me hope that great work has been done to provide support to those most in need. It also felt exciting to discuss, with January, Classrooms for Malawi’s school projects for this year, which particularly focus on flood-damaged schools. Equally, and on a human level, it proved a very cathartic experience – it is always comforting to hear that others also felt as overwhelmed as yourself.

Dialogue is crucial for sustainable development. Meeting January and discussing our shared experiences and challenges was empowering, helping me to better understand the problems we both face.

Ultimately, this is why the Alliance for a Safe World is such a valuable tool - facilitating discussion and forging friendships between stakeholders living thousands of miles apart.