I first visited Grace Orphan Care in 2006. At that time they met on rickety benches beneath a tree to provide school lessons for local orphans.
I was in Malawi as part of my work with young people involved in a national out of school training programme that supported young people living in areas of deprivation to organise community activities. Some of those young people became involved as Trainers and helped to deliver training to youth groups and schools across the UK and Ireland and it was with some of these that I visited the Grace Orphan project.
Our work in Africa was predominantly for the benefit of the young people we accompanied from the UK and we placed the emphasis of our visits on the sharing of ideas rather than us distributing any form of aid.
Children at the Grace were supported by local volunteers, Ernest and Giles. When we first worked with them they would meet on some rickety benches beneath a tree. The few items they had (a blackboard, some plastic bowls and cups, a pan, a small bike) were stored in a nearby house.
Over the next few years we visited the project several times and provided the initial assistance needed to help them acquire their own land for the purpose of building their own centre. On subsequent visits I worked with the project in grass huts on their new land and then later in their immaculate brick building. On each visit the project grew and so did the children.
One of the main activities during our visits to Africa was to assist with the teaching of English language skills. English is not the normal spoken language for most people in Malawi but English is required for children to progress through school.
The first stories4schools books were designed to address this issue and to date more than 2,000 stories4schools books have been sent to schools and projects in Malawi including Grace Orphan Care.