This all started when Alex, Co-Founder of The Chazuka Project, aged 23 at the time, came up with the idea to kayak the length of the three Great Lakes of Africa, starting with Lake Malawi… alone. You might assume that Alex was an experienced kayaker or seasoned expeditioner… but you’d be wrong. In fact, he’d never kayaked before and his planning skills for this mission were nothing short of abysmal.
Alex’s dreams of floating quietly over calm waters were soon quashed as he had unwittingly arrived as the windy season had just begun and the lake was producing dangerous swells up to 15ft high. Being ever the optimist, Alex decided to continue his mission, against the advice of the local people. This was a stupid decision that nearly cost him his life. It was also a decision that would change his and many other people’s lives forever. Read on to find an excerpt from Alex’s diary on that day…
Journal Entry: June 12th 2016
“My kayak pivots up, its nose rises high towards the oncoming wave. Upon impact, white water explodes and rushes inside my yak drenching me to the bone. I paddle forwards attempting to summit the next wave. My head rushes with adrenaline as the situation escalates.
For a split second, I spot land and the temptation to give in overwhelms me. I pivot again now rapidly descending the wave. Land disappears from sight and I am engulfed between the two monstrous waves.
Forced to ‘abandon ship’, I have no choice but to swim back to land along side my sunken yak. It’s a relief to get off the water, the sand is soft, and I have discovered a small and beautiful beach. However I am not alone…
Surrounded by a gang of startled children, I drag my yak onto the beach and roll it over to empty out the lake water. I sense the children seem afraid and cautious of me, so to ease the situation, I suggest that we play some football. One child disappears and soon returns with a football made from recycled plastic bags and string.
Later on that evening the Chief of the village invites me for dinner. He is a man with the kindest of smiles. We eat maize and dried fish and I am formally introduced to the village. I feel safe and protected by the kind and generous people.”
So what happened next?
The winds forced Alex to stay in the village for a while. The days were long and hot and he spent time immersing himself in the community, so much so he ended up staying for 6 months. Alex wanted to return the kindness of the people of Chazuka and so asked members of the village how he could do this. A lot of people mentioned that there was no local school and asked if Alex could practise English with their children. So Alex spent his days helping the children with their English underneath the shade of a mango tree and his evenings improving his Chichewa, the language of Malawi, with help from local people.
A few weeks later, word had spread and a local school donated a blackboard. One day, the children were practising their spellings and a young man approached and said, ‘Alex, I want to be a teacher at this school’. Astonished, Alex looked down at the eager-eyed jamboree of children beneath the mango tree, and the, for the first time, it became apparent that somehow a school had unintentionally been born.
Over the next 3 years, Alex raised money in the U.K. to fund the building of a nursery school which was built & project managed by volunteers in the community.
The Chazuka School officially opened its doors in February 2019 to welcome 25 children and 2 teachers. The school belongs to the community and is managed by a board of in-country governors.
Alex and Sara met and fell in love in the summer of 2018. It was inevitable that Sara would also fall in love with this passion project. Bringing her experience and knowledge from working in the charity sector, Sara set about turning it into a fully fledged U.K. charity which came into being in November 2019.
Fast forward to today, we have wonderful board of trustees and committed volunteers. It was a challenging first year, building the charity’s foundations in a global pandemic but we are super proud of our whole team in the U.K. and in Malawi.
Team Chazuka have ambitious plans for the near future. This work is made possible only through the kindness of our supporters.
If you would like to support us then you can donate here