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.
After an exhausting game of football, I sit by my kayak and read a chapter on my kindle. Crowding around in awe and excitement, my new buddies are completely mind blown by my devise. “Bible, bible!” they begin to remark.
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 these 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 and learning the language of Malawi, Chichewa. Wanting to return the kindness of the people of Chazuka, Alex began to teach the children the alphabet underneath the shade of a mango tree. He made a trip to the nearest town and purchased a stack of exercise books and some pens. It quickly transpired that these children had never attended school and so Alex had to start by teaching them how to hold a pen.
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, can I be a teacher at your 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 he has somehow unintentionally started a school.
Fast-forward 3 years and we are no longer gathering underneath a mango tree. The Chazuka School officially opened its doors in February 2019 to welcome 25 children and 2 teachers. The school belongs to and is managed by the community.
Alex has since joined forces with Sara to transform the project from a personal endeavour to a registered U.K. charity. Alex & Sara have been lucky enough to build a strong team of dedicated volunteers and trustees and the team achieved recognition as an official, registered U.K. charity known as The Chazuka Project, providing operational, strategic and financial support to the school.
Team Chazuka have ambitious plans for the near future. Our work is made possible only through the kindness of our supporters.
If you would like to support us then you can donate here