News – What has been Accomplished!

Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS)

The first large scale Rotary involved indoor residual spraying  (IRS) is complete!  3,346 dwellings were sprayed (9 entire villages) with a resultant protection of 25,000 people per Peter Minjale.  Peter has also been able to purchase 280 goats with the money we sent him (he got some goats at a discount rate and thus got 10 more than we thought we could afford). All of the 11 initial groups who were funded via our micro-loan bank paid back their loans to date.  We are already identifying new groups for more loans. All 26 of the initial farmers identified for our “Land Lease” program received their first month’s payment.  Unfortunately the rains are failing again this year (should have started between early November and mid-December), so we have held off giving the farmers seed/saplings to plant.  Our medical mission group has purchased our plane tickets.  In 2017 we will be in Malawi from April 9-April 22.  We are always interested in bringing healthcare providers if any of you out there are interested.  You will have to pay your own way.  Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Acres and an Ox

The Skype part of our telemedicine project has worked well, but unfortunately thus far we have not been able to transmit view able ultrasound images.  Meanwhile K2 TASO working with support from us via a Rotary International grant has re-started the long delayed IRS (Indoor Residual Spraying) operation in the Mtunthama area.  To date over 2200 dwellings have been sprayed, protecting approximately 15, 500 people from malaria.  Peter Minjale has identified at least 36 farmers for our Land Lease program.  We have authorized him to add another 14 if he can find suitable candidates.  We have also begun a new initiative to help farmers cultivate more efficiently with consequent improvement in crop yields and areas under cultivation.  This new program called “…Acres and an Ox…” will provide an ox and a plow to 6 villages initially (we will expand the program through “pass-on” of first born as well as when funds become available) to help the poor farmers in the Mtunthama area who currently plant their crops using a hoe and their backs.

Testing the Telemedicine

We tested the telemedicine system today and found that it worked very well.  Peter Minjale, CMO in his office at St. Andrews Hospital presented two cases to Brian Lisse, MD in his home in Hudson, MA.  Brian could clearly see the patient Peter had sitting next to him.  Tomorrow we will try to Skype an echocardiogram with a Daniela Capriles, MD, a cardiologist in Ayer. Peter will perform it while Daniela talks him through it and interprets the results as she watches the ultrasound screen via Skype.  Wish us luck!

Preventing Famine

FAMINE: For 2 years the rains have failed and the consequent drought induced famine is worsening daily.  It has been estimated that about 7 million people, 39% of Malawi’s population, are at risk of starvation as a result.  The worst of this famine is just about to start and will not let up until the next maize (corn) crop can be harvested in late February, assuming that the rains don’t fail again. We at BTM are committed to continue our battle to help keep people from starving by raising money for direct food distribution in the Kasungu East District.  Moreover, these famines are recurrent cyclic problems caused by drought, yes; but also by excessive dependence on rain-needing low nutritional value maize as the main crop for consumption and tobacco as the main crop for making money.  We at BTM are also committed, therefore, to helping break the cycle of starvation and subsistence poverty due to drought and over dependence on these two crops.  For this reason we have undertaken our very successful goat pass-on project, our irrigation projects, and our microloan project.  This month we will also be instituting a new project, “Land Lease.” Continue reading “Preventing Famine”

Raising Money

We have now raised enough money for 247 goats to be passed on to poor farmers.  Thanks so much for your help!

To See the Pictures:  Goat Pass Program Pictures 2016

We have also started a microcredit bank funded with $3,000 of Bridges to Malawi donations.  Our first loans are out to several groups of poor farm women in the Mtunthama area.  One of the endeavors we are funding is the local production and sale of “mooncatchers,”   a reusable washable menstrual pad which makes it possible for girls in the area to continue to attend school, even when they are menstruating (access to feminine hygiene products is very limited in this area of Malawi). See link for further info http://mooncatchers.weebly.com/

The severe drought and consequent famine continues to plague Malawi.  For this reason we have now donated a total of $8600 towards the direct purchase and distribution of maize (corn) working through our K2 TASO partners.  We have also donated another $1000 designated for the purchase of materials for construction of 4 irrigation projects powered by treadle (foot powered) pumps planned for 3 villages.

We are in the process of arranging donation of 20 laptop computers/tablets to 2 different schools (10 per school) loaded with educational software.  One such set will be solar powered because of the lack of electricity in the destination village.

Our last tuition payment for Priscilla, the orphan we have been sponsoring, was just sent today.  She will have a degree in hospitality management and we wish her all the best!

K2 TASO’S Goat Pass-On Program

We have decided to help augment K2 TASO’s (our Malawi partner) ongoing Goat “Pass-On” program. This program provides goats for free to impoverished farmers and their families in order to give them a source of better nutrition and improve their income at the same time.  K2 TASO has been doing this with great success for a few years, but they don’t have enough money to provide the number of goats needed. We hope to help K2 TASO reach this goal with your generous support.

Here is information provided to us by Peter Minjale of K2 TASO.  “GOAT PASS-ON PROGRAM: Thanks a lot for the initiatives started on goat pass-on program. The only goat passed on to the next recipient is the first born from the initially received goat. The rest of the coming siblings and the mother remain livestock for the owner. Milk is the number one product consumed and as you know goat’s milk is very nutritious. In future some of the goats can be slaughtered for domestic source of meat as well as sold for income. The hides from the goats are also sold.  The goats are also a very good of manure hence promoting good cultivation practices. All these improve the beneficiaries families’ lives. Any amount of support from you and BTM will be recognised. The total population for Kasungu east is 206,000 but if we can reach out and touch 500 people in the next two to three years RE: Goat pass-on that will be wonderful.”

According to Peter, a goat costs $37 apiece.  Thus far we have raised enough money for 60 goats and hope to surpass 100 in 2016 with your help!

Mission to Mthunthama/Kasungu

We’re just back from another very successful medical mission trip to the Mtunthama/Kasungu area of Malawi.  This was perhaps our saddest trip and the trip characterized by our greatest accomplishments to date.  The sadness is due to the fact that there is an ongoing famine due to crop failure from drought which was just beginning when we left last year.  Now that drought/famine is coming to pass because last year’s corn crop was affected, and, unfortunately, it will only get worse because this year’s crop is failing too.

When we found out about the famine, we were able to raise over $6600 for the purchase of corn to be distributed in the countryside in the catchment area of our Malawi NGO partner K2 TASO.  We helped distribute this corn as part of our trip, travelling a few hours to rural villages or dispensing it from the new K2 TASO headquarters near St. Andrews Hospital. This was particularly poignant because we saw severely malnourished kids in the hospital, including one who was so emaciated that he died within two days of admission despite efforts to feed him effectively.  Our high school students had the extraordinary opportunity to shake the hands of those Malawian families receiving corn from BTM as a result of our fundraising efforts, which included the generosity of the kids’ parents.
Continue reading “Mission to Mthunthama/Kasungu”

Preparing our 2016 Team

All preparations are almost finished and our 2016 medical team, which also includes 12 high school students, will be departing soon for our annual trip to Mtunthama, Malawi to help provide healthcare and bring desperately needed medications, supplies, and funds to help support our partners at St. Andrew’s Hospital, Kasungu District Hospital, and K2 TASO.  This year we will be bringing a portable EKG machine to the District Hospital after it was purchased for us by Steve Albino of Hudson, MA.  Thanks so much, Steve!  St. Andrews and K2 TASO have asked us to help come up with funds to support their efforts to provide emergency nutritional supplementation to those suffering from the famine currently afflicting much of Malawi.  We have raised over $4,300 in the last 2 months just for this purpose.  Thanks to all our supporters for this additional help!

Presenting at the Central Mass Rotary Foundation

We, working closely with our Nashoba Valley Rotary Club partners, especially Richard Simon, Asst District Gov. of Rotary District 7910, have continued to pursue our efforts to raise awareness and money for our BTM Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) operations in Malawi. Dr. Lisse and his wife spent 3 days in the Schenectady, NY area as guests of Rotarians Lon and Helen Penna. Lon had arranged talks at 6 Rotary Clubs as a means of fundraising and informing Rotarians about BTM’s efforts/mission with special emphasis on our goal of a joint IRS operation. All talks were well attended and received. We are currently awaiting a final answer about the level of financial support from the Rotary. We have been told that we have already jointly raised over $60,000 with a goal overall of about $87,000 which will enable us to protect 20,000 villagers from malaria in the Mtunthama area over 2 years, starting in 2016. Following the trip to NY, Dr. Lisse gave a presentation at the Central Mass Rotary Foundation and has since also given a presentation to the Natick Rotary Club.