The Chimwemwe Umbrella
africa unplugged was first established in 2003/4 by Chris Ashton and friends. Chris first volunteered with different projects within Southern Africa and felt there was a real lack of awareness and understanding between local communities and international visitors; both with regard to their cultural differences and of the issues and challenges people faced in their daily lives. Upon reaching Malawi Chris volunteered with a number of community projects around the Nkhata Bay region and gained an insight into Malawian culture and local issues affecting the area. Shortly afterwards, with the support of local community members and also from family and friends, Chris established a community based organisation (CBO) known as africa unplugged Malawai (aup Malawi). He hoped this organisation would contribute to a more meaningful interaction between community groups and visitors. It was felt that this would also help empower the local community and lead to improved sustainable opportunities for everybody.
Chairman of Trustees Traditional Authority Chief Mukumbila addressing members
From these beginnings Chris and friends also established a charitable organization in the U.K. from where support is raised to help on-going projects in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania
7 years on, aup Malawi, now known as the Chimwemwe Umbrella - which means 'Happy' in Chichewa - is run on the ground by Malawians who have established their own CBO. Mr Happy Ngwira (seated left) was a founder member of aup Malawi and is still very much in charge. The new CBO currently supports a variety of small grass roots projects including nursery schools, adult learning, a disability group, a youth club and a children's shelter. Overseas volunteers pay a pivotal role in providing help and support.