Guest blog by Kathryn Bailey
How it all began.......I met Gayle Berry of Blossom and Berry1 in July 2013 when I enrolled on her Baby Massage and Baby Yoga course. Blossom & Berry have been helping parents and babies feel happy, supported and relaxed for over ten years. The focus is on encouraging positive touch, communication and nurturing relationships to help build strong and secure attachments for the future.
I was originally introduced to the concept of baby massage whilst living in South Africa and volunteering at an adoption home. I quickly realised that I had stumbled across something incredible that I had no intention of letting go.
Training professionally when I came back to the UK meant I could carry that on for myself. The fantastic physical and emotional benefits2 that are awarded to both parent and baby through massage really cannot be understated. It is a free and truly wonderful experience that I encourage everyone to become familiar with.
Anyway, back to the story! On chatting with Gayle during the course, we realised that being able to spread our knowledge and experience of positive touch to as many people as possible was a joint aspiration. We started to look for charities that we could work with and a fate encounter with a pair of Love Specs3 (the genius fundraising tool of Love Support Unite Africa4 ) began to turn our aspirations in to reality.
Love, Support Unite Africa (LSU) is a volunteer foundation based in the UK set up to sustain Tilinanu Orphanage in Malawi, which houses and educates 34 girls on a full time basis, as well as feeding 175 community orphans daily.
100% of funds raised goes to the children. To date LSU have provided vaccinations for over 70,000 people; teachers to over 4000 pupils; medical advice and assistance; skills workshops; and micro loans helping people to fulfil their potential and rebuild homes and schools. They have a dedicated stream of volunteers who passionately teach their own skills to the girls at the orphanage and to the outreach project communities.
Volunteering abroad is never a cheap thing to do but through sheer determination and generosity of friends, family, colleagues and even strangers, we finally raised enough money to confirm a trip for May 2014. LSU founders Nina and Alice were so supportive and encouraging throughout that there seemed no reason to stop us!
Now we get to the tricky part: explaining the feelings felt during that original trip and subsequent return trip last month. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the openness and kindness of the girls at Tilinanu, where we were based.
They welcomed us into their home with singing, happiness and so many smiles. It was fabulous and motivated us even more to reach as many people as we could during our time there.
To date we have trained 5 young women in hand and foot massage so they can start their own businesses; taught staff in a baby orphanage to use baby massage with the babies in their charge. The baby orphanage staff were so excited to get the certificate they even did a little celebration dance and got us dancing too! We trained two other mothers local to the girl orphanage in baby massage so they could teach other women in the community and increase awareness of the benefits that can really help their babies become stronger and healthier. We introduced using coconut oil for massage to really nourish and stimulate the skin.
There was one day that was truly out of our comfort zone and this was a 2 hour trip on the back of lorry to support the outreach community. The plan was to test as many people as we could for Malaria and distribute around 500KG of donations brought by all the volunteers from the UK!
Sounds straightforward but in reality it was one of the hardest things we have ever experienced. One in 3 tested positive for Malaria and this included the children and babies. Being able to hand out the correct medication hopefully resulted in those people getting better but the thought of all the others that we couldn’t reach for testing is truly haunting.
We also checked and treated a huge amount of the school children for ringworm.
During that first visit we had the tablets for the ringworm but nothing aside from a limited number of antibacterial wipes to treat the seriously infected wounds caused by lack of previous treatment and poor sanitation.
When we returned to Malawi in September we were able to use some of the fabulous organic coconut oil that Lucy Bee had so kindly donated. Coconut oil has long been recognised for its anti-inflammatory, anti fungal and antibacterial properties, along with its ability to encourage the healing of wounds makes it the perfect product to use in this instance. We are currently working with Lucy Bee to set up an on going project to supply coconut to the areas needed.
After the initial visit in May, we were unable to stay away and decided to return in September to continue the work. This last trip really did cement the projects that The Little Blossom Project would focus on and support going forward.
In a nutshell these include:
1. Supporting children with special needs and their caregivers through massage training at a community hospital. We will continue to train the staff visiting the unit so that regular massage is included in the twice-weekly physiotherapy programme.
2. Creation of a foster care programme. With the help of LoveSupportUnite and the community elders we found a suitable family willing to foster children who needed shelter from the local area. For this to be sustainable a micro loan and donated baby clothes provided the means to start a business. This will ensure that they are able to provide for the foster children without relying on donations from abroad. The profits from the mobile baby clothes shop have already enabled the family to build a bread oven and buy the ingredients to start selling bread alongside the clothes.
3. Baby massage teacher training program for staff at a baby orphanage. This continues to introduce and encourage ongoing opportunities for the babies to receive positive touch, resulting in the physical and emotional benefits offered by regular baby massage.
4. Teaching paediatric first aid and delivering nurture packs containing essentials for new mothers and babies at a birthing clinic in Lilongwe. This will ensure that these newborns get a better start in life and will spread the knowledge of first aid and how to help a baby in distress.
5. Massage therapist training for girls at the Tilinanu home to provide qualifications and generate an income. Providing a safe and monitored environment for the girls to experience first hand the skills required to be a professional therapist at the Lake of Stars festival in Malawi and other opportunities closer to home are being explored as I type.
Gayle and I set up The Little Blossoms Project5 to work alongside Love Support Unite and assist the projects to continue and flourish. We know that there are so many people who want to help and it’s just a matter of knowing how.
Yes, going out to Malawi is an amazing and very hands-on way to support the projects but so is providing baby clothes, hats, blankets, bras, knickers and medical supplies to be taken out there.
We can’t thank Lucy Bee enough. The coconut oil was so greatly appreciated for its medicinal properties and loved in the massage sessions and we are so privileged to be named charity of the moment so please buy your gorgeous Lucy Bee products via their amazing link6. We are currently working on a programme that will see ringworm treated by this fabulous product and we can’t wait to see it in action out in Malawi very soon.
By supporting us and buying any item on Amazon via the Lucy Bee link on their website, you are directly helping those less fortunate and helping to change lives for the better.
It really does NOT cost you anything at all – simply make your purchases through this link6 and Amazon will donate commission to Lucy Bee, which they forward to us.
Every penny and item donated goes directly towards projects supporting babies, children and families in Malawi through the provision of education, shelter and care.
Here’s a video showing a few pictures from the project:
You can follow the progress of Little Blossoms Project on their Facebook page Little Blossoms Project Malawi
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