The Chibale Project started in 2007 when a friend asked a group of  faculty, staff, and students from Virginia Tech, Radford University, and North Carolina A&T to use a small donation to help the children during the visit to Malawi. Students added to the contribution and with that initial $100, about 1,000 children received a simple meal twice a week for seven months.

The program has grown with personal donations raised by the students and faculty members with help from both Blacksburg Presbyterian Church and Glade Church. The project involves the three universities as well as an in-country leadership team, which is overseen by Ndelapa Mhango, a Ph.D graduate of Virginia Tech.

Student Lauren Scheid hands a cup of nsima to a child during a feeding program at Malemia Primary School.
Lauren Scheid, a senior psychology major from Pearisburg, Va., hands a cup of nsima to a child during a feeding program at Malemia Primary School.

The feeding program

In Malawi, students walk to primary school, usually a journey of at least a kilometer if not three or four. Frequently the hike is made on an empty stomach. Through the Chibale Project, a feeding program has been integrated into the school day at Malemia Primary School. At 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the children line up to eat nsima, a corn porridge prepared in a large barrel over a fire, dipped into buckets, and distributed by the cupful. The task is done usually by women from nearby villages. During their visit, the Americans took their turn serving.

Scholarship program

The Chibale Project provides incentives in the form of scholarships. After primary school (equivalent to grades one through eight), Malawi students must pass an exam and receive an invitation from the government to continue their education -- for a price. It costs about $27 annually for a student to attend secondary school, a sum insurmountable for many families. The Chibale scholarship program is supporting 27 students. The scholarship includes the cost of a uniform, shoes, and basic school supplies. After two years, the students must take another exam. If they pass, their scholarship continues through what would equate to the senior year of high school.

Girls’ project

The Chibale Project also strives to improve the lives of adolescent girls, who often drop out of school at puberty. In a country where men can have multiple wives, it is not uncommon for girls to be used as a dowry for a brother. A small monetary incentive helps both the girls and their families realize that academic skills can positively impact their futures. Ten girls have been supported by this part of the Chibale project. The study-abroad group met with the children who were receiving aid, all of whom were encouraged to study hard and stay in school.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Jean Elliott at (540) 231-5915.

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Children share the excitement of being on a bus with Virginia Tech sophomore Becca FitzGerald.
Children share the excitement of being on a bus with Virginia Tech sophomore Rebecca FitzGerald, a human development major from Chesapeake, Va.

Virginia Tech students, staff, and faculty members traveled to Africa in summer 2010 to teach in Malawi schools for a month. The Virginia Tech group learned firsthand about the culture and the education and took side trips to learn about sustainable agriculture practices, health issues, and cultural history.