WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Breaking barriers in children’s education is the mission of the community-based organization M.E.L.T., otherwise known as Malawi Early Literacy Team, based in Mzuzu, Malawi and Watertown, New York.

The Watertown team returned to Malawi for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic on August 3, 2022. The trip included four M.E.L.T. members from Watertown: Captain Heather White; Reading Specialist Carol Stevens; Photographer Andy Burn; and First Presbyterian Chaplain Reverand Dr. Andrew Long.

Watertown’s group was in Malawi for three weeks where they trained with educators, prepared materials, visited schools and distributed books.

According to White, one of the most memorable points was the grand opening celebration of M.E.L.T.’s library in Mzuzu on August 14, a project that was three years in the making.

“It was a grand afternoon,” White said. “The ownership that the Malawian teachers have taken of that space for training and teacher meetings, we were all just so impressed.

White said this progress helped inspire M.E.L.T’s two Malawian resource teachers to write books for their classrooms.

“Our two resource teachers, Annie Ghambi and Rodwell Schinga, kind of just started saying, you know, ‘I’ve got an idea for a book. I think I know what needs to go into a book,'” she explained. “So we really let them take the reigns.”

With the help of the team’s Photographer Andy Burns, Ghambi and Schinga wrote books focusing on action words and adjectives to meet Malawian educational standards for reading English.

Since returning from the trip in late August, both teams in Watertown and Malawi have published three books, using WhatsApp to edit together across the Atlantic. The three books are now set to be shipped to Malawai on a crane ship at the end of November.

“It really kind of completes the circle for the Malawian teachers’ ownership into this program. It is theirs. We do not tell them what they need. We support them,” White said.

More information on the organization can be found on the Malawi Early Literacy Team’s website.