Timonene (hello...in Chitonga!:)

Back in the saddle this past weekend! Having missed the previous week’s swim due a head cold, this week’s swim was a two’fer, both Saturday and Sunday. Funny how you can become accustomed to process and regularity; having only missed one week, it felt like I hadn’t been in the water in ages!

Both days were pretty chilly: 34 and 25 degree wind chills Saturday, and 24 / 11 degree wind chills on Sunday. However, each day had light winds and abundant sunshine, making for some enjoyable cannonballs off the dock. Frozen hair Sunday? You bet.

Part of my focus in this week’s report, goes against the very notion of focus and how a wandering mind can often lead to innovative thought. For me, running is an opportunity to allow my mind to wander, without life’s constant distractions. Whether you choose to run with music, other people or on your own, running is all about…you: a time of reflection. Come to think of it, that pairs nicely with Reflections for RIPPLE!

Allowing your mind to wander is almost an archaic action these days. Who has time to wander? Between multitasking, super-computer cell phones, tablets, and media an ever-growing constant, there simply isn’t time.

Even Tim Brown, Mr IDEO himself makes light of the value of this trait, namely through keeping a journal close-by at all times. Writing stuff down? Oh-so important.

RIPPLE Africa allows volunteers in Malawi the chance to write for their weekly blog, ‘Mwaya Mondays’. Earlier this week, their recent post really hit home on this idea of ingenuity in the field, with a direct and measurable outcome.

Tine Westerdahl, a doctor from the Netherlands shared a very powerful story about a young Malawian boy born with congenital brain damage, making it very difficult for him to walk. At first, Isaac was using a small cane to take his first steps in training his muscles and developing motor skills in his legs. However, improvement was slow and ultimately very difficult for him to master.

Tine’s story of ingenuity and what was constructed for young Isaac is a tale best left in his own words. Quite simply, it is a beautiful story, and poignant reference to ingenuity and the power of our minds. If you’ve read this far, then please read the following excerpt from Tine.

This is why I jump in the lake every week. If only to make you, the reader, aware of stories and the power of good in this world. Read it. Live it. And let your mind wander.

This week’s Mwaya Mondays blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer Tine Westerdahl, who is a nurse from Denmark

I have now been at Mwaya Beach for six weeks – it is unbelievable how quickly time flies by and yet, on the other hand, I feel quite at home. I have a busy weekly routine, and I think that has helped me settle in so quickly to Malawian life.

My work alternates between the clinics in nearby villages helping at “under 5” clinics, outreach clinics, malnutrition clinics, etc. In between these clinics, I teach first aid and other health related subjects – I have even started to do a few computer lessons as well.

Once a week I go out with Collins, the RIPPLE Africa Senior Healthcare Coordinator, who visits clients in the community on his motorbike. Collins has a vast number of clients, and they all have an amazing story that deserves to be told.

Isaac is a five-year-old boy with congenital brain damage, which results in problems with the use of his legs. The main problem is his balance but, after a lot of practice, he can now walk with a stick. When using his stick, however, he is still unsteady and needs more training of his leg muscles and his balance to be able to walk more effectively.

To make it easier for Issac to train his muscles and balance, we decided to try to build a walker for him. I enrolled the services of our day watchman Arnold, who is very good with his hands, to help me construct the walker. I found some plastic tubes that were not too heavy for a little boy to carry and then the creative work began. We finished constructing the walker… well, when I say “we” I mean Arnold was working with the plastic tubes and I was trying not to get in his way!

 Now the walker is finished, Collins and I needed to see if it would work. We took the walker to Isaac, and it only took him a few minutes before he got the idea of the walker and he started immediately to walk around the area. In the beginning only walking slowly straight forward, but after a few minutes he began to make turns. I have visited Isaac twice before today, and it is the first time I have seen him walking so much – I was afraid that he would actually have sore leg muscles that evening.

With so little resources available to the local people here, it is quite amazing how adaptable and creative they can be. The material to make the walker equated to about £2, and it just took a bit of creativity and determination to build it. Issac’s family would never be able to afford to buy an aid such as this walker, so it is purely down to the resourcefulness of the community to help solve an easy problem in the developed world but here is a constant challenge.

The lovely thing here is that everyone wants to try to help and takes great pride in it. When I came back to show Arnold the picture of Issac with his walker, he was so pleased to see his creation in action…he wanted to name it the “AB Walker” standing for “Arnold Banda’s Walker”. We will see if it makes patent!

Donation Links here:



Alas, no swim for this Canuck this past weekend as a common head cold set in mid-week. Fear not, however, I’ll be doing double duties this weekend (and possibly this week – as we’re approaching summer weather of 40+ degrees).

Despite my congestion and hacking (I do feel better now, thanks for asking), I managed to get out each night for a good sweat and run, concentrating on my breath and not over-exerting my lungs. It felt great.

Running with a cold seems counter intuitive to recovery, though we all know our own bodies the best and for me fresh air, deep breathing, sweating out toxins, elevated heart rate and zen-style consistent breathing are imperative to a quick turnaround.

My time spent with RIPPLE Africa was the healthiest I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ll stand by that saying for the rest of my life, said here in my 2012 Volunteer Story on RIPPLE’s website.

I thought I’d share some snip-bits of how I came to such a statement.

Fresh Air

Volunteering with RIPPLE Africa means you have fresh air for your entire stay. No recirculated or inside air, ever. The volunteer chalets all get great breezes off the Lake, while your day is usually spent outside at various sites. You know that feeling from recirculated air on an airplane? Think of the opposite.

Alram clock’less

Other than waking to catch a taxi for a flight, I never used one…and always woke up on time. That’s because you’re afforded a fresh-air sleep, and a sunrise to wake you every single day. And if it’s raining or cloudy, you have birds chirping at dawn.

Volunteering with RIPPLE allows you this luxury, found almost nowhere else on earth; the ability to get into consistent sleep cycles dictated by the sunset and sunrise. There would be nights where I’d sleep for 11 hours. I’ve never felt more rested in my life.

Knowing you’ll wake up to a rising sun, instead of an iPhone alarm clock is mind blowing.

The Lake!

If you haven’t gathered already (…maybe you’re a hunter?-joke), I love to swim. More importantly, I love the sensation of being enveloped by fresh water. While in Malawi, I swam every single day (usually 2 or 3 times).

After a sunrise wake up, I would head down to the lake for a morning swim. Talk about a way to wake up! Almost like a daily baptism, the lake’s morning tranquility isn’t just found in Malawi, but in all lakes. What a blessing to have in such close proximity.

Cold Showers

At the time I volunteered, we didn’t have any hot water for showers. However, you quickly realize that your body can become acclimated to the water temperature quite quickly. Morning showers consisted of an accelerated scrub, though afternoon heat made a cool shower quite enjoyable.


Drinking water

I’ll also stand behind saying that the best water I’ve ever tasted came from Malawi. RIPPLE Africa has a bore-hole well drilled into an underwater aquifer hundreds of feet down, that provides drinking water for volunteers, staff and local community members. No iodine tablets, no bottled water. Maybe it was a state of mind, but that water was so very delicious.


Good Sweats and Sunshine

Every day affords you a hard-working sweat, and usually plenty of sunshine.  I applied sunscreen almost every day, and never once had a bad sunburn. Gotta have big respect for that gaseous ball we all orbit!

Whenever sick, I always find it helpful to simply stand in the sun. Not for that great bronze look we all crave, but for Vitamin D, and its natural warmth.  In Malawi, there’s plenty of sun and sweat to go around for all!


The Food!

RIPPLE Africa is located in the Northern rural region of Malawi. Here there is no real transportation infrastructure, so much of what is consumed is from subsistence farming or sold at local markets. If you’re eating a vegetable, chances are it was grown less than a mile away. Akin to organic farming, it’s a model of nutrition that is simply unavailable to more developed countries, as we rely on economies of scale to truck-in food.



Volunteering in Malawi allows you an opportunity to unplug from our very connected world. Even though cell phones and calls to America are only a dial away, life doesn’t revolve around said technologies. The irony of it all being you feeling more connected in a less connected environment. Oh what a paradox.

All these example add up to a day-to-day experience that is becoming harder and harder to find in our world. It’s not necessarily primitive; it’s more of how you (your body) choose to embrace your surroundings.

The healthiest months of my life! Gosh, feeling better already.

Another week of dock plunging cannonballs was upon us last Sunday! Gardner and I suited up for a run that would prove to be our chilliest yet.

I'm always keen to follow the weekend forecast, and had decided to opt out of our normal Saturday routine for what was thought to be an equally warm Sunday.

A snowy Saturday made conditions ripe, and though Sunday's forecast promised identical conditions, we were instead met with a cooler high pressure system with NW winds of 10-15mph. Checking the temperature upon returning: 18 degrees with a 4 degree wind chill!

One of the coldest swims we've had so far, though no shivering of course. If you look closely, most of my wet hair is frozen, as was my base layer shirt as we ran home!

11 weeks in we're still only about half way through our weekly winter swims; so lots of time for you all to still make donations to support RIPPLE Africa projects in Malawi. We've been receiving a good bit of publicity as well: CBS News 2 video is up online (link here) (also on home page, and to your right:) and is a recent article that was published in SunCoast Living in Florida (link here). Thanks to Kay Yoder, RIPPLE Africa's USA director who resides in Florida.

In any case, I encourage you to enjoy both the video and article in better understanding the impact we can have through donating to RIPPLE Africa, and how these weekly swims are not only invigorating but oh-so pertinent to a higher ideal of helping folks in Malawi.

Donation Links here:



Welcome to Reflections for RIPPLE weekly updates! If this is your first read, then you’ve got a lot of reading HW to ketchup with. And if you’re a regular reader, put some pep in that step and some mustard on that dog and donate already!  If you’re on the fence, I’d relish the opportunity for you to read on. Go get it, hot dog.

This past Saturday proved to be a monumental swim, not only in weather conditions but in exposure. Kay Yoder, part of RIPPLE’s US operations, had passed a lead on from CBS 2 Chicago’s Mike Krauser, a local reporter and familiar voice on 780AM.

With Mike meeting us at our swim point, my brother Colin and fellow future-swimmer Doug Baker were also present to enjoy Saturday’s wintery weather. Suffice to say, we weren’t in our Sundays best.

For a winter swim, conditions were close to ideal. A fresh 3-4 inches from the night prior, fluffy flakes, lake effect snow and an air temp of 28 made for a pleasant ramp-up run before our swim. As is now typical protocol, Gardner and I ran past our swim point to double-back in order to have some wind at our backs. The added sweat was well appreciated.

With three gents waiting for us at the end of the dock we had a good 150 yard run out to collect ourselves before cameras were rolling and trepidation silenced. Even at this moment, there’s a sense of tranquility to be had.

To a bystander, it would make sense to quickly unclothe, hop in, hop out, and get running ASAP. Quite the contrary however. Even getting out of sweaty layers needs to be done with a sense of aplomb.

Cannonballs offer a much more instantly enveloping ‘knock the wind out of your lungs sensation’ opposed to the gradient found at the beaches. Best to take a deep breath prior to!

Your reward, as explained in our video interview, is that you exit the water with a renewed sense of winter air warmth. It’s a paradox so innately deconstructed, that you begin to wonder how you lived without it. Kind of like a cold shower. Let’s bridge the gap, shall we?

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Try this. Standing under a hot shower, start turning to cold and see how long you can stand the cold 50-degree water before returning to heat. Blah! Uncomfortable!

This swim is immeasurably more exhilarating, and infinitely more gratifying in the snap-second sensation afforded by the water temperature. And like all things in life worth working for, you’re the recipient of a warm breeze in Chicago’s harsh winter months. Relativity check straight from Malawi!

None of this is about me, however. It’s for the people of Malawi, and the positive impact RIPPLE Africa has proven it can achieve in the community. If I’ve harped on you to make a donation, it’s for this reason only. So put your hard earned dollars to work as efficiently as possible. You know the drill.



Back in the saddle! The past two weeks were devoid of swimming, as work took me to both Prague and Lyon for Missler’s global conference. My orange RIPPLE jacket and Under Armor were packed and rivers and ponds scouted, though alas, tight work schedules and dwindling winter light made swimming un-impossibly’not. It would’ve been quite the delight too, 45-50 degree air temps…summertime. I did have some incredible runs through Prague and downtown Lyon however.

All of Missler’s global affiliates knew about Chicago and our ‘Polar Vortex’. Between that, the Chicago Bulls and Prague locals being fiercely loyal to Marian Hossa, Chicago has an international intrigue that rings proud to this Canadian ex-patriot.

Returning back to 8 degree weather last Thursday, it was relieving to see Sunday’s forecast of snow showers and a 28-degree high. Respecting Mother Nature and all her frigid ferocity is proving to be quite the challenge these days.

Gardner Yost, a fellow runner and swimmer, has joined me for a second week of Polar Vortex swimming; with our hardest challenge being where to find a suitable place to hop in. With big ice buildup along the lakefront, and safety being of chief concern (seriously), we had to look elsewhere. Having scouted up and down the lakefront, we decided on a harbor swim, as a dock recirculat’or (to limit ice buildup, and hence damage) had created an opening wide enough for a swim…and cannon balls.

Sunday’s weather of 28 degrees with a West wind blowing at 15mph, gave the wind a chill of about 10 degrees or so. And as normal, we ended our 5-miler by heading south to have the wind slightly at our back. Week 8 introduced a new element to the swimming endeavor, a dock. Vs. a gradual run-in at the lake’s side, we had the opportunity to do cannonballs before quickly exiting the chilly water. Videos are here!

Harking back to my time in Prague and in France, I was impressed people knew several facts about Chicago (freezing cold, Marian Hossa, the Bulls, etc.). In a RIPPLE Africa sense, most folks aren’t sure where Malawi is in Africa. I for one wasn’t sure before looking into volunteering in Africa. Thus, I thought a quick lesson on Malawi and its economic and political state would be useful to the readers (yes you).

Formerly Nyasaland, Malawi gained independence after being part of the Central African Federation in 1964. The now defunct state of bordering Rhodesia meant Malawi has a British influence with English being the country’s second language. Malawi did not become a country when Madonna adopted children here several years back!

Geographically, Malawi is located in one of the world’s most beautiful, untouched areas, the Great Rift Valley. Of the 3 primary lakes comprising this valley, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi, are all vital to a population that lives off fishing and arable farm land.

Lake Malawi is comparable in size in to Lake Michigan. Being 365 miles long and 52 miles wide (at its widest) it is known as the calendar lake.

RIPPLE Africa is located right on the lake about 350miles NE of the country’s capital, Lilongwe (LLW). You wanna talk long bus ride…sweet sarsaparilla!

Economically, the country is very much limited in its export market, being landlocked without any meaningful transportation infrastructure. Along with gas shortages and a challenging currency valuation model (devalued in 2013, much to people’s relief) and a dependence on foreign-aid, Malawi is not unlike most 3rd world African countries.

HIV/AIDS also affects much of the population as does malnutrition and poor education standards. Sounds like a real bear to get anything done around here! Sometimes it is. But if resilience ever was defined by a people, Malawians would take the cake.

Malawi’s recent bout of dictator-like rule came to an abrupt end in 2012, when Bingu Mutharika passed away at age 78, after ruling for over 6 years. The governing body took this opportunity to change tact’s by swearing in Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda. Under a more democratic rule, her administration has been keen to stabilize relationships within the foreign aid community, provide a sounder economic infrastructure and have a more Pro-western approach to civil law.

There remains a charge in the air that people are not willing to sit back on their laurels, but are empowered with leading a better life.  RIPPLE Africa is a great example of a charity that understands the daily struggles and small nuances of issues that can be solved. One step at a time. Putting effort where it’s needed.

USA Donations Link

UK Donations Link


Despite his living in a society firmly grounded in tradition, in basing today’s decisions on yesterday’s observations, in the paradox of individualized conformity, Patrick has a remarkable ability to do things purely because he loves them and because he believes in them. His willingness to eschew expected routine is part of what makes him a visionary unburdened by the judgment of others, by the way things ‘ought to be done’, and, potentially, by sanity. His passions have never ceased to expand my thinking, and so, not knowing what to expect, I joined him on his weekly ritual of frozen self-baptism. All the well-established allegories of water lend themselves to his purpose. The lake is a timeless, omnipresent neighbor whose calm, fury, and beauty will long outlive me, you, and the rest of humanity; yet its inconstancy is what makes it so enamoring. To relish its presence not just in the warmth of the summer but also in chill of winter is to shift one’s relationship with the water from spectation to purification, and though stepping into the freezing water is stepping into icy trepidation, the minutes after we scrambled back up the icy embankment were nothing short of giddy. Without romanticizing further, suffice it to say that the arctic swim was cleansing- both from the endorphin mediated rush of escaping the numbing cold and from the existential fulfillment of doing something against the grain and with purpose. I think this is much the same feeling one might feel after helping the needy, contributing to society… in the case contributing to Ripple Africa. I recommend both to all who read this.

I'm rather awe-struck knowing that between last Monday's -42 degree wind chill, and yesterday's summertime high of 43 we had an 85 degree variance. Temperature fluctuations don't get any wider than that!

Combined with a gusty southern breeze, the weekend's run/swim had another variable to contend with; the presence of one Gardner Yost. A fellow friend from Winnetka, UIC masters candidate and rower extraordinaire, Gardner's insatiable appetite for running and invigorating January lake water made for quite the swim. He also runs marathons at a stonking pace, and also ran last Monday, exclaiming the run as 'tremendous'. I hear ya brotha!

Alas, another request prior to this weekend’s run, from one C. Marks...no-no, that's too obvious, Chris M. in elaborating further about the swim... My pleasure dear sir. We miss you here in Chicago!

My run/swim usually starts with a healthy dose of trepidation, and some type of stomach butterfly with sub-zero icicle powers. The most uncomfortable part of this weekly reawakening are the moments prior to getting out the door. 

Hydrated, well fed and ready to go, I prepare by bundling up in the proper attire specific to the day's conditions. Sunday was warm, so an extra layer and neck-gator were left out of the equation. I did manage to divide opinion on bringing two wool socks for afterwards. Minus compression socks after exiting the water? The sum of all fears!

Anyhow, Gardner and I left Oz Park and headed East and then South to the lakefront path. Wind direction plays a crucial role in determining routes each week. Having a tail-wind for 1/2 mile prior to swimming allows for a good sweat build-up, an important component of this endeavor.

Kicking in to high gear for the last 1/2 mile or so, we found a good spot to hop in near the Fullerton beaches. Backs faced to the Southern wind, a calm and collected shimmering lake awaits. Remnants of Monday wind and ice are ever-present, though fortunately most of the ice had been pushed off-shore.

Once down to single layer, there's usually a good 10-15 yards of beach or ice buildup between you, the water, disbelief, rational thought, skepticism and sanctity. Baptism by fire then. 

Forward momentum is highly sought after because once you start stripping down, there's no turning back. If anything, you have wide-eyed bystanders keeping your endeavor honest. High knees make way to a Lake Michigan special, the shallow gradient of West-side beaches. 

Flaps up, toes down. Feet being the first to encounter 32-degree water, the prelude to the ensuing hit of cold turns into a flat out sprint. A last cry for reason "RIPPLE Africa" is exclaimed, a deep breath taken and the plunge had. 

For a split-second you can feel your body temperature going from hot to warm...not cold, though. Despite the temperature change and wind being knocked out of your lungs (a big breath before diving in), the sensation is shocking no less, but still reinforces the fact that because you've built up your core temperature, you can handle this.

It's your face, fingers and those 10 little piglets that remind you, "Hey, this water is freakin' cold". At this point, you're making a B-line to the shore. Though, as mentioned in posts past, there's an ambivalent calm that sets in during this shock therapy. The single most important state-of-mind to grasp in all this is being calm and collected. You've earned it through your sweat. Your reward? First, the chilling, all-body re-awakening. Second, knowing your legs are getting a catalyst’ic blood circulating purge. And third, being out of the water, standing in total comfort. No towel needed, no shivering induced. You wanna feel what a pseudo-70 degree air feels like during a Chicago winter? You just did, through your own accord.

Your initial trepidation, butterflies, exertion and run all culminate in this present-minded instance. The height of present living.

Now, who's coming with me!

*I'll be in Prague and France until the 24th (swim report from EU...)

 January 26th, I'll be back in Lake Michigan.

This past Saturday proved to be a delightful day to swim. I managed to make it out prior to the recent cold snap we’re enveloped in at the moment. Jippers its nippers now!

SW winds from Thursday and Friday pushed a lot of the ice off shore, allowing me to hop in near North Ave beaches. I even had a quick respite from the wind upon drying off. A welcome lull while catching my breath and enjoying the fresh cool air whilst being shiver'less!

A big component of my weekly swims is to raise funds for RIPPLE Africa's projects in Malawi. Though equally important is informing you guys (folks around these parts) about my time spent volunteering. 

There are hardships indeed, one's that I want to make people aware of, and fortunately answers to these problems as well. Thanks to your donations + RIPPLE's way of operating on the ground, there's a bright future to be had.

As such, I'm keen to paint a vivid picture of the people, landscape and culture of Malawi.

And in our harsh gray (and snowy white) winters here in Chicago, allow me to elaborate on a stroke of good fortune found on my travels to Malawi: Quite simply, a country rich in colors, a pallet of cultural wonders and tropical mystique. The metaphorical ‘bridge’ here is in color. Allow me to explain.

The best part of my run/swim is the few minutes after I get out of the water, and am able to stand comfortably, breathe deep, and reflect on RIPPLE...It's not called 'Reflections for RIPPLE' for nothing!

Seeing the small icebergs being pushed offshore from the SW winds, and their abrupt contrast to the aqua and turquoise colored lake made for a very reflective transport back to the colors of Malawi.

Here are some examples of how color in Malawi really popped off its canvas, forever ingrained and permeated on my own pallet. Enjoy the pictures and captions…and make a donation J

1. Oranges and Lemons
They're green! Primarily due to the elevation and rainy season, both oranges and lemons retain an almost full green color, even when ripe. It's a bit backwards to our orange oranges and yellow lemons, but my are they delicious! Albeit a bit tart, but then again, you would tear up just a pinch knowing how good they taste.

2. Pre-dawn
Malawi opened my eyes to the colors of the sunrise. Seeing the golden orb, or more fitting, the sun star (!) peak above the distant Tanzanian mountain range across Lake Malawi is a true sight to behold. Even more exotic in color, was the realization of discovering the pre-dawn colors. About 30 minute before the sun rises the most magnificent color shine bright in the sky, only then to briefly recede before the full force of direct sun light. If you've never seen the green pre-sunrise color, etched in the sky's spectrum, well...

3. CCM Grey

The Changu-Changu-Moto may not seem so colorful from the outset. It is after all, grey, and gosh-darn that's about the last color we need here in Chicago. However, knowing that this fuel efficient stove is made entirely of local material, like: sand, earth, water and manure, and is able to provide a safer and more effective way of cooking all while reducing wood consumption, just tickles me pink. Paired with a small, concentrated fire the contrast of grey and flame is chilling. You'll never look at grey the same.

First and foremost, a resounding "Thank You" to all who donated to Reflections for RIPPLE so far. Just a few weeks in and already we’ve raised more than $500 dollars globally. Back from snowy Sunday night run, and happy I was able to hop in yesterday in the balmy 45 degree December heat wave! Only a week into Winter (officially), and it already feels like spring…

The lack of wind and abundant sunshine made for a pleasant dip for yesterday's Week 4 swim. Lake Malawi has much of the same in aquatic presence, sound and feel; all the way on the other side of the globe, these bodies of water are remarkably similar.

As we all prepare to ring in the New Year, most of us will pledge resolutions for 2014. I’m heck bent on nullifying my gosh-darn foul mouth. No swearing for 2014. I’m hopeful.

Both small and large, the rationale behind making this pledge is our influence in looking to the future and planning ahead. We’ve adopted this mindset into our culture and daily routine, yet this mindset is not as prevalent in Malawi.

Routine and life is never more than a day ahead of itself. It is a trait most often seen in impoverished communities, where little thought is given to planning ahead. And though this delicate balance of present-minded living and a fruitful outlook is a tight-rope neither Western culture nor 3rd world country walk perfectly, it is an educational staple that shows great potential if balanced properly.

RIPPLE Africa’s environmental conservation projects help promote sustainable initiatives that otherwise would deplete natural resources in the areas. From deforestation by-laws, enacted by local villages, to fish conservation projects on the lake, RIPPLE Africa's educational core is ever-present.

As we all make our New Years resolutions this week for 2014, think of the promise of what that newly-found resolution could make in Malawi. It could mean a world difference, a common thread, worlds away.

Last week we focused on the basic idea of options, whether choosing where to swim (ice free preferably), or the more serious challenge of medical and educational options in Malawi. Options empower everyone to make better decisions.

For my weekly swims, my options are derived from where I’m able to run and hop in to swim. In Malawi, a big component of development and options revolves around bricks. Yep, the very type that Kevin McAlister of Home Alone, throws through that window to bust the bad guys.

 The building blocks of life: A foundation piece of life. Analogies aside, bricks play a crucial role in all projects RIPPLE Africa related.

RIPPLE Africa uses bricks for construction of schools, teachers living quarters, medical clinics and homes. RIPPLE Africa's bricks in Malawi are made of locally sourced materials: water, mud, sand and manure...Manure?

You bet your ass (there’s a pun in there)! Locally-sourced materials enable construction everywhere, devoid of transportation cost and expensive exotic material.

RIPPLE’s famous Changu Changu Moto fuel efficient stoves are a testament to this basic philosophy. Thousands of homes in Northern Malawi benefit from these bricks and the method of how they’re formed. The only cost associated with them is the purchase of brick molds themselves.

Understanding that a simple donation of $10 can empower an entire village to make bricks through using a mold form is a true efficiency in any capacity. It’s repeatable, cost effective, and locally-sourced. Here’s a bare-bones example of how a charity can recognize value in projects that are scalable:

 “Provide a hand up…not a hand out”.

Think about it this Holiday Season. Think about what a $10 donation can do for an entire village. Think about the element of empowering people vs. a handout.  A donation to RIPPLE Africa helps create a foundation piece to better living conditions. Be the educational catalyst for these people, one brick at a time. The building of blocks of life, bricks...

...kind of like how my feet felt coming out of 34 degree water. Bricks baby!

See it firsthand at RIPPLEAfrica.org