A collaboration between Dr. Kenneth McKaye and Alison Wiklund with the University of Maryland and the University of Malawi – led to a modest grant in l998 from World Wildlife Fund, USA, entitled Using the Environment as an integrative context for learning: drawing, creative recycling, hand-made paper for youngsters in Chembe, Malawi. Alison’s course was the first time that these local young primary school students had been exposed to art – as a tool – to heighten their awareness of the rich bio-diversity of Lake Malawi National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These youngsters learnt that, through drawing on their own hand-made paper – about the connection between bilharzia (disease) and over-fishing. WWF Finland also became interested in conserving the unique fish species of Lake Malawi National Park (LMNP) and initiated a number of projects related to environmental education – to conserve the natural resources of Lake Malawi National Park.
Since that date (1998) art, as a tool, in environmental education – has become an integral part of Alison’s involvement with conservation in Malawi. This began with WWFUSA and continued with WWF Finland – with a focus on benefitting communities living close to Lake Malawi National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2004 – the torch was passed to the Malawian NGO, HEEED: founded and funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature Finland (WWF Finland) in 2004, this Malawian NGO has continued to promote the goals enshrined in their constitution. The HEEED acronym stands for Health, Education, Environment & Economic Development – working with communities within the area of Nankumba Peninsula, including Lake Malawi National Park.
2002-2004 Conservation of Endangered species of Fishes and Forests of Lake Malawi National Park: Environmental and Economic Strategies, The World Wide Fund for Nature Finland and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2003-2005 Sustainable Economic and Environmental Strategies to Combat Famine and the Invasive Water Hyacinth in Liwonde and Lake Malawi National Parks. The World Wide Fund for Nature Finland and The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
2006-2008 Conservation of Lake Malawi and Liwonde National Parks: Strategies for Health, Environmentaducation and Economic diversification of the Surrounding Communities. World Wide Fund for Nature, Finland and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
2009-2011 Conservation of Community Projects in Lake Malawi National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site: A Model for International Cooperation. World Wide Fund for Nature Finland and RAFLI Foundation.
2009-2011 Enhancing Community Action Through Environmental Education in the Lake Malawi Eco-Region. UNDP (GEF) Small Grants to HEEED Malawi.
2010-2012 Enhancing youngsters’ understanding of Lake Malawi National Park: courses in observation, drawing and creative recycling. ENSOME (Nicaragua) to HEEED.
After 2012 – HEEED’s ongoing conservation and community programme has been supported by income from the creation of the Cape Maclear EcoLodge and the HEEED Diving School – both begun in 2013. However, the challenge lies in changing peoples’ behaviour and such initiatives are necessarily slow in taking root. This requires a long-term vision if we are to truly affect the lives of children – the future stewards of their environment.
One such initiative was taken in 2004 and funded by Rotary – the publication of an education booklet for children and adults alike: The Hiding Hyena authored by Antonia Ringbom and Alison Wiklund.
Alison continues to work as Educational Advisor with HEEEDMalawi and to support initiatives related to the Health, Education, Environment and Economic Development of communities living adjacent to Lake Malawi National Park.
The Cape Maclear EcoLodge – begun in 2013, helped to fund ongoing HEEED community projects. However, the global Covid 19 pandemic which began in 2020 led to the formal closure of Cape Maclear Ecolodge on 1/5/2021.
Meanwhile, the HEEED Diving School and the HEEED Volunteer Programme have continued to help support HEEED goals. Currently, HEEED activities take place at the NYCOM-HEEED Training Centre (also known as Panda Garden) in Chembe village. These include teaching IT and English to students from the local Secondary School, organic gardening, the production of fuel briquettes (to combat deforestation); the creation of 2 aquaculture ponds to feed the families of HEEED staff, bilharzia research, and HEEED Handicrafts: creative recycling of bottle-tops into baskets; bottles into glass tumblers; soft waste plastic into colourful, crocheted hand-bags; waste paper, sisal, tea-bags and onion skins are transformed into attractive cards and booklets. Anyone interested in visiting/participating – please contact the new HEEED Manager: Violet Zakaria: firstname.lastname@example.org.