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Project Plan-Status
The Joe Martin Skills Training Center
Bangula, Malawi, Africa


The Skills Training Center has been named in honour of Joe Martin, a former executive with Toromont CAT in Toronto who travelled to Malawi numerous times during his retirement years and was an inspiration for the initiative. Malawi, Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world. The Skills Training Center will address poverty in a meaningful way by providing much needed trades skills. Employment prospects for the local youth should improve dramatically, facilitating local economic development for Malawi.

The JMSTC construction is well advanced and nearing completion. It is located on the “Iris Base” near Bangula, a small village in rural Malawi. The Iris Base was established by David and Joanna Morrison who left Oakville, ON 13 years ago. They have devoted their lives to developing the orphan children and youth of Bangula to become future leaders in Malawi.


Over the past 13 years they have established an orphanage (which today numbers over 80 children/youth), a primary school - Grades 1 - 8, a church and Bible School, an agriculture program, a fish farm and a micro-loan seed program. These initiatives are being driven from a multi-building base established in Bangula. It is staffed by a mix of Internationals and local Malawians. As many of the orphans are reaching high school age, David led a fund raising drive in Spring 2015 - raising $200k + CDN to date. David and his sons Patrick and Daniel completed the grueling 4400 km bicycle race from Alberta to Mexico in some of the most mountainous terrain in the US; Funds raised will enable economically disadvantaged youth from southern Malawi to attend boarding school in Blantyre to achieve a high school diploma.


The last JMSTC update was published in November, 2015. Since that time great progress has been made in the construction of the 9500 sq. ft. facility.

The completed Training Centre will be a brick structure with a steel framed roof and a concrete floor with shipping containers integrated into the periphery. The interior has two classrooms, a tool room, and a woodwork shop. The bricks were made by local villagers, the concrete floor was mixed and placed manually and the steel structure and roo trusses were prefabricated in Canada, transported by ship and truck to Malawi, arriving Nov 2014; David Dyck and Jeff Hageman travelled from Toronto to Malawi in Nov, 2014; They proceeded to put a local work team together and over the next several days led the next stage of construction.

November is the hottest time of the year in Malawi. When they arrived the concrete floor had been placed and much of the brick work was complete. During

their visit, the steel window frames were installed, containers integrated into the structure, steel frames and beams erected over the vehicle garage and man doors and steel columns erected. The steel trusses, shipped as components to fit the shipping container, were assembled and painted. The trusses were now ready to be erected, a task which would have to wait until the next visit in the spring of 2015! In the meantime local workmen continued the brick work and placed concrete sills on top of the brick walls during the rainy season.

April - May, 2015 - David & Ruth Dyck, Heidi Dyck, Paul Craig, Andrew Bremner & Luke Denton visited from Canada to lead the next and most challenging stage of the construction. Steel roof framing and trusses were erected without the benefit of a crane! The task of welding the steel structure together was led by Andrew. Pre-painted corrugated steel roofing was purchased in Blantyre and the team of Canadians and Malawians raised the panels and fastened them to the trusses. The finished structure was taking on its completed appearance!

July 15, 2015 the next container was loaded at the Hageman farm in Burlington in preparation for the journey by land and sea from Canada to Malawi. The contents included electrical components to complete the training center, a custom built generator, donated machinery and tools, medicine, clothing, plastic floor mats and many other donated items. The container travelled on the ship Maersk Visby arriving in Durban, South Africa Sept 6/15, proceeding up the East Coast of Africa to Mozambique arriving at the Iris Base in Malawi in early October.

David Dyck, Jeff Hageman and a team of volunteers travelled to Malawi again in Fall 2015 at which time they unloaded the container, completed the roof framing, installed the electrical power/lighting, installed compressed air lines/plumbing , and began the commissioning of donated equipment and tool room organization.


Construction of the JMSTC has not been without its challenges. In January 2015 rains falling on Malawi caused disastrous flooding which displaced a quarter of a million people in an already vulnerable country. Crops were destroyed, villages obliterated, homes swept away and livestock killed. The area where the JMSTC is located was particularly hard hit. Approximately 200 people were swept away by the floods across Malawi. It is unfortunate such devastation gets lost as a footnote in the global news. The Iris Base adults were directly involved in rescues and subsequent recovery support to the surrounding

villages using donated Iris resources. One initiative in Oakville led by Chartwell Church at Kerr St. during the

Spring of 2015 in memory of Jim Cloughley raised

$37,800 CDN; This enabled David Morrison and the

Iris base team to facilitate the reconstruction of 75 Malawi homes at $500 per home, less than the cost of the average door in Oakville!

All this occurred during construction of the Training Centre; Needless to say, construction paused as humanitarian efforts became the highest priority.


The first JMSTC newsletter, November 2014, outlined various pieces of equipment and tools required for the center. In addition to individuals, several companies have responded to this request. Through their generosity various pieces of equipment have arrived at the Iris Base.


Several pieces of new and used equipment and tools have been generously donated already.

  • Equipment still needed is listed below:
  • Woodworking - mill workers table saw, portable shop vacuums, carpenter’s vices
  • Washroom Fixtures - Commercial grade sink i.e.
  • Bradley 36” diameter [semi-circular] hand wash station


During 2014-15 the Team in Canada made several visits to Community Colleges in Ontario. Skills Training Centers at George Brown College and Sheridan College were visited. Valuable insights were gained including an understanding of how various workshops are set up.

During their Nov 2014 visit to Malawi, Jeff Hageman and David Dyck joined David Morrison on a visit to a trade school in Blantyre. Two important connections were made. The first was Stephano’s Vocational Training Centre where they met with the Director, Eduard Kosoviko; The Centre has 150 students and teaches a [6] trade curriculum. Valuable insights were gained into the operation of a skills training centre in Malawi.

The second meeting was with TEVETA, the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Training Authority in Malawi; Established in 1999 by the Malawi Parliament, it promotes and regulates vocational training in the country; TEVETA provides curriculum packages to registered members at no charge. The structure and organization of TEVATA is the result of a combined project from 2003-2008 by the Government of Malawi, CIDA and 3 Community Colleges in Western Canada. TEVETA is focused on the establishment of local skills training centers in Malawi, endeavors that may be on a grander scale than contemplated for the JMSTC. Nevertheless, registration of JMSTC with TEVETA is underway. A number of inspections of facilities have been made and discussion about TEVETA standards and requirements is underway.  Current development activity is searching for a Malawian Director and two qualified Malawian Instructors for the commencement of teaching operations in early 2017.


Donations raised for construction and ongoing operations to-date have been generously provided by individuals, Trusts and Companies. Spending on construction, tools and equipment to Sept 1/15 totaled $225,000. The total construction cost of the Joe Martin Skills Training Centre is estimated at

$240,000. Construction should be complete during Q2 2016. Ongoing training operation costs will become the focus of fund raising into 2017 and beyond. It is estimated at a minimum $200,000 CDN will be required during the first 4 years of operation.

Individuals interested in donating toward ongoing training operations or volunteering for short-term training assignments can visit the Empower Global Website at, open the Education and Skills Training tab and click on the

Malawi STC tab.


Empower Global’s Mission: To transform the impoverished to empower them through the delivery of high-impact community development programs. Empower Global is a registered Canadian Charity (BN: 81547 5827 RR0001) with professional management and strong governance. Their aim is to provide dignity and hope to the poor in developing countries. Their focus is long-term sustainable impact. Business grade due diligence and project planning is conducted on all projects to help ensure that expected outcomes can and will be achieved.


Help us make it happen!



Financial Donations: Empower Global

485 Kerr Street

Oakville, ON L6K 3C6

Cheryl Eisbrenner

905 334 9595

Equipment Donations Project Information Training Assignments:

David Dyck 905 337 3197

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Jeff Hageman 905 407 1044

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Chris MacIsaac 905 849 8540 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

_____________________________________________ *An approved project of Empower Global Inc.

A registered Canadian Charity (BN: 81547 5827 RR0001)