Our Trustees were once again struck by the huge amount of work that has to be done in very challenging circumstances. Mercy’s understanding of the context in which we work is invaluable, as well as her ability to communicate in 4 languages! Those schools with a very large population (over 36) of MMF girls are particularly challenging for Mercy. A trusting relationship between her and the girls is essential and that takes an immense amount of time and energy. Getting to know each new girl and having individual interviews with others who have more personal problems is all very emotionally exhausting and makes the Autumn visits (start of the new academic year) particularly challenging. The Trustees were pleased to be able to give Mercy some moral support and spend time with the girls, reinforcing their membership of the Mamie Martin family. Significantly, Mercy feels that it is really helpful for Trustees to visit Malawi so as to aid their understanding of the context and to reinforce with our partners, her role as Malawian Manager. We are pleased that we were able to support Mercy and engage with her in discussions about the management of her work and about safeguarding (her and the girls). As always, the visit raised a lot of issues which were brought back to the Board.
As ever, the visit highlighted the need for our Ready2Learn Fund and the challenge of distributing that fund in the face of such need.
The Trustees had very positive meetings with the new Executive Director, Education Department for the CCAP, Mr Joseph Munyimbili. Discussions highlighted that we both share the problem of balancing quantity versus quality.
The Partnership Agreement with a new partner, the RC Diocese of Karonga, was signed on Wednesday 9th October 2019 with Mr Remmie Kamanga, Education Desk Officer for the Diocese. He broke his holiday to attend this meeting! Both Trustees were impressed with him and with the management of St Mary’s Karonga, the new school we support. Mercy and our Trustees were delighted to meet the first six MMF girls to attend the school, but deeply affected by the extreme circumstances from which they came.
Our new MMF wristbands were excitedly received by all our girls. Some of our girls had asked for something which would identify them within school so that they could better support each other and as a result the Board had these made for them.
All the girls in receipt of the Alison Cameron and Thompson Scholarships spent time with the Trustees. The latter 3 all attend Embangweni School for Deaf Children which is situated in the area which was very important to Jack and Phyllis Thompson.
Mercy and the Trustees visited the local business, “Supreme Malawi”, meeting the staff who make the sanitary pads which we now distribute to MMF girls. It is good to hear about this company employing local women and producing something which benefits all women and girls and makes such a difference to those in education.
One of a number of highlights was meeting Elvas Benadeta Singini, an ex-beneficiary who was supported by MMF 2004-2008. She is employed by the government at Mzuzu Central Hospital. 500 Miles have supported her through university and professional education and she is now a senior prosthetist and orthotist.
This was Angie’s first visit. She comments that “the visit exceeded all expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the Malawians and, having met all our MMF girls, we should be very proud to be supporting them. Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, yet I saw in our girls a remarkable resilience. Poverty and gender inequality present so many barriers which only a very small minority of our young people in Scotland have any idea of. For many of our MMF Girls school and, in particular, boarding school, is a refuge and is life changing.”