Book a garden visit

Happy Midsummer to all our supporters and friends!In these ‘unprecedented times’ we are all glad of some easing of lockdown restrictions. We offer you this third video tour of Humbie Dean woodland garden. Frank Kirwan, the gardener, has created this for us and is now able to take bookings of groups of up to three adults, to visit the garden in person. Phone him directly to make arrangements so that your visit can be safe – 07768 996382. You will be asked to pay (£5 each) and confirm your booking on Eventbrite so that Frank has a record of visitors. 

We know that only a small number of people will be able to take up this new offer. In the meantime we hope that you all enjoy this lovely video. 

Cycling for Malawi – 70 years on

In 1950, seven-year old Sally enjoyed riding her bike. She says ‘It’s 70 years since I was that child. First bike, a Hercules, I had loads of freedom to go off with friends. I learnt on the City Playground in Newbury (England), grass being softer to fall on than Tarmac.’ 

Now a lot older, Sally bought an exercise bike on the grounds that it would be safer than braving the streets of Edinburgh, where she lives. Even in lockdown, she is right about that! Sally took delivery of the parts and was a bit daunted – ‘The trusty steed has arrived. Once I can figure out the 5 allegedly simple steps to put it together I will be in business.’ A cup of tea later she tackled it and was delighted to ‘be in business’.

Sally is registered on the Stay-at-Home version of Story-on-Bikes and has already logged her first miles. If you would  to join Sally, the booking link is http://StoryonBikes2020.eventbrite.com. You could encourage her with a donation on  http://virginmoneygiving.com/fund/Story-on-Bikes. Our hashtag on Twitter and Instagram is #storyonbikes 

Volunteering then and now

On this Volunteers Week, we remember that Mamie Martin was a volunteer. She and Jack married in 1921 and set off for Malawi . Jack was serving with the Livingstonia Mission but Mamie’s role as a missionary wife was undefined.

As they began their life together in Malawi Mamie’s passion for education and equality led her to set up classes and boarding schools for girls and women. She didn’t need to do this, and she encountered some difficulties, but she battled on and made a difference to many people. Jack and Mamie’s letters and diaries became the book Salt and Light, and eventually the Mamie Martin Fund was set up, and here we are today, supporting girls through secondary education in Malawi in memory of Mamie. 

In the Mamie Martin Fund today, we rely on volunteers and we celebrate them in Volunteers Week. They raise funds, they serve as Trustees, they lend us their skills in social media, photography, admin, video editing, etc, etc, and together we are making a difference to girls and women in Malawi. I like to think that Mamie would be pleased !

Dr Andrea helps out with Story-on-Bikes

Andrea Adden should have been graduating with her PhD from the University of Lund, Sweden, today but the physical event was not possible due to #Covid19, so she generously gave her time to working with Trustee Moira Dunworth on #storyonbikes. A project like this, which aims to raise the profile of our work, needs a good social media strategy – that takes time and expertise. We are grateful to (Dr) Andrea for her advice and help. She and Moira have been meeting online to discuss hashtag following and other ways of letting the world know about #storyonbikes.

Andrea, a biologist,  has just finished a long study of the Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa). This involved many periods of fieldwork in Australia where she and Moira met in a hostel. Andrea’s work helps to understand how brains work. Any other explanation must be left to her – too complex for the rest of us! We greatly appreciate her help with #storyonbikes and wish her well in her new job in London. 

Meet our research student

We are delighted to welcome a Masters’ Degree student from the University of Edinburgh on placement with us. Anna introduces herself below. She will help us with researching the evidence for supporting girls’ education in Malawi and will examine our existing data in order to enable us to report on our work more comprehensively.

My name is Anna Freidenfeld and I am lucky enough to be researching for my dissertation with the Mamie Martin Fund from May to August this year. Having graduated from my bachelor’s degree in Geography at the University of Nottingham last year, I am now working towards a master’s degree in International Development at the University of Edinburgh. In the study of development, I am particularly interested in the topics of education and gender.

I am passionate about women’s empowerment and have been involved in several NGO-based societies focusing on this matter. I have also worked in two schools, assisting lessons and tutoring pupils, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to work in the educational arena in a more academic sense. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am really looking forward to working with the MMF!

Wristbands – a cheery video

Staying on the theme of sharing positive stories during this difficult time, we’ve put together a short video about wristbands. On a visit to Malawi in 2018, the older Mamie Martin pupils asked if they could have something which would identify them as belonging to the Mamie Martin Family. Mercy always stresses to them that they are part of the wider MMF family; the girls take that on board and look out for each other when they can. One question from the girls was how they would know which of the other pupils were MMF girls.

We discussed options and came up with silicone wristbands from Ross Promotional Products in Glasgow with the MMF name and rainbow colours, signifying the inclusivity which we aim for in all our work. We were given permission to distribute these to our girls and many of the teachers also wished to wear one. You can see from the video that they were well received by our girls. We are so glad that they love to declare their affiliation with us. 

Her family sold their only cows so that she could finish her degree

Linvell Chirwa, born 1989, is the seventh born of eight children, her parents were subsistence farmers in the district of Mzimba in North Malawi. She attended Robert Laws secondary school in Embangweni but her parents did not have money for fees and so she was supported by the Mamie Martin Fund from the second term in Form 1 until she finished (2004-2007).

Linvell studied nursing and midwifery at Kamuzu College of Nursing (University of Malawi) and graduated in 2012. She received a government loan for two of the four years there. After that loan stopped she struggled financially and her parents sold their only cows to allow her to complete her degree studies. There is a huge shortage of nurses in Malawi and she started work immediately and is now working as a Nursing Officer in charge of a maternity ward in Lilongwe, Mitundu Community Hospital. She has a staff house in the hospital where she lives with her husband and two children aged 5 and 2.

Eager now to further her studies, Linvell has been offered a place to start a Masters course at Kamuzu College of Nursing in September 2020 but she cannot take that place up without support to pay the fees. At present she is the breadwinner for her own family, her parents and other family members.

As well as helping members of her family, Linvell carries on the Mamie Martin Fund vision by supporting other girls with their education.

Read her full case study here.

Virtual tour of ‘our’ garden

Many of us would have visited gardens this month but we must stay at home for now. Frank Kirwan of Humbie Dean garden has kindly given us a virtual tour of Spring in his garden instead. Visits to this garden raise money for our work and we look forward to being able to visit again before too long. 

You will particularly enjoy the spring flowers in this woodland garden. The garden has featured in a number of magazines and even on Beechgrove Garden on the telly! 

Cycling is liberation for Violet

Violet Hejazi has signed up to take part in our Story on Bikes cycling project, which we are optimistically planning to start on 31st July. Meanwhile she is using her daily exercise slot to get some cycling practice in Pollock Park in Glasgow.

She loves the wild garlic there which she eats with salad and some cooked grains. Violet is from Syria and neighbours broke her bike when she was nine years old because they disapproved of girls cycling. So her bike is a symbol of freedom for Violet in more ways than one. She was given a bike by Bikes for Refugees Scotland last year and has been supported in learning to ride and maintain it by Soul Riders in Glasgow.

You can encourage Violet by making a small donation on her fund-raising page. Why not think beyond lockdown and consider cycling with her? You can book on here

Board meeting in spite of Covid-19

Like everyone else we are adapting to the restrictions in relation to Coronavirus and our Board meeting this month was online. This presented some challenges, of course, but needs must. We got through a lot of work, approving a new policy on data security and reviewing existing policies. We have postponed Mercy’s trip to Scotland, of course, and we won’t be travelling to Malawi this year. Even if restrictions are lifted, the risk to Malawi is such that we will avoid any travel for this year.

The Board meeting looked forward to things we will do after the present crisis. We still hope to go ahead with our ‘Story on Bikes’ cycle project and we are working on a photo exhibition which will travel to at least three venues – let us know if you can offer a venue.

While following guidance and staying safe, we must all remain positive and look to what we will be able to do once this is over. We greatly fear for the consequences of this virus reaching Malawi and other countries without the health services which so many of us are grateful to have. 

This is a good time to assess the Board’s digital skills and our volunteer, Kathleen Sargeant, will be sending a survey to our Trustees soon. We are not sure that they are looking forward to this but we all need to stay as up-to-date as possible with technology, particularly during this lockdown and whatever restrictions will be in place once it is lifted. Stay safe everyone!