Wendy Norman writes about why she is ‘biking to Malawi’

“As a now semi-retired Gynaecologist, I was very privileged, in 2016, to travel to Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi with the Scotland-Malawi team to contribute in a small way to their phenomenal programme of cervical screening and cervical cancer prevention. We have helped to introduce practical but effective treatment of pre-cancer, as originally pioneered by my predecessor, Dr Ian Duncan, in Dundee. I was bowled over by the camaraderie, dedication and expertise of the local Malawian teams who continue to work so effectively under such challenging conditions.

Since my return we have all continued to ‘virtually’ support work in Malawi and worldwide as much as possible but clearly any plans for return visits to that wonderful country have now been deferred and overshadowed by the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile it is heartbreaking to hear of increasing numbers of young girls now obliged to leave school due to the economic effects of the pandemic. These young girls then become teenage brides and mothers, thus repeating the cycle of inequity. If we are ever going to work our way towards a fairer world, we have to educate girls and young women. Educating girls allows them to make safe choices about their own reproductive health and, in time, that of their children and families. It also allows them to become financially independent and enter the workforce as the hundreds of nurses, teachers, doctors & scientists Malawians need to become equal partners in delivering anywhere near the standards of health care that we in the UK take for granted

I therefore jumped at the chance with #Bike2Malawi to jump on my bike and raise funds for secondary education in Malawi. We have to keep girls in school, and it is something practical I can do to help whilst constrained to the UK. So far, I have cycled almost 300 of my 350 mile target.

I won’t lie – it has been tougher than I thought – 5-6 miles a day sounds fine until you inevitably miss a day then have to do 12…. Then 18…. And I have been on holiday for 3 of the 9 weeks of the fundraiser (not always with a bike) so have had to do some mammoth rides to catch up. We are so lucky though to have such wonderful scenery to cycle through both here in Scotland and across the UK. I have been joined on my rides by both daughters and various friends and family, so it has been good exercise and good fun. I am truly humbled by the response of my family, friends and colleagues to my fund-raising efforts, which I know reflects their understanding of how much this all means to me. Good luck to all those cycling the 10,679 miles and I hope we all meet in person one day. Thank you to the Mamie Martin Fund for making this possible and to all those doing the groundwork to facilitate this fundraising; it is an incredible effort all round.”

Wendy has raised over £500.00 so far and her page is https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/WendyNorman

Jenni Barr cycles the Duke’s Pass

Jenni Barr is one of our #Bike2Malawi riders and is also a Trustee of the Dunblane-Likhubula Partnership, another Scottish-Malawi charity. Like so many small charities we team up where we can for mutual support. Jenni, along with Ann Hale, also from the Dunblane-Likhubula Partnership is cycling for #Bike2Malawi and simultaneously fund-raising for the Likhubula community. She has written about her 6-day cycle ride in the Trossachs in Scotland, including the Duke’s Pass which is a difficult hill for a car, never mind a bike, even an e-bike like Jenni’s.

“This has been tough!! I had 5 days clear for cycling and the wonderful offer of a bed in the Trossachs. I persevered through an injured sciatic nerve, thunderstorms and flooded country roads to add 255.5 miles to my #Bike2Malawi total. I’ve loved cycling through the Trossachs while listening to John le Carré on Audiobooks. I was the subject of several heckles but the best was from a 30-year-old as we passed on a hill (me cycling up) – ‘If you can do this, anyone can!!’.

I’ve long loved cycling, though these six consecutive days have taxed me. But I want to thank the challenge of #bike2malawi for pushing me forward to ride the Duke’s Pass in both directions, cycle round Loch Katrine and back three times in a week, commune with deer and foxcubs who didn’t even move off the road. No Pelaton ride could give you the smell of damp greenery or the passing sounds of streams and waterfalls by the roadside – every sense is engaged. When it got tough, I remembered the value of the support to the community at Likhubula. I’ll sleep tonight!”

Mixed cycling weather – report of a friends’ ride

Continuing our series of posts by Bike2Malawi riders, Liz Hall writes:

“It was a grey day when I set out to Waverley train station for a Bike2Malawi biking adventure in Northumberland. My first time on a train for some time, but the train carriage was empty and in a blink I was in Newcastle, and met by yellow t-shirted Moira and Heidi. We made our way to Cycle Hub café to meet Alan and Shelagh. It became clear that unlike Moira, cycling in sandals and bare legs was not going to keep me warm enough in the wind and rain that had just started. What clothing would Jack and Mamie have had I wondered as I pulled on my “waterproof” trousers.

The first day was a challenge cycling North to Amble against 20mph winds … the tail end of a storm from Norway. The biggest drama was turning the corner barely being able to stand in the wind and Moira’s bike pannier cover taking off and flying over the road being rescued by a young lad who darted across to fetch it before it took off for ever. We were in this together, made slow progress and abandoned all idea of visiting the art installation at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; at least the wind dried our clothes. Relief to reach the hostel in Amble which was so comfortable and well equipped. Nothing beats pasta.

The wind had halved the next day but we got drenched, not before spotting yellowhammers and stonechats amongst other wildlife. Blyth was a welcome break with hot food but we were too wet to admire the scenery and carried on to Seahouses – a beautiful fishing village where we managed to nearly dry out (stuffing newspapers into our shoes). Nothing beats pasta. We could sit outside in the morning for breakfast in sunshine. Then we had a glorious day of cycling from Seahouses to Berwick upon Tweed with some sunshine and a fair wind. We could see the Farne Islands and had magnificent views of Bamburgh Castle. A highlight was cycling across the causeway to Lindisfarne and back. We finished the day arriving in Berwick at the pristine YHA hostel with approx 115 miles on the clock. Time for a rest, a day’s exploration of the town and a chance to walk the walls and have a curry. Nothing beats pasta but pashwari naan with cream came close.

Berwick to Tweedbank was the last day of our adventure passing by Paxton House and stopping for soup and lunch at Floors Castle. What stands out for me on this trip was the camaraderie, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the chance to stop and stare at the poppies in the fields and when somebody’s bike played up there was no question …we look after each other, go the speed that suits us all and have fun on the way clocking up the miles to Malawi, hopefully raising awareness of the lack of opportunity for girls to have a decent education in Malawi.”

Violet reports on Lancaster ride

Continuing our series of posts by Bike2Malawi riders, Violet Hejazi writes:

“I am a law student who is also a former refugee. I come from Syria, and I am one of the riders of the #Bike2Malawi team organised by the Mamie Martin Fund in support of girls’ education in Malawi.

After a long time spent at home in lockdown doing things I had to do, it was finally the time to do the thing I chose to do!

On a sunny, non-lockdown day, and along with very cool friends and for a great cause, I cycled by the coast of Lancaster and had the best chips in Morecambe. We took some photos and ate some cake.

I found a jasmine tree that filled my heart with joy and made me feel at home. We said hello to the wee kid on his tiny bicycle as we pushed our pedals to raise money to help girls in Malawi pursue their education and secure a decent future for themselves and their families. Going up and down semi-hills, which to me felt like proper steep hills, I was reminded of the struggles that young girls in Malawi face daily and the significance of making education accessible and obtainable for them. I reflected on my childhood and, despite all of the obstacles, how lucky I was in having had the opportunity to be in school and not worry about accessing education.

I am taking part in cycling 100 miles to raise awareness and fund this project, hoping that one day no child will be deprived of their right to be educated and can grow up to become independent, successful members of society.

This was the first 16.5 miles of the 100 miles I will be cycling over the summer, which I am very excited to complete and share stories about!”

Violet’s fundraising page can be found here.

Inquisitive cattle

Willie Sinclair is the grandson of Mamie and Jack Martin and a Bike2Malawi rider. He reflects:

The bicycle as a mode of transport was very new and exciting when Jack and Mamie Martin were growing up. It makes me happy to know that the bicycle is now a vehicle for funding the work they, especially Mamie, were so passionate about 100 years ago. Today I was an object of interest to some inquisitive cattle in Glen Clova.

The bicycle shares with the sewing machine a remarkable feature: both designs are essentially the same now as when they were first conceived. (I thank my pal Charlie for that snippet.) The classic diamond-framed bike we all know and love has been with us essentially unchanged since the 1890s. Jack and Mamie were born in the 1890s. Today, while toiling uphill from Dykehead, I reflected on their hardiness. The roads they cycled on were rough, they endured multiple punctures and their big heavy bikes had only one gear. But the bicycle was the Smartphone of its day: an exciting NEW and innovative aid to communication and travel.

In Malawi, as in many other cash-poor-talent-rich countries, riding a bike is not seen as a leisure activity. It is fuel-efficient emissions-free human-powered short-haul transport. Cuba had a potentially catastrophic collapse in oil supply when their main fuel source, the USSR, ceased to exist. Instead of selling their principles for American oil they ordered a million bikes from China. But I digress.

The strength, literally, of the bicycle is its geometry: two steel tubular triangles and two big rotating circles which by gyroscopic means (no, I don’t know how to explain it) resist the tendency to fall over. Wow! Imagine the hoo-hah if it was being invented today.
We tend to think of it as having been around forever but the last few years of the nineteenth century is really not long ago. (I’m starting to sound like an old man!)
The way things are going in the world today I see the bicycle outliving the motor car, which is ironic as many motor manufacturers started as bicycle builders.

Did you see that giraffe?

Bike2Malawi tricyclist, Daphne Loads, writes:

As part of #Bike2Malawi in support of MMF for girls’ education in Malawi, I’m tricycling 420 miles around my corner of beautiful East Lothian. At the same time I’m travelling in my imagination from Cape Town to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) following part of Mamie and Jack Martin’s route from Scotland to Malawi 100 years ago.

I’m having fun imagining that wild roses are proteus flowers and that the weasel streaking across my path the other day was actually a mongoose. My familiar beds and borders have been transformed into the stunning vistas of Stellenbosch and Betty’s Bay, the sites of two of South Africa’s botanical gardens.

This virtual journey reminds me of Michael Marra’s song in which he spells out the consequences “If Dundee was Africa”. Mischievously, he points out that Aberdeen would be at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and that, with a sunnier climate, Broughty Ferry would seem not bad. I think Marra’s hilarious lyrics also highlight the serious difficulty of trying to imagine other lives and other circumstances in different countries.

If East Lothian *were* Africa (sorry, I can’t help being pedantic …) it’s unlikely that I would have gone to university, or indeed survived into my sixties. Statistics for educational participation and life expectancy are relatively easy to compare. I find it more difficult to think about how these differences came about, why they continue and what we should do to tackle them. I can’t imagine what it’s like to miss out on schooling for lack of basic items. I don’t know what it feels like to have my education financed by a stranger on a bike.

Difficult as it is to imagine other people’s realities, I’m convinced it’s worth the effort, even if we sometimes get things wrong.

Did you see those giraffes?

Creative volunteers

At the end of Volunteers’ Week, we share a collage of some of the tulip photos that our volunteer, Sue Dumbleton, created as part of her #Pledge100. From their earliest peeking out at the beginning of the year, to the final ones in early June, Sue’s photography has brightened our days and weeks. Thanks Sue.

Welcome Max, #Bike2Malawi social media volunteer

In #VolunteerWeek, we are delighted to welcome Max Conway to our team of volunteers. Max will help us with social media for the Bike2Malawi adventure between now and August. Max is a Politics and Social Policy student at the University of Strathclyde and is a member of the Youth Committee of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. He has visited Malawi twice and so he brings that valuable perspective to our social media strategy and content.

Currently, I am a sitting member of the Scotland Malawi Partnership Youth Committee which has recently had its Youth Festival. I am a member of the social media team and contributed to content-writing and publicity, this included live broadcasts and discussion forums. We successfully reached a quarter of a million people during the festival week, making this an extremely successful event. Although it was very challenging to also keep up with the fast-paced work of my university semester, it was a very exciting and rewarding experience. As a new member of the Committee, I look forward to increasing contributions to the team and help it to reach further in terms of awareness-raising and informing.

Max is also a cyclist which is, of course, a great bonus!

I am studying Politics and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde. My degree course has covered a wide range of social topics, such as health, education, energy and the environment. I have also further developed the theory and research skills and worked on different fields of research. I am happy to be part of Bike2Malawi and I hope that my awareness of Scotland-Malawi relationships and my social media skills will benefit the work of the Mamie Martin Fund.

Our research student introduces herself

My name is Maeve Rafferty and I am very excited to be working with the Mamie Martin Fund to conduct research for my dissertation looking at how MMF-supported women navigate their careers, tertiary education, and sexual and reproductive health after graduating from secondary school. I am an MSc student in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh.

My interest in international development stems from a desire to see equal opportunities afforded to everyone worldwide regardless of their background and characteristics. Specifically, I am interested in how sustainable development can be achieved in East and Southern Africa through political-economy means. On a macro-level I enjoy exploring what this means for governance both on the continent and internationally. From a more micro-perspective I am particularly interested in the intersectionalities of development with gender, displacement and business. Since completing my BA in Business and Political Science at Trinity College I have worked in development firstly, with GOAL as a Development Education Officer in Dublin and latterly, with Viatores Christi as a Project Support Officer in Kampala and, post-Covid, remotely in Dublin.

Pledge100: an active and creative success!

We are already four months into our Mamie Martin Fund #Pledge100, celebrating the centenary of Jack and Mamie’s marriage and the start of their time in Malawi. We now have over 30 global pledgers, who have embarked on a wonderful range of active and creative endeavours to help raise awareness of the work done by Mamie Martin Fund.

Some of our creative pledgers have already completed their challenge and have received their very special certificate of completion. Jan, who is based in Sweden, has completed 100 beautiful black and white drawings, and has even embarked on her second challenge. Elizabeth has embroidered 100 lovely, intricate cards which sold out almost immediately! You can see her beautiful designs here. The proceeds from the sale of these cards have added a real boost to our #Pledge100 fund-raising efforts –so a huge thank you to Elizabeth for her creative contribution and to everyone who was quick enough to buy her cards!

Jean is swimming 100 swims for Mamie Martin Fund’s #Pledge100

Our #Pledge100 awareness raising and fundraising efforts have been so successful that we have already reached and passed our fundraising target. That calls for a huge thank you to all our pledgers and everyone who has contributed. Let’s not stop here! We still have eight action-packed months to go, so let’s set our sights higher. This is really challenging time in Malawi, with disruptions to education caused by Covid-19. Fundraising for the Mamie Martin Fund means that we can continue to help girls return to school and complete their secondary education.

Here is Kate Jere making the case for helping get girls back to school: “As schools re-open again in Malawi following COVD-19 closures, ensuring girls get back to school has never been more important. Lessons from the Ebola crisis in West Africa have shown that extended school closures increase girls’ risk of early and unintended pregnancies, and result in permanent exit from education.”

Mamie Martin Fund provides an important safety net for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing vital support with school costs, transport and other necessities –greatly increasing their chances of staying in school and completing their education.It’s easy to join #Pledge100.Just find something you can pledge to do 100 times during the remainder of 2021 and register here.

We would love to have you on board! All sponsorships and donations are also welcome here.