< News – Mamie Martin Fund

Volunteering – a Malawian perspective

Guest blog post from Tamanda Moyo in Lilongwe, Malawi:

“In Malawi, volunteering isn’t a formal concept like it is in the UK. Instead, community engagement is an integral part of daily life. People naturally help one another, often without expectation of reward or recognition. This cultural dynamic is rooted in the concept of “ubuntu” or interconnectedness, where individuals prioritize collective well-being over individual gain.

Growing up in Malawi, I witnessed this spirit firsthand. Neighbours helped neighbours with farming, childcare and other tasks without hesitation. Community members came together to support each other during times of need, celebrating milestones and mourning losses as one.

While formal volunteering may not be prevalent, Malawians demonstrate a remarkable commitment to community development. Initiatives like the Mamie Martin Fund, which supports girl child education, are crucial in empowering young minds and fostering a brighter future.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that volunteering isn’t solely about structured programs; it’s about embracing a mindset of service and compassion. Malawi may not have a formal volunteering culture, but its people exemplify the true spirit of community engagement.

I look forward to joining the Mamie Martin Fund as a volunteer because I am interested in contributing to my community and the world at large, I am passionate about girls’ education and I know that volunteering with MMF will help me contribute to the UN SDG 4 which is Quality Education.”

Coffee Day success in Falkirk

Mariot Dallas reports:

We had a very enjoyable MMF Coffee Day at the end of May in Trinity Church hall, with a steady flow of customers for hot drinks, filled rolls and delicious home baking.  We were happy to welcome regular customers from Trinity Church, passers-by who saw the banner and smelt the coffee and a heartwarming number of MMF friends who made a special journey to Falkirk to support the event. You know who you are and we were delighted to see you!

John Dallas’s accordion playing set our toes tapping. The Freedom of Mind Community Choir sang a selection of well-loved favourites and soon had us all singing along. In the kitchen, MMF Trustees and volunteers worked hard as they learned how to operate the kitchen equipment. In no time we were operating as a plausible catering team!

We raised over £400 in donations. We enjoyed telling the MMF story through our publicity material. The small prints of some of the Mamie and Jack historic photos from the 1920s generated a lot of interest.

We are grateful to Nina, business manager from the church, for all her help and encouragement. We hope to book the hall again in December for a Christmas Coffee Day. Watch this space.

Falkirk Coffee day Sat 25th May

Mariot writes about our upcoming coffee day in Falkirk:

“I very seldom drink coffee, I’m mostly rooibos and herbal teas. Coffee is for special occasions, when I’m out about and spending time with my friends and is often accompanied by cake or some other sweet treat.

Saturday 25 May is marked on my calendar already because there will be a Coffee Day in Falkirk, in Trinity Church Hall  FK11JN, from 11.00 till 14.30. It’s a fundraiser for the Mamie Martin Fund, a Scottish charity which helps girls in Malawi get their secondary education. It’s a great cause to support and when you come to the Coffee Day our photos and displays will tell you why. As you enjoy your refreshments and browse the displays, you can also enjoy some live music from the Freedom of Mind Community Choir and from John Dallas on the accordion.

Did I mention the soup? Freshly prepared soup and filled rolls are on the menu, along with a selection of sweet treats.

So, tea, coffee, and sweet treats; soup and filled rolls; live entertainment AND supporting girls in school in Malawi … what’s not to like? Save the date now!

Look forward to seeing you.”

A poem from Malawi

This poem was written by two of the schoolgirls we support in Malawi. Blandina (16) and Lucia (15) are part of a group being supported by the Lancashire West Methodist Circuit. They are now in Form 3 . Secondary school in Malawi is four years/forms. Their boarding school is just outside Karonga in the North of Malawi and consistently achieves very high academic results. 

The Black Tear

A poem by Blandina Ngoma and Lucia Mbukwa, St Mary’s, Karonga, Malawi

I’m pruned from the poor
even never to reach the moon
which is my fate
yet to arrive late
I’m disposed in the dirty
and never to fulfil my destiny

My hope vanished
my dream became invisible
and I was nothing
yet you made me invincible
rescued me from the uneducated
and straightened my contour
like a gospel singer
I will praise you forever

You are indeed the saviours
to wipe my tears
you brought me to school
took me away from my sweet sorrow
that dug and dragged me below
yet loud and loud
my education calls from the west

yes, I heard it well
they are here to build me
now blue and white I dress
gather my future to the race
enjoy the sweet of my sweat
and never betray my future.

“When girls are educated, everything is possible.”

This quote from Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, Ngoni traditional leader in Malawi, sums up the rationale for our work. We support girls’ secondary education in North Malawi by paying their fees. We provide for basic necessities like soap and sanitary wear. These costs are managed locally by our Malawi Country Director, Mercy Sibande.  Each term Mercy visits all of the seven schools which we support. She meets all of the MMF girls there, checks that they are well and provides pastoral and motivational support.

Education is not a luxury but a basic human need. In Malawi 47% of girls are married before age 18, one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage (UNICEF Malawi Annual Report 2022). Chief Kachindamoto, quoted above, is one of the loudest Malawian voices against child ‘marriage’.  Girl children who have been married do not continue with their education. 

On this International Women’s Day we reaffirm our commitment to girls’ education. In this, our 31st, year we are as sure about its importance as ever. When we were established in 1993, the importance of girls’ education was poorly understood. It is now known to be pivotal to the development of any nation. 

We are funded almost completely by individual donations. Thanks for your part in supporting the vital education of these girls. Happy International Women’s Day.

Alan’s news from Malawi Jan 2024

MMF Treasurer and Co-Convenor, Alan Laverock, is currently in Malawi and sent us this news from Mzuzu and a message to our donors,

Malawi is in a mess. There’s no easy way to say this.

The Malawi kwacha was devalued by 44% against the dollar late last year; this means that imported items – fuel, fertiliser and so on – are now much more expensive in Malawi. But, misinterpreting devaluation, local people have also hiked their prices. So, staples such as maize are now not affordable to many people. It also means that inflation is very high – a one-off 44% increase across the board has that effect.

Alan Laverock, MMF Treasurer and Co-Convenor

One effect of all of this is that there will be hunger in the villages. There are something over 2,000 kids in Mzuzu alone living on the streets, or working the streets at night to bring in some income. Selling bananas and mangoes, stuff like that. And worse.

As I write this, the rains have possibly just started – everyone is planting but no one is sure that the rains will continue. When I first came out to Malawi, in 2008, the rains started in November. Climate change in action and it’s the poorest who suffer. As always. This might lead to crop failure in a few months, if the rains do not continue.  

However, there is hope. There is a new generation of young Malawians who do not accept that this is the way it has to be. Young people are rejecting the old ways and the effects of that. They realise there is choice. They do not have to be smallholder farmers. And if they do go into farming (nothing wrong with that), they choose to be there and choose to do smart farming. Farming with modern techniques. Farming with machinery. Farming for profit, not survival.

You, our donors, are a part of that. Mamie Martin Fund is for educating girls. Educated girls can change their environment. We are already seeing this with girls who have been through the school system with the help of the Mamie Martin Fund. They are already making a difference.

There is the old saying about give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will earn a living. But men will sit in a boat and drink beer all afternoon – so teach the woman to fish! And, in effect, this is what Mamie Martin Fund is achieving. Girls who know what they want, who have planned careers and who are making these careers happen.

Of course, individually they will not change their country. We do not expect them to do so. But they change themselves, their families, their villages and beyond. And, if there is an army of girls like this, educated and clued-up, then change will be real and sustained.

Yes, there is hope for Malawi. Thank you for being part of that.”

Reflections of a new Trustee

Phil Wright, a new member of the MMF Board reflects on his journey to here:

Back in February 2023 my daughter Hannah, who is currently a Mamie Martin Fund volunteer, started to follow MMF on Twitter. And so, the journey to trusteeship began . . .

From that point, MMF followed Hannah back (I think that’s how it works?) and so a link was forged. It was forged to the point of me being registered for the Manchester Marathon to run alongside Han to raise funds for MMF. Marathon duly completed, I contacted Moira (who had been a great encouragement to Hannah) and we met with her and Mercy in Skelmersdale at a brilliant tea-party where Mercy shared news from Malawi. I was hooked!!

Since then, I have joined the incredible team at MMF to help with the oversight of the charity’s work. I have been warmly welcomed and incidentally re-united with a former colleague from Malawi (who ironically used to oversee my work as a headteacher in Zomba, as part of the school’s board of trustees). It has been interesting to learn how the charity works, the impact of the work on the lives of young girls in Malawi and the important role Mercy plays as she engages with the girls at school.

The supporters of MMF are amazing and dedicated in their fundraising and awareness-raising in support of the girls in Malawi, through the imaginative initiatives they undertake.”

Thanks, Phil, your support is much appreciated.

Triumph for Elena

Elena had a very difficult start in life. Thanks to a local pastor’s wife she was brought to Karonga Girls’ Secondary School in North Malawi in 2016. Passing the entrance exam, she was given a place at the school and was also awarded an MMF bursary. She was a shy and quiet child who looked neglected and much younger than her 16 years. It was wonderful to see her appearance and demeanour changing over the next four years and she became strong and cheerful. However, her father remarried and, during the summer holiday after Elena’s second year at school, her step-mother and brother tried to give her away in marriage. Child marriage, though unlawful, continues to be a real threat to children in rural areas in Malawi.

She escaped early marriage by running away back to school. She travelled alone for nearly 100 kms, asking strangers for help with transport, till she arrived at the home of the lady who had first rescued her. Her courage was rewarded and that become her home during school holidays. Sadly the lady passed away just after Elena finished school. The living situation then became unsafe for Esther who was brave enough to seek help.

Elena did not get grades good enough for university study but she secured a local college place to study for a Diploma. Well-wishers came forward and supported her with accommodation (essential for her safety at that point) and fees. After two years, Elena proudly sent MMF photos of her graduation with a Diploma in Professional Community Development with merit. Many young women in Malawi cope with hardships and barriers. Elena is a shining example of how courage, with some help, can overcome adversity and triumph.

We are proud to have played a part in Elena’s journey from being an undernourished, frightened child to being a confident, professional woman.

Seasonal fun

Santa looked at the weather forecast and believed it. He set off for Inverness, leaving Rudolph behind to rest. He reckoned that he would manage fine without the red nose and the unerring GPS direction-finding. Wrong! The weather changed (of course) and Santa was in trouble once he got to Loch Ness.

Read about Santa’s problems and the help he got from the locals in this lovely book. It is a children’s story book in charming verse. Sam Steele is the author. He lives in Inverness and he was generous to the Mamie Martin Fund when we met at Jade Stein’s 30th Open Mic of her #Birthday30 challenge. Sam offered to help us raise some funds through this Santa book. So we now have it on our website and we get a share of the proceeds of every sale made through our online shop. It’s lovely to have such a cheery project to share with you all. Do have a look and see who rescued Santa and his sleigh!

“Don’t worry, I’m Nessie. There’s no need to despair; it’s not often I stick my head up in the air.”

Sam Steele, Santa’s adverture at Loch Ness