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! 

Looking backwards and forwards

The Mamie Martin Fund Trustees are using their unexpected spare time in sharing more parts of Salt and Light. Salt and Light, written by Margaret Sinclair, Jack and Mamie’s daughter, tells the story of their time in Malawi in the 1920s through their diaries and letters home to Scotland. In the third extract to be recorded, Mariot Dallas, one of Mamie’s granddaughters, reads an extract from 1922 when Mamie reflects on being made matron of a boys’ school. She was to use that experience later in her work for girls’ education, for which she saw a great need early on in her time in Malawi. 

The other extracts are on this site under ‘Stories‘ on our menu. We will be adding to them, using our ‘lockdown’ time productively. We are also using that time to complete a booklet with some extracts from Salt and Light and offering corresponding information about the present-day situation between Scotland and Malawi. This booklet will be ready for Story on Bikes, a cycling project that we hope can go ahead in early August. We all need to bide our time just now, thanks for reading our posts in the meantime. Stay safe!

Success story for International Women’s Day

In the WHO’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we’d like to offer an International Women’s Day greeting by sharing the story of Stella Dzimbiri, whom we supported at secondary school 2007 – 2010

Stella’s parents both died while she was in primary school and her maternal grandparents took over the care of all the siblings, as happens so often in Malawi. Stella was selected to Karonga Girls’ Secondary School (KAGSS) in 2006, a boarding school. She travelled there and started Form 1 with only a fraction of the money needed for fees, as so many other children do.

Stella was ‘chased’ from school to go home to fetch the rest of the fees. Again, this is not uncommon in Malawi. Stella’s grandparents did not have any more money so they sold their blankets and, after two weeks, raised enough money for the first term at KAGSS. By term 2 the school had seen the poverty of Stella’s family and she was awarded a Mamie Martin Fund bursary, through which she was supported for the rest of her time at KAGSS (2007 – 2010).

Stella secured a place to study nursing at Kamuzu Nursing College in Lilongwe. Again, she attended without money for fees and again was ‘chased’. She was then identified by the College for a Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) bursary which provided her with money for fees and some expenses. She completed that study in 2016. Stella is now a nursing officer in the paediatric surgery and intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.

Now married and with a one-year old son, Joseph, Stella was selected as part of a small group who will  spend 6 months in Norway on a professional exchange programme with Riks and Ullevål hospitals, Oslo University. She arrived there to start that new adventure in February 2020, “I will have to experience a new working environment with new skills that will be so helpful to my work back home.” About Norway, Stella says, “being in Norway it’s one of the greatest adventures. I will have to experience a lot of new things, which will help me have more advantage of even being able to fit into a lot of hospitals around the world. The weather is also one experience in Norway. People are so friendly here and they are ready to help me to achieve my objectives and goals. I can’t finish without recognizing how great is my God; I am a Christian who believes that everything I am going through is because of God’s grace and love.”

We are proud to know Stella and to have played a part in her journey from penniless orphan to professional exchange programme participant. Alongside her own family commitments, Stella now helps other girls who struggle with school fees. The photo shows her at the Riks hospital in her first week of work in Oslo. We wish her a happy and fulfilling time there and a safe return to her family.

‘Our’ garden featured

Frank Kirwan of Humbie Dean garden is a long-standing supporter of the Mamie Martin Fund. As part of that support, he nominates us as beneficiary of the proceeds of his open garden days. Some of these are private and some are part of Scotland’s Gardens and you can also see the dates on our Events page.

How exciting to see this garden featured in the new issue of ‘The English Garden‘ – no, it’s not  actually in England but in East Lothian, Scotland. The article, since it is springtime, is excited about the ‘profusion of golden trumpets’ at Humbie Dean. The first public opening is on Sunday April 5th so many of the spring flowers will still be out. 

This lovely garden is becoming quite well-known. It featured on Beechgrove Garden two years ago and Frank is publishing a book about it later this year. So, go and visit!

Our volunteer web ‘master’

Introducing another of our band of volunteers, Jean Gordon, who is a social worker, researcher and educator and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Her interest in education, and especially girls’ education, dates back from two very formative years in her ’20s teaching at a secondary school on a small island in Fiji.

As a social worker, and now university tutor and researcher, in the Scottish Highlands, Jean is particularly aware of the challenges of accessing education in rural areas. She’s been involved with the Mamie Martin Fund for about five years, first as a trustee, and now helping to look after the MMF website.