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.

6 year old shares our vision

On 1st August 2018 Rev. Ken Ross launched a fund to support three girls at secondary school in Malawi. This is the Thompson Scholarship Fund and we are honoured to administer it on behalf of the Thompson family and the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Just over a year later, Jack and Phyllis’ youngest granddaughter, 6-year-old Alice, has created a project about ‘giving’ in which she has used this Fund to illustrate the joys of ‘giving’.

Her two-page project is beautifully decorated with photos of her grandparents and of the three girls whose secondary school fees are paid by the Fund. Alice wrote:

In Malawi, which is in Africa, many girls don’t get to go to school. This is because they are poor and often get married too young. Also they have to stay at home and do chores for their families. The Mamie Martin charity helps Malawian girls go to school. One fund in the Mamie Martin charity is the Thompson Scholarship Fund. This is in memory of my Grandma and Grandpa who lived and worked in Malawi for many years.

These three girls are called: Funny, Deborah and Mary. They are the first three girls to be sent to school by the fund. These girls are also deaf. It would have been very hard for them to go to school without the fund. I am really happy that they get to go to school like me.

By Alice Thompson

Isn’t that amazing and heart-warming? The Thompson Fund has started to support girls in Malawi, as Alice has written. All three are at the same school, the CCAP Secondary School for Deaf Children in Embangeni. These girls will be at secondary school for six years, rather than the four which is more usual in Malawi. This is because of the many barriers to their education – the girls are deaf. You can watch a video of them chatting by sign language on the Mamie Martin Fund website or on YouTube.

The Thompson Scholarship Fund was set up in the anticipation of a four-year support of three girls and has reached that target. However, these girls need support for six years and so the fund-raising page remains open. The Mamie Martin Fund is committed to supporting all its beneficiaries until they complete their schooling and these Thompson girls are no exception – they will be supported for six years or until they complete secondary education.

Video volunteer making a difference

We’ve been taking videos and trying to get better at providing you, our supporters and friends, with reasonable quality footage of our work in Malawi. Apart from Doreen, our Administrator and Bookkeeper in Scotland and Mercy, our Malawi Manager, we are all volunteers and learning as we go. Imagine our pleasure, then, to get an offer of help with our video editing, particularly the sound which is so challenging when filming in Malawi (you wouldn’t believe the level of background noise everywhere!). 

Richard Robinson is now our Video Volunteer and his work can be see in the two most recent videos we’ve published – Benadeta and the Thompson Girls. Richard’s background is in rural development and the environment. Recently he has been involved in local Scottish community projects addressing climate change, which led him to learn basic video-editing skills. His daughter’s school have a long established partnership with a school in Southern Malawi; she visited as a teenager and the family later hosted an exchange student. This led Richard to become very aware of the difficulties of education in Malawi, particularly for girls.

We are hugely grateful for this help. As those of you who have done any video-editing will know, it is a very time-consuming task and can be very frustrating. But you can look forward to better-quality videos now that we have Richard on board!

New classrooms at Elangeni

Elangeni Secondary School is one of the schools which we support in Malawi. At a recent Scotland’s International Development Alliance event, we met Amy Blake, the new CEO of Classrooms for Malawi (CFM), who is also a trustee of The Alliance. We discovered that they had built the new classrooms that our trustees saw at Elangeni in October. These buildings are already making a huge difference to the ability of the school to deliver quality education. We are pleased to have this link with an organisation who do capital projects, which we do not, and who have the contacts and skills to do them so well.

Amy is CFM’s first CEO and says this about herself:

“Over the past 20 years I have worked with a range of different size charities and NGOs to help develop income streams and to support strategic direction and operational effectiveness. My most recent role was as Director at the International Voluntary Service (IVS) where I spent three years working with a fabulous team of staff and volunteers all committed to providing volunteer placements linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This experience taught me the value of leading an agile, forward thinking team, able to respond quickly to need and in turn, make a lasting difference to those communities that need it most. Prior to IVS, I worked with organisations including The British Red Cross, Capability Scotland and UNICEF.”

It’s 2020 and we’re working toward the global goals

International development goals

On Wednesday 4th December, one of our trustees attended the AGM of Scotland’s International Development Alliance (‘The Alliance’) which was followed with the launch of their report ” Working towards the Global Goals – An insight into our members’ contributions across the world”.  This is a very interesting and accessible document in which the Mamie Martin fund is highlighted as one of the organisations working towards Goal 4, that of inclusive and equitable quality education

A series of presentations about the report gave insights into the work being done on the Global Goals and how we all need to work together to achieve more. Together, members of the Alliance work across all 17 goals, with most working towards 2 or more each and in at least 103 countries. This is quite an achievement for a small country like Scotland!

Despite all the work being done there is still much to achieve and we have only one more decade to do so in the target time of 2030. While you could sense a real push to achieve much more, the ticking clock on one of the presentations was very sobering.

Interestingly, it is now being recognised that the business community plays an essential role, and one of the presenters talked about how she works with very large companies, advising them how to change their practices so that they can assist in achieving the goals. It was clear from the AGM how the Alliance is thinking more widely, realising that international development must include the business world. Membership has been extended to that sector as well as to individual members, which gives it a much broader base. It is expected that this will encourage the interdependence and partnerships which are needed to achieve the goals.

We look forward to working alongside and with many of these other Alliance members towards the achievement of the Global Goals. Our mission includes: Goal 4 – Quality Education; Goal 5 – Gender Equality; Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities, and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

Christmas Greetings

We would like to wish all of our friends and supporters a happy Christmas. We are grateful for your support during the year – it is you who allow us to continue our work of helping girls’ through their secondary education in Malawi and every one of you plays an important part in that work.

We look forward to continuing that work in 2020 and to keeping you in touch with our plans and activities. 

Our Christmas tree in St Andrew’s and St George’s West in Edinburgh will be waiting for your visit until 5 pm on Christmas Eve – do pop in if you can. This image is of our Malawian angel which tops our tree.

We hope that 2020 brings you good health and success in all that you undertake.