New volunteer on board

We are delighted that volunteer, Sue Dumbleton, has agreed to help us out with our images, which proliferate faster than we can edit and file them. Sue’s own photos are great and you can check that out on her Blipfoto blog, where she posts photos and ‘blips’ as ‘Tweedy’. Images are so important in our work but finding the time to get them into a sensible filing system and tidy them up is a challenge to the Trustees. 

Sue is committed to education, particularly to girls’ education and has been a supporter of the Mamie Martin Fund for some time. You might have seen our post-AGM news item which was taken from Sue’s own blog about the event. 

We are really appreciative of our volunteers’ time and commitment. Those contributions help us to keep the organization working efficiently and, we hope, effectively. If you have a skill that you’d like to offer us, please do get in touch at admin@mamiemartin.org

New administrator for the Mamie Martin Fund

As those of you who attended our AGM on the 26th of October already know, our long-standing and highly appreciated administrator Hazel Dawson is stepping down at the end of the year. She is looking forward with great excitement to her impending retirement and we all wish her well for many years to come.

The Board of Trustees has completed the recruitment process for a new administrator/ bookkeeper, and is delighted to introduce Doreen Lowe of Alexandria  West Dunbartonshire, as the successful applicant. She has experience in office admin, book-keeping, communications and lots more besides.

Doreen will take up her post with the MMF on the 2nd of December. This means she can be mentored and shown the ropes by Hazel for the first few weeks. However we are confident that Doreen will have no problem fitting in and taking on this role supporting the trustees and all our loyal member-supporters.

Doreen is an accountant by profession and her early years were spent working in the manufacturing, drinks distribution and hospitality sectors. Since taking maternity leave from her role as Financial Manager at Scottish and Newcastle Breweries in the 1990s, she has been working in part time roles primarily in the charitable sector to give her the time to be a busy mum to her daughter and son, 4 stepsons and now her 2 granddaughters.

As well as a busy home life Doreen is very active in her Church, and leads the Mission and Outreach Team. This includes working with the children in Sunday School and being part of the group that supports the positive links with Eco-Congregation Scotland.

She comes to the Mamie Martin Fund following spells as Office Manager for Glasgow Samaritans and Christian Aid Scotland, and is very much looking forward to the many new challenges ahead working with everyone at the MMF. We know that you are with us in wishing Hazel a long and happy retirement and extending a warm welcome to Doreen. 

Christmas tree joy

We feel privileged to be part, once again, of the Edinburgh Christmas Tree Festival held by St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church in Edinburgh. Friday was tree-decorating day and the festival, now in its 10th year, is open to the public Mondays to Saturdays 7th to 24th December. 

Trustees, Moira and Angie, were joined briefly by Esmelda Chirwa, advisor to the Board. Esmelda was heading off to start her journey home to Blantyre, Malawi and enjoyed a bit of fun decorating the tree before she left. Hazel Dawson, our outgoing administrator, also popped in for a shot at decorating the tree. It was a happy and sociable morning.

Our decorations were either made in Malawi or from Malawian cloth. Our angel, bought in Lilongwe this year attracted a lot of admiration. In addition to decorations, we hung case-studies of some of the Mamie Martin Girls who have been supported over the year. We had a lot of interest in our work from other tree-decorators and are always glad to be in St Andrew’s and St George’s West, a congregation which has consistently supported our work over the years.

Esmelda Chirwa, Master in Public Health

Esmelda and Moira

At a joyous ceremony in Glasgow on 26th November 2019, Esmelda Chirwa was awarded a Masters Degree in Public Health with distinction. Esmelda has been a student at Glasgow Caledonian University since September 2018. She is from Blantyre in Malawi and has acted as an advisor to our Board for most of her time here. We have appreciated her input and advice during our discussions. She spoke to our AGM in October about girls’ education in Malawi. She told us how lucky she has been in terms of education but provided statistics to illustrate her point that many Malawian girls are seriously disadvantaged in terms of education.

Esmelda returns to Malawi this week and we wish her well in her future career. With committed, hardworking and socially conscious young women like her, Malawi’s future seems bright.

MMF Trustee, Moira Dunworth, was privileged to be able to celebrate her graduation with Esmelda and her family.

Nothing more powerful than education …

Our AGM took place in Stirling last Saturday, 26th October. Sue Dumbleton, an MMF supporter, was at the meeting, and has very kindly given us permission to share her blog about MMF and the power of girls’ education:

“AGMs are often things to be avoided, just in case someone asks you to be treasurer or similar. Not so today though and in fact I was disappointed not be able to stay for the full meeting of the Mamie Martin Fund. The Mamie Martin Fund was founded in 1993 by Margaret and John Sinclair in memory of Margaret’s mother, Mamie, who worked to empower women and girls through education in 1920s Malawi.

I can’t think of anything more powerful than education (I would say that having been involved in education one way or another for the greater part of my working life but, honestly, is there anything more important?). The education of girls and women is still not to be taken for granted and the work of organisations such as Mamie Martin is crucial.”

On the right in the picture is Moira, one of the MMF trustees, and someone I met through our shared work at the Open University. Moira is sporting her Malawi-Scotland Partnership dress. On the left is Esmelda, a Malawian woman who has just completed her Masters degree in Glasgow. Both Esmelda and Moira were speaking at the AGM and I was sorry to have to missed their talks. “

Schools roundup

As Angie and Moira come to the end of their Trustee visit to Malawi, here’s a roundup of the schools they visited. They were able to visit all the schools which we support, four of them are run by the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, one is a Government school and one, the most recent addition, is run by the Diocese of Karonga.

Bandawe Girls’ and Karonga Girls’ are CCAP boarding schools. This year we support 43 pupils (about 10% of the school roll) in each.   Elangeni Secondary is a CCAP co-ed boarding school where we have 24 MMF-supported girls this year. Embangweni Secondary School for Deaf Children is run by the CCAP and we have moved from supporting one girl here to six. Three of those are funded by the new Thompson Fund, two from the new Alison Cameron endowment and one is a core-fund MMF girl, now in her final year.

We are pleased to be in our second year of supporting Mchengautuba Community Day Secondary School, run by the Government and the community. Finally, this is our first year of supporting girls at St Mary’s Karonga, a girls’ boarding school where we now have six girls on Alison Cameron scholarships, funded by the Scottish Government

The girls whom we support at all of these schools are very needy and we have heard heart-rending stories of the obstacles they overcome to even get to school. One 13 year old pupil made her way alone over 450 Kms (not a typo!) to take up her place, with nothing. She ran out of transport money and sat by the road until someone asked what she was doing and gave her a small amount of money to get her to school.

The commitment to education on the part of these girls and their families is breath-taking. We heard more than one story of families selling their land so as to pay fees for their daughters and granddaughters. While our help often feels like a drop in the ocean, it makes a real difference to these girls, their families and their communities. Thank you all for your support.

Optimism and hard work – ‘Arise and Shine’

We visited Mchengautuba Community Day Secondary School (‘Mnchzy High’ to the pupils) and were struck by the upbeat atmosphere there. This is the start of the second year of our partnership with this school which is located in one of the poorest areas of Mzuzu in North Malawi. The pupils choose as their motto ‘Arise and Shine’ and the chant of ‘Mnchzy High/ Rise and Shine’ rings out at every assembly-type situation.

We met the four MMF girls who were supported last year, along with two other ‘core’ MMF girls and the 10 new Form 1 pupils who are being funded for four years by the Alison Cameron Scholarships thanks to the Scottish Government

The school put on a huge welcome party for us and, as always with Malawian children, we were impressed by their poise and their presentation skills. We had two dramatisations of a familiar story – that of a girl who did not have fees but got an MMF bursary to the relief and pleasure of her parents. Then we had poems and dancing – what talent these children display! 

The school recently had a private donation which enabled them to install solar power throughout the school. Given the scale of power cuts in Malawi, the solar power is essential in enabling them to study and work in all situations. They especially appreciate being able to study after dark.

The computer lab is powered completely by solar and we were impressed to see a class working on laptops donated by the Turing Trust, thanks to an introduction by us.

Like us, the Turing Trust has been impressed by the engagement of this school and the constructive use they make of all donations and assistance. We feel privileged to be partners with ‘Mnchzy High’ and to have met their impressive pupils and teachers.

Partnerships in action in Mzuzu

Trustees, Angie and Moira, were happy to be in Mzuzu when the Malawi-Scotland Partnership held one of its regional events there. They write: “we were amazed at how many people were there and how many organisations were represented. Interesting, lot of organisations had sent more than one representative, an indicator, reflecting their commitment to networking and collaboration.”

The focus of the day was the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDG2030) and Shadreck Ngulube, Regional Co-ordinator, went through them one by one, noting how we are currently  missing all these goals. 

The meeting broke into groups and Moira and Angie took part in the Education one where the sharing of information was really useful. The session concluded with a useful presentation by James Gondwe of The Centre for Youth and Development about communication. We all need to be clear as to what our organisations do and what our values are. Then we need to use a range of methods to let the world know about our work, ensuring that we are all giving the same message.

New partnership in Malawi

Angie Wynn, Vice-Convener of the Mamie Martin Fund, signed a partnership agreement on Wednesday, 9th October with the Diocese of Karonga. The Diocese has two schools which meet our criteria for funding and we are able to support six girls at St Mary’s Karonga, a girls’ boarding school just south of Karonga in the far north of Malawi. These six girls are ‘Alison girls’ because their funding is part of the second Scottish Government endowment funding to honour the lifetime work of Colin and Alison Cameron in Malawi and Scotland.

The agreement was signed for the Diocese by Mr Remmie W. C.  Kamanga, the Diocesan Education Desk Officer. We are hugely appreciative that Remmie broke his holiday to meet us at St Mary’s for this historic signing.

Until last year we had only worked with the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, with whom we have historic links and a real sense of shared purpose in continuing the work of Mamie Martin. Last year we broadened our remit, signing a Partnership Agreement with Mchengautuba Community Day Secondary School. Now that we have a similar agreement with the Diocese of Karonga, we can work with more sections of Malawian society to support a wider range of girls at secondary school level.

The week that was – school visits in Malawi

Our Trustees have had a busy week in Malawi. With Mercy, our Malawian manager, they visited three schools. They are not used to setting off before breakfast and working right through till lunch, if they are lucky. ‘Let’s grab a coffee’ is simply not part of the schedule – not until the weekend anyway. Every term Mercy visits each of the schools we support. She always addresses the whole group, encouraging them and ensuring that they know to come to her with any problems.

In the first term Mercy also speaks individually to each of the girls who are newly on an MMF bursary. This is an important interview as it establishes the relationship which will last for all of that girl’s schooling and often beyond.

These are long working days; at one school we had 14 new girls this month and 12 in another school. Mercy also manages our small discretionary fund, out of which she gives money for the small necessities which most of the girls lack. They need soap and notebooks; they often need school uniforms and sometimes shoes or schoolbags.

Angie and Moira took the opportunity to chat to the girls when Mercy was conducting her individual sessions. That is always interesting, humbling, shocking (in terms of the hardship and poverty disclosed) and inspiring – all at the same time.

At one of the schools there are new buildings adjacent to the old school but no seats yet. The girls are used to sitting on the ground as there is no alternative outdoors. However, some of the classes are awaiting desks and chairs and sitting on a concrete floor is not good.

The girls are also eagerly awaiting the new hostel which is due to be built in the next year. The present one is so overcrowded that they need to sleep two to a bed. We look forward to seeing that new accommodation on a future visit.