We’ve biked to Malawi

The idea of biking virtually to Malawi didn’t seem all that odd in the context of Covid-related restrictions. We are so grateful to all the people who engaged with the idea and enthusiastically at that. It was fun and people responded in all sorts of ways, increasing their engagement with us and with our work in Malawi.

Livingstonia ahead…

We made it to Bandawe, North Malawi with a few days to spare – 10,679 miles. Bandawe was home to Mamie and Jack Martin for most of their time in Malawi. Having arrived we exuberantly undertook a victory lap of Lake Malawi and completed over 1,000 miles on that extra ride. These miles/kms were made up of short, medium and long trips by our Bike2Malawi riders. Everyone will get a certificate, stating their own total. This is not, and never would be, a competition or race and so no comparative data is being made available. Your distances are your achievements. Well done to you all. Here are some of the images you shared.

  • 67 people registered including two children. 36, more than half, of those riders were new to the Mamie Martin Fund. This expansion of our supporter base is a real achievement for us and we are delighted to engage with so many new people.
  • Those riders live in Scotland, England, Germany and Ireland, in order of the numbers in each country.
  • There were 583 separate logs of distances ridden. These started on the day of the launch and finished after 10 pm on on the final day.
  • 11 riders set up fundraising pages and raised £2,207.18 between them, not counting gift aid.
  • A further 34 people donated to the VirginMoneyGiving (VMG) fundraising page and several others to the main MMF page; funds donated outside of the VMG page were added to the total showing on the VMG page.

Bike2Malawi has been a huge success in terms of engagement and profile-raising. We have also raised more than £7k, a new record for MMF which is likely to be broken this year by the #Pledge100 team. That success could not have been achieved without the help of Andrea Adden during the planning stage; her managing the numbers once we started was also invaluable. Our launch could not have been professional and effective without the generous help of Jade, Craig and David from the Scotland-Malawi Partnership and the video work done by Richard Robinson.

Alloway rebuilds hostel in Bandawe

Many years ago we were able to build a hostel at Bandawe Girls’ Secondary School in Malawi, by the lakeshore. Over the years the hostel fell into disrepair but we had neither the funds nor the management capacity to address this problem. Trustees from Scotland saw the poor state of the hostel on their visits. 

This hostel has now been completely refurbished. This has been funded and managed by Murray Hutchison and friends at Alloway Parish Church in Ayrshire, Scotland. Funds were donated via coffee mornings, Christmas Fayre and by friends of the Church and the school. The total cost was £23k but the impact on the 102 girls who live there in term time will be immense. To quote from the letter written by the Head Teacher, Mr Denis Kamata:

The hostel project has not just provided accommodation to the girls but it has also:

Improved the health of our learners who will be not contracting skin and respiratory diseases that were the order of the day in the past due to the state of the hostel .

Contributed to the enhancement of unity amongst our girls as the feelings of being discriminated against amongst those that were using the other good hostels will no longer be there.

Enhanced the security of our girls and their property because of the nature of the windows with burglar bars, well fitting window panes and doors.

Added significantly to the infrastructure development programme of the school.

Helped our girls to understand that they are not alone in this global village but that there are people far away from Malawi that care and wish them well.

Before work started on the hostel refurbishment

Murray Hutchison’s report gives a flavour of the urgency of these building works: 

There is no doubt that the 102 girls living in this large hostel have had their lives changed for the better: water no longer pours in through holes in the roof and the toilets and showers (while  not what we enjoy) have been totally replaced and replumbed and  refurbished. The walls had to be taken down further than expected and their height extended to improve ventilation. Windows and doors have been replaced, a new roof constructed, repairs to foundations and rendering and a  total replacement of all electrics. 

The relationship between Alloway Parish Church started in 2006 when Ayr Presbytery made their first visit to Bandawe. The Church entered into a partnership with Bandawe mission station and Thipula Church and with BAGSS in 2008. Alloway’s two primary schools are twinned with Bandawe Primary where the Church undertook a smaller but similar hostel project in late 2019. This is Alloway Parish Church’s fourth building project at BAGSS. They focus on education and training in various ways and these building projects are a significant help to the school.

We are grateful to all those involved in this project – to Murray for masterminding the fundraising and overseeing the work, to Mr Chirwa (previous Head Teacher) and Mr Kamata for oversight of the work in Malawi and to the building company, Chumugogo Building Company.

MMF team 21st-Century-ready in Malawi

Having been introduced to WhatsApp by our youngest Trustee, the Board has come to understand the importance of this mobile phone app in Africa. A  messaging tool which uses very little data, it has transformed communications within Malawi and between Malawians and the rest of the world. It works when mobile signal is poor and seems to be much easier for Malawians than email; it is usually accessed by mobile phone. 

Communication between us and the Head Teachers of the schools we support has always been challenging. They have very little internet access but most of them have internet-enabled mobile phones. Having been using WhatsApp with Mercy for some time, we set up a group for the Head Teachers to communicate with each other and with us. It was an immediate success!

“This is wonderful, Moira and Mercy. It will really ease our communication. Wishing you lots of God’s blessings.” Head Teacher, Bandawe Girls’ Secondary School.

“It is worthy having it. Communications simplified.” J. Mwale, Elangeni Secondary School.

It has already been used by the teachers to confirm Mercy’s school visits itinerary and by Mercy to confirm the parameters of the new MMF places which will be available to the schools from this month.

Isn’t it lovely when something so simple solves a problem that seemed complicated? Thanks to Mercy for her help with it and to all the teachers who are engaging with it so positively. It should be noted that we are not endorsing or advertising this app in any way; we are only sharing our experience of using it in this particular situation.