Photo Exhibition Premiere

Thanks to a generous donor, we now have a collection of mounted photographs of life and work in Malawi, with an emphasis on girls’ education of course. We are delighted to be able to show some of these photos for the first time as cafés and other venues reopen. The Wonder Spot café in Stockbridge, Edinburgh has made us very welcome and we love how these photos look in their art space. The photos can be seen by those in the café (take-away only just now) but also from the street. We’ve chosen bright and cheery photos from the collection to add positivity to the street as we all emerge from lockdown.

The selection and editing of the photos was achieved only because of the help of our photographic volunteer, Sue Dumbleton. In an organisation with minimal paid staff, the contribution of volunteers like Sue is essential to creative work like this. 

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. 

Wedding list with a difference

On July 20th this year, one of our long-term regular supporters got married in Scotland. Hope Robertson married Malcolm Fleming on a lovely sunny day in Cramond followed by a reception near Biggar. Their special day brought sunshine to many girls in Malawi because they asked their family and friends to make a donation to the Mamie Martin Fund as a wedding gift. What a generous thing to do! In addition, the groom told the wedding guests about our work as part of his wedding speech. It is great when more and more people hear about our work and the need for it. 

This form of fund-raising is particularly appreciated in Malawi,  where money is central to wedding celebrations. Money is thrown in the air as the guest dance and that money is a vital part of the process of the couple setting up home together. Many of those who get married in the UK are lucky in already having a home, and Hope and Malcolm decided that they did not need any material gifts but would like their happiness to make a difference to girls’ education in Malawi. Their generous family and friends donated more than £2,300.00 – enough to pay for school fees for seven girls for a year. Wow!

If you also wanted to mark a special occasion and invite donations to the Mamie Martin Fund, you could ‘start fundraising’ on our Virgin Money Giving page or on Give as you Live. We’d love to know about your plans so that we can share them with other supporters and friends.

Huge thanks to Hope and Malcolm for this thoughtful and generous contribution to our work supporting girls in Northern Malawi.

Pens and bands

Our new pens and bands are supplied by Ross Promotional Products Glasgow. The pens are made from recycled plastic and Ross Promotional are a Glasgow Living Wage company.

We’ll be sending a bundle out to Malawi with the next Trustee visit. Last year when we met with girls who receive  MMF support they told us that they’d like some way of identifying themselves as MMF girls within the school community so that they can make friends easily and offer each other support. We hope these attractive rainbow coloured bands will do this.

Here in Scotland, we will sell the pens and bands ( £1 each) when we are out and about doing talks and events. Watch out for news of how to buy them on our website shop and in the meantime if you’d like some, contact Mariot ( mariot@mamiemartin.org)

Tom Dallas, one of Mamie and Jack’s great grandsons, lent a hand to show off the pen and band in the video!

A midwife’s night duty shift, Malawi, 1963

We are proud to have Alison Cameron as our Scottish Patron. So we were thrilled to see her 1963 snapshot of one night’s work published in the Society of Malawi Journal, Vol. 72, No. 1, 2019. We are grateful to the Journal for permission to share it with you on our website. In this article Alison describes the pressures and uncertainties of giving birth in Malawi. It was a dangerous business then and, even though maternal and infant mortality rates have fallen considerably, it is still a dangerous process for mother and baby.

Malawi infant mortality today is 39 per 1,000 live births (https://data.unicef.org/country/mwi/#), down from 64 in 2007. The SDG target for 2030 is to reduce it to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births globally. As a means of comparison, it is currently 4 deaths per 1,000 live births in the UK. Maternal health is also an area of grave concern in Malawi. Malawi’s most recent estimated maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is 439 per 100,000 live births (NSO Malawi & ICF, 2017); below the WHO (2015) estimate for the sub-Saharan African region of 546 ( in 2000, it was roughly 1120, so it has more than halved in 20 years).

Malawi’s proportion of institutional deliveries has increased sharply from 55% in 1992 to 90% in 2015-16 (NSO Malawi & ICF 2017). Malawi provides free maternity care, but quality of care appears suboptimal (Leslie et al, 2016; Ministry of Health Malawi & ICF International, 2014). Health centres offer basic emergency obstetric and new-born care; a limited number of referral hospitals offers more comprehensive services. Malawi’s health system is affected by severe lack of physical, financial and human resources (Chimwaza et al., 2014).

Alison  has been a supporter of the Mamie Martin Fund since it was founded. She and her husband, Colin, have worked for 60 years to build and maintain civil society and governmental links between Malawi and Scotland. The Scottish Government has honoured that work by creating an endowment fund in Alison’s name and asking us to administer it. This fund supports 45 girls through school and 4 at university over four years each.

Source: National Statistical Office – NSO/Malawi and ICF (2017). Malawi Demographic and Health Survey 2015-16. Available from: https://dhsprogram.com/publications/publication-fr319-dhs-final-reports.cfm. Accessed 31 January 2019. Zomba, Malawi, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: National Statistical Office and ICF.

Thompson Scholarship Fund

The Thompson Scholarship Fund was set up in the autumn of last year to honour the memory of Jack and Phyllis Thompson. Their family, Scotland-Malawi Partnership and their Church colleagues in Malawi asked the Mamie Martin Fund to provide some scholarships in their name. The fund-raising page for this was on BTMyDonate, which is closing at the end of June. The money raised so far (£6,981.00, including Gift Aid) has already been received by the Mamie Martin Fund. This amount has been logged on the new page, hosted by VirginMoneyGiving.

The goal is to create three scholarships over the four years which is the norm for secondary schooling in Malawi. We will start that provision with two scholarships starting in September 2019 and add the third when the funding gets closer to its target. At least one of those places will be at the secondary school for Deaf children in Embangweni. All of the places will be for girls.

Thanks for all your support of this project. You can continue to help by sharing this link and encouraging friends and family to bear it in mind when undertaking challenges – a run, bike ride, climbing Everest, etc. On this new page you could set up your personal fundraising page, or just donate directly to the Fund. If you need any help, get in touch with moira@mamiemartin.org

Mercy gets her driving licence!

One of the outcomes of our recent Scottish Government Capacity-Building grant

Our wonderful Malawi Manager, Mercy, has achieved yet another life skill. She has succeeded in getting her driving licence! From what we know, and what we have experienced when visiting, driving in Malawi is quite an achievement!

Given that her role with us involves a lot of travel, having the independence and flexibility to drive herself will be so beneficial.

Our thanks go to the Scottish Government for the recent Capacity Building Grant which enabled us to fund Mercy’s lessons and pay for her licence, among many other capacity-building activities this past year

Many congratulations to her from all her Mamie Martin friends in Scotland.

A Malawian perspective at our Board

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We were delighted to welcome Esmelda Chirwa to our Board meeting this week. She is from Blantyre, Malawi and is an MSc student at Glasgow Caledonian University. She has joined our Board as an advisor while she is in Scotland. It is so helpful to have a Malawian perspective on our Board discussions, particularly the viewpoint of a young Malawian woman.

She found her first Board meeting useful too as she has not realised the complexity of managing money at this end. It seems that we are in a win-win situation here; we benefit from her advice and those she knows in Malawi will benefit from understanding more about how small organisations work here.

Thanks Esmelda – it is a great pleasure to have you on board.

Humbie Dean garden opens on 19th May

Finally, the weather is warming up so that thoughts are turning to garden visiting. We have just the garden for you! Humbie Dean is a two-acre ornamental and woodland garden sandwiched between two burns at 600 feet with interest throughout a long season. A limited palette of plants with hosta, hellebores, perennial geranium, primula, meconopsis, martagon lilies, spring bulbs, ground cover, herbaceous and shrub planting, bluebell meadow, mature and recent azalea and rhododendron planting. A short woodland walk has been created, only accessible by a series of steps.

Frank Kirwan has again chosen the Mamie Martin Fund as the beneficiary of his Humbie Dean garden openings with Scotland’s Gardens. Because of the very cold Spring, this year Humbie Dean is only open on Sundays 19th and 26th May & Sunday 7 July , 10am – 2pm. Admission £5.00, children free.

Directions: Enter Humbie from the A68, pass the school and village hall on the left then immediately turn right just before the Humbie Hub. Take second left and Humbie Dean is on the left between two small bridges. Limited parking.

Miles for Malawi team ride again

Sunday 12th May 2019 – Falkirk

Bicycle and Selkies, Falkirk

We are delighted that we’ll have Miles for Malawi riders in the Wee Jaunt Falkirk again this year. This is an event run by Pedal for Scotland and you need to register on that link. It’s a 7.5 traffic-free double loop at The Helix in Falkirk, starting at the astonishing hour of 08:30.

However, Mariot and her team are up for it and we’ve set them up a ‘campaign’ on Virgin Money Giving. We’ve had to move fundraising websites because BTMyDonate is closing down, which is a shame. You can donate to Mariot and her team or set up your own page to fundraise as part of that event. Contact Mariot to chat further.