< Malawi Archives – Mamie Martin Fund

Volunteering – a Malawian perspective

Guest blog post from Tamanda Moyo in Lilongwe, Malawi:

“In Malawi, volunteering isn’t a formal concept like it is in the UK. Instead, community engagement is an integral part of daily life. People naturally help one another, often without expectation of reward or recognition. This cultural dynamic is rooted in the concept of “ubuntu” or interconnectedness, where individuals prioritize collective well-being over individual gain.

Growing up in Malawi, I witnessed this spirit firsthand. Neighbours helped neighbours with farming, childcare and other tasks without hesitation. Community members came together to support each other during times of need, celebrating milestones and mourning losses as one.

While formal volunteering may not be prevalent, Malawians demonstrate a remarkable commitment to community development. Initiatives like the Mamie Martin Fund, which supports girl child education, are crucial in empowering young minds and fostering a brighter future.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that volunteering isn’t solely about structured programs; it’s about embracing a mindset of service and compassion. Malawi may not have a formal volunteering culture, but its people exemplify the true spirit of community engagement.

I look forward to joining the Mamie Martin Fund as a volunteer because I am interested in contributing to my community and the world at large, I am passionate about girls’ education and I know that volunteering with MMF will help me contribute to the UN SDG 4 which is Quality Education.”

Coffee Day success in Falkirk

Mariot Dallas reports:

We had a very enjoyable MMF Coffee Day at the end of May in Trinity Church hall, with a steady flow of customers for hot drinks, filled rolls and delicious home baking.  We were happy to welcome regular customers from Trinity Church, passers-by who saw the banner and smelt the coffee and a heartwarming number of MMF friends who made a special journey to Falkirk to support the event. You know who you are and we were delighted to see you!

John Dallas’s accordion playing set our toes tapping. The Freedom of Mind Community Choir sang a selection of well-loved favourites and soon had us all singing along. In the kitchen, MMF Trustees and volunteers worked hard as they learned how to operate the kitchen equipment. In no time we were operating as a plausible catering team!

We raised over £400 in donations. We enjoyed telling the MMF story through our publicity material. The small prints of some of the Mamie and Jack historic photos from the 1920s generated a lot of interest.

We are grateful to Nina, business manager from the church, for all her help and encouragement. We hope to book the hall again in December for a Christmas Coffee Day. Watch this space.

Falkirk Coffee day Sat 25th May

Mariot writes about our upcoming coffee day in Falkirk:

“I very seldom drink coffee, I’m mostly rooibos and herbal teas. Coffee is for special occasions, when I’m out about and spending time with my friends and is often accompanied by cake or some other sweet treat.

Saturday 25 May is marked on my calendar already because there will be a Coffee Day in Falkirk, in Trinity Church Hall  FK11JN, from 11.00 till 14.30. It’s a fundraiser for the Mamie Martin Fund, a Scottish charity which helps girls in Malawi get their secondary education. It’s a great cause to support and when you come to the Coffee Day our photos and displays will tell you why. As you enjoy your refreshments and browse the displays, you can also enjoy some live music from the Freedom of Mind Community Choir and from John Dallas on the accordion.

Did I mention the soup? Freshly prepared soup and filled rolls are on the menu, along with a selection of sweet treats.

So, tea, coffee, and sweet treats; soup and filled rolls; live entertainment AND supporting girls in school in Malawi … what’s not to like? Save the date now!

Look forward to seeing you.”

“When girls are educated, everything is possible.”

This quote from Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, Ngoni traditional leader in Malawi, sums up the rationale for our work. We support girls’ secondary education in North Malawi by paying their fees. We provide for basic necessities like soap and sanitary wear. These costs are managed locally by our Malawi Country Director, Mercy Sibande.  Each term Mercy visits all of the seven schools which we support. She meets all of the MMF girls there, checks that they are well and provides pastoral and motivational support.

Education is not a luxury but a basic human need. In Malawi 47% of girls are married before age 18, one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage (UNICEF Malawi Annual Report 2022). Chief Kachindamoto, quoted above, is one of the loudest Malawian voices against child ‘marriage’.  Girl children who have been married do not continue with their education. 

On this International Women’s Day we reaffirm our commitment to girls’ education. In this, our 31st, year we are as sure about its importance as ever. When we were established in 1993, the importance of girls’ education was poorly understood. It is now known to be pivotal to the development of any nation. 

We are funded almost completely by individual donations. Thanks for your part in supporting the vital education of these girls. Happy International Women’s Day.

Alan’s news from Malawi Jan 2024

MMF Treasurer and Co-Convenor, Alan Laverock, is currently in Malawi and sent us this news from Mzuzu and a message to our donors,

Malawi is in a mess. There’s no easy way to say this.

The Malawi kwacha was devalued by 44% against the dollar late last year; this means that imported items – fuel, fertiliser and so on – are now much more expensive in Malawi. But, misinterpreting devaluation, local people have also hiked their prices. So, staples such as maize are now not affordable to many people. It also means that inflation is very high – a one-off 44% increase across the board has that effect.

Alan Laverock, MMF Treasurer and Co-Convenor

One effect of all of this is that there will be hunger in the villages. There are something over 2,000 kids in Mzuzu alone living on the streets, or working the streets at night to bring in some income. Selling bananas and mangoes, stuff like that. And worse.

As I write this, the rains have possibly just started – everyone is planting but no one is sure that the rains will continue. When I first came out to Malawi, in 2008, the rains started in November. Climate change in action and it’s the poorest who suffer. As always. This might lead to crop failure in a few months, if the rains do not continue.  

However, there is hope. There is a new generation of young Malawians who do not accept that this is the way it has to be. Young people are rejecting the old ways and the effects of that. They realise there is choice. They do not have to be smallholder farmers. And if they do go into farming (nothing wrong with that), they choose to be there and choose to do smart farming. Farming with modern techniques. Farming with machinery. Farming for profit, not survival.

You, our donors, are a part of that. Mamie Martin Fund is for educating girls. Educated girls can change their environment. We are already seeing this with girls who have been through the school system with the help of the Mamie Martin Fund. They are already making a difference.

There is the old saying about give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will earn a living. But men will sit in a boat and drink beer all afternoon – so teach the woman to fish! And, in effect, this is what Mamie Martin Fund is achieving. Girls who know what they want, who have planned careers and who are making these careers happen.

Of course, individually they will not change their country. We do not expect them to do so. But they change themselves, their families, their villages and beyond. And, if there is an army of girls like this, educated and clued-up, then change will be real and sustained.

Yes, there is hope for Malawi. Thank you for being part of that.”

Triumph for Elena

Elena had a very difficult start in life. Thanks to a local pastor’s wife she was brought to Karonga Girls’ Secondary School in North Malawi in 2016. Passing the entrance exam, she was given a place at the school and was also awarded an MMF bursary. She was a shy and quiet child who looked neglected and much younger than her 16 years. It was wonderful to see her appearance and demeanour changing over the next four years and she became strong and cheerful. However, her father remarried and, during the summer holiday after Elena’s second year at school, her step-mother and brother tried to give her away in marriage. Child marriage, though unlawful, continues to be a real threat to children in rural areas in Malawi.

She escaped early marriage by running away back to school. She travelled alone for nearly 100 kms, asking strangers for help with transport, till she arrived at the home of the lady who had first rescued her. Her courage was rewarded and that become her home during school holidays. Sadly the lady passed away just after Elena finished school. The living situation then became unsafe for Esther who was brave enough to seek help.

Elena did not get grades good enough for university study but she secured a local college place to study for a Diploma. Well-wishers came forward and supported her with accommodation (essential for her safety at that point) and fees. After two years, Elena proudly sent MMF photos of her graduation with a Diploma in Professional Community Development with merit. Many young women in Malawi cope with hardships and barriers. Elena is a shining example of how courage, with some help, can overcome adversity and triumph.

We are proud to have played a part in Elena’s journey from being an undernourished, frightened child to being a confident, professional woman.

“Her tomorrow”

Mercy Sibande, MMF Country Director, wishes the One World Shop in Edinburgh a happy 40th birthday in this video. Mercy visited the shop in May this year and shared her first-hand knowledge of the impact of Fairtrade benefits to communities in Malawi. In this video she tells the story of a girl whose family lost everything but the girl can continue at school because of MMF support. 

“She was assured that her transport fare would be paid for to go back to school (as well as fees and basic needs). That gave her hope and excitement to say that she can go back to school. At school now she is working hard in the hope that her future, her tomorrow, […] will change her community, her family plus the Nation as a whole.”

All of us at the Mamie Martin Fund join Mercy in congratulating the One World Shop on its 40th birthday. It’s a huge achievement to have supported Fairtrade producers around the world for all that time. Education is always prioritised by farmers when receiving Fairtrade premiums on their produce sold. We are happy to support the One World Shop in small ways and we appreciate their support of our work on their social media channels. 

AGM Keynote speaker announced

We are delighted to announce that Mrs Precious Mhone, Boarding Mistress at Embangweni Secondary School for Deaf Children, will be a keynote speaker at our forthcoming AGM. This will be held online so that we can include colleagues and friends from Malawi. The online format also allows many other supporters to join without having to travel.

Precious will tell us about her school, the pupils and their lives. We are proud to support 15 girls at Embangweni in the coming school year. Seven of those are supported through the Thompson Fund, set up in the memory of Jack and Phyllis Thompson. Because of the strong fundraising to this Fund, we have increased the number of girls whom we can support. This year’s amazing fundraising is being done by Helen Nyul, who is undertaking The ROC England – a fearsome triathlon in the Lake District.

Our AGM will be held via Zoom on Sat Nov 4th at 13:00 UK time. We would be delighted if you could join us. The event is free and open to all. You can register here.

#Birthday30 news

As this is our 30th birthday year, we are running a #Birthday30 challenge. Supporters and friends are invited to challenge themselves to 30 activities. We are delighted to have 23 participants based in four countries (Scotland, England, Portugal and Canada). The range of activities is exciting. People are cooking, walking/hiking, cycling. They are taking photos of reservoirs, lighthouses, trees, churches. They are playing tunes, creating pieces of art and reading books. Phew!

This project will run all year and you can join at any time. Many participants have set up a fund-raising page but you could just use the overall #Birthday30 one. We find that just popping the link into your email signature or in your social media posts is quite enough to solicit kind donations.

A team of volunteers is managing this project and all roles are important. Handy Kamanga, our Instagram Manager, keeps the project alive on there from her base in Lilongwe, Malawi. We really appreciate her skill and enthusiasm. Hannah Wright, in Kendal/Manchester (depending on term time), creates little videos for each 10 activities submitted.

One of our participants, Karin Kastern, has completed her project of photographing 30 Norfolk Churches. We understand that she continued to do this long after she has finished her #Birthday30 lot. The word is that she has well over 100 now.

Projects like this serve to engage people in learning and talking about the Mamie Martin Fund and our work. Widening our circle of supporters and friends is as important as raising money and we are grateful to all who are engaging in #Birthday30 with such enthusiasm.

Wide gathering of supporters in Lancashire

Mercy had a very warm welcome in Lancashire

Mercy Sibande, MMF’s Malawi Country Director, is on a mini-tour of supporters in the UK. Last weekend she was in Lancashire where a group of churches supports six MMF girls in Karonga, in the far north of Malawi.

The Lancashire West Methodist ‘Circuit’ of 10 churches held an event at Up Holland on Sunday 21st May. It was open to visitors and turned into a fantastic gathering of MMF supporters. Long-standing MMF supporter, Emyln Evans, travelled 97 miles each way to attend with his wife, Anne. Emyln is pictured pouring over a map of Malawi with Mercy. Our Manchester Marathon runners, Phil and Hannah, came 75 miles to meet Mercy. The event made them want to move back to Malawi, where they lived for many years.

We were hosted by the Up Holland members, led by Linda Jones. We were the first people to use their new garden and the lovely weather was just right for it. The formal part of the event was led by the Rev Alex Laing. Newly-elected Cllr Sam Riches from Lancaster attended and became our photographer. Thanks Sam! The event was filmed by Derek Ashcroft for sharing with those supporters who were unable to attend. We were honoured to be joined by Michael Tindsley, the Circuit Superintendent.

This MMF-Lancashire West partnership is greatly valued by us and by St Mary’s Secondary School, Karonga. This is one of the best schools in Malawi and the pastoral care of the girls is second-to-none. We were glad to be able to share photos and videos of each of the six girls. Mercy told their stories and answered questions. Her presence in this warm and generous community was much appreciated, as evidenced by this feedback comment,

“How well she speaks and I felt how well she understands the girls. You must feel so pleased and thankful that all the girls are in such great hands. She is an absolute asset to the work of MMF.” [Lancashire West supporter]