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A poem from Malawi

This poem was written by two of the schoolgirls we support in Malawi. Blandina (16) and Lucia (15) are part of a group being supported by the Lancashire West Methodist Circuit. They are now in Form 3 . Secondary school in Malawi is four years/forms. Their boarding school is just outside Karonga in the North of Malawi and consistently achieves very high academic results. 

The Black Tear

A poem by Blandina Ngoma and Lucia Mbukwa, St Mary’s, Karonga, Malawi

I’m pruned from the poor
even never to reach the moon
which is my fate
yet to arrive late
I’m disposed in the dirty
and never to fulfil my destiny

My hope vanished
my dream became invisible
and I was nothing
yet you made me invincible
rescued me from the uneducated
and straightened my contour
like a gospel singer
I will praise you forever

You are indeed the saviours
to wipe my tears
you brought me to school
took me away from my sweet sorrow
that dug and dragged me below
yet loud and loud
my education calls from the west

yes, I heard it well
they are here to build me
now blue and white I dress
gather my future to the race
enjoy the sweet of my sweat
and never betray my future.

“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.

Reflections of a new Trustee

Phil Wright, a new member of the MMF Board reflects on his journey to here:

Back in February 2023 my daughter Hannah, who is currently a Mamie Martin Fund volunteer, started to follow MMF on Twitter. And so, the journey to trusteeship began . . .

From that point, MMF followed Hannah back (I think that’s how it works?) and so a link was forged. It was forged to the point of me being registered for the Manchester Marathon to run alongside Han to raise funds for MMF. Marathon duly completed, I contacted Moira (who had been a great encouragement to Hannah) and we met with her and Mercy in Skelmersdale at a brilliant tea-party where Mercy shared news from Malawi. I was hooked!!

Since then, I have joined the incredible team at MMF to help with the oversight of the charity’s work. I have been warmly welcomed and incidentally re-united with a former colleague from Malawi (who ironically used to oversee my work as a headteacher in Zomba, as part of the school’s board of trustees). It has been interesting to learn how the charity works, the impact of the work on the lives of young girls in Malawi and the important role Mercy plays as she engages with the girls at school.

The supporters of MMF are amazing and dedicated in their fundraising and awareness-raising in support of the girls in Malawi, through the imaginative initiatives they undertake.”

Thanks, Phil, your support is much appreciated.

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. 

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]

Do one action today for girls’ education

Faith Banda, ex-pupil of MMF

Today is International Women’s Day. One of the major issues in today’s world is that of girls’ access to education. It is easy to be so upset about issues like this, that we feel helpless and hopeless. But you can do one powerful thing today to help girls get an education. You can leave a bequest in your Will to the Mamie Martin Fund or any other organisation which supports girls’ and women’s education around the world.

That’s it. Simple. We provide a template for a codicil on our website. We received a bequest from a long-standing supporter this week and this will enable us to provide a full secondary education for extra pupils in Malawi. What a wonderful legacy. You could be part of a girl’s future too.

The Head Teacher of Kaseye Girls’ Secondary School tells us why we must all support girls’ education:

Scottish Parliament support for MMF on IWD

On this International Women’s Day, we are grateful to Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP, for lodging the following motion in the Scottish Parliament. We are humbled to be recognised in this way on such an important day for women around the world. The motion text is:

That the Parliament congratulates the Mamie Martin Fund on the celebration of its 30th anniversary in 2023; understands that this small Scottish charity has been supporting girls’ education in Northern Malawi since its inception in 1993 in memory of Mamie Martin, who worked for gender equality in education in Malawi in the 1920s; considers that the issue of girls’ education is now more topical than ever; further considers that girls’ education is vital to the development of any nation; believes that International Women’s Day is particularly important in many areas of the world in 2023, and wishes the Mamie Martin Fund success in its work this year and in the future.

Birthday donations – an inspiring story

Elizabeth first heard about the Mamie Martin Fund through ‘Story on Bikes’ in 2020. She is now a regular participant in our cycling projects. She took a break from cycling for MMF in 2021 when she created 100 gorgeous embroidered cards as part of #Pledge100.

When Elizabeth had a significant birthday this year, she requested charity donations instead of gifts. She feels that she has enough ‘things’. She nominated the MMF as one of two favourite charities and raised over £100 for girls’ education in Malawi through her generous friends. What a lovely idea!

If you would like to do something like this and need any help, get in touch. We’ve not been able to register as a charity with Facebook (because of being a Scottish charity) so it can’t be done on there, but you can publicise it on any platform. We can let you have info leaflets and support you on ‘the socials’.

Meanwhile, enjoy the photos of some of Elizabeth’s contributions to the funding of our work for girls in secondary school in Malawi.

Elizabeth cycled the boundary of Galloway in Scotland during a week of gales for #Borders22

Friendship and collaboration in person

On Saturday last we were delighted to attend in person at the AGM of the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP). What a day of warmth and excitement. We had not seen friends and colleagues for so long. The day felt like true partnership all the way through. We shared a table and volunteers with the One World Shop. We caught up with Kenyawi KidsSteka Skills, the David Livingstone BirthplaceMalDent and many many others. The team at SMP put on a great day which included Malawi Gin (of course), Malawian food, great music and a tremendous tribute to the outgoing CEO, David Hope-Jones, who has been so supportive to the Mamie Martin Fund over the years.

We were pleased to introduce our friends from the Malawi-Scotland Partnership to our friends at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, where they were welcomed to the Sunday morning service.

Thanks to our volunteer, Liz Hall, and to all the supporters who stopped by our table to chat or buy notecards or gift cards.