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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

‘Donors’
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.

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.”

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]

Welcome to our new Trustee, Fran

We are delighted to welcome Fran Coates onto our Board. Fran got involved with MMF when she enrolled in ‘Borders22’ last year and took her MMF tee-shirt across Europe on an 8-month trip from Saint-Malo to the Black Sea. She introduces herself:

“Since retiring as a Sign Language interpreter (SLi) in 2019 I have made two long cycle/camping trips around Europe.

The second was avidly followed and supported, for the full 8 months, by the MMF Borders 22 team. There are not the words to express what a boost this was during my trip, lifting me out of the lows, thankfully of which not too many, and celebrating the highs. Upon my return I have been invited to join the Board of Trustees, an honour I have proudly accepted.

Prior to my career as an SLi I worked in IT support, therefore I hope my skills can help maintain and enhance the development of this wonderful charity.”

Thanks for this on-going support, Fran. We know that you will be a great help to MMF in a number of ways. Now, get on with cycling those 30 bridges as part of your #Birthday30 pledge!

Fran and her bike enjoying Yorkshire bridges

Volunteer fun

The Mamie Martin Fund is run by volunteers. Our only paid staff member is our Country Director in Malawi (Mercy Sibande). A recent survey of our volunteers suggested that they might appreciate meeting other volunteers. So, this happened for those who could attend last Saturday (Dec 10th) in Glasgow. 

L-R: Violet, Moira, Sue, Shona, Heidi

We met for lunch in the city centre. There were five of us, many meeting others for the first time and some were renewing acquaintance. Meeting online is great, of course. It allows us to work together across great distances. But meeting in person adds another dimension. We got to know each other a bit and explored ideas around the table.

The event was fun in terms of the food and other customers. We asked about one item on the menu – ‘Glasgow Salad’. This is a joke about the legendary Glasgow diet and is a plate of chips. Adding to the fun was The Grinch at a table behind us. The day was topped off by a man in a Christmas suit, complete with matching tie. Sue is our photo volunteer and could not resist getting a pic!

It felt like an important time and we hope to do it again before too long. Meeting in person allows ideas to develop and relationships to be established or developed. Thanks, volunteers, we could not do our MMF work without you. 

Dalgety Bay Coffee Morning

As part of our two-months long photo exhibition in Dalgety Parish Church, Fife, the Church members and the Fairtrade group hosted a coffee morning for us on Saturday 12th  November. It turned into a wonderful gathering of friends old and new. It was a chance for people to catch up and learn about our work in Malawi. Alan Kimmitt, a previous Trustee, and his family did the 40 mile round trip from Glenrothes to join us!

Not one but two local Councillors, Sarah Neal and David Barratt, attended, giving us their support. Sarah, who had visited Malawi in her 20s and was very affected by the poverty she saw, commented “we (myself and David) want to support the Trustees who do amazing work in Malawi. The work …. is so welcome…. I do think that if you educate and empower a girl you educate and empower their whole community”. See Sarah’s testimonial here.

The show of Nerani Nthara’s recent photos sparked lots of interest and discussion. Church member Isobel’s delicious cakes attracted much deserved attention too! Visitors commented on the welcoming buzz in the room and ate a lot of cake if donations are anything to go by!

Safe to say, this event exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance and donations raised! This church has a long standing link with Northern Malawi and has given us regular support. Nevertheless, we were all astonished at everyone’s generosity. Donations were requested in return for cake and coffee/tea and the basket had to be emptied more than once to make room for more notes! Donations of more than £400 were received on the day, with more coming in later. We also had an offer from Isabel to bake for us again! This may well become an annual event!

Another online AGM

This video from Mchengautuba Community Day Secondary School was the hightlight of our AGM 2022. Holding our AGM online started as a necessity. Now we choose that way because we can include so many more people. Our friends and colleagues from Malawi are always particularly welcome. We had 25 participants in the meeting with some others watching it live on Facebook. You can watch the recording on this link.

The highlights of the business part were:

  • Things are currently very difficult in Malawi. The impact of the Covid-19 and the devaluation of the Kwacha has hit people hard
  • Mercy Sibande‘s title is now Malawi Country Director, which better reflects the seniority of her role there
  • We have improved our governance in several ways – we have revised our Strategic Plan, improved our cyber security and improved our internal and external communications. Our new Strategic priority is Localisation, ensuring that as much as possible is done in Malawi by Malawians
  • We noted that Brian Kerr is stepping down from the Board and we thanked him for his years of service
  • We welcomed Patrick Chinguwo to our Board. Patrick is a lecturer in Law at the University of Mzuzu
  • Noted that we need paid or voluntary help with our IT work.

Reports from our Country Manager included a heart-warming story about a girl who is back at school after having a baby.

The treasurer reported on the year’s accounts. Noted that

  • More than 90% of our money is spent in Malawi
  • 95% of our money is spent on direct provision of services (fees and other costs in Malawi)
  • Because our admin work is being done on a voluntary basis, our costs are low (5%)
  • Small regular donations from individuals are the backbone of our funding

The Marketing team reported on the year’s fun and fundraising. Noted the new Christmas Jumper appeal which was launched at the meeting.

Noted that we will be 30 years old in 2023 and #Birthday30 will be our marketing focus – do 30 things for MMF.

The first keynote speech was by Mrs Joana Chimphepo, a teacher at Mchengautuba Community Day Secondary School (MCDSS) in Mzuzu. She told us the history of the school. She was one of the teachers there. Then she told us of the struggles of many of the students. They are often part of child-headed families, a legacy of the AIDS pandemic. Other illness cause the death of parents so many of the children have lost one or both parents. That speech is available on our YouTube channel.

The second input was a follow-up talk by Dr Isa Uny from University of Stirling on her From Fuel to Pot research.

The meeting closed with thanks to all those who attended and who made it possible. It was great to be so global!

A recording of the meeting is available on YouTube.

Running boost to Deaf girls’ education

The Thompson Fund, managed by the Mamie Martin Fund, supports the secondary education of Deaf girls at Embangweni in North Malawi. The Fund was established in memory of Jack and Phyllis Thompson. Their daughter, Jenny, ran the London Marathon last Sunday in memory of her parents – Jack was also a marathon runner. She raised over £4k for the Thompson Fund. Jenny’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbours responded generously to her fundraising appeal. Huge thanks, also, to her running friend, Pete, whose friends all joined in with donations.

Jenny ran the 42 kms in 4 hours, 40 minutes and 45 seconds – amazing! Mercy Sibande, our Malawi Manager, will show photos of Jenny to the girls at Embangweni whose education is only possible because of the Thompson Fund. It remains to be seen what they think about running to raise money for girls whom neither the runner nor the donors have ever met. They will certainly be impressed and will be motivated to work hard at their studies. To quote our treasurer, who has been in Embangweni and knows the situation of these girls,

Great job, changing lives of Deaf kids in Malawi who, economically, are really the lowest. This help doesn’t just change their lives, it gives them a life.

Jenny’s page remains open for another short while – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jenny-chambers1