< Volunteer 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.

#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.

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.

Why be a Mamie Martin Fund Trustee?

MMF’s Co-convenor shares some ideas about trusteeship of our little organisation, with thanks to all those who contributed to this list.

  1. Educating and empowering girls helps to save the planet. See BBC Radio 4 – 39 Ways to Save the Planet, Educating and Empowering Girls
  2. The Scotland -Malawi and Malawi-Scotland relationship is strong and well supported by our governments. As a Trustee you will be playing your part in a lively and vibrant country to country partnership 
  3. We are a working Board, so you will have the opportunity to use your existing skills and experience as well as learning new skills
  4. We use digital resources to work and communicate as efficiently as possible and to save time
  5. Your work will be interesting, you will learn a lot and will never be bored
  6. You will never be short of conversation topics, or material for interviews and applications
  7. You will give your time and energy, but you will know that you are helping to make a difference. See Number 1 above.

Give a little regularly – make a big difference: Margaret Coutts’ story

Margaret is in her 80s, and (in her words) will talk to anybody. Mariot from MMF met her today in a café for a cup of tea to talk about why she donates £10.00 a month to the Mamie Martin Fund. The meeting today had to be fixed around her other commitments, as she is a volunteer with various local groups and has a busy diary. Margaret donates regularly to three charities working in Malawi: Mary’s Meals, the Raven Trust and Mamie Martin Fund.

She visited Malawi as part of a small group from local churches in 2003 and describes it as a ‘life-changing experience’. She loved meeting and talking with Malawian people but was aware of the extreme poverty and the hardship in many people’s lives. The group visited some schools and Margaret remembers seeing good teaching and enthusiastic learning, in very basic accommodation with minimal resources. They also saw Mary’s Meals at work, providing food for school children.

Margaret came home from Malawi determined to support the organisations working to alleviate poverty and inequality. When she found out that the rebuilding of four Falkirk schools meant that the furniture and equipment from the old buildings was heading to the skip, she had the idea of sending that school furniture to Malawi instead.  Thanks to the support she got from the Raven Trust and local churches, children in Malawi are now using desks & chairs all the way from Falkirk.

She is great fun to talk to and there was a lot of laughter in our chat today. Margaret was in Brownies and Guides in her young days and still attends the Trefoil Guild. She encourages young people today to join youth organisations and sees it as a great way to make friends and learn new skills. Perhaps that helped to develop her zest for life and strong sense of service. In her sixties she sat and passed her Advanced Driving Test.

In summary, Margaret says ‘I’m passionate about education for girls. It opens up their lives and their futures.’

Mariot’s meeting with Margaret Coutts, 3 August 2021

Our volunteer web ‘master’

Introducing another of our band of volunteers, Jean Gordon, who is a social worker, researcher and educator and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Her interest in education, and especially girls’ education, dates back from two very formative years in her ’20s teaching at a secondary school on a small island in Fiji.

As a social worker, and now university tutor and researcher, in the Scottish Highlands, Jean is particularly aware of the challenges of accessing education in rural areas. She’s been involved with the Mamie Martin Fund for about five years, first as a trustee, and now helping to look after the MMF website.

Video volunteer making a difference

We’ve been taking videos and trying to get better at providing you, our supporters and friends, with reasonable quality footage of our work in Malawi. Apart from Doreen, our Administrator and Bookkeeper in Scotland and Mercy, our Malawi Manager, we are all volunteers and learning as we go. Imagine our pleasure, then, to get an offer of help with our video editing, particularly the sound which is so challenging when filming in Malawi (you wouldn’t believe the level of background noise everywhere!). 

Richard Robinson is now our Video Volunteer and his work can be see in the two most recent videos we’ve published – Benadeta and the Thompson Girls. Richard’s background is in rural development and the environment. Recently he has been involved in local Scottish community projects addressing climate change, which led him to learn basic video-editing skills. His daughter’s school have a long established partnership with a school in Southern Malawi; she visited as a teenager and the family later hosted an exchange student. This led Richard to become very aware of the difficulties of education in Malawi, particularly for girls.

We are hugely grateful for this help. As those of you who have done any video-editing will know, it is a very time-consuming task and can be very frustrating. But you can look forward to better-quality videos now that we have Richard on board!

A fresh perspective

Kathleen Sargeant was part of the Falkirk High School visit to Malawi in 2008, when the group attended class at Bandawe Girls Secondary School for a week. The trip made a big impression on all the pupils and teachers, which included Mariot Dallas, currently co-convenor of MMF. 

Kathleen now works in a marketing role in London and has been enormously helpful in reviewing our website and suggesting improvements. Following a meeting in London recently, she was persuaded to extend her volunteering to managing a digital skills audit of MMF, which is part of our Action Plan following our recent Strategic Review. 

It’s hugely helpful to have volunteers taking on specific tasks like this, as we reported recently in relation to the sorting-out-images task that Sue Dumbleton is doing for us. It is also greatly appreciated when we have the input of young people like Kathleen. The average age of our Board is, like most NGOs in Scotland, much higher than we would like, given that we are in the business of education for girls. New perspectives are always helpful and input from younger people is especially welcome.

New volunteer on board

We are delighted that volunteer, Sue Dumbleton, has agreed to help us out with our images, which proliferate faster than we can edit and file them. Sue’s own photos are great and you can check that out on her Blipfoto blog, where she posts photos and ‘blips’ as ‘Tweedy’. Images are so important in our work but finding the time to get them into a sensible filing system and tidy them up is a challenge to the Trustees. 

Sue is committed to education, particularly to girls’ education and has been a supporter of the Mamie Martin Fund for some time. You might have seen our post-AGM news item which was taken from Sue’s own blog about the event. 

We are really appreciative of our volunteers’ time and commitment. Those contributions help us to keep the organization working efficiently and, we hope, effectively. If you have a skill that you’d like to offer us, please do get in touch at [email protected]