Thursday, 7 July 2016

Day 6

…it’s still raining! We’re told it is good rain, but we’re not so sure. It’s also very cold. Our friends laugh when we say this is just like Scotland.

Another busy day started with a quick stop to the Marys Meals kitchen at Nansato Primary school at 6.30am. Meals are served before school now to minimise disruption to teaching during the day. The BB guys got the chance to stir the Likuni phala (fortified maize porridge) and we all got a taste – sweet barbequed porridge was the closest description we managed. Marys Meals is something of real interest to the whole community in Dunblane and so it was good to see this still going strong at Nansato.

After a quick drop off of boys for painting at Pasani Primary school, we picked up Mr Safari and visited Chambe Secondary school. Chambe and Dunblane High have been attempting to link for some time now with frustrations and difficulties at both ends, culminating in a suggestion by Chambe that they would be looking to terminate this link a few months ago. We met with the Headteacher to understand the frustrations and find a way forward. We got a good telling off, but both sides are willing to draw a line and start afresh, with clear contact points at both ends and a promise of key priorities from Chambe’s perspective to be sent later this week.

After a quick break for lunch at Likhubula House and a chance to catch up on the week so far, we headed back down to Nansato Primary for the first of 3 more meetings.

We had a quick catchup with the BB guys painting the classrooms at Nansato – these are looking fantastic! Gift, one of our previous bursars now studying accountancy, had come down to lend a hand!

We met with Mvano (guild) to pass over the gift and best wishes from Dunblane Cathedral Guild. The Mvano plan to use this money to support the most needy in the community. We are promised photos. We were then presented with a gift of a chitenge which we will pass on to the guild.

Meeting number 3 of the day was the re-arranged bursary programme meetings – the first attempt being cancelled earlier in the week after we were even later than Malawi time! This was a very productive meeting with Mr Nyambalo the bursar monitor, Mr Safari the chair of the steering committee and both the head and deputy head teachers of Nansato Primary. We have some great proposals to take back to the Dunblane committee to open up the scheme, as well as answers to a number of the questions being asked back home.

Final stop of the day was our final steering committee meeting and meal at Nancy’s Dream restaurant. We reported on the work we have done this week, actions we had agreed to take and any further action required by the Likhubula committee. All agreed it had been a very productive visit and the future looked bright. We shared a great meal together (chicken and rice with veg… and pizza and spaghetti bolognaise!) and exchanged some gifts. We were given a sand and glass mosaic including Scotland and Malawi flags which was like nothing we’d seen before and incredibly generous.

George leaves tomorrow and so this ends the majority of the work of the partnership for this visit. We hope it has been a productive week – it has certainly been busy! We look forward to returning to the Dunblane committee to share our updates and move our partnership forward together… Umodzi!

Day 5

Today it rained… a lot! What’s all that about!?

We travelled to Blantyre to meet with the contractor from the housing project. Originally we were to meet in Likhubula, but problems with his car meant this wasn’t possible. If Mohammad won’t go to the mountain… then Mulanje mountain goes to Blantyre…

This was an important meeting and a key objective of the trip. The project has not been an easy one, and so it was vital we got a good understanding of the difficulties and proposed way ahead from all parties. We have come away with some good information for our committee to consider when taking the important next steps to ensure the houses are completed.

After a quick visit to the bank and lunch with warm drinks to defrost – did we mention it is freezing  ????? (and a very funny misunderstanding involving coffee in a teapot, tea that looked like coffee and the lesson not to trust George with your teabag…!) – we headed back to Mulanje to visit Mulanje Mission Hospital and Ruth Shakespeare. Ruth is the director there with a huge amount of experience she is willing to share.  Ruth’s vision for the hospital is one of a holistic approach to health including sustainable farming and crops, recycling and she is endeavouring to develop these through the Mulanje area. 

We came away with some clear thoughts and suggestions to take home. In particular, relating to a nursing project young people at Dunblane High school have been working on and how best to take this concept forward.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Day 4

After some peer pressure from Mr. Nyambalo, Fiona agreed to attend the early morning English service. She was the first to arrive at church at 7:30 with the service eventually starting at 8:00am (Malawi time).  Although there were only 5 people at the service she enjoyed reading passages from the bible, offering a prayer for the collection and evening singing an accapela solo version of Praise My Soul the King of heaven.  It was a great experience.

In between the services, Fiona managed to get a couple of good conversations with Mr. Safari and Mr. Nyambalo which has given the trio some food for thought for their return to Scotland. 

Soon after, the kilted Brigade arrived much to the delight of the growing congregation.  Two and a half hours later and after much dancing, singing and worshiping, we returned up to Likhubula House only to turn back an hour later having had time to eat our packed lunch. 

We met with the village chiefs in the afternoon for a much longer meeting than we anticipated. However, it was an excellent meeting which truly demonstrated the support of the chiefs and indeed their effective working relationship with our Steering Committee.  Many ideas were bandied about and we look forward to sharing them with our own Committee when we return. 

The only disappointment from today was the RAIN!  While in our meeting, there was a torrential downpour and we suddenly thought we were back in Scotland.  It is still raining now but we are hoping this will clear for tomorrow when we head to Blantyre and Mulanje for further meetings. 

Day 3

We are travelling with the BB group from Dunblane, with Fiona and Ian sharing their time between the BB Classrooms for Malawi group and the Partnership work.

Having received the abuse for not painting yesterday, we joined them at Pasani Primary school to help with the classrooms. The school is looking so much better already and the guys are working really hard. The schools continue to tell the team what a big difference this will make in providing better environments for learning, keeping learners in school, and attracting good teachers to the schools.

At lunchtime, we met with all 15 Dunblane-Likhubula Bursars from Chambe Secondary school. There are currently 5 in forms 1, 2 and 3. The group arrived sporadically so it was a good opportunity to speak to them one to one. We learned about their aspirations and favourite subjects as well as what they find most difficult (maths by the sounds of it).  At this point the BB boys joined us and it was really amazing to see the two groups interacting together. The buzz in the pagoda was incredible and a testament to global citizenship when two cultures can mix so easily. Later that evening we did a feedback session with the boys and they were overwhelmed by some of the stories of the bursars. Some of the learners told the boys how their parents, siblings, grandparents had all died.  They spoke of long walks to school, endless chores but also about a love of learning, similar hobbies and shared challenges and goals.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch (chicken and rice…..a familiar menu!) and then some speeches from some of the bursars and the bursar monitor.    They said that they were proud to be Dunblane bursars and endeavoured to work their hardest.  We also reiterated our pride in what they were doing and encouraged them to keep working hard. 

It was a particular highlight to meet up with Christina and Gifte, two of our bursars who have gone on to further education.  Christina is at teaching college and training to be a primary school teacher.  Gifte is enrolled in an accountancy course and enjoying his studies.   Both are articulate young adults with a great future ahead of them. 

(In more exciting news, the goat from Nakonyo village has given birth to a male baby! We have suggested they name the goat Kilby… our Dunblane committee may appreciate this!)

Day 2

Another busy day today – with many more to come!

In the morning we met with Ruth and Jessica from the Likhubula steering committee to visit all of the houses being built. These were funded through a grant from Scotland-Malawi Partnership following floods in Malawi in 2015. This is possibly one of the most challenging projects for the Partnership with huge delays and frustrations on all sides.

We visited all 6 houses (each in a different village) and met with the beneficiaries. It was important to understand what had been completed, what still remained, and who had undertaken the work to date. Most importantly, we spoke with the beneficiaries to apologise that they still did not have a completed house and to promise we would be returning to Scotland armed with the information and photos we had gathered to ensure that, one way or another, their house would be complete.

Emotionally, it was a difficult morning. Many of the beneficiaries had already moved into their homes despite some still being building sites due to the delays. We all – on all sides of our partnership and the project – have a responsibility to see this through and to learn from the challenges.

More positively, while travelling around the villages we were able to visit a number of the goat koalas from the goat project! In Nakonyo village there was even a goat due to give birth any day now, while in Mbewa we visited a second generation koala housing the goats born from the original project. This will, we are sure, be well received news at the Dunblane steering committee!

Travelling around Likhubula, it is amazing the number of people who ask if we are from Dunblane and come to say hello. Indeed,  some people have even stopped and given us thanks for the work we are doing.  The partnership really is a whole community one.

In the afternoon, we visited the market at Chitikale and an internet cafĂ© in Mulanje to update the blog (yesterdays!) as well as the BB blog. While wifi at Likhubula house is best accessed standing on one leg holding your ear (we might have tricked another school group into believing this….!), Mulanje had great speeds.

We were due to meet with Mr Nyambalo (bursar monitor), Mr Safari (Chairperson of Likhubula steering committee) and the Headteacher of Nansato Primary school in the afternoon but we had fallen so far into Malawi time by this point that we thought it best to re-arrange until later in the week to ensure a good discussion.

We are trying to fit a lot into a short space of time, but we believe it to have been very successful so far…

Friday, 1 July 2016

Day 1

Our first full day in Malawi has been very busy.  After a very full breakfast at Likhubula House of eggs, sausages and fruit salad we headed down to Nansato Primary School with the Boy’s Brigade Team.  We were met by literally hundreds of kids shaking our hands and singing. The boys were overwhelmed by their welcome and thrilled to finally be in a school. They had arranged a few songs for us and a lovely banner.   We met with the Head Teacher and saw all the building work that has already been completed by the Classrooms for Malawi builders.  From there we headed down to Pasani Primary School where we were met by even more excited children.  Some had clearly never seen so many ‘azungu’ (foreigners) or certainly not in such great numbers!  Some very courageous children were even climbing up on the back of the mini-van causing the door to open! 

The welcome at Pasani was amazing.  There was a tug of war (no rope just hanging onto bodies!) between the BBs and the Standard 1 class (5 and 6 year olds)……each team won one game, poems especially written and performed by young learners and more singing and dancing.  The school parent committee had also prepared delicious baked sweet potatoes for us to try.  

It was back to Likhubula House for a delicious lunch, chips, beef and coleslaw before we walked down the hill to meet with our committee.  We had an opportunity to visit the new church which is looking very impressive (and big!) before the meeting began.

Our first meeting

Our first meeting was a great success.  It was an open and honest discussion underpinned by the values of friendship and working together.   We started by making list of all the things that the Likhubula Committee believed had gone well with the partnership then moved to what hadn’t gone well.  Interestingly, this list would mirror what the Dunblane Committee had also highlighted in terms of positives and negatives.

For the committee here, they unanimously agreed that the water supply project and the support for education were particular strengths.  They also agreed that the food aid and fertilizer project were particularly valuable for them in a time of need.  They also agreed that the school toilet project had been very well delivered.

In terms of aspects of the partnership that hadn’t gone as well, the Committee highlighted, the house, goats, broiler chickens and sewing projects as not having such  positive outcomes. The links (or lack of) with Mvano was also discussed.    As a wider committee we explored some of the possible reasons for all these projects not being successful through a very honest, frank yet understanding discussion.  It was excellent and truly demonstrated partnership values. 

We discussed some of the ways we may move forward in the future and will explore these further in the week and bring back some ideas for our Committee in Dunblane to consider. 

The sun was setting as we finished the meeting.  24 bottles of pop  and some snacks (biscuits for the azungu and bread rolls for the locals) consumed but a real sense of achievement was highlighted.  Luckily the bus came to get us as it was pitch black by the time we finished congratulating ourselves. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Meet the team

We're nearly there! Having safely travelled as far as South Africa, we are waiting for our final flight... Then we'll be on Malawi!

Our team is made up of 3 committee members - Fiona Anderson, George Bond and Ian Brown.

Fiona and Ian are also spending time with a group from Dunblane Boys' Brigade working with the charity Classrooms for Malawi to renovate 18 classrooms at Nansato and Pasani primary schools in the Likhubula area. This group will be blogging on their own site here

This will be George's first time in Malawi with the partnership. Fiona last visited in 2013 and Ian first travelled with the partnership in 2008. We hope to prove to be a good team with varied interests and experience.

We're all very excited to be traveling to Likhubula to represent the partnership and hope to be able to keep you up to date while we're away. Watch this space!