Last November - writes Fiona Scott - I began to realise what a warm hearted community we all live in, such was the generosity of our local people sponsoring my ‘head shave’ to help support my trip to Africa.
This alone I am extremely thankful for. On December 13 2012 I set off to my new home in Olositi, Maasia Land Kenya. I soon realised I was totally unprepared for the extreme contrast of living conditions there bit I was made very welcome in a home that was completely stripped to the bare basics of life with no electricity, no running water and very basic sanitation. However, I soon became settled in this new environment.
Unfortunately I became ill soon after and sadly had to return home to recover. This was not in my plan! Although I had a scare, I was determined to return and carry on with my journey.
In February 2013 I was warmly welcomed back into mumma Grace’s home in Olositi with a cup of Chi and a bowl of Chapatti. The next two weeks flew by teaching in the local school and digging with the garden project. Sadly the time came to say goodbye to the family I now was part of. I left with the Maasai name I had been awarded with - Naishorua (the “giver”).
The next chapter of my adventure was about to begin as I travelled to Domasi in the Zomba region of Malawi. I was amazed at how quickly the Malawians could accept me, a complete stranger, as one of their ‘Sisters’. I would now be working for a charity called Tikondwe. This is an incredible charity and I have now witnessed how it literally changes lives through schooling, sponsoring, orphanage work, HIV awareness, Seeds of Hope, high priority care, First Aid and many more projects. I would be staying in a home with, on average, ten other volunteers which was a little family in itself. I was placed in a wonderful school in the village of Chilambe travelling there by jinga (bicycle) everyday(about 20mins). Along with a local volunteer teacher Mina, Esmy or Ester I taught from Monday to Thursday. Morning class was made up of ninety excitable children of pre-school age who were extremely clever and eager to learn. We taught the children English and Maths using songs and games and we all had so much fun! Thanks to ongoing donations all morning children in all the seven village schools which Tikondwe supports now get a bowl of Pala (porridge) every school day, which for most would be their only meal but this of course this helped their school attendance.
Afternoon school was attended by around forty seven to sixteen-year-olds and we followed a curriculum that was made up by previous volunteers including Maths, English, Grammar, Science, Geography, Health matters, First Aid, Art and Music which not surprisingly was their favourite subject. In this school I experienced countless enjoyable days teaching, playing and laughing (there was always laughter) with the youth of Chilambe.
Weekends were free for volunteers to travel and explore life in beautiful Malawi. Of course a weekend at the stunning Lake Malawi (after an all standing 12 hour bus experience!) was rather enjoyable. A weekend in our village left me with memories I will never forget. Walking down the path to Tokko’s tomato stand with five children hanging off me, hearing a voice yell ‘karibo nsima’ which means ‘you’re welcome to eat nsima (local dish) with me’ as I passed every home, swimming in a nearby river with local boys catching questionable fish, singing and dancing all the time, helping with the maize or playing with the local children shouting ‘sangalala’ (I’m happy).
I am so grateful for my time in Malawi, the true ‘warm heart of Africa’ and would love everyone to experience the culture, meet the people but most importantly understand the poverty. An example I use is Emsy, whose seven year old son attended my morning class which is for 2-6 year olds meaning
he should be attending Government school in the mornings. Esmy appeared reluctant to explain when I repeatedly asked her why he wasn’t going to that school. Finally she told me that she could not afford the uniform, which was essential at Government School. After many attempts of asking how much the uniform cost she eventually said it 300 Kwacha which is around 15 pence. Esmy was ashamed but quite frankly I was ashamed when I asked myself what I have often had spent my money on. 15 pence is nothing in this country and yet this is preventing a young boy’s dream of schooling. This is the sad truth of poverty not only in Malawi or Africa but throughout the world. This incredible experience in Malawi has thankfully changed my awful stereotypical view of African life and I now feel I want to spread the word that no matter what difficulties families there face, they are 100 times happier than anyone I have ever met. Always singing, always dancing and most importantly always, always smiling.
Coming to the end of my time in Malawi, I became aware that Chilambe School was held in a chicken hut. This is due to serious floods and lack of funding which ended the progress of the real school being completed which I recognised was a totally unacceptable situation for 90 children. Talking to the Tikondwe project founder, Joshua Mbozole and his coordinator Emma Camm, I realised that with the fundraised money from my ‘head shave’ we could pay for materials to complete the school. Local volunteers sourced the materials and built the roof, managing to squeeze the budget and dig two much needed “toilets”. Classes are now taking place in the new Chilambe School.
Personally I would like to say a huge thank you to you for your kind donations and sponsoring. I had promised that I would say a massive ‘zikomo kwabiri’ from the Chief and community of Chilambe and the Tikondwe Youth Organisation for making this happen. An unexpected leaving ceremony (attended by around 300 locals from several villages) made me and emotional wreck. The local dance group performed along with Sisco and Christon doing what they do best by making everyone laugh. Then six of my afternoon boys performed a play about western culture which was hillarious. I then got my morning class up and we sang and danced a song I taught them (with a clear Scottish accent!). This ended with emotional speeches and a free for all dance. I couldn’t have asked for a better send off.
Now home, I miss being a part of that community so much and I am currently working and saving hard to return to the simple life of Malawi. I plan to return in January, taking clothing donations of all shapes and sizes with me. If you would like to donate please get in touch.
Lastly, what do you spend 15 pence on?