Nkhata Bay trip by Gillian Kerr

A week and a day into our trip and it was time to leave St Patrick’s and head to the lake for some R,&R….
First stop, Mzuzu. En route to the little piece of paradise that is Lake Malawi, we stopped off to change some money, grab a coffee at The Den and a quick WiFi fix. Bernadetta always seems to know ‘a man who can’, and so we were off to meet Stanley….into the back shop of Mzuzu’s very own B&Q (the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ store) and our pounds are happily exchanged for chomene Kwacha!! Sorted!! A pit stop for coffee, WiFi and deals done with some of Bernadette’s biggest fans (the street sellers) and we were set to continue our drive to Nkhata Bay.
The scenery is simply breath taking on our hour long drive through the mountains and villages. Deep valleys, lined with lush greenery and dusty road-side paths merge seamlessly and are just Malawi. Children skip along the side of the road hand in hand on their way home from school, some with shoes, most without and some rockin’ the one-shoe look…I guess one is better than none.
We arrive at the lake in time for a late lunch which the girls have been so looking forward to – they serve ‘normal food’ here! Small tapas bowls for the staff and chips, burgers and quesadillas a plenty for the young team and everyone is happy.
We all decide that today is a “chill” kinda day and we spend some time settling into our rooms and catching some sun, lakeside.
I love Myoka Village – our resort. It’s a mix of super-laid-back Malawian hospitality, unbelievable scenic beauty coupled with a hint of the Caribbean….they like their reggae vibe here! We enjoy people watching at dinner. The back packers provide some interesting chat…
Dinner, cocktails and bed is the order of the day for the St Benny’s crew.

Friday 9am breakfast seems totally indulgent after our week of 5.55am alarm calls. Myoka pancake stacks, poached eggs and coffee are all met with great delight.
We decide to walk into town, and 2 mins in we realise we have Harry the dog as our chaperone…(it wasn’t actually Harry, but that’s another story!)
Bernadette warns everyone to be really careful on the treacherous path and promptly decides to illustrate this by executing an Olympic level tumble perfectly. Ouch.
All good and we carry on to the stalls. The boys love to see who their Bernadetta will bring each year to visit, each one delighted to show us their shop and Malawian souvenirs. Thorough browsing complete and we continue down the hill and into the town centre. It’s a bustling Malawian place. Market stall holders sell fish, tomatoes, grain and oil. There’s so much to see. Women carry babies on their back and all kinds of everything on their heads. Sofie, Lara and Abbie attract attention from the little ones and soon have a gang of children walking with them, holding hands. No words needed.
All shopped out, we decide to stop off at Papaya, the bar with the terrace. Cold drinks and more people watching.
Back to Mayoka and it’s time for siestas or sun-worshipping. The girls and I hang out on the swing seat, catch some rays and watch the sunset over Lake Malawi. Bliss.
Saturday morning consists of another yummy breakfast before heading down town and finalising our purchases from the boys at the stalls. Bernadette hands over the annual present of some paints to help them with their canvas painting; paving the way for a decent barter session. Rule 1. Never accept the first price! The girls are fairly impressive and keep the boys on their toes…you can take the girl out of Linwood…
We walk on into the town centre in search of WiFi but the power is down and there’s none to be found so a wee ‘chill’ time at Papaya suffices. If Carlsberg did Saturdays…
The staff have massages booked on the beach at the Butterfly Lodge (next door to Mayoka) so we head back up the hill. Anne and I head over and there is one table ready and waiting. Anne looks a bit worried as they carry an old wooden table over for her!!! No need- a couple of cushions later and we are good to go. The massage service supports local women’s business and was a real treat.
We all spend the rest of the afternoon topping up our tans….well some of us do, Sofie continues to will her skin to change colour!
Saturday night was all about the resident live musician…the legend that is Mike Mountain. Bernadette has his album on repeat in her car and talked up the performance considerably…he did not disappoint  His set was moved forward and cut short due to World Cup mania, but nevertheless, like a true pro he carried on regardless!!!
I will leave you with some of his infamous lines….feel free to choose your own melody for now!
“How big is the lake?….the lake is so big. How big is the lake? So big, so big! How big is the lake?…the lake is so big. How big is Malawi lake??!!”
Paweme, and much love from us all in Malawi xxxx

Day 7 and Day 8 by Anne Phelps

Monire Mose!
Day 7 and Day 8: Tiddly-wink Championship and then we went on a road trip!
Wednesday 27th June
Each night I set my alarm for 6am knowing that it won’t be needed. Our first alarm call might be anytime between 4:30 and 5am – the cockerel beginning its day. If we missed that bell (a tin ring hanging on the tree) sounds to waken the boys – their first job of the day is to sweep the school grounds and classrooms. The second bell (and I am still in bed) is at 6am and the boys have breakfast. We make our way to mass – meeting the social studies teacher on his way to class! Fr Sam celebrates mass – the boys sing well and now I am fully awake.
Mr Gondwe has breakfast ready for us – I am hoping for rice porridge, Lara for French toast and Sofie for chips. After breakfast the girls returned to bed for what turned out to be a five hour power nap! The much needed recovery after following a St Patrick’s student for one day! Bernadette, Gillian and I went to class to teach Maths, Chemistry and English. My chalkboard work certainly needs improving! The girls surfaced for lunch – barely conversant but slowly coming to life.
After lunch we made our way to St Magdalena’s – the children were waiting just inside the gate to greet us – full voice and massive smiles. We settled down – the children organized themselves into three groups – setting up for an afternoon of colouring in and tiddlywinks!

Howls of laughter when a tiddlywink got lost up Thomas’ trousers – encouragement from Efa to ensure that her best buddy Marina scored points. We left the children colouring in, with their new pencils and books, promising to come back in a few days.
The day finished off with evening prayer – walking to church as the sun set on one side and the full moon rose. Stunningly beautiful.

Thursday 28th June

Our road trip began with a visit to the Coffee Den – which should be renamed Internet Heaven! We had our coffee and cake fix before going to visit with Bernadette’s old buddies. Stan the money man (found after navigating our way through some lively back streets) welcomed us into the backroom with a subtle nod – rates agreed and money changed hands. Fr Sam drove us to Lake Malawi through absolutely stunning mountain scenery –every turn in the road presented a breath-taking view. The girls of course slept…
We arrived at Mayoka lodge at Nkhata Bay. Couldn’t stop smiling – beautiful. Navigating the steps with varifocals a bit of challenge – skinned knees once only but oh so worth it. Lovely tranquil setting looking over Lake Malawi (in the the words of local musician ….. so big, so big. Lake Malawi is a calendar 365miles long, 52 miles wide…). Fab food, great company and an opportunity to recharge our batteries and do a bit of shopping. The next few days promise to be bliss!

Paweme from Lake Malawi!

Annex.

Malawi 2018 – Days 5 & 6 by Abbie Kerr

Day 5 of the Malawi 2018 adventure…

Today we started the day at 6am, to get ready for mass. After mass we came back to the house for breakfast, where we were given the choice of rice pudding or chips and of course Aggie, Rara and Sofi chose chips! We finished up and headed to our first classes of Malawi, all three of us headed to Form 1 English with my mum, we played a game of hangman to which the boys struggled to understand but we got there after a while! After classes, much to the disappointment of the boys, we headed back to our house for lunch. After Sofies’ amazing grace to end lunch we got ready to make our first visit to St Magdalena’s School, just along the road from St Patrick’s. We arrived to the heartwarming sound of the children singing their welcome song. We got to know their names and introduced ourselves. It was just a flying visit as we were heading to Mzuzu for our first Wi-Fi connection and hot beverage. Me and the girls ordered hot chocolate, a cupcake, some white chocolate KitKat and of course the password for the Wi-Fi, which came to a grand total of around 3 pounds each…lucky us!! After our endless snaps and messages we headed back onto the minibus for a trip to Shoprite. Sofie, Lara and I walked the aisles looking for appetizing snacks and we had a good laugh with Sofie jumping on a kid’s motorbike and looking at Shoprite’s finest selection of footwear! We budgeted well, buying 3 bags of crisps, 2 bars of chocolate and 5 individual bars of other chocolate – as well as Sofie’s gorgeous new flip flops. Finally we headed to the Bishop’s house to visit Fr. Chunda. Much to our surprise there was further Wi-fi connection available to use! Fr Chunda was so happy that we had popped by. After we had laughs and took many pictures we headed back home for dinner. As we were late home we just stayed in for chats and headed to bed fairly early as we were wakening at 5:15am…

Day 6 in the Malawi Villa…
Today I experienced one of the most brain squeezing days of my life, “A day in the life of…’. Awakening at 5:15am, half asleep with my eyes burning I pulled myself out of bed and got ready for the long day ahead of me. We were picked up by Philip, Timothy and John at 6:15am, later than the expected 6am pick up, which was extremely exciting as we were sure we had missed breakfast. They walked us to help with the ‘outdoor work’ aka – sweeping the floor. Following our sweeping session we made our way to morning mass. After mass we were ready to head to classes but to our surprise we were told breakfast was still to be eaten :( . So we headed to the dining hall. We sat down to a plate of porridge. If you could even call it that. Luckily we had the help of Austin who very selflessly gave us a split of his peanut butter he had saved up for himself. This made the porridge somewhat more edible than if we didn’t have it. I attempted to keep my lump of peanut butter on my spoon so that I would only take a tiny amount of porridge and a good bit of peanut butter to cover the taste, however, Phillip clocked my plan and swiftly mixed my peanut butter through the porridge. I could see Austin sitting at his table laughing at me as I attempted to stomach a spoonful of the runny…substance. I tried my best to eat what I could but it got to the point where enough was enough and I was “full”. Much to the disappointment of Philip I was unable to finish and we left to get ready for classes. Classes began at 7:10am, shocking I know, we began with nothing as the teachers of St Patrick’s have gone on a self-advised strike because they think that Bernadetta, Dr Anne and Gillian are teaching every day for 9 periods, seems realistic I know…! So period 2 and “Dr Anne” took us for chemistry, where I was swarmed with boys asking for the answers, as I knew what cycloalkane was, glad something in Nat5 chemistry stuck with me. Following Dr Anne we were joined by “Bernadetta” who took us for maths, in which I tried to keep my eyes open but it wasn’t lasting much longer. 3 periods in and feeling like I had been awake for two days, it was time for break…break! We headed to the tuck shop and we bought out the full supply of snacks. We gave them out to the boys, which they loved! We headed back for a further four classes and then headed for lunch which was Nsima (seema). And beans. We sat in a further 2 classes, to which no teachers showed because of exams, so we were much more relaxed. Exhausted and desperate for bed we went to sports, which Sofie and I chose basketball. The boys quickly found out I played tennis so wasn’t long until I was dragged on to play each and every one who chose tennis as their sport for the day. This was before I had even made it to basketball, so sweating and barely able to keep my eyes open I called it a day on the tennis court and headed to the basketball court. You’ll be glad to know my team managed to beat Sofie’s. Result! We headed back home and got ready for evening prayers. Following evening prayers we went for dinner. Again…our favourite…Nsima!! Now was time for further study but we tried to avoid studying by singing the boys some songs and getting them to teach us some dances, which is always easy with the keen boys. Absolutely shattered and in need of a week-long nap we headed home and jumped straight into bed. Goodnight from us girls x
Abbie xx

Day 4 – Sunday 24th June.

Monire Mose!

Today we got up at 6:45am for a cold shower and to enjoy having no electricity. We got dressed and left to go to 8am mass with Father Sam and the boys at St Patrick’s. We returned to have breakfast – French toast again so we were happy! We then left to go to Timbuka mass at St Denis’ Parish, from 10am-12.30pm. Despite not understanding any of the mass, the singing made us smile. We then had lunch at St Denis’ with the parish priest, Fr Austin. We had rice – again… It was time to leave so we said our goodbyes and drove to the shop, Peoples, to get some snacks and ‘Raid’ to kill the endless amount of spiders in our house. We then walked to the Chef’s Parade to have drinks before walking home. The heat was unreal – we arrived home sweating and so tired. We had a free afternoon so decided to go for a nap – 3pm -5.40pm – it was the best sleep. We woke and had to rush to get ready for the Benediction Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Electricity was still non-existent, so we had candles in the church and torches in the house. It was time for dinner and then Abbie and I went to see the boys and we played games (Simon says; brain teasers; Macro Polo and Yes and No- which I won!). Sofie stayed home as she was tired. Were walked home by Alfred, Austin and Patrick at 9pm and we sat up chatting to the teachers and then went to bed as we were shattered- even after our nap.
Hope you are all well – we miss you all so much.
Love to our families,
Larax

Malawi 2018 Days 1-3

Hello everyone, on Thursday 21st we left Glasgow on our first flight of the long journey to Malawi. We arrived in London very excited to have our last McDonalds before we were faced with rice and chicken for three weeks. However, after multiple laps of Heathrow airport we soon discovered that there was in fact no fast food restaurants to be seen. We then boarded the long 8 hour flight to Ethiopia. By the time we landed it was Friday morning and everyone was so tired. The final flight would take us to Lilongwe in Malawi and we landed at 2pm where we were greeted by Father Sam. We boarded the minibus and travelled a further 8 hours from the airport to St Patrick’s Seminary in Rumphi. It was 10.30pm by the time we settled in Father Sam’s house and after Dr Phelps helped to get rid of many spiders we all went to bed. It was very exciting to be reunited with all the boys from St Patrick’s that we met last year and also all the boys who visited Scotland in February. Saturday was the Graduation day for Form 4. We celebrated mass with the boys, watched them play football and had a meal with them. They also hosted a concert where they sang songs and showed us some dancing and Form 4 were given graduation certificates. After this we had some time to rest and then went to evening prayers at 6pm. We ended the night by attending a disco and the boys tried to teach us some dancing. However, as much as we tried we never really got the hang of it.

Pawemi,

Sofie

The Last Post by Bishop John

Apologies for the late posting. Bishop John sent it as an iMessage and it didn’t come through until I arrived home. B

With the St. Benedict’s crew at the departure lounge of Lilongwe airport, it falls to me to post our last blog one hour before we say goodbye to Malawi, so well named as ‘the warm heart of Africa’.
Having just minutes ago said our farewells to Bernadette, who remains two weeks to develop the partnership, and Fr. Sam, seminary rector, who looked after us hour by hour since our arrival ten days ago, I think I will start with them.
Fr Sam quietly attended to our every need – and there were many, from driving us the length and breadth of the county to changing our money at the bank, and joyfully became part of our St. Benedict’s family. He showed himself a fine example of a humble priest who sought nothing more than to serve us to the best of his ability. The Malawi project, I have no doubt, is from the Holy Spirit but it has been given to Bernadette as a clear vision and driving passion. It seems every Malawian already knows our ‘Bernadetta’ , from bishops to stall traders. We’ve been having a good chat and I feel this Malawi partnership has only just begun and from the three schools where Bernadette has developed vibrant partnerships I hope we can add parish twinning and maybe even a Paisley Mzuzu partnership.
That leaves the St. Benedict’s team 2017: Anna, Ewan, Jordan, Katie, Kenny, Lara, Louise, Neil, Sofie and Stephen, along with the other fine team leaders, Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Sinclair, with whom I’ve laughed and cried with and made good friends. The students have worked their socks off, thrown themselves into seminary life, made friends with the boys and taken in the whirlwind of projects the partnership has sponsored, throwing in a visit to Mary’s Meals too. If they will never forget Malawi I will never forget them. They have been a joy to share two weeks with and have delighted and encouraged me no end. They are the joy of today and the hope of tomorrow.
Our final two days holiday at the lake allowed us to bring to a close the wealth of experiences we have met and to forge our friendships in the most heavenly of settings in lakeside chalets.
…we’re now in the plane! Before take off a last thanks to all of you, whose generosity has made this visit possible and who kept up with us through our blog. In some ways most of you, whether family of our students or benefactors of the project, have been more generous in heart than we who came. My best wish for you is that you get the chance to come to Malawi and experience for yourself the joy, the life and the Good News we have seen everywhere, even in the most unexpected of places like the orphanages.
We return home changed and with a mission to change hearts back home too. See you soon.

Bishop John

Pawemi! Bye

Well that’s the group en route home. Lots of tears at the airport and mixed emotions. It has been a pleasure and a blessing sharing the last 2 weeks with them all. After 15 years of visiting Malawi the one thing that still really moves me is seeing young people fall in love with country as much as I did. They will return home today as better people due to the experiences we shared and energised to continue the great work of the partnership. St. Benedict’s is lucky to have them. As for me, I now face the daunting task of interviewing and selecting the boys to visit Scotland next year.

Bernadetta

Day 10 Sat 24 June by Jordan Todd

Monire mose!! (hello all) .

I can’t begin to put into words how much of an amazing experience this has been for each and every single one of us. The trip is everything and more we could ever imagine. Every single person in Malawi has been so welcoming and the whole experience is truly overwhelming.

Today the team had a nice wee long lie (06.00). We began the day with our daily morning Mass at 06.30 where me and Lara did some readings. Kind of scary as I talk far too fast, which I think has stopped due to being here- go me!! After Mass the team headed back to the house to organize for the emotional day that was in store for us. We had sausages and chips for breakfast with a nice cup of coffee which was a nice little change. After breakfast we started to pack the party bags for all four forms. Each form received a pencil, pen, pack of chewing gum and a memorial item and an official partnership postcard with our mugs plastered across it :)))) After all the bags were packed everyone decided to go for a nap and refresh ourselves for the rest of the day.

We had lunch and headed for St. Magdalena/s for our farewell party which I assumed was going to send me into a tsunami of emotions (it didn’t). We had organized some fun party games and gifts for the amazing children and sister of the school. Each of the girls received a dress from St. Bernadette’s parish in Erskine, which all the girls were so pleased with. Their smiles were something else. Each of the boys received a strip which they all loved and were playing football in them with Dom. The group was amazed by the spirit and happiness of the children. They truly did put everything into perspective. We all had an amazing day and we sang and danced with the children and took some amazing photos. Thomas and I got a photo and I had my tongue out and his laugh was hilarious. We said our final goodbyes and presented our gifts to the sister and children which they couldn’t be any more grateful for.

After our party we went for our final walk round the seminary. We then got organized for dinner and our farewell party with our new ‘besties’. I spent the majority of my night with Timothy and Edward who are honestly the nicest people I’ve ever met. If it wasn’t for these two kindhearted boys my trip wouldn’t be as special. They took me under their wing and showed me everything I needed to know and how things were done.

After the party everyone began to say their goodbyes and tears were shed both by us and the boys. It took us a while but everything was very emotional and the whole team couldn’t believe this was our last night with the boys who had impacted our lives in such a short amount of time. Speaking on behalf of the whole team it doesn’t feel like we have known the boys for only a week; it feels like forever. Everybody headed home and got organized for the next day when we were really leaving the boys.

Day 9 Fri 23 June by Kenny Stewart

Hello everyone! Today we got up at 5:30 AM and I was extremely tired due to getting up extremely early every day as we had to go to morning mass and breakfast was at 6am. The first place we went this morning was to visit a Mary’s meals project in Ekwendeni where they did many different things to entertain us. They started with a dialogue that was mainly about porridge as that is the meal that is provided by Mary’s meals. They sang many songs for us such as a song that was saying thank you for porridge and a song to say goodbye at the end. They then acted out a scene where they were explaining the importance of porridge as they were saying how the pass rate at the school has improved since the introduction of Mary’s meals it has gone up from about 20% to 70%. They then proceeded to do a traditional Malawian dance with fake spears and shields. At the end there were speeches as the head teacher, Miss McFadden and the bishop all made speeches at the end of our visit to say how grateful we were to have visited and how amazing their entertainment was.

We then made our way to St Peter’s where we visited Bishop Zuza’s grave and it was so beautiful as we had a wee prayer at his grave and Father Sam asked us to sing a hymn and we sang I watched the sunrise. The Bishop and teachers laid a wreath on his grave and all of the students laid a rose on his grave it was very lovely and we paid our respects to his memory.

The women’s development center was the next place we visited. The woman there Modesta told us all about what they did there for the widows and the orphans. She is the sister of the woman at St Magdelena’s sister Enestina and she was the cousin of Bishop Zuza. We got a tour of the cathedral while we were at St. Peters. We then went to Father Sam’s mum and dad’s house for lunch and they were very hospitable. They gave us more than I expected. After lunch had ended Father Sam’s mother and father gave us a gift of spoon and bowl and we gave them a gift of Scottish souvenirs. Father Sam’s father was a teacher and Father Sam has three brothers and four sisters.

We then went into Mzuzu where we visited the market but the only person that bought something was Bernadette. While we were in Mzuzu we went to a café where we got drinks and bought banana bread and cupcakes. We went to a hospital within Mzuzu were visited some sick people and gave them blankets and we went to the maternity ward to see the newborn babies and some of us got to hold them and some of them were even just a few hours old.

We then made our way back to St Patrick’s but never made it back in time for evening prayer so we just went back for dinner. That night at St Patrick’s we put on a concert with a number of Scottish dances like the Gay Gordons and a bunch of Scottish songs like Caledonia, Loch Lomomd and 500 miles. The boys also did many songs and dances, they rapped and did a traditional Malawian dance. It was a great end to the day.

he boys at marys meal after that we just went to slept.

Monire mose

Greetings from paradise aka Nkhata Bay. We left St Patrick’s amid a tsunami of tears and are now chilling at Lake Malawi for two nights. The wifi isn’t working so just posting a couple of lines to let you all know that we are safe and sound. The kids have done us all proud and have totally immersed themselves in Malawian life and culture. They’re already trying to book up for the next trip but no-one knows more than me how Malawi can get under your skin. AS for the staff – I couldn’t have hoped for better company. Our concert performance by “Bennys and da Bish” will go down in musical history.

We will try to post two day’s worth tomorrow to make up for our technical issues today.

Pawemi

Bernadetta

Day 8 Thu 22 June by Katie Stewart

Hi guys, welcome to day eight in Malawi. The day started at 6:00am, (a bit of a lie in!) we got up and headed to morning mass which starts at 6:30am. After mass we headed back home for breakfast, of French toast, hooray!!
We then packed our bags and gathered some sports equipment and made our way to RU2 Primary for our sports day. Standard 6 and 7 were split into groups of ten and each of us took one group for an activity, although soon kids from every standard joined in and within about ten minutes I was playing Scatch with a group of about forty. I also met a little girl called Katie too!

After sports day we went back home for lunch which was chips, chicken and rice. I then had a very short nap, (still recovering from Tuesday’s 4:30am start.) Before we set off for St. Magdalena’s, a boarding school for disabled children, for some activities. Lara and I brought bubbles which were widely enjoyed by the kids in our group there.
Then we hopped in the mini bus for a short drive to a local, traditional village. We received such a warm welcome from the village locals who sang and danced at our arrival. The village chief made a speech and we were all introduced. We were then welcomed and, shown around the homes of some of the locals. We then had the presentation of gifts, where we presented the village chief with, a parcel for each family, containing salt, sugar and soap, and lots of gift bags with sweets and stationery. We were then presented with the gift one huge bag of monkey nuts and one huge bag of ground nuts. Then we shook the hands of all the village locals and were sung and danced to, as we left.

On the way home we made a quick stop at the shop to pick up some munchies- crisps and chocolate, yippee! We arrived home and had some dinner, which was chips  Jordan hurt her wrist so I used my stretch bandage so it was all fine. Then after the exhausting day we all headed to bed, just after the spider death count increased to 4.

p.s. Sofie would like to say good luck to Distinction in their competition on Sunday.

Day 7 Wed 21 June by Sofie Ross

Day 7 by Sofie
Monire mose!! This morning we all had a lie in for a change- 6am. Morning mass was exciting and fun as usual, everyone singing, dancing and enjoying themselves. After mass we came back to the girl’s house and had breakfast which was French toast. For the first time ever we put sugar on the toast which was surprisingly amazing. Once breakfast was finished, Father Sam drove us all to the diocese of Karonga.
Whilst on the way we saw a glimpse of Lake Malawi which was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life. We also realised that as we got closer to Karonga it began to get extremely warm. Miss McFadden then explained that the closer we got to the diocese of Karonga, the closer we got to the equator which resulted in the temperature rising.

Once we arrived we met Bishop Martin, who greeted us with a warm welcome and ensured us that he was extremely happy that we visited him. After this, we headed to the newly built cathedral and had a lovely lunch in the cathedral house with Father Denis and Father Kondwani. The new cathedral was massive and had beautiful paintings and statues.
After lunch, we headed to Lusibilo Orphanage. It was very upsetting for everyone seeing all the young children without mums and dads, however the men and women who worked in the orphanage reassured us that the children were not alone and they were all part of one big family. We were given a tour around the centre where we had a first-hand view of where the young children slept. They each had a bed and a wardrobe which were clean and tidy. Also, when we arrived the children greeted us with songs. This showed us that even though they are without parents they were still able to be happy.

We finished our day by driving home singing songs and entertaining each other. For the first time during our trip we missed evening prayers for which everyone was surprisingly disappointed. For dinner we had rice, beans and fish and after this we each had a nice cold shower.  Then we went to bed to prepare ourselves for another busy day coming up.
After what we experienced today we learned to appreciate everything that we have, especially our mums, dads, brothers and sisters. We love and miss you all, see you soon xx

Day 6 Tue 20 June by Louise O’Brien

Tuesday 20th June 2017

Day in the life of a St Patrick’s Seminary Pupil

Our day started at 4:30am where we woke up in order to be at the seminary for breakfast at 5:30am, only to find out at 5:35am that breakfast is actually at 6.10! Forty minutes after the initial meeting time, we met the boys in the dining hall for breakfast where we ate the breakfast that the boys will normally eat which is maize porridge. It tasted really different to porridge back home. It tasted sweeter and was much smoother than oat porridge back in Scotland.

After breakfast, we met in the church for 6:30am where morning mass was said by Bishop John of Paisley Diocese, and Bishop John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese. We then went to morning classes where we did Maths and Bible Knowledge. After this we had our first break of the morning and drank sweet tea while eating mandazi, a type of doughnut. After break we had two more classes, Geography and Chemistry. After this we ate lunch where we ate a traditional Malawian meal, nsima, which is boiled maize, flour and water. We ate this with beans and boiled leaves. We then still had time before afternoon classes so we met a few of the boys and took photographs and got to know them.

After lunch, we went to afternoon classes where we did another maths lesson and then had a free period to go home and get changed for afternoon activities. This is when the boys will play sports activities after their day of classes. They will often play football, basketball, volleyball or tennis. We all joined in with the boys, where I discovered that 5’2 is too short for basketball” After sports, we prepared for evening prayers. We came home to find that the power was out so getting ready got harder as the sun set. At six o’clock we met in the church for evening prayers. Evening prayers normally consist of reading from a prayer book but because the electricity wasn’t working, we couldn’t see the books so instead we said a decade of the rosary. After evening prayers we went for dinner where we also ate nsima and beans with boiled leaves.

After dinner, the boys normally go to the classrooms to study but because of the power cut, everybody met on the bandstand and we created a dance circle, we then demonstrated some Scottish ceilidh dances to the boys and they showed us some of their dance moves. We then taught the boys a fun song that we knew from back home.

When the power went back on we made our way to the classrooms where the boys studied and asked each other for help on questions. I really enjoyed the day in the life of a St Patrick’s pupil and I had a lot of fun getting to know the boys and spending time with them.
We soon made our way back to the house and went to bed after a very long day. Where we then decided, tomorrow we’re getting up at six.

Day 5 Mon 19 June by Lara McGarry

Monire mose.

Malawi life is great so far and I don’t want to leave! Today was a very early start as we had to set our alarms for 5:30am to go to mass at 6:30am. The mass in the morning is extremely enjoyable as everyone sings and dances. It is definitely worth the early start. After the mass we went back to the girl’s house for breakfast. We had French toast this morning which was a change from the usual rice that we have twice a day every day. After breakfast Father Sam took us for a tour of St Patrick’s Seminary and we got to see the animals, the pond, boys’ bedrooms and the buildings on campus. We then went to class with the boys, five of us with form one and the other five with form three. I was with form one and I made friends with all of the boys but the ones that I’ve got to know the most are Alfred, Moses and Emmanuel. Everyone was so friendly and they made me feel so welcome and they were all very happy to talk to us and help us. We studied history, physics and English Literature. Once our classes were finished we went back to the house and of course we had rice. The hospital was closed therefore we had some free time after lunch, we decided to sit outside as it was so warm. At half past two we all walked to St. Magdelena’s- school for disabled children. We gave each child a balloon and sweets and they sang for us on arrival so we thought it was only right to sing Flower Of Scotland which was quiet funny. The children and teachers also sang for us when we were leaving. We only stayed for half an hour as we are going back to see them later this week, this visit was very upsetting and it was difficult to hold back the tears as we heard the stories of each of these wonderful children. We left St. Magdalena’s and we walked for roughly half an hour to the supermarket and we then went for drinks at a restaurant with the teachers. We had many conversations in Chitumbuka which was very exciting as we understood them. We got back to the house at ten past five and we just sat together until evening prayers at 6pm. Evening prayers lasts for ten minutes so we went home to have dinner a half past six. We took the lids off of the bowls and there was chips and you can imagine our faces to see chips after eating rice for so long. There was also fish however there ‘was a catch’ as the bones and the heads were still there, which is unusual back in Scotland. The boys then left to go back to their house after dinner and the girls all had their showers and I forgot how cold it was and I got such a fright. Due to us getting up at 4:30am the next morning most of us were sleeping for 8:30pm that night.

Lots of love to all of our families, we love and miss you all!
Lara

Day 4 Sun 18 June by Anna Edvaldsson

Hi all,
Sunday was an early start again for us. We woke up at 6:30am for the first mass at 7 o’clock with the boys from St. Patrick’s Seminary. Mass is always fun because everyone dances while they sing the hymns. We all got stuck into it and a couple of the boys sitting in front of us found our dancing hilarious. When mass was finished we rushed back to the house to get a quick breakfast of chips, egg and tomatoes which tasted amazing and then we were off on to the bus again.

We made our way into Rumphi to go to another mass at St. Denis’. We were greeted by the flower girls singing a welcome song to us which was adorable as there was so much enthusiasm put into it. They led us through to the church and took our seats near the back, halfway through the first hymn, we were moved down to the front next to the flower girls. Although the mass lasted over two and a half hours it felt much shorter as we were up dancing a lot of the time. However, when we were sitting down the heat started to get to us and everyone’s eyes began to close, even the Bishop’s and he was part of the mass! The choir and the people playing percussion instruments down the front were amazing and it lifted the spirits of everyone and made it an exciting atmosphere. At St. Denis’ they bring up food, drinks etc. for the priests as it’s what they live on each week. After the mass finished we had lunch at the priest’s house and we talked about the mass and things that had happened on the trip so far.

When we finished at the church we got back onto the bus and we drove to go on the safari. As we entered we had to have an armed guard in the bus just in case anything happened while we were outside the bus or driving round. We saw lots of animals there and, if we weren’t in any danger, we were allowed to go out and take pictures outside of the bus. We saw elephants, hippos, baboons, impalas, storks, vultures and kudu. At the end of the bus ride round the safari we went out and ended up very close to three hippos and two of them started fighting. I was so focused on getting a picture that I stepped in mud and almost fell into the water the hippos were in. My shoes ended up covered in mud and other things I probably don’t want to know about.

On the way home Katie, Neil and I piled into the back of the bus and slept the whole way. I think we needed it because our schedule has been jam-packed since we’ve been here and there has not been a lot of breaks.
When we got back to the house it was time to get ready for evening prayers and because Neil and I genuinely were so tired that we couldn’t go.

When everyone got back we had our supper and got ready for bed. We didn’t take as long as we thought we would so we decided to walk up to the boys’ house and bring snacks and drinks to spend time with them. Everyone was very awake because Lara killed another spider which brought the spider-death count up to three. At ten o’clock we decided it was late so we walked down and decided to go straight to bed. As it was an even earlier start than usual we set the alarm for 5:30 and went to sleep.

Anna

Day 3 Sat 17 June by Steven Carruthers

Hello everyone. On Saturday morning we woke up early for breakfast at the bishop’s residence. We then left for the last leg of our journey – to St Patrick’s in Rumphi! When we finally arrived we had to get a quick change before morning mass at 10am – this was a celebration for the form fours who are leaving St Patrick’s Seminary. My school mates and I took seats in the church waiting for the form fours entering for the big celebration. It was really good to see the form fours coming into the church dancing and singing. It was especially good to see Bishop John celebrating the Mass with the Malawian priests. At the celebration Mass everyone was enjoying themselves, especially the boys at St Patrick’s seminary – the smiles on their faces put a smile on my face with how they are happy they were!

After mass we went for lunch with the boys. There was so much food prepared for us, I was so shocked that they had made us chips because I was not expecting chips in Malawi! All my schools mates who were here in Malawi with me were so tired they were nearly falling asleep at the table during lunch.

After lunch we had a look round the Seminary with one of the pupils. The grounds had a football pitch, classes and dorms where the pupils stayed. The graduates then put on a wonderful concert for everyone. I was a bit shocked that the boys were performing to rap music – totally unexpected!! They also let us see their amazing dance moves, which were completely different from the way we dance in Scotland but was amazing to watch. Bishop John was so tired he fell asleep at the concert and when he was woken up he stood up to applaud! I couldn’t believe it when we were announced as the next act. We performed the Malawian national anthem and also Flower of Scotland to huge ears. We had certainly announced our arrival in style. We also made friends by playing in the annual football match. Mr. Sinclair went for a header and landed on his backside and we all laughed!

Despite being tired we went to evening prayer and then father Sam’s house for dinner with the priests and teachers. There was so much food prepared for us – we were getting treated so well in the first night at St Patrick’s Seminary. Bishop John was telling everyone while we were eating about him falling asleep during the concert. Then it was time for all of us to go to the disco to celebrate the form fours leavers disco. It was amazing as the boys in St Patrick’s who attended the disco couldn’t have made us more welcome. The boys started off by asking me which song I would like played and also showed me how to dance which was hilarious. The night came to a close with us being shown our new gaff which we would be staying in for the next week!

Day 2 Fri 16 June by Euan Caldow

After a long 10 hour flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi we finally arrived. All exhausted we grabbed our carry-on luggage and made our way to our next gate – well it turned into a guessing game without knowing the gate number. With Miss McFadden guessing gate 4, we made our way there. Setting up our own little camp. Camp Benedict; instead of arts and crafts, we slept, instead of camp songs around the fire, we slept….well I’m guessing you all get the idea, but in case you didn’t WE SLEPT. However we did make tents, with Bishop John and I making a tent underneath the row of chairs at the airport. We all fell asleep, when I woke up I was greeted with a much needed bottle of water from Miss McFadden, don’t worry guys she’s not that cheap, we all had one bottle of water each. But sadly our water was soon taken from our mouth when we had to enter security, to get to our really gate and not gate 4 *Tears rain down my face.
Arriving at our gate, the teachers plus the Bishop abandoned us just to get seats a café nearby our gate. So we set up Camp Benedict’s again, but that was soon packed away with the gate changing from 20A to 21. Which I was raging as I had gotten comfortable….anyway I pulled through and boarded the plane.
I can’t really tell you what happened on the plane from Nairobi to Lilongwe as I slept the majority of the flight, yet when lunch was being served with drinks I wasn’t woken up – thanks Neil. Arriving in Lilongwe, we were entering the passport control to look up to see our fellow partners St Patrick’s with Father Sam. Entering the Passport control it was a long and not easy process- and I mean a long wait. So I’m not going to sit and explain it as I really don’t know what was happening. After the long wait we collected our cases, with two group cases not arriving but will be on Monday Evening. Unlike St. Matthew’s – another school there – losing 21 out of 25 cases. I bet the 4 people with clothes are feeling really smug about it.
After a long 24 hours of travelling on a plane we had to know have a 7 hour bus journey with a late lunch of rice and chicken, more like a curry, which for me is the best curry I’ve ever had – sorry mum. Singing our way on the bus; with songs like high school musical, multiple Disney songs, camp fire songs and many more. And with the occasional cat nap we arrived at the Bishop of Mzuzu’s house to spend our first night. With dinner being served as we entered the house we ate the food up quickly to head straight to bed to recharge.

ps Happy Father’s Day to all our dads. Thinking of you all today.

Day 1 Thu 15 June by Neil Buchanan

Hello all, we apologise for the delay but after having a completely packed schedule for the past few days it has been hard to find some time in which to type up our experiences. I have been privileged with writing the first blog post about our trip to Malawi. I was one of the first to arrive at Glasgow airport after Lara and her family and – this being my first ever time inside an airport – I was feeling extremely excited and nervous all at once. One by one, the rest of our group arrived each with a bright smile when they noticed everyone else, and together we went to check in our bags. When arriving at the check in we each placed our bags on the scales and they were whisked off to a dark unknown behind the desk. The woman, worried expression on her face, then informed us that there was a chance our carry-on luggage would also have to be checked in if there wasn’t enough room on our flight. This caused an apprehensive look to fall on each individual’s face as they found out this news as to us each bag contained our entire lives for the next two weeks and this would increase the chance of it being lost.
At security the queue seemed to take a lifetime, each step increasing the nervous feeling that fluttered in my stomach, although I had nothing to hide my head was full of wandering thoughts of “What if…” and “you might have…”. I made it to the trays and emptied each of my pockets, triple checking every nook and cranny for any mischievous items that I may have missed. I walked through the metal detector waiting on a heart-sinking beep which would surely seal my fate, but nothing came after getting the all clear from the nearby attendant I scrambled to grab my bag and tray in order to put every item into its respected place. Finally through security, everyone including myself wandered into duty free, my eyes opening as wide as they could trying to take in this new sight and not miss a single detail. With no time to stop we headed straight for our gate and on to the plane.
My first plane ride; something I hope to never forget, waves of excitement receding with every passing moment eventually swallowing me like a tsunami when we escaped from the ground. I was sat next to Euan and a girl called Kate from Largs academy both full of positive vibes about our relatively short journey. We arrived at Amsterdam and headed straight to our next gate to set up camp for our four hour wait to the next flight. We all desperately ran to the escalators which slowly rose to reveal the golden symbol which we wouldn’t see again until our journey back: McDonald’s. It was almost double the price but worth it for our last taste of McNuggets or a Big Mac and getting our last fast food fix. We arrived back at camp after a short exploration of the airport and decided to play some card games which eventually ended in us telling horrible jokes which had us all in hysterics because we were all extremely sleep deprived. Lastly we all freshened up and waited the short time left by playing then kids version of trivial pursuit and thinking we were all geniuses even though we still got some wrong.

Last few days in Malawi by Sarah Turner

Apologies to Sarah who had sent her post last week but it was swallowed up in cyberspace.

B

Our last day at the lake had come and we spent it the way it should be done -completely relaxed. We started off our day with a trip to (Can’t remember name) beach, where we just sat, relaxed and had a drink. The beach was absolutely stunning and it was amazing to just sit in the sand and listen to the waves crash on to the shore. After heading back up the biggest hill we had ever seen and not thinking we were going to make it, we headed back to Mayoka for some lunch.

After lunch me, Gemma and Keelan decided it would be nice to walk in to town and have our last drink in Kaya Papaya and say goodbye to the place … only to get there and find out that it was closed on a Wednesday! Where is closed on a Wednesday?! So, we set back on our trek back up to Mayoka sad and disappointed and did some last souvenir shopping before a well deserved siesta.

In the evening we all sat and had a drink enjoying our last night at the lake with music from a one man band who had the biggest guitar we had ever seen! I use guitar lightly as it resembled a guitar but only had one string and he hit it with glass bottles so I’m not quite sure what exactly it was. The night was completely relaxed and enjoyable. That was until me and Gemma got back to the room to find that Keelan had brought in one of his favourite dogs ‘Bushy’ who he had become friends with into the room and was lying on the floor playing with it. After a lot of laughs and maybe a few selfies we finally managed to prey the dog from Keelan and sent it away … as Keelan emotionally watched from the window calling him to come back.

On Thursday morning we set off back home to Rhumpi. After a quick stop in Mzuzu for a ‘triangle’ at the famous Coffee Den we finally arrived back at St Patrick’s and were served lunch by Mr Gondwe who’s cooking we had really missed. Especially his rice! In the evening we went down to the main hall and had movie night with all the boys for their last night at the seminary. We watched part of the Twilight Saga and then some strange movie that can’t quite be described but did give us all a few laughs. It was nice to be able to spend the last night with the boys and catch up with them before they left in the morning for their holidays.

We celebrated our last mass with the boys on Friday morning where we got to say our final goodbyes to them. We then watched them all pack in to their buses and waved them off as they departed to many different places around Malawi. The seminary was very quiet without the buzz of the boys which was very strange.

Later on that night we had dinner over in the Fathers’ house and afterwards me, Gemma and Keelan went off to join Chikumbutso and the boys in the Formation Centre, who hadn’t finished up for the holidays, for their ‘study session’. Instead of studying of course the night was filled with eating sweets, chatting and listening to music. Let’s just say we’re not very good at the whole studying thing. It was great to be able to chat to the boys and see what life was like at the Formation Centre. It was also nice for me and Gemma to be able to catch up with some of the boys who we had met in 2013 and see how they were getting on.

The night had been going so well until we got back to the house. Me, Gemma and Keelan had packed up our things and said goodnight to the boys and everyone in the Fathers house (who were in full party mode) and made our way to the house. We arrived at the house, said hello to the watchman and went to unlock the door… only for it not to work. We called the watchman over and he couldn’t seem to get the lock to come undone either. Despite the many attempts by the watchman and Keelan, who thought it would be a good idea to take the door handle of the door, me and Gemma decided it would be wise to go and get Fr Dan. However even after the attempts by Fr Dan, we were still locked out and it wasn’t looking good. That was until we remembered that mine and Gemma’s bedroom window didn’t fully close or lock and the only way to get in was through there. If only there was someone small enough to fit through the small gap between the security bars… So there I was hauled up on to the window ledge and managed to squeeze through the bars, run through the house and let everyone in the front door! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of people happier to enter a house before!

After the drama, we all had a well earned Fanta and headed to bed, ready to start the next day.

On Saturday we had a very early start to leave at six o’clock to give us enough time to make the ordination. After a mad rush trying to get ready and throw together a quick sandwich for breakfast we finally set off on our three hour trip along the treacherous road to Mzambazi where the ordination was being held.

For the ordination me, Gemma and Keelan decided to get into the African spirit with some traditional African dress. Me and Gemma wore traditional Malawian wrap skirts and Keelan wore his exotic pink, tie-dye Malawian shirt with the map of Africa on it… it’s as funny as it sounds wait until you see the picture.

When we arrived we were greeted by the many priests that were there and were able to say good luck to the boys who were being ordained. The four of them, Raymond, Petros, Philip and Philip were so excited that their big day had finally come as they had been waiting a very long time. It was also extremely special for us to be there as we knew Raymond from the trip in 2013 when he was based in St Patrick’s and created such a special friendship with him so it was amazing to be able to be there on his very special day.

The celebration kicked off and it was truly spectacular! 5,000 people were in attendance and in true Malawian form were singing, dancing and celebrating the special occasion. It was amazing to be able to sit and watch all the different traditional dances by all the people. Some of the dancers were dressed in the traditional warrior outfits which was also amazing to see. The singing as always was phenomenal and listening to 5,000 people all harmonizing together was just incredible!

The ordination was 4 hours and 50 minutes long which to some people was disappointing that it didn’t make the full 5 hour mark, but somehow it flew in! The ordination came to an end and the church now had four newly ordained priests and one of the new priests, Petros, has been placed at St Patrick’s and will be working alongside Fr Dan, Fr Angels and all the other teachers to teach the boys, which is very exciting for the seminary!

After the ceremony we headed back to the Fathers’ house where we had lunch and caught up with everyone… I don’t think I have seen so many priests in one place before!

After lunch we started our journey back to Rhumpi before it got dark. In the evening Bernadette and Christine went over and joined the priests in their house for a farewell party and to celebrate the ordination. It was also Fr Dan’s six year anniversary in the priesthood so they also celebrated that with him.

Me, Gemma and Keelan spent our last night with Chikumbutso which consisted of sports hour and singing hour. During our sports hour we were visited by a praying mantis which Chiku managed to kill and decided it would be fun to play tennis with it with the large tennis bats. Keelan thought this was a good idea too… until the praying mantis came flying towards him and he ran away screaming!

Singing hour commenced and as always we were sounding beautiful! All was going well until Bernadette, Christine and Fr Dan returned to the house with worried looks on their faces and Fr Dan’s face crumpled with pain… before anyone starts to think it, it was not because of our singing. It turned out that whilst we had been belting our hearts out they had been standing outside listening to us for a while (we obviously must have been good) and whilst standing Fr Dan was stung by a wasp! It looked very sore so we gave him some sting spray, made sure he was okay and then all headed to bed in preparation for our long day of travelling ahead.

Sunday morning came and it was time to say goodbye to St Patrick’s for a while. We packed up our stuff in the pick-up truck and then said our final goodbyes to Mr Gondwe, Fr Angels and Chikumbutso. It was very emotional to have to say goodbye to them but we all know that we will see each other soon which always makes it a bit easier.

We set off for Mzuzu where we would go to St Augustine’s Parish to attend Raymond’s first mass. The mass was just like the ordination full of celebration for Raymond and full of singing and dancing! We even joined in on the dancing at one point. It was such an amazing experience to be a part of Fr Raymond’s first mass and we all felt very proud of him and how far he had come.

After the mass we were able to congratulate Raymond once again on his achievement and then say the dreaded goodbye to him and many others. Felix had joined us at mass that morning which was so amazing to spend some more time with him. We said our goodbyes to Felix and many of our other friends who we had met along the way which once again was very emotional and then finally set on our last journey back to Lilongwe where we would stay for the night before flying back home.

As always on our way we stopped off at the Kasungu Inn for some ‘triangles’ and a drink. When we went to head back on the road to Lilongwe after this however our mini bus wouldn’t start and unfortunately had broken down. After the attempts of Fr Dan and some mechanics who had somehow just been passing by, the bus wouldn’t start and we had to call for another mode of transport to pick us up. Luckily the driver was nearby and brought his car along and we headed back on the road to Lilongwe. The journey wasn’t very comfortable for me and Gemma however, as we had to share a seat in the back of the car with all the luggage. Honestly, we thought we didn’t have any legs half way through the trip but we managed to keep strong and fight through the pain and we finally made it to Lilongwe.

When we arrived at the hotel we checked in and had dinner in the restaurant, getting our Wi-Fi fix and then heading to bed to get ready for our journey back home in the morning.

Pawemi,
Sarah.

The Last Post

I’ve just about given up hope of Sarah posting the last blog from our trip so I thought it was time to write my reflection on the visit. It’s hard to put a month’s worth of experiences into one blog so I’ll pick the 10 most memorable experiences of the trip (not in any particular order).

1. Bishop Zuza
I thought of him every day and felt his loss so much more acutely being surrounded by memories of him. Spending the first night in his house was difficult for me as was the memorial mass in his private chapel, where I read the eulogy I gave at his memorial mass in Scotland. At the same time I was grateful for the opportunity to show our respects and to have a service at his grave where we laid wreaths. He will always be remembered for the impact he had on establishing our partnership and how inspirational he was at St. Benedict’s during his visit. May he rest in peace.

2. St Patrick’s priests
Every day was like being part of a Fr Ted episode! Frs Daniel, Angels and Dominic took great care of us whilst providing hours of hilarity and entertainment: the court case for the laptop, the Stevie Wonder impressions with dark glasses, gin hour, wine hour & Malawian dancing to name but a few. Their joy for life is totally infectious.

3. Celebration of Faith
Every year my faith is strengthened during my visit. The phrase “to celebrate mass” comes to fruition and the St. Patrick’s boys still blow me away with their singing, dancing and total commitment to their faith. Mass at 6:30am is never a chore and the evening prayer each night was something I looked forward to every day.

4. The St. Benedict’s Team
What a wonderful bunch of kids! They did the school and their parents proud. It was quite a mixed bag for a group but we bonded very quickly – the 2 day journey certainly helped! They took part in everything they were asked to do and made a lot of new friends along the way. Angela and Jim were a great support to me and great company as well. It was new territory for me taking parents and I’m sure they won’t be the last. I’m confident that The Friends of St. Patrick’s committee will go from strength to strength as a result of their visit. A special mention for Mark who had to overcome several personal challenges on the trip but was an absolute star. You’re probably still having nightmares about the Mayoka steps! Also I was very proud to take my nephew Keelan along eventhough he was responsible for many of the trip’s disasters! He’s come along way since I first introduced him to a Malawian priest at the tender age of 3 when he proclaimed, “You’re like a big brown bear!” – mortified doesn’t cover it.

5. The disasters!
The downside of this group was that they were undoubtedly the unluckiest I’ve ever taken. We kept some of this from the blog so we wouldn’t worry the families and there were enough disasters to merit a blog on its own but I’ll keep it brief:
Passport drama 1 – wrong name,
Cancelled flights going and coming back,
Caolan passing out and lying unconscious on the floor of the Bishop’s Chapel during the memorial mass,
Various gushing nose bleeds from Michael & Keelan,
The attack of the praying mantis – a disaster in their eyes, pathetic in mine,
The camera going on safari round Africa – still a sore point,
Sarah being rushed to hospital with flashing lights,
Keelan losing his wallet,
Carrie’s return flights different from the rest – still gives me nightmares,
Keelan’s Mayoka bar bill – enough said,
Passport drama 2 – Keelan left his in Rumphi on our way back,
Minibus breaking down on our return to Lilongwe,
Minibus getting stuck in a ditch on safari and the boys lifting it out.

I’ll stop there but I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. The kids used to wonder what the disaster of the day would be. They certainly put me through my paces but we got there just the same.

6. Mr. Gondwe
Mr. Gondwe is an absolute gem of a man who is tasked with taking care of us whenever we visit. He does all the cooking cleaning and washing and he is responsible for the fact that we put on weight when we visit rather than lose it due to his excellent cooking and breakfasts of egg and chips at 7am.
Although we would never have guessed it, he was going through some serious personal difficulties whilst we were there but continued to be as cheery and helpful as possible. His wife had just left him and their 5 children but returned one day and snatched the 3 year old who was playing outside. The priests told me that he would likely run out of food in November until March and wouldn’t be able to feed his kids. This had quite an impact on our group and as a result our kids donated all their leftover kwacha to fund a bag of maize each month. We invited his kids to the house and gave each of them a goodie bag of gifts and he told us the next day that the kids didn’t sleep that night as they were too excited. The famine this year will hit Malawi very badly and it has been projected that around 2 million could die as a result.

7. My Maths lessons
Yes I fully understand how sad and pathetic this will be deemed by the mathematically challenged but I absolutely loved teaching Maths to the boys. It was nowhere near as challenging as last year when I taught Form 4 from morning to night for a week but it was great fun. I gave Form 1 a murder mystery to solve using their knowledge of factors, multiples and primes and with Form 3 we played algebra Top Trumps. I used the 11 timestable trick as my starter lesson with both forms, tying it in to the day’s gospel of Doubting Thomas. I’m glad to say the boys enjoyed the lessons every bit as much as me – something I’m certainly not used to experiencing at St. Benedict’s!

8. The Ordination
All 4 hours 50 mins of it! I feel incredibly blessed to have witnessed the 4 young men dedicate their lives to God and the Church. It was a wonderful celebration and it was great to catch up with so many priests of the diocese at the after party. We were also fortunate to attend the newly ordained Fr. Raymond’s first mass the following day. At 3 and a half hours it was just a short one.

9. Donations
Our partnership is based on friendship but at the same time we reach out to our Malawian brothers and sisters to make their lives easier in whatever small ways we can. We had 10 suitcases full of donations as well as £10000 which was transferred for our arrival. As a result we were able to assist in the following ways:
New knitted baby clothes for the maternity ward,
Toys for all child patients,
Toiletries for all adult patients,
2 suitcases full of hospital equipment,
Leather football and stationery for the primary school,
Toys, games and sports equipment for St. Magdalena Disabled School,
A parcel for every family in the village comprising of soap, salt, sugar and rice,
Sports equipment, toys and sweets for Mary Martha Orphan Centre,
Money for a party including a hot meal at Mary Martha,
Money for a party at the Women’s development Centre orphan group,
£1000 for new textbooks at St. Patrick’s,
Half of the cost of the Form 2 class extension,
Half of the cost of Form 2 bunk beds,
School fees for 10 boys through our hardship fund,
A party for the St. Patrick’s boys,
A party for the staff,
A suitcase full of library books,
A suitcase full of stationery,
Football strips, boots and footballs,
A graduation pen for every Form 4,
Numerous bottles of whisky for the priests to enjoy our exchange of cultures!

10. Supporters at home
There are too many to mention but I continue to be humbled by the many random acts of kindness which make all of the above possible. The elderly couple on Tiree who send a cheque twice a year, my hairdresser who regularly gives me mymoney back as a donation, the wee man who overheard a conversation in a local shop and gave £25, my old maths teacher who donated £1000 from her retirement, the McConnell Foundation and family, friends, staff, pupils and parents who continually give personal donations as well as supporting our fundraising ventures. £4000 of our donations this year came from the Friends of St. Patrick’s and I cannot thank enough the people who donate every month through this scheme (plug – the form can be found on the website). Rarely will you miss the £10 each month but I can assure you every penny is put to very good use. Finally thank you for all your prayers.

God Bless St. Benedict’s and St. Patrick’s.

Tiwonanenge nyengo yinyake – See you next time.

Bernadette