Day 2 Fri 26th June by Gemma Gallacher

Pepani (sorry) but this post apparently went missing in cyber space so it’s out of sync from the others.

Bernadette

To be honest, I spent a lot of today sleeping so I’ll try my best to summarise what happened during the time that I was actually awake.
After arriving at Nairobi airport we realised that our flight had been cancelled without any prior warning. We suspect that our flight was not full enough so they rescheduled it. This meant that we had to wait in Nairobi airport for a further six hours – exactly what we wanted to hear at this point in our journey. The airport staff assured us that we would receive a free drink as an apology (which we are still waiting for!). Keelan wasn’t too bothered about the delay as he had bought My Little Pony Top Trump cards and spent the entire time playing with them.
Eventually we got on the plane to Lilongwe. We arrived safely in Malawi after a short flight. Although Michael had developed a sore throat which he may have mentioned once or twice… Thankfully, all 20 of our suitcases landed in Malawi. We were welcomed at the airport by our Malawian friends – Fr. Daniel (rector of St Patrick’s), Simon (former St Patrick’s pupil) and Mr Chirwa (English teacher from St Patrick’s). It was really great to see them again and it lifted our spirits after the long journey.
We all got on our rather spacious mini bus and began the 6 hour journey to Mzuzu. About 30 seconds into our journey we went to take a group photo and our “official trip photographer”, Keelan, had lost Bernadette’s camera! We stopped and searched the bus for it before heading back to the airport. We couldn’t find the camera so we gave our details to the airport staff so that they can contact us if it is found.
We set off again and stopped off at the Kazungu Inn for a short break. This is my second time travelling through Malawi yet I found it just as interesting as the first time. It was great to see everyone’s reactions to their first glimpse of Malawi. It’s very surreal to see women carrying heavy objects on their head, people working on the side of the road and children running along the road in their bare feet. When driving through towns, everyone stared and waved at us – a bit like we were in a goldfish bowl! At one point we stopped off at a petrol station and there was a pickup truck with about 20 people piled into the back of it. We had a bit of banter with them and they were laughing at our attempts to try and speak the local language.
We arrived at Bishop Zuza’s house at 21.15. Fr. Mark, Fr. Michael and Fr. Wezi welcomed us with open arms and had a 3 course meal waiting for us. We were very grateful for this after the journey. They showed us our bedrooms which were comfortable and most of us were too tired to stay up and chat so we went to bed after dinner.

Day 10 Sat 4th July by Mark Devlin

Blog Post – Saturday 4th July

Monire mose
The day began with a routine 5:30am start. When we were all up and ready we headed to our farewell mass at 6:30am. The mass was said by Fr Mark and as always it was a mass full of heart and good singing from the boys of the Seminary. At the end of mass our group were brought up to the front to give gift bags to every boy. We also left them things like footballs, basketballs and also football boots, which they all seemed very pleased about. After that we were all then given gifts which were t shirts from St. John’s in Mzuzu, celebrating their golden jubilee.
After mass we had breakfast, then got our things ready for the journey to Mzuzu. After that we said our final goodbyes to the boys of the Seminary, the priests and the people of Rumphi, then began our trip to Mzuzu where we would then meet Samuel, Simon, Peter and Robert, with Felix travelling with us in the minibus.
When we finally arrived in Mzuzu, we did some souvenir shopping where Caolan and Keelan bought a ‘hoose’ trophy aka a baseball trophy (Hoose is a game which they invented). I also got the chance to Meet Robert’s sisters, Agnes and Clara, who were both very nice. It was good to meet them. After shopping we then went to a market, where we saw things like fish, chicken (dead and alive), fresh fruit, there were a wide range of things that you could buy. Keelan also got to hold a live chicken. It was a great experience.
After the market we had lunch at ‘Big Bite’, where we all had piri piri chicken with either chips or rice. There was a mixed range of opinions regarding the hotness of the chicken, and I myself found it quite mild. It was, however, difficult after lunch due to the fact that we had to say our goodbyes to Peter, Simon, Samuel and Robert. It was especially hard for me to say goodbye to Robert as he is and has been my brother for quite some time now.
We then headed for the Mary Martha Orphan and Youth Centre, where we were welcomed with some great singing from the children. We also met all of the staff members including Rodrick who was a board member. Rodrick introduced the rest of the staff to us. We were also invited on to a stage to hear more of the children’s singing , and there was also a boy who recited a poem. After that we gave everyone a paper aeroplane and a balloon, and then did some sports with them. The sports games included games like football and tennis, and the children also had things like hula hoops. We then left the games at the centre for future use, and the staff could not thank us more for our kindness.
Next on the agenda was Nkhata Bay. It took us about an hour and a half to arrive. When we did arrive it was sadly time to say our final goodbyes to Felix, who unfortunately had to leave.
We were each allocated our rooms, with the adults each getting their own. The view of Lake Malawi was fantastic, however, the only bad thing about Nkhata Bay was the number of stairs, which were very tiring to use. There were many tourists, many who were Americans celebrating 4th July. The restaurant was very atmospheric, and full of people enjoying themselves. We had all ordered dinner and went up to our rooms to settle in, before coming back down again in time for our meal. It was a good night as it was time for us to wind down and take in everything we had done over the past week, and also time for us to reflect on the good parts of our journey.
Yewo chomene, Mark.

Day 9 Fri 3rd July – by Jim (Mark’s dad)

Monire mose

Sorry for the lack of posts but we have left St. Patrick’s amd are on the move now so internet access is limited. we now have wifi twice a day for an hour – luxury!

Bernadette

Friday 3rd July
Feast of St Thomas
Friday dawned cool and misty over the mountains surrounding Rumphi. Morning mass was celebrated by Fr Dan and Fr Angels. Father Daniel spoke of the pragmatism of St Thomas. Malawians have it in buckets – they need to, with regular unannounced power cuts, which usually happen after dark. The St Pat’s boys sang with pride in Tumbuka and English.
Breakfast – French toast, sweet potatoes, sliced tomatoes and onions drizzled in olive oil. My attempt at making toast resulted in a ‘localised’ power cut. St Benedict students later attended maths classes with forms one and three using top trump cards as an incentive. Revisiting the local primary, our group organised a variety of games for the pupils. Earlier crowed control concerns were mitigated by recruiting tiny bystanders into a mini Green Brigade. Chants of ‘Celtic! Celtic!’ echoed across the playground, swiftly followed by a chorus of ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.
Prior to leaving, staff thanked us for our donation of stationery, solar calculators and a leather football and pump.
After lunch, we made our third and final visit to St Magdalena’s and were greeted again by Sr Ernestina. The children were beautifully dressed in school uniform and were eager to begin their farewell party along with some children belonging to school staff on the sidelines. Before soft drinks and snacks, Fr Daniel invited Michael to say a prayer. Glancing round for Divine inspiration, Michael’s eye fell upon the crates of assorted fruit juice. Joining hands, he asked the Lord to bless our ‘fruitful venture’.
As the group sat with the children in a circle in the shade of the small courtyard, I stood chatting with Fr Daniel. Behind me Sr Ernestina spoke to the children in Tumbuka. Turning around, I saw a small girl around seven years old, dressed in her blue pinafore and white blouse. She carried a wooden chair which she presented to me with a shy smile. A charming gesture in itself, but all the more remarkable considering the little girl lacked a left arm. I was reminded of the Seminary motto ‘Better to give than to receive’.
Later that afternoon, we all displayed our talents at the concert where the group sang ‘500 Miles’, ‘Loch Lomond’ and also ‘O Flower of Scotland’. And St Patrick’s students sang and danced in traditional fashion. Everyone joined in with both national anthems, and we all had a fantastic time. We even tried some Malawian dancing ourselves. After evening prayer and supper, both groups of students went on to enjoy an evening disco while senior members of the group enjoyed some Malawian hospitality at the priest’s house, with around a dozen priests to keep us company. So ended a tiring but rewarding day, with the warm heart of Malawi beating firmly but gently at the centre of St Patrick’s Seminary in Rumphi.
The kindness of the Malawian people is as pervasive as the dust of their red earth and their smiles brighter than their mid-day sun. St Patricks’ motto is brought to life daily in small, unexpected, heart-warming ways.

Day 8 Thu 2nd July by Angela (Caolan’s mum)

I would like to start my blog by thanking everyone who is following us and those leaving messages. It is very encouraging to hear these messages when we are reading them in the evening, even if it does start us crying sometimes.

Today started, as usual, with 6:30am mass, (even I made it along this morning), before the group met for breakfast. We were lucky enough to present each of the form fours with a graduation gift since they completed their last exam yesterday and left this morning for home. Samuel and Robert (Bob) have agreed to stay back and spend some time with us before we go home which is great news for the group. My Malawian son, Felix, has also been allowed to join us for the last few days and I cannot tell you how happy this made me. I will enjoy every minute of this special time we have together. The group who travelled over, along with the boys who were previously in Scotland, make such a lovely group. Everyone has got on so well with each other and support each other with everything we do. Despite some very emotional times the sound of laughter, accompanied with tears of laughter, has been very prominent this week I am happy to say. I know some very strong bonds of friendship have been formed this week which will continued after our trip I am sure.

Today the organised activities involved the pupils and former pupils of St Benedict’s explaining a typical day for them to the boys of St Patrick’s, who in turn will write their typical day which we will bring home for the school. Jim and I had some time to ourselves during this period, and ‘no’, there was no gin or wine involved, well it was only 9am. Instead I sat in the glorious sunshine and read my book whilst enjoying the stillness of the day.

Just as well I conserved my energy early this morning as after break we went to ‘R U 2’ which is the local primary school where we were introduced to all the staff and pupils. I was not prepared to find the children sitting on the stone floors during their lessons, clutching their small bits of pencils and a few sheets of paper each. The alternative was chalk notes written on the stone floors. A very small number of students had desks although they were definitely in the minority. The class sizes were large and in some of them I counted over 80 students. I couldn’t believe how they were crammed into such a small space. How can teaching such a large number in such a confined space be comfortable? I suppose the answer is that it isn’t. In each class the children welcomed us and responded to our introductions in English, even the standard ones (primary 1).

We continued our visit with a sport’s day for the children. Showing the kids how to play Frisbee, golf, football and skipping with the numbers continually growing left us with what felt like a crowd control problem. The important thing however, the kids had a great time, each of them sporting huge smiles on their face. I think it would be fair to say it was a success.

After lunch we visited St Magdalena’s for the second time this week. We did some activities with the kids ranging from playing card games, reading stories and jigsaws to cricket, hopscotch and badminton. Each of the groups had an opportunity to take part in each of the activities. Our group of twelve kids that we started with very quickly became a group of thirty children as the local children came running to join in the fun. Again, their faces were beaming. Poor Sister Anesta though, we left her to calm some very hyper children. Everyone in the group left feeling warm- hearted and proud. It was most definitely an hour well spent.
I am only writing about the highlights of the day, I couldn’t possible tell you about everything we manage to cram into our daily routines. However, I will have to tell you about our last visit of the day. We were again very fortunate to be able to visit one of the local villages, Luwuwa. We were greeted by the people of the village with the women of the group singing traditional songs. We were hugely privileged and were given a tour of the some of their homes. The houses were built from red bricks which were made from the soil and left to dry in the heat of the sun. The end of our visit involved us presenting each of the families of the village with a parcel containing soap, sugar and salt. For those of you who were at the comedy night, I had to get it in somewhere, and now you all know I am not in Florida! We were also presented with a sack of groundnuts as a gift by the villagers. It was overwhelming how these people are so poor and yet still so warm and giving us gifts, their hospitality is truly unbelievable. Our developed country has a lot to learn.

The young people from the group are now with the boys in St Patrick’s again, teaching them drawing and singing. They are preparing the boys for our concert tomorrow by teaching them our Scottish songs so they can join in. We had a brief practice in the house tonight before they left and judging from this I can only hope I do not traumatise some of the poor boys in St Patrick’s. It will, however, make for interesting viewing if anyone should video the performance, which I hope they don’t. My dancing has already left me red faced this week. I should add at this point that the other adults are playing mathematical top trumps! It’s MATHEMATICS hour.

The final task of the night was to start to prepare our suitcases for our departure on Saturday to the lake. As much as I have missed my amazing friends and family, especially my son Connor and of course my puppy Kali, the thought of leaving this beautiful country is already tugging at my heart strings. I would gladly forgo all my commodities and be in this stunning country a while longer with such superb people. The lessons I have learned this week will stay with me for a lifetime. I feel so honoured to have had such an enriching experience.

To finish my blog, I would like to say a massive thank you to Bernadette whom, without her dedication, patience and kindness I would not have had this opportunity. It was great to see how highly thought of you were in every place we visited throughout the week. Keep spreading the word. The boy’s in St Patrick’s can never thank you enough, as is the case for any people lucky enough to have travelled with you both in the past and those who will be lucky enough to travel here in the future. Thank you!
I cannot leave without saying a huge thank you to the rest of the group I have travelled with. Each person has brought something different to our trip and made this journey an unforgettable one. Thank you each and every one of you.

Finally, to everyone reading the blog, please do not think that my bleating about Malawi is over. Now that I have seen the marvellous work done here I will continue to encourage you all to support this great cause and I am determined more people should know about us! I am sure you all cannot wait for the fun times of slideshows you will all be invited to, to view the 6 million or more photo’s we will return with!

I cannot end without saying thanks also to Father Daniel and Father Angels (my name sake) and all the priests we have met on our journey. There are too many to mention individually. Without them all this trip would not have been what it was! Tawonga chomene!

Malawi nicharo chakutowa (Malawi is a beautiful country)
Paweme (Goodbye),

Angela

P.S. To the parents who have trusted us ‘adults’ with your children we have been very vigilant! All this talk of wine and gin hour is of course exaggerated, as is the stories they have told about home whilst we have been here! Only God can Judge 

Day 6 Wed 1st July by Sarah Turner

After last night’s party and being made to dance by Fr. Angels, the 5.30am wake-up call for morning prayers proved to be a very difficult task. Angela, however, happened to be the lucky one of the group, sleeping through all the alarms and managing to get herself a long lie missing the prayers. I think it’s safe to say we were all very jealous of her and wished we were in the same position.

After morning prayers and breakfast was over we set off on our three hour bus trip to Karonga. The drive to Karonga was very beautiful and we were able to stop off and view the lake from one of the high points on the mountain. It did take a few of the boys some time to realise why we were all so impressed by the view as they thought the lake was just the sky and were quite confused as to where the lake was…
During the drive we also got to see a family of monkeys walking along the roadside with the babies holding on to the mothers which gained an “Awww” from the group, it was very cute.

Our first stop was to visit some priests who worked within Karonga diocese alongside Bishop Mtumbuka. We met Fr. Joseph and Fr. Cecilio, who were classmates with Fr. Dan from Form 1 all the way through their studies until they were ordained as priests together. We sat whilst Fr. Dan and Bernadette caught up with them until it was time to head off and make our way to the parish.

We arrived at St Mary’s Parish and had lunch with Fr. Laurent and were all very excited when we learned that there was mashed potato being served! It was also nice to see a picture of Bishop Zuza when he was very young hanging on the wall. Fr. Laurent then showed us around the grounds and we were reunited with an old friend, Grego, who me, Gemma and Bernadette knew from the last trip when he was on placement at St Patrick’s.

Our afternoon continued with a visit to the Music Centre of Lusubillo, which wasn’t far from the parish. The music centre provides a place for the orphans and youth of the community to be able to study music and give them something to focus on. The centre was founded by Professor Agnes Kim who was famous in Korea for being an opera singer. During our time we were shown around the grounds and shown the different facilities and classrooms that they have for the youth to learn music in. After our tour we were lead to the concert hall where we were seated as the band prepared to give us a taste on what they were working on. The group that performed to us were a group of young adults, around twenty years old, who had been orphans themselves and found their love for music through the centre. The mini concert kicked off and we were presented with a mixture of Jazz and Afri-pop music. They had many different instruments including trumpets, saxophones, African drums, normal drums, guitars and then three main lead singers who were singing beautifully with loads of different harmonies. During one of their jazz numbers they gave a rendition of ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael which surprised all of us. They also sang their own songs and had very enthusiastic dance routines that went along with their songs. After they had performed we learned that they were actually the No.1 band in Malawi after winning a music festival against many of the other top bands which was very impressive.

Following our visit to the music centre we proceeded to the Lusubillo orphan centre which neighboured the music centre. On arrival we were greeted by Sister Celementina and Sister Beatrice along with the other members of staff who help run the orphan centre. At the centre 92 children of varying ages live there. The orphanage also prides itself in helping those in the community who are orphans and the families that have taken them in to care for them. The Lusubillo centre provides relief for these families and orphans as they are very poor and give them the basic things they need to survive. We were taken on a tour of the orphanage where we met around twenty children who were singing welcome songs to us in their main gathering area. All of the children were full of life, clapping, laughing and smiling despite their current circumstance. This was a very humbling experience as they had very little and still had so much spirit and joy.

As we were shown around the centre we had the opportunity to see the living conditions for the orphans that live there. The bedroom areas were very cramped and very basic, with the small beds cramped together with barely any room in between. Whilst in the bedrooms there was a very tiny baby lying asleep who had been orphaned at such a young and crucial age which opened our eyes to the range of ages that the orphan centre cares for. Despite the conditions not being the best the two sisters were very proud of what they had and very proud of their entire grounds.

As we were walking the grounds we were able to meet a little girl named Esther, who was around one year old. Esther also had a brother and a sister as they were triplets named Wisdom and Elizabeth. We learned that these children were orphaned when their mother died when they were only two months old. The three children had been taken in by the centre and the community. It was very nice to see the love and affection they were receiving by the sisters and by those who were helping within the centre and the community.

Overall, the visit to the orphan centre opened our eyes to many different things. Despite the horrible and basic conditions and the extent of poverty people were facing the sisters and the workers were so proud of what they had and had so much joy for their centre. The spirit of the children and those who lived there was also very humbling for us all. They had so little yet they had nothing but joy and love for life. Back at home we take so much for granted and don’t realise how lucky we are to have our families and even a decent bed to sleep in at night, we never focus on how blessed we are to have the things that we do and the orphan centre really let us see this and appreciate the things that we are lucky to have.

After the orphan centre we started our journey back to St Patrick’s. On our way we stopped off at the new cathedral that was being built, set to open in November. When inside we got to see the scaffolding that the builders were using, I’m using the word scaffolding very lightly. It was nothing like the scaffolding we have at home instead being large branches from trees that were hanging from the ceiling some not even making it all the way to the ground. The builders were very casually sitting on these branches sawing different things with no shoes, definitely not what you would see in Scotland. Fr. Dan then decided it would be a good idea to head up on to the roof of the cathedral so that we could see it. We all ended up climbing on very rickety scaffolding ramps to make it up to the roof and definitely broke all health and safety rules possible. We all managed to make it back to the ground for Fr. Dan to make us re-climb it to take a photo… I think we all look rather uneasy than happy.

Finally we made it back to the ground and headed back to St Patrick’s, taking about three hours once again to get back. The evening was a very relaxing one with only one minor disaster of Keelan getting his finger stuck in a Fanta bottle trying to retrieve a pen that the other Caolan managed to drop in there… let’s just say it was an experience.

Pawemi,
Sarah.

Day 6 Tue 30th June by Carrie McIntyre

A Day in the Life of a St Patrick’s Student

Waking up to the sound of my alarm at 5am this morning was definitely something out of the ordinary for me, then again – participating in ‘A Day In The Life of a Malawi Student’ is never going to be a normal day for me. Spending the day exactly the way the boys from the school did was an absolutely amazing and eye opening experience. After I was appointed my guide -Blessings – who is an extremely generous and caring boy we attended mass. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting amongst the boys at mass as straight away I was made to feel welcome. First period was what would be known as a ‘free period’ to us at home because no teacher was present. This was a great way to become friends and get to know the students. After about ten minutes into the period I started talking about maths to my class mates. Before I knew it I had a huddle of people around me trying to soak up all the information I could tell them about the straight line as that was the topic they were learning in maths at the time (I must admit I felt like I could have given Miss McFadden a run for her money at the time) The boys were so thankful I was able to help teach them something and I was just as happy as I actually used maths in a real life situation! After many selfies and laughs due to my attempt to speak Chitumbuka we then proceeded to English where we worked in teams to write a report. This made me aware of the simple things I take for granted such as jotters and textbooks. Although the boys had these resources they were limited. The text books were in poor condition and out-dated. In school at home I would not have to worry about these resources in the slightest, in fact it wouldn’t even cross my mind.

I felt very overwhelmed at lunch time watching Blessings eat nsima and beans with his hands whilst I was served omelette, coleslaw and chips unexpectedly by three other students who attend St Patrick’s. I felt incredibly guilty eating this meal whilst Blessings seemed like it was ordinary for me to get this and he was content and happy to get his meal which did not look appetising in the slightest. Everyone puts in so much hard work to make sure we are treated well. I personally do not think I deserve these luxuries anywhere near as much as these boys do due to all the hard work they put in night and day and the conditions they have to face.

Once we were finished all of our afternoon classes then came time for sports. I choose volleyball which was great fun. I felt fully confident to participate in the game as I was welcomed with open arms and I was given a few useful tips on my technique also. The competition was fierce but I’m proud to state my team did win the game.

After sports I went back to the house and got ready for night-time prayers. It was then scheduled for dinner then night time studies. Dinner was a very enjoyable experience even though we ate in the dining hall in darkness due to a power cut. We had pork, rice and juice which was a luxury for the boys. Spirits were running high. At 7pm studies began, as there is no teacher there at this time no studying actually took place because the boys were so excited that we were there visiting them. It was basically just one big carry on. I went in the form 1 class and took a picture which set all the pupils hyper. Everyone was jumping about shouting “Another one, another one”. The simple concept of me taking a picture triggered such joy and excitement. ‘Studies’ finished at 9:15pm which was sad because everyone was having so much fun. I must mention that studying does usually take place when we are not there. The boys are very hard workers.

The night ended with us visiting the priests where we were all entertained by Miss McFadden’s and Angela’s fabulous Malawi dancing which was impressive, followed by Michael and Keelan which was surprising. I danced part of highland fling also to show some Scottish dancing. The night had ended and I was more than ready for my bed after such a tiring day.

Carrie

p.s. to my mum, dad and Catherine- I hope you aren’t worrying too much as I am in good hands. You will be surprised that I am missing you all!
Carrie.

Day 5 Mon 29th June by Caolan McGoldrick

Monire Mose (Greetings to all),

I woke this morning at 5.45am after a very pleasant 10 hours sleep, still a little tired…it’s been a very eventful few days.

We started the day with mass at 6.30am, had breakfast (piece ‘n’ banana with peanut butter), and then went to school for double bible knowledge. We talked about ‘The Good Samaritan’ and ‘David and Saul’. I was the lucky one since I was picked in class to read AT LEAST 50, yes 50, lines of the bible (just a normal Monday morning).

At break we followed the boys from St Patrick’s to the dining room where we were treated to tea and mandasi (a Malawian pastry). After break we had a beautiful surprise. Cecilia Gondwe, Felix’s mum, had travelled 200km to greet us! Not only did she travel so long to come and see us but also she came bearing gifts. We enjoyed those potatoes at dinner this evening, thank you Cecilia – so very kind of her.

Cecilia managed to stay for lunch and Felix was allowed to join us also. Despite having fish complete with bones, scales, eyes and tails, this was the best lunch yet. After having Felix to stay with us last year it was so fabulous to finally meet his mum. My mum and I feel very blessed.

Our disaster of the day was not disappointing. Whilst Keelan was typing up his blog he reached down to scratch his leg only to find a humungous praying mantis which took up his whole leg! I, of course, was very brave and stayed to help him remove the animal…..actually I ran straight out the door into the street! Jim said “ I heard the screams and wondered what the girls were doing in our house”. Photo’s to prove how brave the boys all were and the size of the beast will follow. (I’ve seen the photographic evidence and the insect was no more than a couple of inches – total woosies! Bernadette)

After lunch we hopped in the back of the pick-up truck and Father Daniel drove us to the local hospital; St Patrick’s. Jim kindly introduced the group to the hospital workers and they, in turn, were introduced to us by the sister in charge of the hospital. Whilst there we presented the hospital with medical supplies followed by a tour of the hospital and met all the patients. The rooms are very small with people being very cramped in each room, hardly space to move. It was very sad. The children in the children’s ward really appreciated their balloon, small toys and lollipops. They appeared overwhelmed and forgot about their illness for a few seconds. It was a fantastic feeling for us all. We left for St Magdalena’s with mixed feelings.

St Magdalena’s is the boarding school for disabled children. We met the 12 children who were there as well as the staff. They greeted us with the children singing a welcome song. These children were truly amazing. Their disabilities did not dampen their spirit, every one of them had a huge smile on their faces and joined in our introductions. Again, they all seemed very grateful for our small gifts. I cannot wait to go back and see them again later in the week. We departed from there to travel to the town in Rumphi. In town we went to the local ‘people’s cash and carry’ (PCC) to stock up on supplies. We also stopped at the local café for a drink. On the way home Keelan, Carrie and I stood all the whole way in the back of the truck. We took some time after shopping for reflection on our day’s events. At 6pm it was time for evening prayer. We made our way to the chapel in the darkness, although at least we had electricity today after it being off for the majority of the day yesterday.

Our dinner this evening consisted of rice, chicken and leaves, along with the potatoes we were gifted. Most of us declined to eat the chicken after seeing it being slaughtered earlier on this afternoon. We were joined after dinner by the school bursar’s daughter, Uchindami, which means Gloria. She was 3 years old and able to speak to us in English!

Our evening finished differently this evening. We did not have any water hour. Instead we had wine hour! My mum assures me the Malawian gin and wine are very tasty and she has to take them so as not to offend our very hospitable friends……mmmmm?

Caolan

Day 4 Sunday 28th June by Keelan Harrison

Monire mose

Apologies for the length of time taken to post this blog. It had nothing to do with the electricity; just that we were waiting on “Shakespeare” finishing his life’s work. Caolan has already finished today’s but I’ll post it tomorrow morning.

Enjoy!

Bernadette

the light of the blazing Malawian sun pierced the slit in my curtains and set my mosquito net a blaze with orange light I was met with the sight of a 16 year old boy with his nose gushing of blood; needless to say it was not your typical Sunday morning.

After Michael’s episode we prepared for the first challenge of the day…Mass. we entered the chapel and we were met not by the dreary hymns that we are used to but by an overwhelming amount of rhythm, passion and soul that made mass a pleasure to be a part of. When mass had ended we headed to the girl’s house for the rather unusual breakfast of eggs and chips which at 9:10am seems like crazy talk but in actual fact it worked rather well. We then proceeded to the spiritual hub of Rumphi, St Denis’. As we exited the bus it was as if we had stepped into a bustling market but in actual fact it was simply a glimpse of the abundance of parishioners. The church itself had no doors and let’s just say the church goers had some personal space issues. Mass however was beautiful and was spoken fully in the national language of Chitumbuka. After the service, we were swarmed by children who were eagerly awaiting our gifts of sweets and balloons. The vibrant smiles of the children that stretched from ear to ear were worth more than the plane tickets themselves. After mass, we were then invited for lunch with Fr. Fiacra Cotter which consisted of goat, chicken, beef and rice. Don’t worry, it wasn’t our goat just yet.

We then crammed a minibus that was made for 10 with a group of 17 and headed to Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve. Upon arrival we were greeted by a gentleman with a semi-automatic shotgun strapped to his back and after an awkward conversation about poaching he too then boarded our minibus. Our quest through the reserve began at the lake side where we spotted a family of hippos grazing in the banks. The second sight was a heard of impalas followed closely by a troop of monkeys. And then we finally had our major disaster for the day when the bus plummeted into a ditch. At first I thought all hope was lost, but thanks to my wit and physical ability I single handily lifted the bus out of the ditch with the help of everyone else. We then headed deeper into the reserve to search for elephants however our search proved fruitless although we did see a heard of buffalo which were rather majestic.

After the journey home (which lasted 3hrs) we attended yet another church service. But this service was perhaps the most enjoyable due to the calm singing, the light of the setting sun seeping through the windows and the overall spiritual atmosphere……..plus it was only 25 minutes long.
We had dinner at the girl’s house once again and this time it consisted of rice, leaves, chicken, beef and chips which were all top notch.

As I headed back to our home along the path of blood red dust I was gifted a moment of reflection and it finally dawned on me that at long last I was in Malawi. Months of preparation had finally met its goal and it was most definitely worth it. As I gazed at the moon in a sea of glistening darkness I realised that this was just the beginning.

Keelan

Day 3 Sat 27th June by Michael Hailey

Our First Full Day in Malawi

Our day began with an apparent long lie as we were ‘allowed’ to wake up at 8 o’clock. We all woke up knowing that today would be a day of two halves of very different emotions. Mass was celebrated jointly by Fr. Michael, Fr. Mark, Fr. Wezi and Fr. Daniel as a memorial for Bishop Zuza. The mass was a wonderful ceremony in which we shared the great things about the Bishop and his life. After the mass we were each presented with a beautiful gift on behalf of the diocese: A plaque in the shape of Malawi, each with our own names hand carved onto them. After mass, we were served a delicious breakfast of porridge, chips and toast (which was surprisingly tasty!) During breakfast we were surprised with the arrival of Peter ( was his host last year) who I was ecstatic to see. Once we were finished breakfast we set about preparing ourselves to leave and head to the cathedral to visit Bishop Zuza’s grave. As a group we laid wreaths for each school (St. Benedict’s & St. Matthew’s). It was truly touching to see not only our wreaths but the mass amount of them laid down to honour such a loving and respected man in Bishop Zuza. After saying a prayer and having a few moments silence, we left the grounds of the cathedral and headed into Mzuzu city. Our brief spell in the city consisted of dodgy money laundering and the purchase of some snacks for our stay at Rumphi, which we set off for at 1 o’clock. I was fortunate enough to be one of the chosen ones along with Mark and his Dad to travel in Fr. Daniel’s car instead of the ‘cosy’ bus. Although being in this car I missed the conversation about naming the goat that had been gifted to us.

After about an hour’s drive from Mzuzu to Rumphi, we were welcomed with open arms into the grounds of St. Patricks. As soon as we arrived, our lunch was ready and waiting for us which was greatly appreciated. Also during this we met the wonderful character that is Fr. Angels. Once, we had all finished our meal, we were given a tour of the grounds of the school. During this, we got to see what the rooms that the boys stayed in were like and we also got a look at the classrooms. Not only did we meet Felix, Samuel and Robert along the way but we also got to meet to meet Thursday night’s dinner in Mr. Kevin ‘Bacon’. Also during the tour we were shown our houses that we will stay in while we are here.
Once we had finished the tour of the school, we retrieved our luggage and headed to our accommodation and we all had a wash to get ready for evening prayers. Keelan and I both seemed to be running late and only had a minute to make it to the chapel but on arrival we found out that were no evening prayers tonight… So after this mishap we all decided to walk down to the girl’s house and have dinner which was some lovely beef with rice, greens and chips. Once we had chatted for a while and finished our meal, we were joined by Fr. Daniel and Fr. Angels; thus began the ‘water’ hour…

As “master of ceremonies” Fr. Angels took great pride in explaining what exactly water hour was and what happened during this hour. Basically this time was where a very special water of the gin variety was consumed by the priests and adults. This led to some extremely comical conversations which reached its high point when we had a court session to determine whether Fr. Daniel or Fr. Angels deserved the new laptop which Miss McFadden had gifted to the school. Also, we all decided to have a sort of karaoke where we sang both Scottish and Malawian national anthems, 500 miles and Amazing Grace. Possibly the best thing of the night was Fr. Daniel’s complete disbelief that they had managed to drink a full bottle of Malawi Gin in one night when in actual fact they were only supposed to drink less than half a bottle a night if it was to last the whole week. After what was definitely longer than 1 water hour which was full of funny speeches from our Master of Ceremonies, we called it a night and headed back to our house and basically crashed out within half an hour after a truly amazing first day in Malawi.
Michael

**P.S. To my Mum, Dad & Sisters:
You don’t have to worry much about me as we are in great hands at the school and I can see absolutely nothing going wrong with this trip… Apart from everything that’s gone wrong so far.

Day 1 Thu 25th June by Mark Devlin

Our Day of Travel – Thursday

We began our day by meeting at Glasgow airport where emotions were running high with both nerves and excitement. We had a very impressive send off from family and friends as well as staff from St Benedict’s including our new Headteacher Mr O’Neil. Once we had all gathered we then said our final goodbyes and then departed for the journey of a lifetime.

The flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam took around one hour and 20 minutes, but went in quite fast. When we arrived in Amsterdam we were met with a huge airport, which took us around 15 minutes to get to our terminal. It was a short wait were we all took time out to refresh ourselves and to prepare for the long haul from Amsterdam to Kenya, which took around 9 hours. When we were finally ready to board the huge ‘Kenya Airways’ plane, which Miss McFadden referred to as a ‘hotel in the sky’, we were not disappointed because it really was. The plane had three sections of seats and every seat had a TV screen where we could watch movies and play games whenever we wanted. The staff were all very friendly and welcoming to us all which was a bonus. Around nine o’clock we were served our first meal, where we had a choice of having either fish, pasta or beef and I was glad I chose the beef because it was very nice. After supper, we decided to rest our eyes and have a sleep to gain energy for the rest of the long journey to Malawi.

Mark

Greetings from Malawi!

Monire mose

Sorry it has taken so long for our first post first of all we had no internet access and then when we did we had no power – welcome to Malawi! Everyone is having a great time and the group has really bonded well. We have not been without our fair share of drama during the trip so far but I’ll let the kids fill you all in. We are playing catch up so you will be inundated with blogs today. Better go as we’ve got 2 Masses to attend and then we’re going on safari.

Pawemi

Bernadette

Tigwonanenge sonosono Malawi ( see you soon Malawi)

Monire mose

Farewell

Nyengo! Muhanyahuno taluta ku Amsterdam na Nairobi. Namachero taluta ku Lilongwe na Mzuzu na pa Saturday taluta ku Rumphi. E Christu!

Apologies if your Chitumbuka is somewhat limited but just trying to get back into the zone. I hope the rest of the group have had a good night’s sleep in preparation for the 3 day journey that awaits us. Seven out of the ten are experiencing not only Malawi but Africa for the first time and for them the journey itself will be a big adventure. In the words of my good friend Colin Cameron ( former Scottish Consul for Malawi), “I’m always jealous of people going on their first trip to Malawi. Nothing beats experiencing it for the first time.”

I can vividly recall every detail of my first journey in 2002 when I waved goodbye to my friends and family for 1 year. I remember thinking how beautiful the landscape was and that throughout the 6 hour road trip there was always people walking at the side of road; often carrying a multitude of items including babies and trees and often at the same time! Whilst we moan “Are we there yet?”, these people are walking miles and miles because they don’t have money for transport.

My advice to the group is: cherish every moment, soak up the atmosphere and allow the wonderful people to teach you what life is all about. I guarantee that every one of you will be closer to God and a better person by the time you set foot again on Scottish soil.

Pawemi,

Bernadette

Nearly time! by Caolan Mcgoldrick

I can’t believe it’s such a short time until we go to Malawi. It will be a wonderful experience and will be great to see everyone from St Patricks and I can’t say thank you enough to Miss McFadden and everyone who has been involved in making this happen and I can’t wait to spend the time with the wonderful group we have and I’m sure it will be an unbelievable experience and I will come back a much different person.

Caolan

One sleep! by Mark Devlin

I can’t believe that the time has finally come and that I will be leaving for Malawi tomorrow. It’s been great fundraising and I appreciate all the support from people who have kindly donated, and also of course to Miss McFadden who has made this all happen. I am looking forward to arriving in Malawi and to see the country with my own eyes. It will be great to see the boys again and of course meet the rest of the Seminary. This is an experience of a lifetime and one that I will cherish forever.

Mark

Tiyeni ku Malawi! by Keelan Harrison

Well after hearing about Malawi for 13 years from my auntie I’m finally getting the chance to see what all the hype is about. At first I was apprehensive about being the only St Matthew’s pupil but I’ve met the rest of the group a couple times and they seem pretty normal for Linwood kids – only joking! I’m looking forward to all the different experiences I will encounter over the next month which I know will be unforgettable. Cheers to everyone who has supported me with my fundraising ventures especially the pupils of the mighty St. Matthew’s as well as all my family & friends.

Pawemi

Keelan

2 sleeps! – by Carrie McIntyre

I cannot believe in 2 days we will be flying across the world to visit our friends at St Patrick’s. I feel extremely grateful to have such an amazing opportunity and get to spend two weeks with a great group of people. Although I am nervous (but of course very excited) I am not too worried as I know I will be made to feel very welcome in Malawi. After about a year of speaking about visiting Malawi it felt like the time would never come but now that all the fundraising and contributions are complete I feel more than ready to go. Already I am overwhelmed with the idea of visiting Malawi and I am preparing myself for the trip of a lifetime!

Carrie McIntyre

Pre-trip Nerves by Michael Hailey

I am due to fly out to Malawi in a couple of days and I’m only just starting to feel nervous but in a good way. Over the course of the year the idea that I was going to Malawi seemed very distant but now that I’m within a few days of going it actually seems real. All the fundraising and effort put in by everyone involved seems to have finally paid off. We finally will get to see what life is like for the boys in St. Patrick’s first hand and experience the true Malawian culture rather than be told about it.

Out of all the things planned for the trip I’d say it is very difficult to choose just one thing to be looking forward to. Although if I were to signify one aspect of the trip I was most excited about I would definitely have to say that I can’t wait to see all the boys in the school and get to know them.

However, apart from the snakes, spiders, insects and especially the mosquitoes, there is not one part of the trip that worries me or that I am least looking forward to.

Finally, I want to say thanks to Miss McFadden for putting in a lot of her time into organising this trip and ensuring that we make the most out of our time in Malawi.

Michael Hailey

One week to go!

Monire mose,

Well it’s that time of year again as I prepare to set off for my spiritual home. It’s certainly been a challenging week as far as trip preparations go thanks to KLM cancelling flights without telling me but we are all sorted now.

This will be my 9th trip to Malawi and it’s the first time I’ve been accompanied by parents. The partnership continues to go from strength to strength and that is largely due to the Friends of St. Patrick’s, which is supported so well by the whole school community.

I’m really excited about this trip and I think the group will make a great impact on St. Patrick’s community. The party consists of:
S4 pupils – Mark Devlin, Caolan McGoldrick, Michael Hailey & Carrie McIntyre
Parents – Angela (Caolan’s mum)& Jim (Mark’s dad)
Former pupils – Gemma Gallacher & Sarah Turner
St. Matthew’s pupil – Keelan Harrison (my nephew)

The main group will visit for 2 weeks with Keelan, Gemma & Sarah staying on with me for one month. My friend Christine Tait ( Largs Academy teacher) will also visit for 2 weeks.

I ask you to pray for the success of this trip and the future of the partnership. Please sign up for the blog updates if you haven’t already done so.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Bernadette McFadden

Last post for 2014

I’ve finally got round to writing up the last few days in Malawi and reflecting on the trip. As always I’ve been in a bit of a daze this week trying to readjust to westernised life.

After leaving Mzuzu we spent the last few days visiting my friends. First stop was Holy Family parish, Nkhamenya. I had spent two nights here last year whilst on the recruitment programme for St. Patrick’s and we had such a great time that they insisted that we visit this year also. Holy Family is Fr. Daniel’s home parish so first stop was to visit his mum. This woman is an absolute joy and without her speaking a word of English she manages to totally lift your spirits. It’s easy to see where Daniel gets his personality from. The two priests, Fr. Robert Mkandawire and Fr. Peter Ndolo, were also in sparkling form and could even rival the Rumphi priests. It was lovely spending time with them again. We then headed to Lilongwe to visit the Okoronkwo Family. Daphne taught at St. Peter’s for 10 years and she came to Scotland on the 2010 exchange trip. After a lovely meal and evening with the family Daniel escorted us to the airport for an emotional goodbye.

This year’s trip was undoubtedly a great success as I was able to drive the development work undertaken by St. Benedict’s but it was overshadowed for me by death of my good friend Fr. Francis. However I’m extremely grateful I got to spend some precious last minutes with him and attend his very moving funeral and burial. I was also honoured to be part of the form four Graduation which was especially meaningful in seeing Simon, Peter and Chikumbutso graduate.

All of the development work is of course due to the wonderful support I receive at St. Benedict’s from staff, pupils and parents and also the support from myself and Christine’s parish, St. Palladius Dalry as well as my family and friends.

I had more than £4000 to work with on this trip and this has benefited the community in many ways:
All boarding hostels, which were leaking badly, have been reroofed,
An extension has been built to accommodate 10 more form ones,
Every boy has received a new mosquito net,
A hardship fund has been established to prevent boys being thrown out of school due too poverty,
The form 3 retreat was funded,
A donation was made towards the cost of the graduation ceremony,
Every form 4 received a silver pen engraved with St. Patricks graduate 2014,
Each family in the local village received a support pack with sugar, salt and soap,
A hot meal with meat was provided for every orphan at each of the two orphan centres,
All new babies in 2 hospitals were given a set of hand knitted cardigans and hats,
St. Patricks hospital received medical supplies
And finally many priests received their annual whisky medication!

Thank you sincerely to everyone who supports the Partnership. I can assure you that the work I am able to do on your behalf is changing many lives for the better. As my Malawian friends often say to me about the support they receive:
We do not have the words to thank you, we have nothing to give you in return but we pray that God will thank you for the wonderful things you do for us.

Please continue to pray for the success of the partnership in years to come and if you are not already a sponsor please consider joining the Friends of St. Patrick’s scheme which funds most of the development work. A direct debit of £5 or £10 a month wouldn’t make a tremendous difference to your life but it would to their lives. A form can be downloaded from the website.

Roll on next year when a St. Benedict’s group of 25 will head off for another Malawian adventure.

Pawemi,

Bernadette

P.s. Thanks to Christine for sharing the experience with me this year. Her first visit I’m quite sure will not be her last.