At Nairobi Airport waiting to board the plane to Amsterdam. As usual I have very mixed feelings about coming home but definitely looking forward to a good night’s sleep. We’ll write up the last couple of days when we are back in the land of the living. A fantastic trip yet again!
It has been another few days of highs and lows, meeting the most wonderful inspirational people along the way. On Friday we visited the Women’s Development Centre, the centre helps widows by teaching them skills such as sewing and looks after approx 50 orphans, five of which are child headed families. Bernadette left money the previous week so they could organise a party which we attended on the Friday. The children were very happy because apart from Christmas this is the only other time they eat meat.The women who run the centre are volunteers and I was humbled by their faith, care, compassion and commitment. After they had eaten they sang songs for us, did nearly lose it at this point, and each recited their favourite Bible verse. We gave them all a gift of a balloon, lollipop and pen, pencil or small toy depending on their age. At the end of the party Bernadette threw a large frisbee into the air and the madness commenced. I donated £50 on behalf of Largs Academy.
Saturday was Amos’ ordination. This was obviously my first experience of an ordination in Malawi and I was pleasantly surprised to see both traditions gel together. Amos was in a hut with his mum and dad to begin with and when he was called his mum and dad brought him to the Bishop. This was done in true Malawian style with all the singing and dancing. There was so much going on that I don’t know where to begin and end with it however it did not feel as if we had been there for 3 and half hours. I had spent time with Amos while here and felt very privileged to be part of his special day.
On Monday we visited the Mary Martha Centre where again money has been left to organise a party. As it was a school day there was only about 100 children, on a Saturday there is over 400. The highest percentage of children here are orphans because their parents have died of Aids and unfortunately they have also been infected. During conversation Rodrick, founder of the centre, said one of his main priorities was to buy 3 bikes so they could travel into town to get medicine or to take someone in to the doctor, the centre is remote as it serves a widespread village. I still had donation money from Largs Academy so I thought the staff would be pleased to know that I donated a bike on their behalf. After they had eaten and sung us songs, not a dry eye in the house, I was invited for a game of netball. Not played since school but thought I would have a go anyway, maybe not the best idea as they ran rings round me but all good fun.
Malawi is called the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ and it is easy to see why, this truly is an extraordinary country with extraordinary people who have welcomed me into their homes and their hearts.
I will be sad to leave however there are 5 wee faces I am missing very much…watch out Liam and Halle granny’s kissy train will be home soon xxxxx
Just a quick hello as I’m in town. The last few days have been totally hectic with the orphan’s party on Fri afternoon, Amos’ ordination on Sat, dinner at Sylvia’s, 2 Masses and now lunch with the 2010 group. I’ll leave Christine to post the details about the party and ordination as it’s always better from someone experiencing them for the first time. The party was lovely and it was great spending time with the kids again. The ordination was a wonderful celebration and it allowed me to catch up with several of my priest friends.
I’ve just had lunch with Harris, Kingstone and Lizzie, who have all been reminiscing about their time in Scotland. The memories are still very fresh for them and they all hope to return some day.
Tonight we are taking the St. Peter’s priests out for dinner to thank them for their hospitality.
Well it certainly feels like home being back in Mzuzu – it’s cold and wet. I woken during the night by torrential rain. It was lovely meeting up with old friends at Mass this morning. I got a row from Sr. Veronica for being in the country for 2 weeks and not being in touch. Headed into town after breakfast to do a few things. Currently sitting in the the Mzuzu coffee den with a Mzuzu coffee latte – nothing beats it. Also called in at Emmanuel’s shop en route and surprised him. I’ve got my St. Matthew’s hat on while I’m here so doing a few bits and pieces for their partnership as well as preparations for the Carmichael’s. This afternoon we are having a party with the orphans at the Women’s Development Centre at the parish. This place is very close to my heart and even I struggle to keep it together when I visit.
Tomorrow is the big celebration of Amos’ ordination at Rumphi. Afterwards we have been invited to dinner at another old friends, Sylvia Nhlane. We won’t have time to post tomorrow but hopefully we’ll manage on Sunday. However power cuts all day on Sundays are very common so don’t worry if you don’t hear from us until Monday.
Message from Christine to the girls:
Glad to hear you are all well. Missing you all. Xxxxxxxxxxxxx
We arrived at Mayoka Village on Monday afternoon to recharge our batteries before setting off for Mzuzu today for what I can only imagine will be another roller coaster ride as we have two orphan centres and the maternity ward to visit, although how Bernadette is going to get me out of there should be interesting, but more of Mzuzu later.
Mayoka Village is built into a cliff side and is one of the most stunning places I have ever visited, although the climbing skills of a mountain goat would be an advantage, however all this adds to the charm. We have not been short of company with Fr. Daniel staying the first night and also visits from 2 of the local priests Fr. Sam and Fr. Albert.
It will not surprise you to hear that when Bernadette said she was taking me shopping to the local market I was beside myself however, my excitement was short lived. I was told to browse and show no real interest, that I was not buying anything that day. I did manage this for the most part however Bernadette had to pull me back when I got excited about a wooden giraffe. The next morning we walked in to town and had another browse on the way with the promise of purchasing on the way back. Again I was told to try and contain my excitement but let me tell you this is very difficult. Anyway I followed instructions as best I could and Bernadette bartered for me. The woman is the’Terminator’ of bartering. For two of my souvenirs I traded two pairs of shoes, this was definitely a different shopping experience.
Just waiting for Fr. Sam to join us for lunch before driving us to Mzuzu for the next part of our adventure.
Just a quick post to let everyone know we’re fine. We’ve been at the lake since Monday but this is the first time that the wifi has worked. We’ll put a proper post up tomorrow. Needless to say we are having a great time here.
Bernadette & Christine
Well Bernadette did warn me that this trip would be a rollercoaster. After the sadness of yesterday we wakened this morning to celebrate and rejoice with Form 4 on their Graduation Day. The day began with Mass at 08.00, so we had a wee long lie. The boys were in high spirits and showed this through their dancing and singing. Celebrating mass in Malawi is certainly a different experience. After photos etc Bernadette went to write her speech and Fr Mark and I went to watch the boys play basketball however by the time we walked along the game had finished. The only thing we could do was walk along to the house for a wee refreshment, we didn’t think 11.15 was too early.
We had a celebration lunch after which the procession in to the hall which Bernadette and I had to be part of. We shimmied in as best we could but I think we will keep the day jobs. The boys entertained us with their singing, dancing, fashion show and rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’. After a few beers we went to watch the football however lasted five minutes then came home for a well needed siesta. We have been fed and are now sitting down to the “last supper” with Fr Angels as the MC and all the priests and teachers as guests. I think it’s going to be a long night!
A tough day; but a very fitting tribute to a special man. St. Peter’s cathedral was packed both inside and outside with 3 Bishops and about 60 priests concelebrating the funeral Mass, which lasted over 3 hours. Just like funerals at home I met people I hadn’t seen for a long time and they were very surprised that I was here in Malawi. The Mass was in Tumbuka but I managed to follow most of it and of course the singing was extraordinary. I was really touched when the Bishop came over to greet us as he was processing out of the church and he told me that Francis had held on for me coming. The loveliest part of the Mass was at the end when all of the priests and Bishops formed a guard of honour and passed the coffin along the line to carry him out of the church. I don’t know how I held it together but I’m so used to keeping my emotions in check here.
We then proceeded to the burial ground for Religious where Francis was laid to rest. There were hundreds of people there. Nobody leaves until the coffin is completely buried in the ground and they sing the whole time. Francis was only 49 but he has suffered so much but at least now his suffering is over.
Rest in peace Francis.
Today’s activities have been over shadowed by the very sad news we learned this morning: that my good friend Fr. Francis passed away during the night. One of the main reasons I came this year was to spend time with him as he has been gravely ill for the past couple of months. Francis has visited Scotland several times and he always came to stay with me for a couple of nights. I have very good memories of the time we spent together including the time I took him to Millport and it was his first time on a boat. He also was a regular visitor in St. Benedict’s and he spoke to R.E. classes about life in Malawi. It was on one of his trips to Scotland that he became very ill and was diagnosed with skin cancer. Glasgow diocese sponsored his treatment at the Beatson and he was fully recovered when he went back home. Unfortunately he had a relapse and there is no cancer treatment available in Malawi. Thank God I was able to see him briefly in hospital last Friday and he was very touched at my visit. Tomorrow we are attending his burial in Mzuzu. I take consolation in the fact that I am here for that.
We had assembly this morning at 6:45am and Christine spoke extremely well to the whole students about her visit. Afterwards I held my last marathon teaching session – 4 periods in a row. As i left the classroom students were running after me trying to get me to look at their work. I wish I could bottle their work ethic to take back to St. Benedict’s!
In the afternoon we went for a farewell party at St. Magdalena’s, the disabled boarding school. I thought Christine would have been in bits leaning the children but she is learning fast and really held it together well. It was my first chance to see them doing the activities that they’ve been doing with Christine all week. These kids really are exceptional and it was wonderful to watch how they overcome their disabilities. Two boys with 1 leg each were playing badminton very successfully. Another 2 who cant walk played tennis on the ground. As usual they were full of joy which makes it difficult to be sad. One of the lasting memories of this trip will be watching a boy with very limited mobility pushing 2 girls in a wheelchair from the church to St. Magdalena’s. The wheelchair only has 3 wheels so he had to balance it on 2 wheels. Christine is determined that the first project at Largs Academy will be to raise money for a new wheelchair.
As if our heartstrings hadn’t been tugged enough, we went straight from St. Magdalena’s to the village I visited with the group last year. Yet again we received a wonderful welcome from the village chief who showed us all around the village. This village is the poorest I’ve ever visited in the whole of Malawi but the people are so friendly and welcoming. We donated packets of soap, rice and sugar for every family.
It is hard to believe that our time in Rumphi is coming to an end although we have extended our stay by one day as the graduation has moved to Sunday due to the burial of Fr. Francis tomorrow.
p.s. Suzanne my iphone isn’t working so no I haven’t received your message.
My Malawian number is +265 882 602181
Poor Bernadette, she is not getting a minute to catch her breath as Form 4 suck the life out of her as they prepare for their final exams. If she is not in the classroom then there is a line of boys outside her office looking for help. When we eventually managed to persuade her to leave school she arrived looking tired and covered in chalk. After a visit to town to buy supplies for St Magdelana’s party and the visit to the village tomorrow, mass and dinner she is now sitting with a well earned and overdue gin and tonic.
I on the other hand have had a day of fun, fun, fun! Started with morning prayer then after breakfast went to the local primary, they start at 7.30. Visited two standard 7 classes (P.6 to us) then into the madness of standard 1 (P.1/2). The teacher explained that the class was actually two classes but because of lack of space they had to teach them together. There was about 70 in the class, all sitting on the floor. I met children from St Magdelana’s at the primary and it was lovely to watch inclusion of pupils with disabilities.
After lunch I returned to St Magdelana’s for fun and games. We played badminton, volleyball and the wee ones enjoyed another game of The Gruffalo game. We are having a farewell party tomorrow so all I can say is thank goodness it is Bernadette’s turn to write the blog tomorrow night.
I am having a wonderful experience in Malawi however, there are five wee faces I am missing xxxxx
Another packed day! I’m actually teaching more periods of Maths here than I do at St. Benedict’s. I know some of you will be thinking that won’t be hard. I taught 4 periods today and spent a couple of hours marking and preparing tomorrow’s lessons. It’s pretty hard work as the curriculum is quite different and I’m teaching Maths topics which I have never encountered before. However as a sad Mathematician I relish the challenge. The students are so grateful and they can’t get enough of the revision classes. They want to do maths the whole day – just like St. Benedict’s pupils!!!
We also visited the local primary school and the hospital again. At the primary I gave them photographs from last year’s visit which they were very grateful to receive. We had some good news to deliver at the hospital. When we visited the other day the sister told us the 2 biggest challenges are that they don’t have a computer or decent bed sheets. The computer is something to think about for next year’s trip as a second hand laptop would be suffice. Christine brought a £50 donation from one of the Largs Academy teachers and we thought it would be a good idea to donate it to buy material; as they make the sheets themselves. The Sister was overwhelmed. I remember when the group visited last year our kids were shocked at the state of the sheets. Fortunately they had a 1 day old baby we could visit and give a gift of a cardigan and hat from the St. Benedict’s knitting group as well as toiletries for the mum. She was absolutely delighted and we got lovely photos of the baby girl. Baby James’ mum heard we were back and brought him to us. He has now recovered from Malaria and was just about to go home. He is an absolute delight and yet again I had to prize him out of Christine’s arms.
Christine spent the afternoon at St. Magdalena’s playing games with the disabled children and a few of their friends who came to join in. Meanwhile I had a very constructive Partnership meeting with the School Committee. We discussed how our partnership is developing and we identified the priorities for the coming session.
Since there is no world cup game tonight we are watching Blood Diamond, which I brought. The priests are loving it but it’s a bit too violent for Christine and myself – give me a chick flick any day!
Greetings to you all!
What a wonderful time with our two visitors: Bernadette and Christine! We are receiving blessings and graces from God everyday with their presence. All our days are full of activities and time seems flying fast.
God bless Scotland! God bless Malawi!
A very busy day with Bernadette teaching form 4 maths for most of the day and when she wasn’t teaching she was preparing and marking. She told the boys she could help them again tomorrow and asked them to tell her when they were free, they came back to say they were free periods 1-6, there are 7 periods in the day. Needless to say she told them to pick two periods as we are also visiting the primary school tomorrow. I am constantly amazed by the commitment of the students at St Patrick’s and tonight we were with Form 1 in class from 7.15 – 8.15 working on their Malawian guide book, which is their partnership activity.
It was another early start with morning prayer at 06.45. I spent the morning with Form 1, lessons started at 07.10 and there are 7 lessons before lunchtime including; English Language, R.E, Maths and Geography. There was no teacher for biology and instead of a ‘please take’ the students organised themselves. After lunch I went to St Magdalena’s for the afternoon to read them The Gruffalo. One of the students (Felix) came with me and as I read he translated. They seemed to enjoy the story and were keen to tell Sister about it. They thought an owl being afraid of a mouse was very funny. They were then given colouring sheets and Sister remarked that they were very happy. I will go back tomorrow afternoon and play games.
p.s. Joseph, you cannot contact me by phone at the moment. I will try and email you when I arrive at the bay next week.
We awarded ourselves a lie in this morning after last night’s festivities which continued to after 1am. I woke up at 9am by which time most Malawians are halfway through their day. After breakfast we visited St. Patrick’s hospital which is on the St. Patrick’s campus. We met with the nun who runs the hospital and we handed over donations of equipment from Kilbirnie Ambulance Service. Naturally the Sister was absolutely delighted to receive them. We gave neck braces, sterile water for injections, syringes and tracheotomy tubes. We also donated 5 sets of baby cardigans and hats for the first babies born as well as toiletries for the new mothers and small toys for any children who are admitted. We visited one patient, James, who is 5 months old and suffering from Malaria. Nevertheless James was full of smiles and quite happy for us to hold him. He was delighted to receive a Thomas the Tank Engine train donated by my 4 year old nephew Kieran. It took a great deal of persuasion for Christine to hand him back to his mother!
It was time to work after lunch, which was a shock to the system. I’ve been given my own office at St. Patrick’s and I spent the afternoon preparing exam revision questions for the Form 4s. Christine went to St. Magdalena’s with Felix to work with the disabled children. At 5 o’clock we took the form ones for a partnership activity. They were very keen and it was a struggle to get them to stop working to go to Mass at 6pm.
We are now having a relaxing night watching the world cup as usual with Father Daniel, Fr. Dominic and Brother Matthews. Everyone is a bit subdued after last night’s madness. However Fr. Angels has just arrived with Deacon Amos – maybe not a quiet night after all!
This is Sunday’s news a wee bit late. The day started with mass at St Patrick’s, not a long mass just 1hour 30 mins, however I could listen to the students singing all day. We then went to St Dennis’ to celebrate mass. A wee bit longer this time, 3 hours. I’m not kidding when I tell you it did not feel long. Mass in Malawi is a very different experience.
Fr Daniel and Fr Angels took us to the safari park in the afternoon. Sadly did not see any elephants but did see hippos, monkeys, impala, kudu, wart hogs and crocodiles. Before dinner we attended Benediction. Then the madness began…
We were transported from Malawi to Craggy Island. Fr Ted and Dougal and a few others arrived – 5 priests, a deacon and a seminarian. Chaos!! We had dancing, yes I have video evidence, and a few sporting events including tennis, volleyball and baseball. All this and only one wee accident – a broken glass. Very impressive considering all these events took place inside. Needless to say I am sitting with a glass of water tonight.
Well this was our first full day in Rumphi and it has been an emotional rollercoaster. The day started as usual with Mass at 6:30 am followed by breakfast. After unpacking we set off for St. Magdalena’s, the boarding school for disabled primary children. I still find it very difficult to keep my emotions in check when I visit this place so you can only imagine what it was like for Christine. The school boards 20 children with quite severe disabilities including several with missing limbs, 3 with cerebral palsy and one small girl whose skin was very badly burned. They are cared for by one very elderly nun, Sr. Enesta. Of course we received a very touching welcome with all the children singing songs of welcome. I was very proud of Christine and how she held it together. As I keep saying – they don’t need our sympathy just our friendship and support. After our visit 5 of the children insisted on walking us all the way home, even though 2 of them were on crutches. At the end of the journey we gave each of them a lollipop and that made their day.
We took 5 of the boys who visited St. Benedict’s out for lunch along with Fr. Daniel and Fr. Angels. It was lovely spending time with them again and listening to them reflecting on their experiences. They are still very touched by the welcome they received at St. Benedict’s and in particular from the host families. I asked them how they managed to recover from leaving Scotland and they all agreed that they have not yet recovered.
This evening we showed all of the St. Patrick’s boys the 2 exchange trip DVDs. I have never seen them so excited! It was great watching their reaction to them. We are now chilling out with the priests by watching the world cup with a small refreshment. This is indeed a luxury as the electricity has just come back on after having a power cut all day.
p.s. My iPhone is not working so I can only be reached using my Malawian phone number.
Well, we have arrived in Africa and what can I say. We have received the warmest, friendliest welcome from everyone. My (Christine) head is racing and I’m not sure where to begin. Fr Daniel met us at the airport and drove us to Mzuzu, stopping off Nkhamenya to meet Fr Daniel’s mum and some local children, my heart was full and melting at the same time. From there we continued and what struck me most was the goats, they are everywhere! For my Largs Academy colleagues, just think of them as the ‘older Largs generation’ when they just wander out on to the road. After a 7 hour drive through this beautiful country, we arrived at the Bishop’s house and after a meal we went to bed. What a sleep!
After breakfast we went to Mzuzu and visited St Peter’s (St Matthew’s Partnership). We had been told Fr Francis was in hospital and Bernadette was very anxious to visit him. Unfortunately Fr Francis is very sick but is very happy to see us and was glad to hear of all the good wishes from Scotland.
We went to Big Bite for Piri Piri Chicken and I was warned that it was very hot as Jen and Suzanne had found out last year, Fr Daniel did look a wee bit frightened. Anyway the chicken arrived and I think we got off lightly, sorry Jen and Suzanne.
After a stop off to buy some supplies and yes by this included Malawi gin, this really should be on prescription, we headed to Rumphi and received another warm welcome. As Fr Daniel was walking us round St Patrick’s we literally bumped in to Simon. It was obvious that Bernadette means a great deal to Simon and there is a very special relationship between them.
After evening prayer we had a meal and are now sitting relaxing.
Arrived safely at Nairobi and making use of the free wifi before boarding the flight to Lilongwe. The journey has gone very smoothly so far. We’ll be in Malawi in 5 hrs time.
Tiwonanenge sonosono! (See you soon!)
Bernadette & Christine
Well it’s that time of year again when I’m all packed and preparing to travel 6000 miles to my spiritual home of Malawi. This year I’m delighted to be accompanied by Christine Tait, a friend from my parish who teaches R.E. At Largs Academy. Christine has always supported my partnerships through fundraising, and this year after the St. Patrick’s visit she decided to take the plunge herself. After 14 years of trips I would have to say that she is the most excited person I’ve ever had accompanying me.
We’ll try to post as often as possible to give updates on the boys and the partnership. We set off on Wed and reach Mzuzu on Thursday evening where we’ll be staying with Bishop Zuza for a night before proceeding to Rumphi.
What a wonderful visit to our partner school, St. Benedect’s High! As we look forward to the celebration of our patron saint this coming saturday, our memories of Scotland are still very fresh.