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Airdrie students make a difference in Malawi

This summer pupils from St Margaret’s High School, Airdrie, visited Malawi with Coatbridge-based charity Aiming Higher in Malawi. Below, then S5 pupil Alexandra Barclay shares the joys and difficulties of her experience.

I arrived in Malawi on June 11. During the three-hour drive from the airport to my accommodation I was engrossed in what I was seeing as we travelled through many villages where I witnessed first hand the poverty of the country. I saw girls as young as seven with babies tied to their backs, children barely clothed; although this typically is how I imagined what Malawi would be like, I didn’t quite fully believe the horrific conditions until I saw them with my own eyes.


My first morning in Malawi was spent visiting the Mulajne Mission Hospital. We spent some time talking to the children and as soon as anyone brought their phone it felt as if every child in Africa was running towards you! After my first day in Malawi it really came to my attention how happy everyone is with how little they have; it truly was inspiring.


Today we visited all the people we sponsored in November of last year. I am sponsoring a 21-year-old girl who is suffering from albinism (above right). In Malawi, albinism is seen as a punishment as they still believe in witchcraft and many albinos are heavily abused so this girl really was in need of some help, especially since she had no family left either. The sponsor money I had sent over to Malawi helped pay her education funds and for other necessities she needed. She has aspirations of becoming a nurse and I will continue to pay for her funds and support her educational needs.

Secondly, we went to find a new sponsor for my friend, Sinead Murphy, as a few days ago she sadly found out that the young boy she was sponsoring had passed away. We visited a nursery where she sponsored a young boy, Harry, who had difficulty speaking, hearing and walking yet he was so hyper and full of energy.

We then visited a young girl, Rebecca, who was severely affected by a disease called Hydrocephalus, a disease which causes the head to swell due to a build-up of fluid on the brain. Watching Rebecca lie on the ground helpless was a turning point for me. Previously I was seeing people suffering from poverty and lack of education but they were still so happy and hopeful but this young girl was lying in the ground with flies hovering around the wounds on her head. We gave her a hat, some blankets and some resources for her grandmother to aid in their life for a while but I knew long term help was needed for this girl.


We visited Sr Anna, who helps free people who are in prison unfairly, as people still strongly believe in witchcraft in Malawi. Many women are accused of ludicrous crimes and face unfair sentences in prison. Sister Anna told us about one old woman whose neighbour accused her of cutting off her sons head and putting it back on. She justified this by saying that her son was not performing as well in school as he had previously done and the women was faced with a jail sentence even though her neighbour’s son was not dead or injured.


Today I was in charge of holding the first ever women’s athletic festival in Malawi. The festival was for women only as males dominate everything over there so we made sure they could not take over this festival. After the athletics we had a netball tournament. We had the chance to play and umpire some games and some of the girls are so talented, their sporting ability is phenomenal. They are so competitive; one of my opponents was tugging on my top nearly choking me! I do enjoy an aggressive game of netball though. It was also my 17th birthday and it most definitely will be the most memorable birthday of my life so far.


As this was our last day in Malawi we said goodbye to the children at the orphanage (top). The children sang us a goodbye song: “Bye-bye, bye-bye, but not forever. We know that someday we shall meet you again.” I had to try very hard to hold in my tears at that point. The orphanage was my favourite place in Malawi. That evening I had lots of money left over. My friends and I left the orphanage a letter and 560,000 kwacha which is around £900.

My time in Malawi has had a major impact on me and was a truly outstanding experience. I did not want to leave as there is still so much work left to do. I most definitely will be returning next year to further my work and help the people I have seen. I had a life changing time that I definitely will never forget.

—Read the full version of this story in September 5 edition of the SCO in parishes from Friday.

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