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7-CHILD-PRISONERS-WITH-BLAN

Airdrie pupils’ gift of warmth and compassion for Malawi

By Carleen Friel, S6 Student, St Margaret’s High School, reports

Italian Franciscan nun Sr Anna Tomassi heaped praise on the staff and pupils from St Margaret’s High School in Airdrie after they provided blankets for child prisoners in Bvumbwe Juvenile Prison in Malawi, where more than 250 children are forced to share a cell the size of a classroom with no windows, a mud floor and no bedding.

Sr Tomassi invited a group of students from the school to Malawi to visit the prison in an attempt to promote education in Bvumbwe. Sr Tomassi said she saw this as a means of salvation for the children, aged 10-17, and as an opportunity to prevent them spending a lifetime in prison. “Many of these children who suffer these horrific conditions are innocent or have committed minor crimes, yet they are forced to endure this terrible existence for many years of their young lives,” she said.

The Italian missionary asked that the school provide the boys with sugar and soap immediately as conditions were so harsh. Pupils Martin Laird, Daniel Henderson and Lewis Hanlon provided these necessities for the prisoners and were rewarded by a show of song, dance, poetry and drama from the inmates. The staff, guards and inmates of the prison also burst into spontaneous song and dance when it was announced that St Margaret’s High School headteacher Denise Burke had suggested a partnership between St Margaret’s and the school in Bvumbwe, which was immediately accepted.

S5 student Daniel Henderson was so appalled by the conditions that he requested the St Margaret’s party return to the prison before the end of their trip to try to further improve conditions.

“I was shocked that these boys, many younger than me, had to live like this,” he said. “I could also not believe that they were forced to sleep standing up with no blankets as it gets quite cold at night.”

His first action was to buy mosquito nets for the prison sick bay. A follow up visit was arranged where the three students, including S6 pupil Lauren Strain, provided food, clothes, stationary, a projector and a set of football strips donated by the Tavern Bar for the children.

“I knew as soon as we got back we had to do something for these boys as they were so weak, cold and hungry,” pupil Martin Laird said. “Daniel and I approached two of our teachers, Mr McConnell and Mr Mina, to organise a quiz night to fund the buying of blankets for the boys, as we saw this as a priority.”

The subsequent quiz night raised a good proportion of the money needed, while the rest was made up by members of the St Margaret’s community.

The funds were then taken to Malawi by the Coatbridge based Healthy Lifestyle Project and given to Sr Tomassi.

 

—Read the full version of this story in Nov 28 edition of the SCO in parishes from Friday.

 

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