‘Mucking in’ is the main purpose of the Medic Malawi trip. There are some great jobs to join in with – bathing toddlers outside in the sunshine, with a few plastic tubs, industrial sized bars of red soap and 20 enthusiastic toddlers who aren’t content with one bath each – many of which result in everyone getting wet, and a lot of laughing.
The charity supports a hospital, an orphanage, a centre for the malnourished, and two schools, all built around a church that is now too small for its congregation. There is a strong sense of neighbourliness, and we were very struck with the way that all the children in the area spent so much unsupervised time playing outside, and all knew each others’ names.
It was great to see the brand new building Shrewsbury School fundraising has provided as an Eye Clinic – trachoma and cataracts will be treated here, two of the preventable eye problems which are all too prevalent in Malawi, one of the 7 poorest countries in the world.
Those students who are planning to go into medicine spent time shadowing a doctor, learning how to take malaria tests in the path lab, and measuring and weighing babies. Others mucked in giving the babies’ nursery a top-to-toe spring clean, led by Georgia Bruce, or with Miss Katie Collins, introducing rounders to PE classes of 50 students, and everyone, especially Miss Charlotte Rule, made sure the new school building was covered in Bermuda Blue paint.
We learned first-hand how to ‘make do and mend’, in an environment where resourcefulness is a key skill. Mr Paul Kaye filmed the brick layers in the new building ingeniously managing without scaffolding or cranes; the distilled water ‘machine’, welded together from old buckets; the bicycle with a 2-stroke engine attached to its crossbar; the toys on wheels made entirely from wire and bottle tops; the drum kit constructed from iron bars and cow-hide. Paul then worked with the hospital caretaker to turn the church into a cinema for the morning, with red carpet invitations for those starring in it.
Spending time talking to our ‘opposite number’ is a crucial part of the ‘mucking in’. Mr Seb Cooley and the maths teacher; Tiger Vechamamontien and Michael Banda, heads bent over the guitar strings; Abi Attenborough and Monica Bezai chatting as they peeled maize from the cob – or running juggling competitions with the cobs themselves.
Thanks to everyone who helped to raise the money for the Shrewsbury School Eye Clinic: it was a proud moment to see the freshly-painted sign, complete with its Latin motto, adapted by Seb for the circumstances: ‘Oculus si recte ne labora’.
We had a few days gazing at the stars from the sandy shores of Lake Malawi, then a few more in a safari camp where the elephants attempted to share both Ciara’s cake and Mr Kaye’s bed.
This year’s Team Malawi were a fantastic bunch: open-minded, enthusiastic, independent and good company. Thanks to you all.
The next visit will be in 2016 and the 18 student places are open to those who do some fundraising for the project during next year’s summer holiday. See the website www.medicmalawi.org for more about this charity, which is run by volunteers in the UK. Every penny we give in Shrewsbury, they get in Malawi.
Muckers-in are welcome. Zikomo – thank you.
To view more photos, please see Medic Malawi Project Visit 2014 - photo gallery