This was the third trip from Shrewsbury to the Medic Malawi project, which includes a hospital, an orphanage, a nutrition centre and the Shrewsbury School Eye Clinic, which was opened in 2014. It was the first joint trip with the Shewsy – the School’s long-established youth club in inner-city Liverpool. It proved to be the most successful one yet, as Mrs Drew describes:
“There was a positive, ‘can do’ attitude from all the young people. They only needed to be told something once – important when an elephant is approaching at close range – and looked for ways that they could actively help each other, the staff, and those they met.
We never know what jobs will be most helpful until we arrive at the Medic Malawi project. This time, it was painting the Pharmacy extension walls, ready for the official opening at the end of the same week; all the school textbooks from the old stock room needed moving to the new library, and the eye surgery patients were each to be interviewed before their operations.
Those who were planning careers in medicine were offered a precious invitation, by the hospital clinicians, to shadow them in their busy working day.
As ever, we worked in teams to help wash, change and feed babies; weighed and fed malnourished children, unloaded and logged all 25 suitcases of medical donations that we’d brought, took on football (and Fives) teams, and hosted a British children’s party to finish the week.
In doing these activities, alongside Malawian teenagers of their own age, friendships were formed and experiences exchanged. A deeper understanding of those who have few things, and fewer choices, but who have a strong sense of the importance of community, has resulted. This year, that meeting of cultures continued ‘out of hours’ too, and it was fascinating to watch friendships, (and sparring partners!) emerge naturally from a group of young people from Liverpool, Shrewsbury and beyond.
The 24 who went had raised a phenomenal amount of money beforehand – £25,000 – and some media interest; and it was fun to be able to collect a shopping list from the Orphanage and go to the local market to see just how far 100,000 Kwacha (£100) would go. It covered 11 pairs of boys’ trousers, 18 pairs of shoes and much more. We were there to see the food shopping arrive too: six months’ worth of the staple food, maize flour, bought with our money before the prices go up.
It was a great privilege to sit on the floor of the Shrewsbury School Eye Clinic while 20 patients had their eye patches removed. In the words of that day’s official diarist, Julie Fitzpatrick, Youth Worker at the Shewsy:
“Early start – breakfast at 7am – so we could see a group of patients being led into the Shrewsbury Eye Clinic. Some had two eye patches; most had one. A definite highlight of the whole trip was to see these patients have their bandages removed. Some patients just smiled, some appeared confused, one elderly man got up and started to dance, another yelled ‘I can see!’ I noticed a few misty eyes (including my own), when all the patients broke out into a celebratory gospel song to give thanks and praise. Smiles all round when all the patients received a pair of sunglasses – donated by the ‘Spirit of Shankly’ Liverpool Supporters’ Club. We asked what the words of the song meant and were told, by the nurse who couldn’t resist dancing along while she gave out the eye drops, that someone had made it up on the spot, and it went ‘This is what we wanted, this is indeed what we wanted’.”
Please read the rest of our Group Diary: Our trip to Medic Malawi
To view a gallery of photos from Malawi, please click on the image below: