19th June 2019- 4th July 2019
Staff: Mrs Tait, Miss Griffiths and Miss Dempsey
Pupils: Alexander Amatt, Emily Blair, Claire Cairns, Danny Casey, Layla Harris, Eleanor Jones, Joanna Louis, Harry McGill and Niamh McGinty.
Departure Day by Miss Griffiths
Wednesday 19th June – it was finally here! After months and months of planning the trip, fundraising and working together as a team to prepare it was time to set off. We were a mass of violet coloured hoodies meeting in Glasgow airport and we said our goodbyes to all of the families. I was filled with excitement to return to Malawi after being there 2 years ago with Mrs Tait and Miss Dempsey. Even more so we were looking forward to watching this group of pupils see and experience everything for the first time. The flights seemed to go in surprisingly fast as we had little waiting time in between, especially between Amsterdam and Kenya where we had to run across the terminal to make it. Luckily we had cross country champion Harry McGill leading the way. I enjoyed the flights: watching the flight path crossing the equator, sampling the airplane food and looking out for Mt Kilimanjaro. Almost 24 hours later -we had arrived. Hello Malawi – the warm heart of Africa. All 24 suitcases also arrived which was a miracle and we managed to squeeze them all onto the minibus which was even more of a miracle. We were now on our way to stay over in Mzuzu for the night.
Being greeted in Mzambazi by Joanna Louis
Despite the long drive on some very bumpy roads we were all buzzing to finally reach Mzambazi, our trusty bus Rodger had safely taken us to our final destination. Looking out the bus towards the hill, all that was visible was a sea of white shirts. I think everyone would agree our emotions took over at this point. Mama Tait asked to stop the bus and Miss Dempsey led us out capturing the moment as the seconds passed. It was extremely overwhelming to hear the cheers and singing of the pupils from Mzass. Before we knew it we were running towards each other. Each one of us was greeted by every pupil with a welcoming hug. Never in my life have I felt such a warmth like that before. The tears simply could not be held back as each student gave us a friendly embrace. Some pupils had made posters to welcome us, they were going to be our partners. As we ran downhill we could spot the large pieces of white paper with each of our names written in thick blue marker pen next to our partners’ names. Justina, my partner, found me and with a beaming smile took my hand and led me to the school. Even though we had never met before there was endless amounts to talk about. Instantly we all became friends with the students of Mzass and the partnership was instantly growing stronger. Their kind, cheerful nature immediately made us feel close to them. The language barrier, although it had to be overcome, did not disable us from having enjoyable, meaningful conversations. This first experience of Malawi will always hold a special place in my heart.
Our visit to a traditional village by Layla Harris
Today we were set to experience a day in the life of a traditional Malawian village. When we got there the welcome was incredible – the singing and dancing is amazing.
Our day at the village began with a walk in the scorching sun to the nearest water source, alongside our new partners in crime – the Mzass students we were each paired with. Each of our partners were in form 3 as the form 4 students (those who had visited us in Largs) were extremely busy with exams. I was partnered up with a wonderful girl named Victoria; Emily with Stellia; Claire with Dorcus; Eleanor with Sellina; Niamh with Mayesa and Joanna was partnered with Justina. Alex was partnered to deputy head boy, Daniel; Harry was partnered to Head boy, Paul and, last but not least, Danny was partnered with Edwin. We all got on with our partners extremely well and with their help and guidance, our Malawi experience was made less challenging. Miss Griffiths did he same walk whilst getting to hold village baby Rose on her back.
At this water source (it just looked like a really large puddle of unclean water), we used traditional hand carved cups to scoop up the water, filling the buckets we had been provided. Once all the buckets were full, we had the amazing chance to truly embrace ourselves in African culture by carrying these buckets on our heads. Now, this probably looks easy but I assure you it is most certainly not. These Malawian women who have the task of collecting water have been doing so since the age of 5 and are a total inspiration. After resorting to holding our buckets, we made our way to the upper part of the village where the locals presented us with a number of cultural tasks. These tasks included that of clay pottery, pounding maize to make the unique tasting food nsima (seema), and weaving baskets to hold the mass amounts of maize that is collected.
After being shown all these amazing life skills and having a shot at them ourselves, the locals performed traditional Malawian dances. This is the point where we all realised that Harry and Mr Saka’s – the secondary schools head teacher -friendship had blossomed. Mr Saka made Harry get up to join in with the tribal dances and to everyone’s enjoyment, Harry shook his hips like Shakira. Harry’s hips don’t lie.
At the end of the many wonderful performances, we then gifted the amazing village people soya pieces, sugar, salt, soap, buckets (which we used for collecting the water) and toys for the children. The people of this village also gifted us with a large sum of fresh fruit and a chicken which we named gravy (my idea). The people we met that day have truly left a mark on each and every one of us. We will never forget their kindness and the warmth within their community as they welcomed 12 complete strangers into their way of life. We really were home.
Lessons at Mzass and Secondary Sports Day by Niamh McGinty
This was our first day of proper school and we were greeted by our friends as we arrived at the school around 8am. We started off with Agriculture which is a very important subject in Malawi because so many people rely on farming as their source of income. We were taught about how farmers grow mushrooms. I enjoyed Agriculture because it’s a totally new subject to me. Our next lesson was Maths and believe me when I say I had no clue what was going on I really mean it! Luckily Harry was there to save the day and managed to solve an equation in record time. After Maths it was time for break, we were treated to fizzy juice and homemade donuts which were delicious! After break we were treated to a Social Subjects lesson with Madame Pilirani. She taught us all about gender bias in Malawi and how men have an unfair advantage. It was very difficult to hear how difficult it is for girls and women but we were assured that there was work being done to create a more equal society both within the school and the country as a whole. We had a lovely lunch of rice and beef with our friends and then went to English for some comprehension work. It was interesting to see that most of the work they do is just very similar to what we do back home.
Miss Dempsey helped us organise ‘Rounders’ and ‘Japanese Speed Ball’ to play with the secondary students. We all really enjoyed Japanese Speed Ball (even though the Malawians decided to make some slight modifications to the rules) and Rounders was brilliant although it was difficult to get anyone out as they’re all so fast! The Mzambazi students enjoyed watching us trying to outrun them (and failing miserably) with our long skirts on. You could feel the excitement in the air as a team mate made it home safe and the noises of disappointment when they were put out. Miss Dempsey announced that there was an extra 10 points up for grabs for the best team celebration so there was great excitement trying to come up with an outstanding performance. There was jumping, dabbing and marching. Alex’s team won the overall games and Joanna and Claire won best celebration with a “tropical dance”.
Overall the day was great and it was amazing to see the student’s delight at the new sports equipment we had brought for them. The friendly competition brought us all closer and let us meet some of the students we had never met before.
Visit to Mzambazi Nursery by Emily Blair.
We had all really enjoyed our first few days in Mzambazi and were well and truly settled in because of our amazing welcome. We were extremely excited for the coming day as we were visiting the nursery in the morning. As we headed over we took some gifts such as balloons, bubbles and colouring books because they love using them. When we arrived some children were full of energy and others shy but they all eventually came around when we passed out the balloons, sunglasses and lollipops. Although the building was very simple, the nursery was very open, had a nice atmosphere and was filled with lots of toys and decorations. Almost straight away Danny had a new friend called Favour and he was kept busy entertaining him on the toy car. The rest of the children were catching bubbles, eating popping candy and colouring in. Almost all of them wanted a piggy back or to be spun around as they found it extremely funny. After tiring out every one of us with carrying them, we took them outside to play in their park. They all loved the slide and the toy car although there was many arguments between them to get a shot. Some preferred to just sit and have songs sung to them like the Hokey Cokey and they were full of laughter and smiles. After spending time with the children we all came to the conclusion that we wanted to keep these new friends forever. If this was possible I’m sure there would be more than 12 people returning to Glasgow. Despite this, the time came when we had to leave the nursery which was very sad for all of us as even in a short amount of time they were able to bring us so much joy and happiness.
Visit to the Primary School by Harry McGill
Our day with the primary school started with the head teacher Daniel giving us a tour around all the classrooms. In every class, from standard 1 to standard 8, there were well over 100 kids crammed in with no tables or chairs and in some classes like standard 1 and 2 (primary 1 and 2 in Scotland) there were over 200 students. Can you imagine the risk assessment for that? We were then taken to the staffroom for break where we enjoyed some refreshing soft drinks and had time for a chat with all of the lovely staff members. Claire even spotted a Mrs Lunday classic on the wall: “a problem shared is a problem halved!” It was incredible to see all of the amazing things everyone in the school was doing – staff and pupils alike – with so little resources. Most classes were just empty rooms containing a blackboard and chalk with the occasional alphabet or number line hung on home-made bunting. The pupil’s attentive attitudes and the enthusiastic atmosphere towards learning around the school was inspiring to say the least. After our whistle-stop tour it was time for some performances from the pupils. We were invited to sit under a beautifully built thatched hut with the staff as the rest of the school gathered around in a semicircle leaving a “stage” in the centre. Some of the students’ dances were extremely intricate and complicated and their sense of rhythm was impeccable. This was further evidence exemplifying how talented the Mzambazi primary students were and how it came so naturally to them. Then it was our turn. To be fair to ourselves we did a pretty good job joining in the dancing but the Malawians were still streaks ahead. They made it look so easy! Following one fiendishly tricky dance Daniel kindly asked the boys to step aside as the next one was traditionally female only and believe me, you should have seen the look of relief on our faces! It was time for lunch and we returned to the parish for, you guessed it: more rice and chicken. After yet another deliciously prepared meal we returned to the primary school as next on the agenda was sports. In the days preceding primary sports day, we were all frantically scratching our heads to come up with ideas of what games to do but luckily there had been a misunderstanding and the activities had already been decided. Danny, Claire and I were assigned football and ironically we had the largest space (a full-sized pitch) for the smallest number of people (two eleven a side teams). We had a great time and were blissfully unaware of the struggles everyone else was experiencing. Poor Eleanor was left to fend for herself having to coordinate the netball game single handedly. As for everyone else, despite having a five strong team plus Rhoda, they were left with the mammoth task of occupying the very youngest kids. Hundreds of them. It quickly descended into chaos with valiant attempts of the birdie dance, the hokey cokey and Duck Duck Goose. Although we were sweating at the lack of control the children were having a great time. The games brought to an end a successful, yet eventful day, where we were shown again how talented, upbeat and inspiring the young people of Mzambazi are which is right at the heart of what is helping this special community to thrive.
Visiting the Triplets and Maternity Ward by Claire Cairns
A week into our life changing exchange visit to Mzambazi we were welcomed into the home of a mother and her gorgeous triplets. The little boy had been named Stefan, one girl was known as Blessing and the other as Naomi. Madam handed a baby each to Mama Tait, Rhoda and Miss Dempsey to have the first hold. Blessing refused to be held without wriggling and crying, whereas Stefan had one or two photos before he became restless. However, Naomi was the most intrigued of the triplets about the unfamiliar faces which each took their turn holding and getting photos with her. They all adored the hand-knitted teddies that were gifted to them and their mother was extremely thankful for the clothes and blankets we provided for each child.
Although we were only present in the house for less than 30 minutes it was clear how much happiness and pride the mother got from her young family but also how difficult it was for a mother to look after and feed three babies at once.
After a short walk from the home of the triplets we reached the maternity hospital where we were joined by Sister Florence. Favour also appeared and was calling Danny ‘daddy’! We were brought to the maternity ward where there were several new arrivals. 8 mothers filled the room, each cradling their own content bundle of joy. Meeting the newborns was extremely heartwarming for us all. Seeing the tiny babies wrapped in layers of blankets (some just one day old) emphasised the importance of our fundraising throughout the year. Presenting the mother’s with small bags of sweets and clothes for their babies, watching their faces light up with gratitude was truly uplifting.
Outside the maternity ward women from the village gathered to perform some traditional dances, as the expecting mothers watched on we were encouraged to dance alongside them. Although the steps looked relatively simple due to the Malawians performing them, when it came to us copying them, it was a good laugh at least.
Today was also a very special day for us especially Mama Tait, Miss Griffiths and Miss Dempsey as we were reunited with Grace who our group met back in 2017. She was a baby in the maternity hospital whose mother had passed and the school have been fundraising ever since for food supplies for her. It was so emotional and incredible to see how she has grown into a very happy and healthy young girl.
Visit to Vwaza Game Reserve by Alexander Amatt
The day started early like all the others had, we woke up at 5:30 am even though there would be no mass. Mrs Tait wanted an early departure as she knew the morning was a good time to see the animals. We were all exhausted on the bus journey but when we finally arrived at Vwaza we were instantly blown away by the scale and variety of the animals there (including all the peculiar insects). The first large animal we spotted was a hippopotamus and there was not just one, but at least twenty (above the surface). After sitting near the lake where we spotted the hippos something truly amazing happened. One by one a full troop of baboons appeared out of nowhere. We were meant to get on the bus but we had to wait as the ranger expected animals would be coming to drink at the lake soon which ended up playing in our favour as a herd of elephants finally appeared at the side of lake. The ranger made us get in the bus and we headed towards them. When we got close – but not too close – we noticed the elephants were also with a small baby. The sheer majesty of them brought a tear to my eye. After that we worked our way around the reserve in the bus (which was incredibly hot) and saw impala and more baboons. Then we came back to the lake side and ate lunch which as usual was chicken and rice. On the way back we stopped at father Isaiah’s house and his church. The church was beautiful to say the least, and the picture on the wall was similar impressive artwork just like on the wall in the Mzambazi church. We finally returned exhausted, yet energized from all the events of the day. Danny’s friend Francisco turned up and gave Danny a chicken which we named Caesar. We had dinner, chilled in the lounge and then finally hit the hay.
Farewell Talent Show by Eleanor Jones
Throughout our 9 days in Mzambazi we all managed to showcase a range of skills and talents such as magic and singing. I stupidly sang ‘Uchindami’ (a song that is sung at Sunday mass in Malawi) on the bus on our journey to Mzambazi – I was then made to sing a further 20 or so times, so not surprisingly it was put in the talent show.
To keep us entertained at night the boys performed magic tricks. They had 3 tricks Jack of the Castle, Guess the Card and Guess the Object which required either Danny or Alex to read Harry’s mind – this one was by far the best as no one could figure out how they did it. This was also added to our talent show line up.
After our visit to the maternity hospital the sister Florence organised a performance by the hospital staff after watching them dance and joining in we felt obliged to perform something ourselves so all the girls sang “Bana-ha”. Father Raymond or “baby priest” then became obsessed with this song and kept getting us all to burst into song at random times of the day. He also became our choir master. ‘Bana-ha’ was also added to line up.
Emily, Layla and Joanna made up a dance to Dancing Queen for the show and after Harry announced he could play ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ on the piano and Danny revealed he knew all the words we all decided to sing it as a group as well as singing Flower of Scotland. Miss Griffiths also wrote a lovely poem about Malawi.
The day finally came and we all felt very underprepared but the show must go on. The Malawians went first and put on many outstanding performances from acrobatics to comedies to their beautiful singing and dancing. Every act was spectacularly flawless yet somehow seemed so effortless.
Next up was us. We performed Flower of Scotland first then Dancing Queen, both of which went very well. Then the boys were up with their magic tricks the students of MZASS were blown away as they like us had no idea how they did it.
Then it was time for Don’t Stop Me No, a performance none of us will be able to forget. It was dreadful. Nothing went to plan and we were all in fits of laughter including Mrs Tait who was howling in the corner. However, I’m sure the Malawians found it very entertaining.
The good thing was that whatever we did next would seem amazing compared to our last performance. Luckily it was Bana-ha which in practices always went well so we were sorted. To top it off Baby priest conducted and sang along with us. Miss Griffiths then read out a beautifully handwritten poem bringing tears to all our eyes.
Last was our performance of Uchindami which required us to both sing and dance at the same time – something I’ve never been very good at. We sang through it once before messing up the foot work and it was all downhill from there – at one point I looked at the audience to see one of the boys shaking his head and signaling for us to stop. We started again with the help of Violet which made it much easier and ended the show on a real high.
The showcase was closed by Claire and Niamh who read out a short speech thanking the students and teachers of MZASS for making us feel welcome at their school and for giving us memories that will stay with us forever.
Our days at Mayoka Village by Danny Casey
It was time for our Mzambazi journey to come to an end. It was an early start as we departed the village at 5.30am. We had a quick stop at the Coffee Den in Mzuzu to get some breakfast and our first Wi-Fi in 11 days but in true Malawi style it didn’t work for anyone (apart from Miss Dempsey who had to communicate with the world for us). We then drove to Nkhata Bay and were stunned by the lakeside views on approach to Mayoka Village. It was finally time to sit back and relax. We enjoyed lunch where I had an amazing Mayoka Burger. It was a brilliant change as we had been living off of chicken and rice for the past 10 days.
We took a walk into Nkhata Bay to have a look at the sellers’ wood carvings. Some of the street sellers’ names were unusual to say the least. My favourites were probably ‘Happy Coconut’ and ‘Cheese on Toast’. We made a second attempt to get Wi-Fi in the village but again we were left disappointed as the internet was down. As we walked back up, Lemon Squeeze and his fellow carvers encouraged us into their shops and we bought some of their carvings as souvenirs. Harry’s bartering was hilarious to watch but he eventually left happy with a great deal on belter of a chess set. We met a dog which followed us all the way back to Mayoka and didn’t want to leave our side so we felt obliged to give her a Nkhata Bay name – ‘Salted Caramel Sundae’ Cara for short. She followed us all over the place and eventually grew on us and some of us even wanted to take her home. Alex and Harry and I had a room right down at the edge of the lake which gave us some gorgeous views right from our door. We all met at 6pm to experience the amazing sunset together.
Day 2 at Mayoka
We got our first proper long lie of the full trip which was definitely needed! We headed to the bar for breakfast – pancakes, waffles and fry ups! Delicious! We spent another day in Nkhata Bay village, collecting our purchases from yesterday and buying even more carvings. We also finally managed to get half an hour of Wi-Fi and caught up with all of our friends and family. Back at Mayoka we had a day to relax in the sun, more great food and an early night.
We woke up at half 5 in the morning, we had planned to meet outside the boy’s room to watch the sunrise together. We sat on the patio lakeside and one by one shared all of our highlights and special moments of the trip. After we packed our bags we headed down for breakfast (or in my case breakfasts). We squeezed into our faithful minibus and set off for Lilongwe. We stooped off at Father Mark’s parish on the way. A verrry long 8 hours later we arrived at a hotel near the airport for some food and a freshen up before our return flights to Scotland. We headed to the airport and said our emotional goodbyes to Father Yotum and Malawi.
On arrival back in Scotland emotions were high and it was great to see our families, friends and Mr Frew waiting to greet us in the airport. We all had a truly amazing experience that we will never forget.