AS our volunteers’ time in Blantyre, Malawi comes to an end, the group have experienced a truly inspiring journey, which will no doubt live long in the memories of each and every one of them.
Having split into two working groups during their first week in Malawi, Sunday and Monday saw our 20 volunteers come together to complete educational ‘talking walls’ at the Kachere ECD Centre.
Upon arrival at Kachere, the group were met with a warm welcome which has been typical of their time in Malawi, regardless of which community they have visited.
There was plenty of work to be done but the volunteers quickly applied a base coat of paint before glossing the classroom in record time. This left plenty of opportunity for them to engage with children of the local community, with friendships formed almost instantaneously.
Once again, our volunteers shared songs and laughter with the children and, of course, taught them some Celtic favourites, as chants of ‘Malawi’s Green and White’ echoed through the playground.
Despite having spent only a matter of hours at the centre, an incredible bond was formed, with both the children and volunteers completely at ease with one another. Before leaving for the day, the group were showered with hugs and one of the local children proclaimed: “This is beautiful, I do not want you to go.”
It wouldn’t be long, however, before the group were back at the Kachere ECD Centre, arriving early on Monday morning to begin the stencilling of the educational features for the ‘talking walls’ such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes, animals and days of the week.
Collectively, the group put in an incredible shift and by the afternoon the classroom was awash with colour and was practically unrecognisable from the one which the group had first encountered. Their wonderful efforts have transformed a previously dull and dark room into a vibrant learning environment, which will help the children’s progress immensely.
With work done for the day, the volunteers once again had the opportunity to play with children of the Kachere ECD Centre, who were invited to enter the classroom to see the finished article. Their heart-warming smiles were thanks enough for the group but they were treated to a number of joyful songs from the children and caregivers.
The volunteers then provided the children with biscuits and lollipops as well as toys to play with, simple things in life to many of us but a rare treat for the children of Malawi.
The time came for the group to say goodbye and once again it was a truly special moment, with children, parents and caregivers all in attendance, as the community expressed its immense gratitude for the work of Celtic FC Foundation’s Malawi volunteers. Singing and dancing was in full flow until the group had to finally bid an emotional farewell.
The group’s final full day in Malawi saw them make the two-hour journey, to visit the sites of two of the 67 kitchens which have been built following the success of last year’s Lions’ Legacy campaign.
Firstly, the group visited Chidyamanga School to see ‘Angel Amanpreet’s Kitchen’ before heading to Joni School where a kitchen has been sponsored by the ‘Preston Emerald CSC’.
The kitchens will make an enormous difference to the schools in which they have been built, with over 2000 children fed daily between Chidyamanga School and Joni School alone, through Mary’s Meals’ feeding programme.
Before one final dinner as a group, there was a chance for a quick football match against a team from the local community. Kitted out in the Hoops and Celtic FC Foundation t-shirts, our Bhoys borrowed a couple of players to make up the numbers and after two 20-minute halves, the sides eventually played out a draw in what was a fantastic friendly occasion.
Celtic’s Malawi Adventure 2018 has been a truly unique experience for each and every one of our 20 volunteers and there are so many people to thank for making the trip possible. Everyone who has sponsored or supported one of our volunteers, Mary’s Meals for providing placements, Glen Travel for arranging our travel, Game Haven for meeting our accommodation needs, Responsible Safari Company – and Ozzie and Ernie in particular – for looking after our internal travel so well and of course to the wonderful children of the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.
Finally, thank you to the 20 wonderful volunteers who have worked so hard over the past 10 days – Lorraine Barwell, Liz Black, Mary Carlin, Shaun Fullerton, Laura Gaffney, Ross Hart, Rachel Kelly, Garrett Maher, Michael McCrossan, Michelle McDaide, Yvonne McDaide, Jim McGinley, Joanne McGirr, Claire McGuire, Lisa Miller, Katie O’Donnell, Ken Simpson, Tommy Stevenson, Lynn Tennent and Jim Welsh.
Our volunteers will leave today to return to Glasgow on a near 24-hour journey but their time in Malawi will live with them forever. Having come to the country as 20 individuals, they will return home as a group who have shared a unique experience and bonds have been made which will no doubt last a lifetime.
They have truly left their mark on Malawi and their efforts would have made Brother Walfrid and his fellow founding fathers proud.
To register your interest in future overseas volunteering trips, please email [email protected] or call 0141 551 4321.