AS Blantyre, Malawi blessed us with yet another stunning sunset on Wednesday evening, it was time for a period of reflection for our volunteers.
Monday and Tuesday saw both groups put in two incredible shifts to complete the educational ‘talking walls’ at their assigned rural Under-Six Centres – Chembona and Kantukule. As a result, our volunteers significantly improved the learning environments at five Centres in the space of 10 days, providing invaluable and lasting resources for over 1,000 children aged under six.
This is a remarkable outcome of which Brother Walfrid and his fellow founding fathers would be proud.
There were many more magical moments over the course of Monday and Tuesday, including one excited girl who mastered the hoola hoop, having never previously set eyes on one in her young life, and the reaction of a group of children to the release of balloons and lollipops all-round.
Celtic songs, races with the children, a football match which our volunteer Niall christened ‘the greatest day of his life’. Apparently he scored a hat-trick – two were screamers into the top corner (there were no goalposts or nets) and the other he rounded the keeper, who was aged seven! The simple things in life – the most beautiful, memorable and heartwarming smiles.
Once again, the time came to say goodbye and the care-givers expressed their deep gratitude and offered a millions blessings through song and dance. They were special moments never to be forgotten.
The final full day in Malawi – Wednesday – saw the group make a two-hour journey to a primary school in Chikala to assist with the distribution of back-packs to every child. These are donated to Mary’s Meals from countries around the world, with many coming from Scotland.
Inside each bag is a selection of items (clothing, toys, stationery, toiletries) which are specifically tailored to the gender and age of the child. It was an honour for our volunteers to play a small part in personally handing the bags to each pupil and witnessing the joy that someone else’s kindness brings.
The group came together for one last dinner on Wednesday night which included the final instalment of ‘highlight of the day’. However, we’ve also been promised a ‘highlight of the trip’ edition during our five-hour wait in Addis Ababa Airport on the way home.
After recording Celtic TV messages to complete documentation of the trip this morning (Thursday), our Celtic legends will now begin the long journey home. Leaving Malawi at around 3.40pm, the group are scheduled to arrive back at Paradise on Friday, early evening.
There are so many people to thank for making the trip possible. Every single person who sponsored or supported one of our volunteers, TMG for arranging travel and accommodation, Mary’s Meals for being our magnificent placement partner, Kabula Lodge for looking after us so well and being the perfect setting, Ozzie from Responsible Safari for providing a first-class internal travel service throughout, Celtic TV for sending the fantastic Siobhann Caulfield to capture the trip, Intelligent Car Leasing for donating return travel between Celtic Park and Heathrow Airport and the beautiful, wonderful children and adults of Malawi for truly being the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.
Last but by no means least, thank you to our 16 volunteers for being such special souls who have epitomised the core charitable essence of our football club – putting others before themselves: Mark Cameron, John Cassidy, Dannika Drain, Laura Gaffney, Stevie McComiskie, Erin McGeough, Rachel Kelly, Niall Keogh, Sean Kirwan, Mairi McAslan, Carol McGurin, Derek Noonan, Kathleen Noonan, Lynn Tennent, Gerry White, Kiera White.
They came to Malawi as 16 individuals but leave as one family. They have shared a life-changing experience they will never forget and the bonds formed will last forever.
The volunteers may be heading home today but each and every one of them is leaving a little bit of their heart behind in Malawi.
To register your interest in future volunteer overseas trips, please email [email protected] or call 0141 551 4321.