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Sixth Form students travel to Malawi

Published Thursday 5th of May 2016 11:11:24 AM

On the 27th March, 11 Bishop's Stortford College Sixth Formers travelled to Malawi as part of the Inspire Malawi initiative; a non-profit organisation supporting schools in central Malawi. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Inspire Malawi aims to promote and enhance Education. The charity was set up by an ex-teacher at the College, Michelle Rowe, whose love of the country began during a gap year. Her connection with the College continues, and this year on Easter Sunday at 2.30pm, the 2016 team of Sixth Formers departed for Africa. Twenty six hours later, they arrived at their base in Dedza pottery to temperatures touching 30 degrees. The team raised over £10,000. Student Henry George commented: ‘The focus of our fundraising was to improve the education of the 1800 children at the Primary School, in order for them to pass their final exams and hopefully get into secondary school. Education is central to the community in Malawi, as it gives these young children an opportunity to break away from the poverty in their villages and seek employment.’ The College team were able to leave a very personal mark on Mlanda Primary School classrooms as they helped to create a more inspiring learning and teaching environment by decorating seven classrooms with visual educational aids from wildlife to the solar system. Mrs Lynch, who accompanied the students, commented: ‘We had a few artists among our group but most of us were quite happy colouring in the designs drawn by the others. Michelle Rowe, the founder of Inspire Malawi, was particularly skilled in drawing local life scenes.’ With the help of some local Malawians, especially Gibson, George and Isaac, the team completed their work in five days. Malawi took its toll on some pupils with heatstroke and stomach upsets – so as a respite from the work they enjoyed a water safari and a land drive safari at Liwonde National Park. They encountered zebra, impala, water buck, baboons, crocodiles, birds and of course hippos. Christina commented: ‘A highlight for all of us was most definitely seeing a herd of at least 30 elephants, an entrancing experience that will stay with me forever.’ The group also explored some of the area around Mlanda. They visited Lizulu, trekking through the countryside from Mlanda passing the graves of local chiefs who are buried upright to keep an eye on their tribes. There was a quick trip to Mozambique (by crossing the road in Lizulu), a ramble through the fields to the old colonial golf club, which is now a hotel, and a trip to Chipigera, a small village. Shona commented: ‘One of the most vivid and life-changing examples of the differences between our lives and theirs was the small village of Chipigera. When we arrived we were met by literally, hundreds of children who were all so genuinely excited for us to be there. We were all a bit overwhelmed. Chipigera does not have its own water source, no borehole, no piped water; the entire community relies on water from the hills. This results in a very different set of priorities; water is so precious to these people that they won’t waste it on things that are unnecessary. However, despite the poverty we witnessed, not once did we see a single person complain about their life and their situation. There is an overarching sense of community and family within the villages and together everyone was very welcoming.’ The Sixth Formers were able to experience lots of local culture during their trip, such as the ladies choir in Mlanda - many of the pupils bought their CD. The College students returned the favour, although Mrs Lynch commented it was a somewhat ‘painful version of Shine Jesus Shine and Jerusalem; the Reverend kindly said that his choir had had more time to practise.’ They were then presented with a 50kg bag of potatoes and a Malawian cockerel, both of which they donated to Dedza pottery, where they were staying. The final full day was taken up by the presentation ceremony, to which the local chiefs had been invited among others. Everyone had a tour of the classrooms and marvelled at the work before there was a hand-over ceremony. Several speeches later the College presented the school with football kits, clothing, sports equipment, books and chalk they had brought out and in return they were each gifted with goat skin handbags. The pupils involved gave an assembly on Friday 29th April, sharing their experiences with their peers. They spoke with confidence and respect about their trip and inspired everyone who listened.
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