Thursday, 31 October 2013


Edinburgh Girls High School - Form 1 Students October 2012 - July 2013
Welcome to a long overdue update on developments in Malawi

Water is Life - a day of thanksgiving
Those of you who have been following our progress over the years will remember no doubt that we had a serious problem finding a source of water.  We had several unsuccessful attempts when drilling for a borehole, not least of which being a contractor who absconded.  We had two beautiful classroom blocks but with no water supply we could not open the school.  During the period from 2010 to 2012 we used the classrooms for adult literacy classes, hygiene and nutrition classes and sensitisation meetings with the local community.  Finally at the end of 2011 a source of water was found and a borehole was sunk 65 metres down.  This presented another problem as being so deep an electric or diesel pump was required to bring the water from that depth to the surface. 
The funding for the borehole and subsequently for the installation of a solar powered pump and storage tanks was raised by the Corrigan family in memory of their son and brother Owen.  Ojo's well is now fully operational and the family were here in May 2013 to see the difference this has made not only for the school but for the people in the surrounding communities.

 October 2012 - July 2013

We opened the school as a non-denominational school in October 2012, a month later than the Government schools but despite that we had a large number of applicants. However due to lack of boarding facilities we had to turn students away.  At first we had only 5 girls but over time the number increased to 32 girls.  Interest was growing thanks to our signage on the main road at Engoncolweni and the striking uniform or our girls - the kilts donated by students of Mary Erskine Girls School, Edinburgh.
We were in desperate need of funding for a hostel to accomodate students and the Solon Foundation, Switzerland came to our rescue.  We received a substantial grant and work commenced at the end of November 2012 with a deadline of 8th January 2013.  The hostel was built in record time with running water installed allowing us to have girls boarding from 9th January 2013. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

From the UK...................

It's been some time since I did some blogging so maybe time to explain.  I'm currently in Scotland as I had to come home unexpectedly at the end of October to deal with some family issues which have been keeping me busy but thankfully the invalid is now well on the way to recovery.  During this time Malawi has been on my mind and I do keep in touch with the office to make sure things are running smoothly.  Sadly the situation with regard to FOREX, Fuel etc has not improved and the impact this is having on the economy is causing escalating food prices so the picture of daily life for the ordinary Malawian is grim.

Just before I had to leave we finally struck water close to the site.   The drillers had several attempts within our boundary but no luck so eventually they had to move outside and on to Mbano family land and we are grateful to the Mbano family for allowing us to do this.  The water source is some 600 metres from our boundary and will require to be piped to the site.  The drillers also had to go deeper than normal to reach water so a standard AFridev hand pump will not deliver the water meaning we will have to have a solar pump installed - with the additional expense this will involve.  The plan is to have the water pumped to the school site and stored in tanks for distribution to the staff houses, hostel etc.  The Corrigan family continue to raise money for this project and we are extremely grateful to them.  Once completed this will be dedicated to the memory of Owen Corrigan.  Estimates for this work have been received and hopefully once the rains are over work will begin on getting the water on site.

With water no longer a problem we are in a position to apply for the licence to open the school for our first intake of students and hope to be ready for the start of the academic year this September.  Obvioulsy there is a lot of preparatory work to be done for this to happen, advertising and interviewing for staff and curriculum development being high on the list and advertising our opening but hopefully the numerous request we have had for places for girls will bring us the right amount of students to allow us to go ahead.

It is also hoped that we will have solar power for lighting the classrooms.  This follows a successful application to Solar Aid, Mzuzu and together we hope to roll out a solarisation project in the surrounding community.  The timing of this is not clear and confirmation has still to come from  Solar Aid's Mzuzu office regarding the fine details of this project more on that at a later date.

Plans for the Big African Bike Ride to raise money for a hostel block are well underway and you can follow this on  Dan and Emma both have set up Just Giving sites and you can donate to this by texting CHES06 £2/£5/£10 TO 70070.  At this point I should say 'thank you' to the group from Magdalen College School, one of the Outlook Expedition teams that visited last August, for their donation of just under £400 to the Bike Ride.

I usually take my annual leave during the rainy season as there is little that can be done in the way of construciton at this time and it is the season that I dislike most - torrential rain (when it comes) violent thunderstorms with serious forked lightning - only the other day I read on Nyasa Times that so far this year 20 people have been killed by lightning.  Some struck by lightning, others because their homes caught fire so I have to say give me a cold Scottish winter with rain, sleet or snow anytime!

When do I go back to Malawi - that's the question everyone asks me, usually as soon as I arrive home! - probably around the end of April, beginning of May.  I've missed my family a lot over the last few years so have some major catching up to do.

Sorry no recent photos...............

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rydym newydd ddychwelyd o Malawi

I hope the title for this blog has caught your eye and no it's not is in fact Welsh.  When I first went on to the web link for this it was in English and I could follow it but now it is in Welsh so I'm lost.  What I can tell you is that we had a visit from a crew from Newid Byd a televsion station based in Wales; Mererid Wigely producer, Aled Jenkins camera, Hywel Jones sound and four young people Lloyd Antrobus, Ioan Williams, Mali Rees and Teleri Davies.  They were accompanied by Gerrault Wyn Jones and Megan Thorman from Outlook Expeditions.  They were here to make a documentary for a TV programme on the problems facing girls education in Malawi.  I understand the four young people had to go through some gruelling interviews before being selected to take part in the programme which will be broadcast in Wales on 24th November this year.  We are extrememly grateful to Outlook Expedtions for suggesting the Chesney Trust project to be part of this programme.
The group spent five days in Engcongolweni and during their time there they took part in various acitivities.  Arriving on a Sunday morning they attended the service in the R.C. Church in Ekwendeni and found it to be extremely lively with singing and dancing.  From there they were transported to Engcongolweni where they were welcomed by Baxtor Gondwe, head teacher of the primary school where they were putting up for the duration of their stay. 
They had a busy schedule which involved meeting with members of the local community, spending time with children in the primary school, meeting a young primary school girl in her home to talk about the problems she faces, volunteer work for the Trust - the usual moulding of bricks, and they made loads, and left their names on some! - meeting with high school girls and learning about their hopes and dreams of education, talking to an older girl at her home who had dropped out of education, playing games with the local children and generally keeping very busy and active. The District Education Manager, Mr Mwasikakata and the Community Education Officer, Mr Kumwenda from Mzuzu visited the crew to commend them on the work they were doing and to discuss the problems facing girls education in Malawi and in the district in particular.  Adult litercacy classes are currently being held four days per week and the crew met with those taking part.  The Edinburgh School is already making a mark in the area and once opened will bring not only education facilities to the area but employment.
While they were there we had arranged for a young local girl to prepare and cook their meals.  We don't normally do this with volunteers as they generally prepare their own food but due to the the busy schedule it was agreed that someone should be employed to do this.  Reyna Sikwese had ,of her own volition, cooked food for previous voluneer groups to introduce them to typical Malawian food so she was all to happy to take on this role.  The crew thoroughly enjoyed the food prepared for them. 
At the end of the visit the Trust was presented with a donation from the four young people who had raised money in several ways.  Teleri did a bungee jump (brave girl) and raised £1000 for us.  This was added to by Mali, Lloyd and Ioan and totalled 2000US$.  At the request of Teleri, Mali, Lloyd and Ioan some of this money has to be used to send Reyna to school to study for a diploma in nutrion and food security.  This is an internationally certified course and Reyna or her family could never have afforded the high fees to attend.  I am delighted to report that Reyna's fees for this course have been paid and she is now attending classes at Skyway college in Mzuzu.  The exam fees will also be paid when the time comes and that money has been set aside for that purpose.  Reyna was so happy she was in tears and could not believe the generosity of these four young people.  I have since met with her mother and she is so thankful that her daughter is being given this opportunity.  The remainder of that donation was put towards the cost of completing the work on the foundation for the staff house currently under construction; for the purchase of 200 litres of diesel to get the maize mill up and running and for the insertion of another breeze block window to improve the ventilation of the maize mill house.  And I'm happy to report that the maize mill is now in business!.
We hope the crew enjoyed their stay with us as much as we enjoyed having them and we know they have joined our Facebook page so can keep up to date with our progress.  There are so many photos from this visit and I'm going to try to upload all of them.
Our team at the site send their best wishes to all of the crew.  It was a wonderful experience for them and they all have their own stories to pass on to their families - as one put it to me 'this is part of our history and we can tell our children and grandchildren about our visitors from Wales'