Monday, 25 June 2012

Open Arms Foster Houses, A Wave from the President and playing catch with Rebel! the German Shepherd

It's Saturday morning and there is rest for the wicked! I asked about visiting the Open Arms foster houses and Enefer agreed to take me with her. There are four houses, Rose's House, Rosemarie's House, Richmond House and Sekwe House (soon there will be a fifth house called "Annie's House - After Annie Lennox who is helping to fund it). Every weekend one of the Open Arms staff go and visit the foster houses. Each of them are so different, although all the children had one thing in common, they wanted a hug and to show me their rooms. The children and so happy and it was especially nice to visit Rosemarie's House where Joseph now stays. I met him last year when I was here, when I asked him if he remembered me he replied with "Ice Cream" in reference to the trip to Makys where some of the older kids had ice cream.

Going round the foster houses is actually quite tiring so I was quite relieved to be heading back to Makys after spending time with all the children. On our way back, we were stopped at the bottom of Victoria Avenue by traffic police. We were able to work out that the President would be passing soon. Luckily we were right at the front of the traffic which had been stopped - a prime viewing location. Although we didn't see them clearly, both the President (Joyce Banda) and her husband were in the car and waving at everyone.

So finally making it back to Maky's no sooner had I sat down than Jo and Clive came in for lunch. I quite regularly sit with Jo and Clive at lunchtime (they are here almost everyday) - we do have a good laugh and Clive always has another funny story to tell. Well as it's Saturday - Jo invited me back to their house for afternoon tea. I knew they had cats and dogs and this didn't particularly worry me until Jo casually says as we approach the house - "when you get out the car, just stand with your arms folded and let the dogs sniff and bark." Barney (the smallest dog) did most of the barking.

Nala and Rebel had a good look and decided I was a friend (thankfully). I did make one mistake - I threw Rebel's ball for him. For the rest of the afternoon I had a German Shepherd staring at me, with pleading eyes to throw the ball. Every so often Nala would come to get a scratch behind the ears. There are also several cats - the smallest of which is Biscuit the kitten. She is very cute and is making her mark among the menagerie of animals. 

My Saturday was well and truly packed with things to do and I got back to Maky's in the evening, totally exhausted and wondering what I would be doing for the rest of the weekend. Thankfully not very much and I have a very relaxing day sitting around the restaurant reading my book.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I've started with Mary's Meals...

I've started working (on a voluntary basis) for Mary's Meals. I thought the Country Director had something up his sleeve and after a meeting with him last week, he finally put his cards on the table! So I am working with some of the staff on Monitoring and Evaluation for the Under Six Programme!!

Lots of people in Malawi know what Mary's Meals does - or at least know there is porridge involved.  I experienced how excited the children for the first time on Friday when I visited a school in rural Blantyre.  I was along with a school group visiting from Scotland. When we arrived at the school many of the children were already outside and there was singing and dancing from the children and the volunteers as we climbed out of our car and the visitors who were with us got out of their minibus.

We made our way through the crowd to the Mary's Meals kitchen where some of the children were receiving their porridge.The picture below shows some of the volunteers explaining what they do everyday and how many children they feed.



I knew there were lots of children there as I had told some of them to behave (in Chichewa) when making my way through the crowd. I hadn't quite realised just how many had actually gathered around the kitchen. I had been so focused on the children at the front, he visitors and volunteers (I was even holding a volunteers baby at one point) that I hadn't really looked up.

When I did...




There were so many children (this photo doesn't show them all) - so many inquisitive faces! They recognise the Mary's Meals logo and I just happened to be wearing one of the unmissable blue t-shirts.  It took us quite a while to get back to our car at the end of the visit, the children were so excited that they had us surrounded - some even followed us as we drove away from the school.

It was quite an experience to visit a school as part of Mary's Meals. I've been in lots of schools (some of which have Mary's Meals) as part of my research and there is always a degree of excitement when there is a visitor at the school. I just had never experienced anything of this scale.

last week was my first week with Mary's and Meals and Friday was my first day "in the field". I can safely say I was totally exhausted by Friday afternoon!  I'm back in the office tomorrow and probably back in the field over the course of the next few weeks.

I'll try to update the blog next week with some more stories of my time in Malawi!