He aint heavy, he's my brother

16th Visit to Malawi 30th March
Mary Coyne

Sometimes I think our influence on, and connection with people in Wells for Zoe is as much about Ireland and Irish people as Malawi and Malawians. DIT students and college staff are now part and parcel of our ongoing development. On our recent visit 16 DIT students travelled with us. This was the 3rd annual DIT Easter Trip organised by Elaine and Liam, our co-workers in Ireland. Elaine and Paul travelled on placement duties and remained for one month.
Like every trip there were many steps forward and just a few backwards too, but every trip provides us with a deeper understanding of the Malawian way of life and many new experiences. Working with the young people from DIT is an invigorating experience for me. It gives me the drive and stamina to go forward in spite of any hiccups. At Mzuzu Technical College I witnessed a coming together of “minds and cultures” as the DIT students met their counterparts studying Business and Marketing. Questions and answers flowed backwards and forwards and “sense” was made of many aspects of their courses including the current world economic situation! Textbooks or lecturers could never have equalled this debate in terms of educational value to both parties. Elaine challenged her Malawian new found friends to make business proposals which they would study and possibly offer assistance with support from DIT in Ireland. John from Wells for Zoe offered financial rewards and support and the ‘scene’ was set for the next episode! Two weeks later Elaine revisited, twice, to collect the results, which were few and disappointing. But the seed was sown and I have no doubt there will be progress yet to report in the future. Achievements so often are made through a series of small steps and this has been our experience in Malawi. Elaine is returning again at the end of June and will pursue this project further. What a wonderful first hand experience for a business student during her placement! And this was only one of many such opportunities.
Alinipher was employed as manager of the farm in Lusangasi. It could be described as a daunting task for a 26 year old woman in a male dominated country, but not for Alinipher who was confident and competent and driven! She wanted to achieve and had so many plans that “slowing her down” was problematic! Elaine again was on hand and became her mentor. They “journeyed” together through every aspect of the duties and daily routines and long discussions followed. Questions were answered, more questions were asked and further planning was done.
Lunch on Saturday with Alinipher, her husband and son, followed by a shopping expedition for boots and “things” cemented the relationship and the partnership. No wonder Alinipher’s work to date is blossoming and the weekly reports and financial statements are “awesome!”. Of course the texts between Alinipher and Elaine are ongoing.
Adult Education has taken off in Aras Kate since February ’10. Casca and Miriam are in charge of the operation. They have received some in-service with more to follow hopefully. They have classes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 2-4pm and netball on Thursday afternoon. There are approximately 30 women and one man attending. The enthusiasm evident in the classroom was palpable. Pencil and copies with sharpners and rubbers on standby, are the tools of the trade. In true Malawian style they have a “proposal” for me to supply “biros” and more copies. They told me they were ready for upgrading!
Our DIT friends were on hand to offer their support and plans were made for an “art” class. What an unforgettable experience, it was fun for all of us and what wonderful results were evident! They painted a sunset, mixed colours and returned home with their ‘Monet like’ exhibits. We photographed them as they left, proudly holding their pictures for their friends and family and family members to admire. A request for a second session soon followed. This time they did potato and leaf prints. The teachers and DIT students joined in, and even some of the babies who come to class with their mum’s held a brush and made their mark too! “Wonder and awe” and “sacramental” moments come to mind when I relive those experiences!
The adult education classes continue with some “students” coming early to receive ‘supplemental support’ as they find the going tough. We look forward to the support of our many teacher volunteers who are joining us July 2010. There will no doubt be many more experiences to relate and wonder at.
I did mention “steps forward, and some backward”. On reflection I can now only remember the forward steps, because eventually the “seemingly” backward steps become forward ones too. Hope springs eternal!

Drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding for a Board of Trustees was a “job and a half”, a once off experience I hope.

Day1 was a “reconciliation Meeting” with “Mbawemi”, The Chiefs and Members of Development Committee from Sailsbury Line, Wells for Zoe, and The Chief Executive of the City Assembly with planning and executive members present. It was scheduled for 8am but eventually got underway at 10am after a rather ‘noisy’ group of (invited by Mbawemi) supporters were eventually persuaded to leave as it was a closed meeting. Two hours later the Chief Executive summarized a plan of action to draw up “a memorandum of understanding for a board of Trustees for Aras Kate, Preschool in Sailsbury Line”. All parties departed to prepare their statements.

Day2 The meeting was scheduled for 8.30am and by 10am all parties had arrived except Mbawemi.. Proceedings started with the reading out of a letter from them stating they had a Board of Trustees for Mbawemi and would not be partaking in further discussion. This did not deter the plan of action and the rest of us presented our prepared proposals. We were all agreed on the way forward, without any misunderstandings. This was a very pleasant experience and we felt really pleased as we decided on the date for out final meeting to finalize affairs.

Day3 Our sense of security and well being was short lived as Mbawemi women and “two pillars of society” arrived on Day3. They wanted a full discussion at 10.15am for the 8.30am meeting. By 11.15 the signing and agreement of the document was put “on hold” for a further two days to allow for “internal discussion” within the Mbawemi Board. Spirits were low in the Wells for Zoe camp but the other members considered the postponement for two days a good idea as it insured that no further excuses could be made and we were assured by the City Assembly that Wednesday morning was the final hurdle and all would be sealed and signed.

Day 4 8.30am meeting and by 10am Mbawemi women and City Assembly hadn’t shown up. 10.15am the City Assembly Executives arrived and as promised we set about finalizing the document. By 11am we were signing the final draft. Wells for Zoe finally handed over Aras Kate to the Board of Trustees. Our first board meeting was held and officers were elected. Mr. Mkandawere, the Chief was elected Chairman and addressed the Board.
After registration in the City Office we celebrated with Fanta and biscuits!!!


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