Ex-Harrogate teacher says farewell to life-saving African charity

Open Arms Malawi director Neville Bevis in Malawi.

Open Arms Malawi director Neville Bevis in Malawi.

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Former Harrogate teacher and Open Arms Malawi director Neville Bevis is to retire after 17 amazing years of leading this vital African charity.

The charity, which provides care and shelter to orphaned babies in Malawi, has had close links to Harrogate and the Harrogate Advertiser ever since first Neville moved to Malawi.

The doors to Open Arms’ first Infant Home were first opened in 1995 by Davona Church and Margaret East, two ladies living in Malawi which has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

The roots of Neville’s involvement go back to 1970 when, as a young man, he was passing through Malawi on a ride across South Africa and met his late wife Rosemary.

Six years later he was teaching at St Andrew’s International Primary and High School in Blantyre where Rosemary happened to run her own and possibly the first multi-racial nursery school there.

They came back to Harrogate for several years, where Neville, now 68, was a Senior Housemaster at Ashville College but Malawi was clearly still in both their hearts.

It was in 2000 that Neville, and Rosemary decided to return to take over the running of Open Arms in Malawi.

Neville said “The parents at Ashville ran several events one of them” bop for Bevis “to raise our airfares. Some of them went on to form the first Board of Trustees and served for many years as such.

“It’s hard to think that it is so long since the people of Harrogate got behind us and financed the construction of Harrogate House.”

‘At that time there was no salary, or indeed any incentives at all, apart from returning to a country that we had both fallen in love with. I know Rosemary never looked back and I know that I haven’t either.”

Rosemary worked tirelessly for the charity before she was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away in 2006.

Once he retires at the end of the year, Neville aims to devote more time to his family.

He said: “Top of my list for things to do is to see more of my daughters’, one in Harrogate and one in Amsterdam, and my three grandchildren.

“I intend to remain in Malawi, getting away in my beloved Land Rovers and sailing the Rosie Ellen on Lake Malawi.”