Following two busy weeks in Blantyre and trekking on Mount Mulanje the group from Ashville College moved on to Mangochi to Open Arms second Infant Home.
Day 10, 11 and 12
We travel to the infant home in Mangochi and are treated to a spectacular welcome ceremony featuring singing, dancing, drumming and a huge welcome sign which followed us wherever we went.
During our three days here a few are able to be with the children at Open Arms. Their morning ritual of ‘huggy time’ is a tear jerker! The children are adorable and are clearly very well looked after and cared for. It has been amazing to witness the love they receive and how loving that makes them in return. They only have to look at you to make you wish you could pack them all up and take them home.
Our building project in Mangochi was at Pemphero School where we managed to complete the external painting of four classrooms, build a partition wall between two classrooms, break up hardcore to create flooring in two classrooms and build a new toilet block and decorate another.
As if this wasn’t enough we played football and netball matches each day against local opponents.
The matches were highly competitive and sometimes physical with the local referee adding five minutes on to one game in the hope that his team may win, pitch invasions by cows and a local woman on her way to the shops, a pitch marked out with a scary looking hoe and the girls commenting after one match that the game was more about survival than skill!
Days 13, 14, 15
After all that hard work and sport we all needed some well-deserved down time and headed off to Mvuu Camp for two days of safari.
Our journey took us on dusty roads through the heart of Malawi, and then a short ferry ride over the crocodile infested waters of the River Shire.
Arriving safely we were all hugely impressed by the lodge even if we wondered if our rooms with walls consisting just of mosquito nets would keep us safe from the wildlife of Mvuu.
Next morning, after witnessing the devastation caused by a family of elephants passing through the camp, we were reassured that indeed the mosquito nets did provide an adequate block.
Reluctantly, after Landrover, boat and walking safaris, where we discovered the massive variety of animals and birdlife on offer in Malawi, we said goodbye to Mvuu and travelled back to Mangochi for an emotional farewell before moving on to Nkhotakota for an emotional farewell.
The emotional pull of outstretched arms tugs at the heart strings of even the hardiest souls.
We sang our farewells and the staff and children reciprocated with their traditional farewell anthem ‘We say goodbye, but not forever’ and hugs for everyone.
Days 16, 17, 18
We have achieved a lot in the projects that we have completed on the trip and on this last occasion we have been in involved in the preparatory work leading to the laying of a concrete floor and manufacture of roof tiles for a new classroom.
Nkhotakota Pottery is the only place in Malawi to produce roof tiles and learning about the process from start to finish is one of the many educational and practical experiences that the students have benefitted from on this trip.
The schoolchildren were also on hand to help us, giving them a sense of ownership.
Our final evening in Malawi was spent on the banks of Lake Malawi with spectacular views.
This few hours of downtime were gratefully received after a trip which has been full from start to finish.
It has been wonderful that the students have embraced all opportunities and as we spend our final hours together we all feel enriched by the new friendships that have been forged and the experiences we have shared.
We all return from Malawi changed, affected by the people of the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ their generosity of spirit and the way they deal with the hardship of their everyday life.
Thank you to Neville Bevis and his staff at Open Arms for making this all possible.
‘We say goodbye but not forever’ from the Ashville Malawi 2015 group.