A family supported by an SOS Medical Centre in Malawi - Children in school in Zambia
Martin Brooke, from Cornwall UK, is an NHS associate specialist in paediatrics. He has generously given up his month-long holiday to travel to Malawi and volunteer his time and valuable skills at the SOS Hospital in Blantyre, where 21,000 people are treated every year.
- “A volunteer diary - touching down in Malawi”
Martin Brooke, Volunteer with SOS Children in Malawi
Martin Brooke, from Cornwall UK, is an NHS associate specialist in pediatrics. He has generously given up his month-long holiday to travel to Malawi and volunteer his time and valuable skills at the SOS Medical Centre in Blantyre, where 21,000 people are treated every year. This is his first blog entry about his arrival into the country in late January 2012.
"When I flew into Malawi, the speech therapist at the SOS Medical Centre, Victor, had a board with my name on it at the airport. We hopped in a pickup and headed for SOS Children in Blantyre. We stopped for a funeral procession, where all cars came to a halt and their occupants got out too as a mark of respect. Victor and I discussed how the mortality burden in these parts of Africa would be stopping a lot more traffic. We also chatted about how SOS Children were using their resources to set up new programmes in an outreach capacity to help communities. They are also establishing a cervical screening programme. I knew that cervical cancer presents a large disease burden.
It is plain to see that these well dressed and colourful people are poor. I do not think I have seen an overweight person in Malawi. Turning into the SOS Children site, I see a lovely environment with lots of kids running around, people cooking, playing football and having fun. All of the children come up and ask “how are you?” as I walk to my accommodation.
The day after my arrival I went for a long walk and watched a pretty serious local football match. Big crowd, lots of cheering, on mud, no grass. One corner of the pitch is a virtual swamp. Surprisingly, the manager of the winning team came up to ask me if I would like to do a bit of coaching for his squad. When I told him I really had no knowledge of the game, he was a little taken aback. There is a myth that all the English are soccer stars and I was the only white guy in the crowd so I was a marked man!
I am here for a month so will keep in touch SOS Children’s work, the medicines they use, and how they are able to reach thousands of people in the community.”
Learn more about SOS Children’s work in Malawi
- "Can you imagine a life without education?”
Natasha Tate, Projects and Trusts Coordinator, SOS Children UK
Working in Cambridge, a city renowned for its academic institutions, I used to pass three schools on the short walk from the bus stop to the office. I’ve since moved house, but my morning train is full of sixth-form students, and schoolchildren fill the pavements as they hurry to beat the bell.
So now, try to imagine that there are no schools at all in your neighbourhood, village or suburb. It’s as difficult for me to picture as I’m sure it is for you – just give it a go…
What would you do if your child’s school wasn’t there? Simply find another one? But, what if all the other schools you could afford were full, or you simply couldn’t scrape together the daily bus fare to send them to the nearest one which didn’t charge fees?
For many parents across the developing world, this is exactly the situation they find themselves in. Perhaps you’re visualizing a remote desert or mountain settlement, miles from anywhere? In rural areas, access to schools is obviously more difficult, but even in towns and cities, many governments cannot cope with the demand for education for a booming school-age population.
In Chipata, Zambia, one community got fed up of waiting, and decided to take decisive action themselves. With encouragement from the education authorities, men and women from the local community volunteered to dig sand from the nearby river, make bricks and work on the construction site – all to make sure that their children have the chance to go to school.
Damview Community School is now co-governed by community members and the government, who pay the teachers’ salaries. It is oversubscribed, so with the help of our partners and supporters, we are helping to extend the buildings and increase the school’s capacity.
Community schools like Damview are a significant phenomenon in Zambia. By their nature they reach the most disadvantaged sector of the population.
In a report prepared for UNESCO*, the document claims “The importance of community schools, built by local people in the absence of any government facilities, should not be underestimated. By 2004, approximately 3,000 of these schools had been created, and their total enrolment accounts for 25% of overall enrolment in basic education in Zambia. They have been particularly effective in reaching children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other vulnerable, hard-to-reach groups.”
(*Extract from ‘The twin challenges of eliminating child labour and achieving EFA: evidence and policy options from Mali and Zambia’. Background paper for Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2010, UNESCO)
Find out how you can give more children in Zambia the opportunity of an education.