travel bursary reports
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians two, verse three.
I spent two years with Scripture Union Malawi, as a voluntary youth programmes manager. I arrived in Malawi in August 2010 and joined the office in Lilongwe. I was in a small staff team of seven people, and therefore we all worked quite closely together in the central office, with two other offices in Malawi, one in the southern city of Blantyre and one in the northern city of Mzuzu each with two members of staff.
When I arrived, Scripture Union had the following main activities which it was working on:
Scripture Union staff and members, had a great heart for the work they were doing with the youth in Malawi, however it became clear quite quickly when I had arrived to serve that the ministry was in large financial problems, which I was not aware of before agreeing to come and serve with the organisation. I feel that in all, as a missionary I was able to be a helpful member of staff because of my external funding I was not a burden to the ministry. However, my colleagues were really struggling with the very small salaries they were receiving on an irregular basis, which in turn was very apparently making their lives at home difficult to pay rent, even in the most basic of conditions. It also distracted them from being able to complete their work efficiently as they had to find other ways through which to generate an income, or go and speak to others for some support, which could keep them out of office. Due to the financial problems of Scripture Union, the office conditions had become very dilapidated and at times it was a worry if we would even be able to pay the very small electricity bill! In my second year at Scripture Union, we managed to rent out our main office to someone who was willing to renovate the building and use it as a guest house for volunteers to Malawi. We were and still are overjoyed that some income has been able to be raised to assist with the running costs of Scripture Union, however giving up our head office obviously had some large implications, such as no space for meetings, bible studies or even just the atmosphere desired by any Christian ministry that members and visitors can just drop by. Scripture Union now runs out of a “boys quarter” which is effectively two storeroom size rooms and a toilet!
I have written the above first, in order to explain that my time serving with Scripture Union was clouded with a number of difficulties, which were a struggle at the time, even making me question if I should really still be serving with what felt like a dying ministry. I still would say it was a difficult two years, however being part of an organisation struggling like this, did make the experience more real and grew my relationships with my colleagues as we worked in very imperfect conditions.
Whilst at Scripture Union, I started a street children’s project in the bus depot of Lilongwe. In Malawi, street children are almost always boys, and are as young as 3 years old. They are usually from either the rural areas of Malawi and have run away to Lilongwe to seek an escape or work, or sadly they are from semi-rural areas up to 1 hour away from Lilongwe and have been sent by their relatives to beg. Many of the boys told me that they are not allowed to come home without a significant amount of money, so continue to live rough for weeks on end. The street children of Malawi do not have a significant drug or sniffing problem like street children in other areas of Africa which can make them more approachable. They spend most of their time begging, carrying loads from one bus to another for travellers or businesses for small tips, collecting empty bottles which they can sell for 5 to 10 kwacha, which is approximately 0.8-1 pence. Their aim at the end of the day is to of raised 100 kwacha, about 15 pence so that they can sleep securely in an empty bus. From talking to the boys, they said that the worse time of day for them was from 4-6pm when the older boys, who were more into drinking and smoking would try and attack them to try and steal their money from them for drinking and then they would fail to raise the 100 kwacha that they needed. So, we decided to run our program at this time in a nearby primary school. We would meet the boys and get them to invite friends from a similar age range to join as at the school field. We would spend about an hour playing football and in half time have some water and biscuits. I always wished we could feed them more, but we didn’t have the funds or the cooking facilities to make a meal on a regular basis for 30 plus ravenous boys! Whilst eating, we would chat together and ask to hear how they are doing today, what’s going on in the bus depot, if someone was new we would ask them to explain who they are and where they are from. Each boy had a harrowing tale of their life or even just of their day, however the saddest were those where the boys knew nothing else but life on the streets and had no knowledge of a relative. Every day we would share something about Jesus, and try to encourage them to remember verses and pray. We would encourage them to look after one another and be a team, even in what is a very competitive, lonely world where everyone is after that 5 kwacha/1 pence to further them in the day.
Our greatest achievement was returning a young boy to his family in Salima, an area in Malawi two hours from Lilongwe. He had run away because he had stolen a phone and his guardians, an aunt and uncle had been very angry with him. He was desperately eager to go home, and once we had suggested it he didn’t want to sleep another night on the streets. Sadness came to us, when we found his family at home in the village he came from, and they didn’t want to know him. It was only after them calling another relative who arrived an hour later, did we see any hope. His Uncle agreed to take him into his home and make sure he would be taken care of. It was only then we found out of a family dispute that the boy was not welcome in the first house we had come to. To our knowledge he has remained in Salima since that time.
I contributed in three other significant ways at Scripture Union, however they were mostly on the administrative side. On the Irish Aid funded project for HIV/AIDS awareness, I helped ensure that the program was being monitored and evaluated effectively and that our program reports were as was required. I would visit the program sites with the project coordinator to help him to problem solve particular issues as they occurred and ensure activities were running as we were reporting.
Alongside my other work from Scripture Union, I spent approximately 3 months proofreading, editing and preparing for publishing, the annual publication of daily bible reading notes called Daily Guide. This was an enjoyable but difficult task to keep up to date with, staying fresh with when busy with other working commitments. Another significant task, was helping my colleague Thomas Mbewe, the schools coordinator plan for the bible clubs summer camp. Using my camp experience from England, we tried to implement some systems to make the planning easier, however when you have 20 schools in different areas of the city, and every pupil wanting to come, but not affording to, it was simply crazy to plan and budget, when no one was handing forms in and everyone deciding to come at the last minute. It threw off all our budgets and plans of how much food we needed etc! We had planned for 150, but with all these excited children and different teachers handing in information, it was only when getting off the coaches 3 hours away and counting them off the bus we knew we had almost 400 children with us! The organised English person inside of me was screaming with panic but all relief came when I realised they were all going to hear the gospel!
I had a very rewarding experience, serving with Scripture Union Malawi, however I won’t lie that it was rosy. I do feel indebted to the Timios Trust for helping to support the cost of my travel to Malawi, as when I was in need of returning to the UK for an emergency after nine months in Malawi it was not such a burden to find the money to return. It also was also such a blessing to receive your support when I was fundraising to leave the UK as it was such an encouragement to have a significant portion of my travel ‘sorted’ as such. Thank you for assisting me to work in Malawi for two years.
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