Friday, 5th July – Day 1 in Malawi

by Alex Christmas & David Clark

After an epic and eventful journey over to Malawi and a great welcome to Likhubula House, it was not long until we got stuck into the work.

Painting began at Pasani school when we arrived after a very warm welcome. When we arrived at Pasani after a very bumpy trip on the road leading to the primary school, they welcomed us by putting on a small welcome dance. We then returned with a quick “If You’re Happy And You Know It” which was enjoyed by both us and the children. Then we. were invited into a classroom where the Headteacher welcomed us and introduced us to all the teachers. Desi from classrooms from Malawi told us about the education system. We then went around the school looking at the different classrooms and the year groups and ages of children using each one.

Soon after, we waited for our lunch to arrive. In this time gap we went to the football pitches where we interacted with the children. This was a special moment as it was the first time proper we interacted with the children and we felt the warmth of their community and their hearts. We then continued this spirit with a game of football which originally started by us kicking the ball in the air for the children to chase. We played the game fiercely and it was a victorious game for us as over 200 children couldn’t stop the force of the Dunblane Boys’ Brigade boys! Some of the other boys were singing songs to wee groups and there were endless amounts of high fives and photographs. They were so excited to see us. After this we moved on to painting and building.

On the painting side of things, it was a slow start but it was soon in full swing after the paint and rollers were distributed between the painters. It was a simple task of painting above the line and making sure the white paint covered all the walls. After the majority of the classes were completed in the sense of white paint, we realised the scale of the work needing done so it made us work extra hard and realise the hard work that’s still to be done. Although some of these classrooms had only been painted by the other project three years ago, it was amazing how scabby they looked. However, considering the weather conditions of the wind blowing the sand in and the recent floods, this is not surprising. At least we were starting from a good base. We saw the mural painted in recognition of the last project and this made us proud (it made Mr Anderson cry… again). It also made us determined and excited thinking about the mural we will (eventually) see in recognition of all our efforts for the new block.

The bricklaying prep sessions before we left for Malawi were a good introduction but the reality in Malawi is very different. The work began with moving bricks along a line of boys towards the foundations that had been prepared for us. After everything was prepared, we began to lay the bricks and quickly realised it was a much less precise operation than we had encountered with Ondrej before we left. None of us used a spirit level all afternoon and ‘roughly in line’ was good enough for the Malawian builders. The mud-based, fired bricks were all very different and we had to try and get the pretty bricks with the nice flat faces for the outside and the uglier bricks for the inside. However, it was a productive afternoon as we managed to build one of the long walls up to window height in the first session.

Saturday, 6th July – Day 2 in Malawi

by Ross Pringle & James Connery

Today was our second day visiting Pasani school. The atmosphere was a lot different to our previous visit the day before as today was a Saturday and Malawi’s Independence Day. As a result of this, there were no classes in Pasani. Whilst there were still a few children playing on the grounds it was nice and quiet which meant we could get straight to work before the temperature climbed. We split off into our two groups; the builders from yesterday became the painters and the painters became the builders. This was good as it gave us all a chance to try something different. The builders quickly picked up the Malawian technique of building, beginning with mixing the sand and cement. Malawians use an 8:1 ratio of sand to cement so it is very important that the cement is thoroughly mixed.

This morning we managed to erect the right-hand wall to the same level as the wall from yesterday and made a start on the left-hand wall. Meanwhile the morning painters finished off the white in the 2 remaining classrooms then made a start on the blue. The blue was to be painted on the lower halves of the classroom walls and the door and window frames. The windows were tough to paint as there were so many and they were made out of metal circles. We wore latex gloves and left them on the floor during breaks. The kids that were hanging around the school to see the progress blew up the gloves like balloons and popped them.

The morning painting group did not have a speaker, so work went more slowly. Mr Christmas and Mr Anderson were in different groups and competed over their work, Mr Christmas going with the slow, safe, ‘perfection’ technique, and Mr Anderson working quickly, getting loads done. To be honest, there was no competition because Mr Christmas spend most of the time talking to the builders. However, his talking got us an early finish, so I won’t complain. In the break we got our usual: boiled egg, plain cheese sandwich, apple, salad sandwich and crisps. Today, we ate lunch under a tree, instead of in the bus, because one of the buses was collecting our much-needed luggage that had been left behind by the airline at Lilongwe. After lunch, some of the builders started playing drums, and dancing. They asked us to join in, so we did the slosh.

After work we had a great dinner and then had our circle time and Top 5, when we all had to present our Top 5 songs of all time and then take turns in justifying them to the rest of the team. After you presented your songs you were scored just like in “Come Dine with Me” both on your song choice and on your presentation style. A lot of the song lists were quite eclectic but when a sing-along came on we all joined in.

Sunday, 7th July – Day 3 in Malawi

by Ross Mason & Malcolm Jack

Today started off with a half-hour longer lie than usual. This meant that we were all wide awake for church – something we are not used to! We all walked down the road from Likhubula House towards Nansato Church. I don’t think the locals really knew what to make of a squad of hoodied and kilted guys marching down the road singing “We’ll be Coming” a la Tartan Army. We were the first to arrive at the church, so we managed to get seats right at the front, which came in handy for getting up to dance with the different groups in the church.

We all had a great laugh and we even picked up some new dance moves. When our turn came to showcase our singing and dancing, we sang various songs but the slosh was a favourite and people came up and danced along with us! Mr Boyd then gave a sermon that was translated into Chichewa. Overall, we had a really good (if slightly unusual) time and church that I don’t think anyone will forget despite the fact that we were there for 3 and ¾ hours…

This afternoon we met with the Likhubula bursars who are sponsored by the Dunblane-Likhubula Partnership. These bursaries allow the students to attend secondary school as they otherwise could not afford the fees. We spoke one-on-one with the bursars to begin with, before enjoying a tasty meal of chicken and rice with all of the bursars and members of the local partnership committee. All of us got on very well and it was very nice to get to speak to people our age, who live a completely different life to us. I think we all learned a lot from the bursars we spoke to as even though they have very little they were all still very happy and still worked very hard in school in order to be successful and provide for their families. Both we and the bursars played football, American football and lots of other smaller games together, showing how well we all got on.

We rounded off the day by going to Mulanje Pizza in Chitakale. Unfortunately, a group of boys from Stewart’s Melville who are staying up at the Lodge with us got there first and it took a long time for our pizzas to come. However, when they did arrive, they were delicious. The leaders had ordered a few extra pizzas for us too so by the end of the day we were stuffed. Overall, today was a very enjoyable experience and we are looking forward to learning more tomorrow.

Monday, 8th July – Day 4 in Malawi

by Joshua Spencer & James Forrest

Today was our third full day of working at Pasani school. We went into the day after a day’s rest meeting the bursars and dancing at Nansato church fresh for another day of painting and building. The school, like Saturday, felt very quiet as today is a holiday in Malawi, although we did have some children down to watch and encourage us and some of the bursars we’d met yesterday came to help us with the painting. The building went very well today with the Malawian builders giving us more freedom to do building without their supervision and the wall seemed to just rise. All the walls are now at window level including the inside wall splitting the block into two classrooms.

The cement or ‘matope’, as it is in Chichewa, is often quite weak and dries out quickly so we have to make sure we are putting good amounts on and getting the work done efficiently. We are really proud of the building work we have done, and we now hand it over to the builders who will finish the classroom off ready for the next term. We can’t wait to see the photos of the classrooms being used. It will make such an enormous difference to the learners and the teachers.

In the painting team we painted a further six classrooms which included the annoying windows and doors once again, which did not go down well with the team, but we pushed through with some tunes from Robbie doing a good job in the end. With the help of the bursars, the painting process was sped up dramatically, the walls getting done much quicker than before, which meant more classrooms could be done today. The bursars improved our team spirit, making the job more enjoyable. They are really keen to help as they are so proud of their country and want to help with any possible development. We are now getting through the huge task of painting the classrooms at Pasani and are nearly finished renovating them which is a great boost for all the boys.

On one of our breaks from the painting we showed a group of around ten kids how to do the YMCA and the Cha-Cha Slide.

When we had finished our hard work for the day, we were rewarded by going to Nancy’s Dream Restaurant, which had some wonderful food and drink and a very inspirational speech from Nancy herself. Nancy spoke about being steadfast, always having hope and never ever giving up. On the trip and throughout the journey over the last year we have become a close-knit family which supports each other and helps ourselves always keep going and to never give up no matter what. While in Malawi we have felt this support especially and we will continue to support each other whether it is through words or just simple actions.

Nancy’s words have inspired us to continue this and to keep this close family in the future after the trip and keep a legacy of the trip. It felt as if she knew exactly what to say to us today.

Tuesday, 9th July – Day 5 in Malawi

by Euan Ferguson & Fraser McManus

Today we woke up at 7.10am for breakfast. After breakfast we went to Nansato Nursery School, where we gifted two suitcases full of toys from the Nansato Trust in Edinburgh and little knitted teddies to the learners there. We sang ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ and the kids sang ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ in English to us, which many people found impressive. After the nursery we went back to Pasani Primary School to continue painting. Today everyone painted, as the portion of the building work we could do had been completed. We started the murals on the walls, which were fiddly as the paint had to be carefully applied between the lines. A particular highlight of today was people in the team decorating their shoes with different colours.

When we visited the nursery, I [Euan] had the option of going to the Likhubula Community Library. This was a great experience to see the Library in person, as my school, Morrison’s Academy, fundraised to build the Library. At school, we had to do a “Mini Marathon” to raise the money required to build the Library, so it was a relief to be reassured that the long, physically demanding “Mini Marathon” paid off! As soon as we arrived at the Library, we met a man called Jones, who greeted me: “Euan! Peter Lovegrove told me you were coming!”. Peter Lovegrove is a teacher at my school who organises all fundraising towards Malawi, so it was nice to see that he told Jones of my arrival. When we entered the Library, it was amazing to see all the bookshelves stacked with books. Previously, in school, the pictures taken of the Library showed that there were maybe two or three books, so it was great to see that lots of progress has been made. Overall the experience of being at the Library was, in a sense, quite heart-warming, as the money our school raised, is helping lots of children to revise and learn.

Working at Pasani School today introduced us to many more of the students that learn there. By this point many of them recognise us and our songs and take great pleasure in reciting key verses and tunes. We were all asked many times what our names were by the children and soon we all had our own group of kids that knew what we were called. Getting to know the learners also meant that they felt more confident in asking for food and drink. This in particular proved to be a real emotional challenge as we were confronted face to face with real-world poverty. Sometimes it could be especially difficult if we made friends with kids over an entire working day, only for them to ask for food as we left.

On the way back from the school we stopped off at the woodcarvers’ stand again. Euan managed to make a deal in which he got a full Malawian outfit (headband, top and trousers) for 16,000 kwacha plus he had to return the trousers he bought a few days ago. It wasn’t until he got on to the bus that he realised that this ‘brilliant’ new deal was 3000 more than the first deal offered to him.

Wednesday, 10th July – Day 6 in Malawi

by Lewis Scullion & Cameron Robertson

Today was Wednesday and because we have worked quickly during the week and managed to almost complete the classrooms, we had the day off. We got to lie in until 8:30am.

Ozzie, the tour manager, had organised for us to go to Green Malata Training Academy, a college-type place just a wee while down the road. This place was absolutely amazing. It was almost entirely self-sustaining: they were cooking meals from methane gas that they produce on site from cow dung in the agriculture classes. All the electricity was produced through solar panels. I noticed all the sewing machines in the place were from Scotland (Singer). A lot of the college’s equipment was also paid for by the Scottish Government and the EU.

During the trip back we stopped at the market and had a look around the market was selling everything from shoes to olive oil in condoms. The meal we ate that day was also prepared by students at the college and was the best meal I have had so far in Malawi. Today I also got a further sense of the immense brotherhood that has been shown between us boys in the way we help and support each other no matter the situation, such as Malcolm’s contracting malaria.

Today we had a day off which was just a one-off, so we went to the lecture college in the town of Tyolo to see what the young people (in between the ages of 18-30) were doing after formal school education.
The classes were as follows: baking, solar & electricity, woodwork & agriculture, ICT & sewing.
When we visited the ICT classroom, we surprised ourselves by discovering that the college had proper computers with Windows 10 which is the same as we have at Dunblane High School.
I got a surprise to find that there was a group of girls who were profoundly deaf (the same as me [Lewis] as I wear cochlear implants)
Their job was making reusable sanitary pads under the instructions of sign language from their teacher and using sewing machines. The girls in Malawi do come across problems when they have their periods each month. They often miss 4 days of school each month because they cannot afford disposable tampons pads so it’s embarrassing to go to school for an education. These pads can be washable rather than throwing them away; they can be used again.

I had a brief talk with the girls about my experience of being profoundly deaf. I was speaking to them all by lip reading about my amazing cochlear implants which do not really exist in this country. I was able to understand their questions about deafness by asking “Can you hear anything when your cochlear implants are not on your head?” I said “No, I am the same as you.”
In my overall Malawi experience, I have been happy.

Thursday, 11th July – Day 7 in Malawi

by Matthew & Louise Anderson

Today was our final day working at Pasani school. We started the day early with breakfast at 6.30, hitting the road at 7. We got up this early to see the feeding program at Pasani, like Mary’s Meals. At the feeding hut we saw three huge cauldrons filled with porridge. There were hundreds of kids lined up to get their meal. The children had to bring wood as a way of paying for the meal and for tomorrow’s fire. Some of the children ate very quickly and joined the line for a second or third time. Some children took their meal home to share and some missed out. We all got a chance to serve the porridge, which was chaotic with many kids all pushing to get to the front of the line. The feeding programme opened all our eyes to the extent of the poverty as for most of these children this was their only meal for the day. We thought it would be a great thing to see but it was actually quite depressing and eye-opening.

We got back to work afterwards, finishing off the remaining murals. It took us just under 2 hours to complete. Every classroom now has at least the Alphabet, colours, shapes and a number line. All done with bright acrylic paint. All the classrooms look great and it was very emotional finishing off the last one; we think Mr Anderson had a wee tear in his eye (again).

During the morning we visited the standard 6 and 7 learners, to show them some photos from Scotland. We all had pictures which were family-related or basic sorts of activities. Louise and I had a photo from one of our family ceilidhs, from which we showed the learners our aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. All the children were excited to see the pictures and listen to us explaining some of the differences between Scotland and Malawi. It was crazy with learners having a ball running from one person to another. But we all did well to try and show our little bit of what Scotland was like.

We also walked to some houses in the village surrounding the school. The first house we visited was the house of one of the bursars. His house was a small two-roomed mud-brick hut next to his parents. In his house were four goats, which stayed in a room by themselves. The goats are really valuable in Malawi, so protecting them is very important. In his home there are seven people who sleep there. We found this very shocking considering how small the room was. His parents’ house was similar except instead of goats there was a wee group of rabbits. We then visited Lewis’s house, a man from the committee. His house had been damaged by the Cyclone Idai floods earlier in the year. It was shocking to see how much his life had been changed by the weather.

We returned to Pasani to our celebration meal where there were speeches from the teachers, village chiefs and Mr Anderson. There were then gifts presented. We gave the school several different things including football kits from Dunblane Soccer Club, sanitary items and several stationery sets. Then the meal was served: chicken and rice with nsima and relish. Many of us found it quite tricky to eat because there was no cutlery.

We then stepped onto the football pitch to claim victory over Pasani school. With a motivational word from the boss (this included a threat to leave us in Malawi if we didn’t win) we prepared for the most important game of our lives. James Forrest opened the goal-scoring with a sensational first touch and an even better finish. Our very own prodigy Cameron Robertson then produced goal number two. Alex managed to somehow score with a cross from thirty-five yards out from a free kick. David finished off the first half with numero quatro. The gaffer gave out some inspirational words and with a few changes (including the ref who swapped for the Pasani goalie) we marched on. Our two drivers, Newton and Aaron, came on for ten minutes and their chemistry was unmatched but in the end we let in four goals in fifteen minutes, including an OG from Ross with help from Midgey.

With supposedly five minutes left Clever Colin made some crafty changes and we managed to pull ahead to 5-4 with a screamer from Dynamo Dave 9. But Pasani answered quickly and brought it to 5-5. And then, the final whistle blew, 10 minutes early. Our drivers had a word and the third half began. It was scrappy football, both teams looking to claim victory over the other. Robbie was struck down and a free kick was awarded. Our playmaker David stepped up with many men in the box. He fired that in with the grace of Ronaldo and Lord Ross Mason’s beautiful dome fired it into the top corner securing the win for Scotland.

There were a few more anxious minutes as the ref decided to try and play more than 8 minutes of injury time but with Mr Anderson screaming for time, the whistle was blown. Full time. The joy was ecstatic, and the fans went wild. We then went home high as kites and slept like babies for the rest of the night

Friday, 12th July – Day 8 in Malawi

by Shawn Cooper

Today was our last morning at Likhubula House. After a good breakfast we went back to Pasani school to get our last full group photo with the builders and painters. Rodney was popular with us for getting photos with everyone; he was in charge of the painting at the age of 17, partly due to his excellent English. It was quite emotional for all of us as we got on the buses and left our good friends in Pasani for the last time.

After the visit, we went on a very long drive to the safari resort at Kutchire. It was very interesting to see all the different sights on a Malawi road: things you would never see in Scotland. There were bikes carrying chickens in cages, bikes carrying reed roofs, bikes carrying beds and furniture and bikes carrying bikes. The shops were all completely different to what you would see here and most of them had strange names. There was a Royal Executive Barbers and a Plan B Hotel. Most of the houses we saw were really poor. A lot of them had big piles of bricks outside them but we don’t know if the price of cement is the reason they are not used for building or whether it is the skill of the labour which is needed but it seemed as if there is loads of potential but something stopping progress.

We arrived at Kutchire Lodge, which is in the Liwonde National Park. The place is really nice but it’s weird that all the animals are all running free around the camp. This means you must be careful and can’t walk outside in the dark without a ranger. After a great lunch, we had a boat trip, which was a good experience because we saw crocs, elephants, hippos and different species of birds. After the boat trip we went back to the rooms to chill. We then had a delicious dinner and sat round a bonfire, which was nice and relaxing.

Saturday & Sunday, 13/14th July – Days 9 and 10 in Malawi

by Robbie Malkin

It would be great to say that after the work we had done in Pasani we were now nice and relaxed after our first night’s sleep in Kutchire Lodge. However, just as everyone was getting ready to sleep, our next-door neighbours decided to host a small gaff with the British Army group that were also staying at the safari. There was lots of drinking, shouting, singing and loud music playing late into the night and therefore keeping many of our group awake. We eventually got to sleep and woke up at five thirty for an early morning safari. The safari lasted approximately two-and-a-half hours and we saw various types of tree, lots of birds (ibis, vultures, red-billed hornbeams) and other animals such as hippos, kudu, antelope, baboons, water hogs and an elephant.

After a successful morning safari, we all went back to the accommodation and had a big fry-up for our breakfast. We collected our bags, cleaned our rooms and packed the bus as we set off in the buses for Game Haven Lodge in Blantyre. The drive to Game Haven Lodge only lasted a couple of hours; however, as we passed through many villages and made our way into Blantyre it was clear to see the change in density of people as well as the wealth of the people in the city compared to those who lived in the villages. In Blantyre we saw many walled-off mansions on one side of the road opposite slums on the other side, which didn’t sit right with our group. We all thought of kids we had grown close to back in Pasani.

We eventually arrived at Game Haven Lodge and we were welcomed by the owner of the estate. We got allocated rooms and settled in before we all went off to try out the various activates on offer at the lodge. My group decided to go out on the mountain bikes and a guide took us around the estate showing us wildlife and other buildings scattered around the estate. We saw zebras, wildebeest, antelope, kudu and a giraffe.

Unfortunately, some members of our group were not feeling well so they decided to spend the night in bed to get some rest. The following morning the people who were still feeling ill went to the local hospital in Blantyre to get treatment. They had a bacterial infection and got medication/antibiotics to take in order to make them feel better.

The following morning we went to the St Michael’s and All Angels’ Church in Blantyre for the English service which we were told only lasts an hour. However, there were many complaints from the boys after the service because it lasted two hours. Although the service was similar in many ways to the one we are used back home in Scotland, there were some parts which we as a group didn’t feel followed the Christian way (i.e. banishing people from the church and the talk about money).
After church we picked Mr Anderson up from the hospital and the survivors went to the national museum of Malawi to learn more about the history and culture of Malawi through the years. Some of the group took their time to learn more about the beautiful country that we had been staying for the past ten days but others decided to quick march through the museum. The boys’ favourite officer (Mr McEwan) was almost sick after he smelled the toilets inside the museum, which made many of the group laugh.

After the museum we went back to the hospital to pick up the sick members of the group and then made our way to the woodcarver markets in the centre of Blantyre. The woodcarver market was far bigger than the one in Likhubula; however, they were both selling very similar goods. Most of the boys had spent all their kwacha so they were only window shopping. However Fiona bagged a bargain from one of the traders. As we all got back onto the bus to leave, some of the woodcarvers were begging us to buy their goods at the window which truly showed how desperate they were for a sale/money.
After the woodcarvers’ markets, we travelled to a Malawian restaurant recommended to us by one of the tour guides at The Responsible Safari Company. The group enjoyed an amazing traditional Malawian lunch. We then went to the office of The Responsible Safari Company to leave a present for the person who helped organise our tour and get some photos of the group in the office. We were then told that we wouldn’t have time to meet the Malawian Boys’ Brigade, but as we got on the bus to leave, they turned up. We mixed together and had a discussion with them as they ate their lunch. We learned loads about the events they participate in through BB and the different cultures they have compared to the BB in Scotland.

After our lunch with the Malawian BB, we travelled back to Game Haven Lodge, where we made some video clips (watch this space!) and then had the rest of the afternoon to do more activities that were on offer to us. Mr Anderson asked the group two questions about their time in Malawi and we recorded it so we could reflect upon it when we came back to the UK. After the video recordings my group decided to go to the golf driving range, but little did we know the golf driving range was just on the football pitch. We all had a great laugh and the two caddies chased after our golf balls that were going all over the shop. We ended up having to pay for all the balls we had lost, and the cost of the lost balls was more than the cost of renting the clubs. Then the two caddies informed us that we had to pay them for chasing after our golf balls. We settled the cost with them but didn’t mind that we got scammed because it was a good laugh.

After we had finished our afternoon activities, we had our farewell dinner, which Kirsty Glen and her Project Trust pals came along to. Over dinner (which wasn’t chicken and rice for a change) we had a really good chat with the Project Trust girls about their time/experiences in Malawi over the past eleven months. After dinner we watched the final few games of the men’s Wimbledon final in our room, one in which fifteen of the group were squeezed around the television. We then gathered seats outside for our final circle time in Malawi. It was very emotional as we all reflected on our fantastic time in Malawi. For the boys who just left school and a couple of the leaders this was our last Boys’ Brigade event/trip and it was the best way to finish and round off our twelve years in the Boys’ Brigade.
We got up early, packed the buses and had some breakfast before we embarked on our long trip home. We got some final photos of the group and set off for the airport. Blantyre airport was not ready for our group and we waited for an hour-and-a-half to get our bags through check-in, which resulted in in the group moving swiftly to catch the plane. All the delays meant we didn’t have to wait as long at Lilongwe Airport to catch our next flight. We safely arrived at Addis Ababa and got some dinner before we caught our next flight. We then arrived at Brussels and most of us woke up from a long snooze on the plane. Then as the plane got empty, the group situated into its own row so boys could lie across all three seats. Overall the journey felt far shorter than the outward legs, but we still had a lot of time to reflect on our amazing time in Malawi and think about how truly fortunate we are growing up in the UK.
On behalf of the boys, I would just like to say a huge thank you to all of the leaders for everything they have done over the past twelve months and especially for looking after us like their own kids in Malawi. And a final thank-you to Mr. and Mrs. Anderson for championing Project Malawi 2019!