Adventures in Malawi

It was wonderful to be back in Malawi for the first time since July 2018 – and in the 40th anniversary year of the expedition. A 20-strong Lancing group spent a memorable and exciting five weeks exploring.

Anisha M remembers Chilanga School for the Blind. ‘I felt like it was a very significant visit for the group as it was the first time we interacted with a community. When the students sang a song for us, their voices were so powerful and beautiful. I think the message they were trying to relay to us was beautifully expressed – that we should all be grateful for what we have.'

Poppy S writes: ‘Nkhotakota campsite was stunning, the sunrises on the beach will be a long-lasting memory for us all. The focus of our stay was working with Chankhasi School. We engaged in a building project helping shovel dirt and lay bricks for a new secondary school classroom and were also given the amazing opportunity to teach some classes to the students.

This project was so immersive for us as a group; it felt like we were really doing something beneficial and interactive. Football and netball matches were wonderfully competitive and enjoyable. Visits to St Anne’s Hospital, a local market and a historical site of slave embarkation were also part of the various activities. The evenings around the long alfresco dinner table were fun and essential in bringing the group together.'

Benjamin C adds: ‘The dedication of both football and netball teams was unparalleled and the hospitality of all was exceptional. We hope we made Lancing proud.’

Amelia L recalls: ‘It was incredible to see St Nicolas Ward, which opened in 2006 and is funded by Lancing. We visited a traditional birth attendant in her small village; we were also able to see how a traditional healer uses natural ingredients to help with healing people. It was extraordinary to see western medicine and homeopathic methods intertwined.’

Tallulah R and Archie N take us to Open Arms: ‘It was a great experience spending time with the children, feeding them, panicking when they started crying. I was in awe of the mothers’ dedication, who were sequestered during Covid for weeks at a time without returning home to visit their own families to prioritise these children’s safety. It was almost incomprehensible to think of the trauma these toddlers have been through at such a young age.’

Natalie M recalls the visit to Nettie’s sewing project, a programme enabling Malawians to learn a craft and earn a liveable wage to support their families. ‘They make the most amazing bags, stuffed animals, clothes, oven gloves ... The perfect gift!’

Maxine J: ‘The contrast between rich and poor in Blantyre was much greater than we had experienced rurally. A big Mercedes drove next to begging homeless people; bankers in suits trudged through piles of garbage and dust.’

Ollie M & Indie S: ‘Mt Mulanje, almost a third of the height of Mt Everest, stretches exactly three kilometres above the plains below. The hike was long and hard, almost rock climbing at times. While the three-day adventure was ultimately a successful hike, I know for each of us it was the moments of encouragement and understanding that drove us to succeed. Indeed, what made the Mulanje experience so rewarding was the sense of comradeship built through mutual support. It is in these uncomfortable, challenging conditions that true trust and empathy is shared.’

Rosie H: ‘We were blessed to spend a day visiting Jacaranda Children’s Home, which Lancing has supported since 1996. The warm, wholehearted welcome and hospitality the children and sisters gave us exemplifies the loving and radiant atmosphere. As we left, the children sang a song with the memorable lyrics we say goodbye but not forever – a moment I found particularly touching.’

Amaryllis K & Daniela B helped out at a clinic, sorting the medications and prescriptions, counting out the tablets for each. ‘We took leave of the Kumanda community and their chiefs: they gave their thanks to us for supplying the ambulance.’

Ollie P & Olly F: ‘We visited Care in Action, another organisation that works closely with Lancing to provide education and care to underprivileged children in Blantyre. Touring the classrooms, we saw just how impactful the money that Lancing had raised had been. Standing against the beautiful backdrop of the foggy, lush mountainside, Care in Action, like the many other spectacular places we had seen, stood sentinel, a reminder of what an amazing and very special country Malawi had been.’

The varied activities and experiences across the five weeks allow you to gain an amazing insight into such a warm and hospitable country. Apart from the endless fun and eye-opening adventures we were lucky enough to experience, the main take away has to be how genuine and welcoming the Malawian people are. Their excitement is infectious; to know that we as a community can contribute to helping these amazing people enjoy a better standard of life makes it all worthwhile.

2022 saw significant growth in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre and a country where political optimism had faded; where basic food prices and fertiliser prices rose by 26% in the month of our stay; where riots (almost unheard of) were staged and where three years without tourism had brought businesses and enterprises to their knees – or to collapse. Fuel and basic foods were unobtainable in some areas, wages were unpaid, medicines hard to access. And yet, and yet … our welcome was wonderful. The impact of what we could do was profound. The Lancing ambulance was a literal, daily, lifesaver. The donations we could give would keep families fed; schools running; a children’s home in maize for the next six months. The interest shown in us as individuals was generous and open; all the human encounters we were privileged to enjoy were full of curiosity and warmth. In celebrations, dancing, and song, in clinics and schools, in children’s homes and projects, we met people shining with potential and talents and hope and certain, in the darkest of times, that God is good.

What is given and gained in these expeditions flows both ways. The financial assistance is Lancing’s (privileged) gift. The sense of camaraderie and connection so brilliantly expressed in netball and football and the delight of young people from very different backgrounds just being with each other is a mutual exchange. But what we learn about resilience, about faith, about the underserved good or bad fortune of the accident of where you are born and about our sheer luck in being able to choose to use or squander our talents is Malawi’s gift to us. This beautiful, varied country and its astonishing people made a profound impact on all on this 2022 Expedition.

Hilary Dugdale, Matt Smith & Jack Sunderland, Lancing Staff