Gallery: The Kids Are All Back from Malawi adventure

By ADAM LAZZARI LAST summer the Wisbech Standard awarded 20 school pupils a Kids Are Alright award for planning a trip to Malawi to help some of the world s poorest children. They have now returned from their three-week venture to the south east African c

By ADAM LAZZARI

LAST summer the Wisbech Standard awarded 20 school pupils a Kids Are Alright award for planning a trip to Malawi to help some of the world's poorest children.

They have now returned from their three-week venture to the south east African country and the experience has changed their own lives as well as the lives of the children they helped.

The 15 and 16-year-old pupils of Marshland High School, West Walton took more than �7,500 they raised themselves to the village of Ngala.


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They decorated the local school and provided blankets and equipment to the local health centre.

Julia Adams, assistant head teacher of Marshland High School, said: "The pupils will remember this forever.

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"It was very harrowing at times. The pupils made some good friendships, but on a daily basis a funeral was held because somebody had died from malaria or aids. There were a lot of tears from the Marshland pupils and the experience made them realise how lucky they are."

Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries and the Malawian government relies heavily on outside aid.

Malawian people have a low life expectancy and there is a high rate of infant mortality, with malaria, AIDS and HIV rife in the country.

A project began in 1997 at the Henry Gotch Comprehensive School in Kettering to raise money for Malawian children.

Teacher Caroline Hansford took the project to Marshland High School when she became a teacher there in 2003.

She now teaches at Hinchingbrooke School, in Huntingdon and one of the two Cambridgeshire schools visits Malawi every year.

Mrs Adams said: "The trip got off to a crazy start. We arrived at our lodge after a 28-hour flight and one of the pupils saw a spitting Cobra inside. Our chef, Boston, ran in and killed it. It was very scary."

Marshland pupil Chloe Belding said: "I find that Malawian people are always grateful for what they have and make the most of life. I have also learnt the Malawian people accept you for who you are and not what you look like or where you come from or what you have and always want to make friends."

Each pupil and teacher kept a diary of their experiences on the trip.

Here is what they said:

Jake Bass

Malawi; 'The warm heart of Africa'. That it sure is. One of the first things that strikes you is the fact that everybody is so warm and welcoming to you. Everybody producing a cheery smile despite the poverty that surrounds them. The fact that those people smile and are happy with so little in comparison to us is a real eye opener. Here, as too often people moan about materialistic things in England, despite our vast amount of wealth and possessions compared to them. For me, this is amazing and just about sums this country up, so happy and proud of what they have, not what they haven't and this has been a lesson to us all.

Jack Bass

When I first put my name down to go to Malawi I was worried. So many people had applied that all my friends might not get in, and then I would be a loner. Then I wondered what if I didn't get in. Mainly because this had been something I had wanted to go on since year 7.

Chloe Belding

Being in Malawi I have learnt so many things from the people and how they live. It has made me think about our lifestyle and so many things we take for granted like electricity, running clean water, new clothes and the luxuries like TV, iPods etc. I find that Malawian people are always grateful for what they have and make the most of life. I have also learnt the Malawian people accept you for who you are and not what you look like or where you come from or what you have and always want to make friends.

Emma Burley

This experience has truly changed my life and made me see that I will now appreciate even the smallest things, as happiness doesn't come from material goods but from hope and compassion of the heart. I feel the children have taught me to love and to care for everything around me. Without people like the ones I have befriended the world would be a dull place.

George Carter

In the morning we went out to the local school. Ngala primary school and all of the children came out to meet you. There was one boy I met called Timothy, he is really kind and his English is very good so we had lots of good conversations. It was fun; we played football on the beach with him and his friends.

Katie Crawley

There really isn't a word great enough to describe the time I've had in Malawi. Everyone said that it would be a once in a lifetime trip and it certainly is and I will never forget the time I've had here.

There were so many highlights during the trip. There was never a dull moment. A main highlight though, was at the game park, where we went on the day and night drive, morning walk and canoeing. It was exhilarating seeing all of the animals. Another amazing time was when we went to the church service where we were welcomed like we visited the church every week. The singing was astonishing and gave me goose bumps. The waterfall walk was utterly brilliant. It was also a highlight working in the school, getting to know the children, and being left with a sense of achievement, knowing how much the children appreciate and benefit from our gestures.

Katey Fitton

Words honestly can not describe how amazing this trip has been for me. There are so many good points that I think I'd run out of space if I wrote it all down. My favourite part however was our 3 nights at the game park. I loved being around the animals. On our first night a hippo strolled through our camp and on our second night an elephant came close to our camp. We came so close to baboons, hippos and elephants. The fact that we didn't have any electricity made it even more exciting! Although I only had one shower there!

Josh Garrod

The first thing that struck me about Malawi was the extreme contrasts of the country. The stunning natural beauty of the lake, the awesome power of the animals at the game park and the heart-warming and consistent smiles of the locals in sharp and brutal contrast to the poverty and monotony in which most Malawians live their whole lives.

Overall the greatest thing that Malawi has given me personally is friendship. The profound ability of MEL is to bring people together, regardless of location, race or wealth. This trip really highlights the best bits of human nature, to care, give and bond with others. Also, finally I am grateful to MEL for bringing me closer not only to a stunning culture but also to Marshland pals. The opportunity to be part of a team and to share this wonderful experience with such a great set of people has been a real highlight!

Jac Goult

I will never lose my respect for the local Malawians, their attitudes on life is inspirational. How they have less than me but are happier with that knowledge. I have learnt it matters about my happiness in life not my possessions.

This trip has made me gain a moral that is 'I'll always be rich without my possessions as long as I have my family and friends around me, who will make me happy'.

I totally recommend this trip to anyone; it's a great eye opener with brilliant life skills to gain!

Will Greenwood

I didn't have much expectations about the local adults and the rest of the Chigumukire (school we were working at) community. I even wondered because they live in poverty if they would be rather miserable. I was wrong. They were the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet. Everywhere you went people would say "hello" and "how are you?" They even spoke it in English which made it even more special. Despite their homes not being much at all they continued to invite us in and show us around. Seeing their homes of maybe 3 cramped rooms sent a crashing message back to me and told me how fortunate I am with what I've got.

Jade Kolander-Waldock

We soon found out how welcoming everyone was as they were always smiling and waving which is not what we expected because the media portrays Africa as a poor and miserable continent. But the truth is, most African people are happy with what they've got. Shame it isn't like that in England. During my time in Malawi I had many different experiences including a spitting cobra in our dormitory, the game park, meeting new people, making friends, having to share a room with eleven other girls, going to a Malawian market and only having 30 minutes to get ready in the morning!

Max Le Count-Ward

At the local Ngala Health clinic some group members visited the maternity ward, which was an experience itself. The members who visited had all donated supplies to give. I donated baby clothing so the head nurse went one-by-one around the ward and presented the 'soon-to-be' mothers with clothing for their children. This was an incredible experience, actually seeing where and who to our gifts were going. Also at Chigumukire School at the leaving ceremony we presented gifts for both teachers and pupils and they were so excited to be presented with gifts. Relaxing on the beach wasn't too bad either!

Ashley Murrell

My first impression of Malawi once arriving was that this is the most beautiful country I have visited, but then leaving the airport reality hit and I saw how deprived Africa really is! By seeing this it brought a tear to my eye because I really don't understand the extent of poverty Africa really lives in, this then made me realise that I had definitely made the right choice in coming out here to help! The people here deserve every bit of help they get, they are so grateful even for the most insignificant things like a pen; a pen in England is nothing but out here it could really help with a Childs education!

Lily Moore

The excitement hit me in waves on Friday 3rd July. I felt a mixture of emotions as the bus departed from Marshland and set off to Heathrow airport.

I visualised Malawi as a country of colours; brick reds, golden yellows, dusky browns and midnight blues. But the truth is it's so much more. The indescribable colours are only the base coat to the beautiful oil painting that is Malawi.

Malawi is filled with so much natural beauty that is only enhanced by its people and its culture.

I have never stepped foot into such an amazing country that thrives on so little. The children may live such simple poverty stricken lives but they don't see it that way.

Chloe Rawling

I first heard about the Malawi trip from my sister, who went in 2007, and my brother's girlfriend who went on the trip before that, in 2005. When MEL (Malawi Education Link) 2009 came around, I couldn't wait to sign up for this once in a lifetime trip.

Since coming back to England, both leaders and team members have only positive attitudes towards the whole experience. So when I was given the opportunity to share this fantastic journey I couldn't say no.

Despite my fears of missing friends and family, the amazing fun that fills the 3 weeks, flies by so quickly and even after just a few days I didn't want to go home.

Sam Russell

There have been many highs with in this trip including helping people and seeing their faces when you have done so. Also another is being out here with all you friends and leaders and working as a team to achieve something and learning and appreciating your life back home has been a real high as you realise how lucky you are. Also being the first Marshland team to win the football match and playing for the local team has been a high as well as going to the game park and eating nice food. Overall the whole trip is a high. There haven't really been many lows apart from the trip going so fast and not being able to help everyone you see but apart from this everything has been great.

Bethany Smith

Another spectacular experience was the optional visit to the local church. This is something I didn't even need to think about whether I wanted to go on or not and I am so glad I went to the service as I have learnt so much about the culture of Malawians. It was interesting to see how their churches operate in the sense that male and female sit on opposite sides of the room and also the men sit on benches while the women sit on the floor. I was very touched by how welcomed we were by absolutely everyone in the church. They even repeated everything in English for our benefit which showed how much it meant by us being there. Everyone wanted to shake our hands afterwards and it was unforgettable and a magical experience.

Hayley Smith

My time in Malawi has been amazing. It's a life time experience and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Also I have all the memories from the trip which will stay with me for a lifetime. I've always wanted to help people who are less fortunate than me and I feel I have achieved this. After the 3 weeks stay I was still happy to stay and do more out here. I will come back in years to come as I have really enjoyed it, and would love to come do it all over again or it may even be as a nurse in the local hospital.

Rebecca Smith

I first heard about MEL (Malawi Education Link) when I was in year 8 after a presentation. Ever since seeing the pictures and hearing how much the local community is helped. I longed to go. I have always wanted to do some kind of charity work and having a chance at helping children in a very poor country was fantastic. When I heard there was a trip to be run and I was eligible to go, I jumped at the chance, and was so happy when I was accepted. The run up to the trip was enjoyable but hard work. It took a lot of time and patience to help organise fundraisers but all of them turned out to be a great success. It did help I had the support of all my family and friends who all knew how much I wanted to come.

Bianca Towler

Living with no electricity at the game park for 3 days has made me realise how much you don't really need it and how much I waste... I will definitely turn that light off when I leave my room. It is beautiful everywhere here in Malawi - I found myself saying it everyday! From the sun and the heat in the day to the night time stars! There are so many stars & here they really are gorgeous; a few shooting stars were even seen! Oh and the beach is glorious, I loved the days where we had time to sunbathe (after a hard day at work) and doing yoga on the beach was very fun too!

JULIA ADAMS (Leader)

In your nose, on your clothes, the whole team battles with lime wash. Next the decorators moved in and put the icing on the cake. All of a sudden artists appeared from within the group and painted murals of educational facts and diagrams to illustrate the more difficult concepts. It was this part of the project that showed the team off in their true light. Students from England become responsible hardworking forward thinking, talented and caring young adults in Malawi. I have seen a new and better side of every single team member during the last three weeks. From the quiet to amusing and witty; from the childlike to adult, from self centred to caring about others and from unthinking to proactive. It has been watching our youngsters from Marshland High School blossom into responsible young adults that has been one of my most enduring memories in Malawi.

I feel privileged to have been part of the Malawi 2009 team and I thought that I had come to this country to give my time, efforts, resources and skills. I find that I am taking much more away with me than I brought. I have been touched by the people, the country and my fellow expedition members.

CAROLINE HANSFORD (Host in Malawi and Leader)

From experience of over 20 MEL (Malawi Education Link) teams now, I reckon I can assess fairly quickly just how good a team will be ......... and Marshland MEL 2009 is very good.

That generalisation has covered all sorts of aspects of their behaviour, their attitudes, their experiences and how they dealt with their three weeks in a totally new environment. Take, for example, their first evening in Ngala; usually, the girls can be relied upon for the first odd scream when they meet their first "flattie" (spider of at least 4cms) or gecko. These were greeted, in the dark of the dormitory, by 11/2 metres of welcoming spitting cobra; no screams or hysterics or dangerous behaviour, just calm curiosity. Okay, so the occasional beetle or other bug, on the bus, had the ability to generate yelps and whispers, but they kept calm whenever there was potential danger.

Rarely does the whole team work as hard, united, as this Marshland group has done. It's only natural that there will be one or two malingerers - but not in this team! As a result Chigumukire School is being transformed and with any luck, there will be time to carry that through to the teacher's house.

AMANDA BARBER (Leader)

It wasn't just the people and the country that made this trip so very special. The whole Marshland team made the three weeks 'tremendous' (imagine hand gesture) fun! Every single one of them made the trip enjoyable for me and I enjoyed their company very much. Without mentioning individual names, I have loved the chats, the gossip, and the laughter! In many years of teaching, I don't think I've enjoyed the company of teenagers quite so much. And I am very proud of how well they worked at Chigumukire and how they integrated with the community. In their own way, each pupil has made a connection with either children at Ngala, Chigumukire or with staff at the Lodge. Watching them confidently make friends and deal with new situations has made me proud of them both as a leader and a teacher. I am also touched by the way that so many of our team have loved their time in Malawi so much that their horizons have been broadened and they now have a passion to see more of the World.

PHIL ADAMS (Leader)

Three weeks on and the classrooms are lime washed and brighter with art on the walls. The Headteacher's house is now higher with a new tin roof and windows with glass in them. The team lime washed it all inside and out in two days and so they now have four rooms for the seven of them (luxury, indeed!).

My lasting memories are easy laughter and huge smiles, grinding poverty yet real generosity, real extended family ties and daily funerals. Gorgeous lakeside and mountains, fantastic game parks. "Game of two halves"! football match.

Finally a great team of young people who have worked really well and made me proud to be associated with Marshland High School.

KAY DAVIES (Leader)

My third visit to Malawi has been my best for many different reasons. The group has been super, worked really well in Chigumukire School and been prepared to try and take part in all the activities on offer. They have integrated well with all the local community and asked many questions to ensure that they try to understand local customs.

Malawi has certainly changed since my first visit in 2003, the most significant being the fact that there is more public transport available. People seem to be taking responsibility for growing their own vegetables; it is the first time that I have seen cabbages available and there is now mains power in both the lodge and Caroline' s house. As always the people are very friendly and happy, despite the circumstances under which some live.

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