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The Second Sunday in Advent

Sarah’s blog 5/12/21

The second Sunday in advent is traditionally about peace and waiting. I have had no choice this week. I wasn’t going to write this but I think it’s important and I would be very grateful if you would be patient with me whilst I write this.

I have been in a very large hospital since Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon I had some of my right kidney removed using robotic assistance. If this operation had taken place at my usual hospital, they would have removed my whole kidney. So I am thankful for the opportunities I have had. Everyone has been so lovely and kind and I have felt precious and cared for.

I am very conscious of the differences between my opportunities here and the lack of health care opportunities in Malawi, something we need to try to work on next year.

I feel I am being ‘asked’ to write this and believe me I am double and triple checking things as I am on a lot of medication for pain relief and my concentration isn’t good. At least I’ve kept my eyes open! My care,post op, has not gone to plan. My oxygen levels have been extremely low and, I spent two days in high dependency. Yesterday was my first day since Tuesday with no additional oxygen…again the comparison isn’t lost on me that Malawi doesn’t have enough oxygen in hospitals.

So without you having to know all my aches and pains, I am here to wait and recover. To recover from the big operation I have had but also the stress of 2021 which has been huge.

Every day has been a worry about where money will come from to feed children, to sponsor them, to provide for them. I have been volunteering 7 days a week. I can’t continue at that rate. It’s not going to do me any good, therefore the charity any good, if I don’t start putting myself first. I don’t know what the new working hours will look like but, for now, I will wait with peace and listen. Of course, I couldn’t have worked so hard without my husband who is my biggest supporter.

All of this would have been hard enough but there have been people on social media trying to destroy our charity. People who have never met me. People who are happy to side with others without knowing facts or thinking about the consequences of their actions. I cannot apply for grants for our charity at the moment because the awful things that have been written. People might not like me or like what I say (and that’s ok) but every decision I make is to benefit those hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children to make lives better for them.

Of course, I should have been at home this last week sharing posts; getting children sponsored, selling paintings for Christmas or lovely cards; sharing the links for e-cards and e-gifts and generally working as hard as I can for every £1 to help make a difference in Northern Malawi. Hopefully, people do find the items via our website and please share posts if you can. Hoping I will be home in a few days although this week away, courtesy of the NHS, has been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better care.

So instead of being busy selling, I’ll wait patiently for what’s going to happen next. It might be that you decide you want to help, it might be a magazine wants to write about our work… who knows? But I do know that 2022 is going to be a better year and we hope that you will continue to journey with us http://www.changinglivesmalawi.com thanks for reading, Sarah x

My room with a view of the helipad

The first Sunday in Advent

Sarah’s blog 28/11/21

As we approach Christmas, today is the first Sunday of Advent. I’m sure, whether you are a Christian, of a different faith or none, most children and adults enjoy the celebrations at this time of year. Advent calendars filled with chocolate, decorations, sparkling lights, parties, concerts and presents and also the lovely food are some of the special things we can enjoy as well as being with people we love. Whilst there have been some restrictions recently, they are nothing compared to what people living in extreme poverty are facing every day of the year, wherever they are in the world.

The first Sunday in Advent is traditionally of HOPE like a light shining in the darkness. That is what The Foundation is for the hundreds of orphans and other vulnerable children that it supports. Hope of better things to come. Hope of food, of full tummies. Hope of clean water. Hope of education. Hope of jobs. Hope of health. Hope of better housing. Hope of fun and friends. Hope of a childhood without trauma. Hope that they will no longer be forgotten. Hope of sponsorship. Hope of clothes & shoes. ALL children deserve these things.

We are making great progress but with so many children there is never enough money. It costs £100 to feed 500 children once a week. This is their most nutritious, substantial meal of the week….some children do not eat every day and most suffer from malnutrition. We need to reach more people to help us continue to improve the dire situation that these children face. Can you share our posts or tell your friends about our charity?

There are many ways you can help us support the children and continue to send money to feed them. Donations of money are extremely helpful as are purchasing our e-cards and e-gifts as meaningful Christmas gifts with all the money we receive going to Malawi. The link is here https://www.dontsendmeacard.com/ecards/charities/changing-lives-malawi

Please help us to bring hope to hundreds of the most vulnerable children. If we don’t support them…..they have nobody. Together we CAN make a difference. Together we can change lives in Malawi. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . I am working tomorrow then I am taking the rest of the week off as I have a hospital appointment. I won’t be away for too long though as the children really do need us to help them. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

The Foundation, now with electricity, is a shining light of hope in the darkness

Good news for two girls – the gift of education

Sarah’s blog 26/11/21

Levison asked me to put an appeal out for sponsors for Eunice and Maria. They were both desperate to get to secondary school, both hard workers and Eunice has been described as being a bright girl. Thankfully, a generous supporter contacted me and offered to sponsor both these girls to make their dreams of secondary education come true. There are still lots of young people waiting for that chance and if you can help to give them the gift of education it’s less than £1 per day….you can share this cost with a friend or a business could sponsor a child. Can you make a young person’s dreams come true? Thank you for joining the team that supports these young people. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Merry Christmas Everyone

Sarah’s blog 25/11/21

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends who are celebrating today and it’s now only a month until Christmas Day. I just wanted to show you a selection of the lovely e-cards and gifts DontSendMeACard.com to save you buying cards for Christmas, or any occasion, and to buy meaningful gifts that will make a huge difference to the most vulnerable people we support in rural northern Malawi.

Also, one of our trustees, Christine Cresswell, has original paintings and cards available for purchase with ALL proceeds going to our charity. Perfect and unique Christmas gifts. https://www.facebook.com/christineartformalawi/

If you need any help or advice with cards or gifts then please get in touch contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading and happy shopping knowing that you are Changing Lives (in) Malawi. Sarah x

“Actions speak louder than words”

Sarah’s blog 24/11/21

I’ve been reviewing and editing some documents today for Levison in which he was mentioning some of the projects and it’s made me think. It’s also made me thankful. Because of my involvement in this little charity, I have met some wonderful people. I’ve also met many more brilliant people ‘virtually’. There are so many people doing their bit to help others and making the world a better place.

Whether it’s some of the ladies in Malawi that volunteer to help at The Foundation to cook the food for hundreds of children, someone taking an orphan into their home and helping them through the trauma of losing a loved one or volunteer sports coaches or Levison working every waking minute to help those in his village so they don’t go through what he did. So many people in Malawi care and want to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. All are part of a bigger team and show by their actions their care for others.

Here, we have more caring people, also part of that team. People contacting us to donate pre-loved clothes and shoes, knitting beautiful baby clothes or blankets. People bringing books that their children have finished reading to help the literacy project or sponsoring a young person to go to school. There are people giving time and talents and money. We have volunteers packing boxes and driving them to Dundee to the container. All are showing by their actions that they care.

Then there are the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet who are also volunteering their time with other charities and organisations; The Bananabox Trust who organise and pack the container is just one of the charities who are part of our team. There are people and organisations who collect sports kit and have made donations, people who have helped with fundraising, and many, many more lovely people who I would never have met if it hadn’t been for Changing Lives Malawi.

So thank you all for your support and care. Your actions speak louder than words and the orphans and other vulnerable children supported by The Foundation know that people care about them. If you would like to help us then please do get in touch contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting us. Sarah x

Reverse Advent Calendar

Sarah’s blog 22/11/21

Christmas is coming and the season of advent will be here next week. Some organised people might have finished all their shopping and wrapped their presents, some might have already thought about putting their tree and decorations up. Or are you a last minute type of person? If you are able, could you please spare a thought for the hundreds of vulnerable children whom we support in rural Northern Malawi. Their Christmas celebrations are very, very different to ours. We will be giving them a meal, a bar of soap and a pencil but we would love to be able to plan ahead as it takes months for gifts to arrive. It would be amazing if you could help us provide gifts for a summer and Christmas party. These children do not eat properly every day, so never have any soap, pencils or toys apart from what they are given at The Foundation. So a party and gifts mean a great deal to them and are very exciting. Let’s spread a little love this Christmas…can you help us?

If you can manage the whole Reverse Advent Calendar, that would be fantastic. But even if you manage a few of them while doing your own Christmas shopping we would be very grateful. A pack of pencils, a couple of packs of pens or a few bars of soap etc. Or some books in good preloved condition that your child no longer reads. These children and young people have had NOTHING. If we all give SOMETHING it WILL make a difference and bring joy to many. They will know that people care about them. They will know they are no longer forgotten. A little kindness goes a long way. In this season of goodwill, please help us send some joy to Malawi. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading, Sarah x

“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person”

Sarah’s blog 21/11/21

Following on from yesterday’s post, Levison has specifically asked if these two girls could please be matched with sponsors. They are both desperate to go to secondary school. Both are hard working. Eunice has just finished p8 and is very bright. She has no way of finishing her education without a sponsor. Maria had finished primary school with nowhere to go so Levison added her to the apprenticeship scheme despite not having a sponsor. Levison has said what a good worker Maria is and is keen to learn and wants the chance to go to school.

Please, please find it in your heart to change the world for one of these girls. Eunice and Maria both need a helping hand. Will that be you? It’s only £25 a month to sponsor a child. You can sponsor as an individual, family, two friends, a group or a business. If you are unable to commit at this time, then please share. Potential sponsors are out there somewhere so by sharing you could be matching these girls with the support they require.

Also, by sharing, you will be supporting our small team of volunteers. We’ve had a difficult few months and we are eternally grateful for those of you who have continued to trust us and see, by our actions, that we are working hard for the orphans and other vulnerable children in Northern Malawi. I am having to do less hours for the next two weeks, but I will still be available each day, prioritising my family and myself, so I would be absolutely delighted if we could grow our team of supporters and find Eunice and Maria the help they need. Can you sponsor Eunice please? Can you sponsor Maria? Can you share our posts on social media? contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading, Sarah x

World Children’s Day – “A better future for every child”

Sarah’s blog 20/11/21

This year’s theme for World Children’s Day is “A better future for every child”. This was chosen because all children have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I thought this was a good opportunity to reflect on and highlight how life has changed for the orphans and vulnerable children supported by The William Stewart Foundation.

Life has improved for the 800 children whom the Foundation supports. These are just some of the ways we have been supporting The William Stewart Foundation to provide “A better future for every child”. It’s always all about teamwork so a big ‘thank you’ to those who are on this journey with us as part of the team making “A better future for every child”.

  • The Feeding Programme – so many children were (and still are) suffering from malnutrition as the situation has been so dire. Things are improving but we are currently only able to afford to run the feeding programme once a week for the approx 500 children who turn up for their one substantial, nutritious, meal of the week. As there are no big agencies feeding children in schools in this area, some children are walking up to 20km for their meal. The teachers have noticed that the children are able to concentrate better now. It costs approx £100 to run the feeding programme once a week.
  • Girls who have started their periods are no longer missing a week of school each month. They have been given a drawstring bag with 5 reusable sanitary towels (all made by girls at the foundation) with 3 pairs of pants, soap and a health info leaflet. They have also been given back their dignity and self-confidence through The Period Poverty Project. We have had support from ‘Smalls for All’ charity with providing new pants.
  • Agriculture -crops have been planted, skills are being taught and food is being successfully grown and eaten. Children are actively taking part in this project for skills for their own futures. Fruit tree saplings are being planted for a sustainable future, providing food and a future income for those at the Foundation. This is a current appeal asking for support to help buy hundreds of fruit tree saplings that will provide food and nutrition and help the planet.
  • Eco-stoves are helpful for the planet and for the people and the apprentices are making these for villagers. They use less fuel, they are more efficient and far safer for families than cooking on an open fire. People spend less time gathering wood as they don’t need as much for their fires and this is obviously beneficial in their lives as well as for the environment.
  • The nursery – for 50 children age 4-6 is paid for by a monthly donation. The children meet three times a week and as well as playing and learning, they are fed at each session. ‘Feed the Children’ charity periodically supply porridge for the nursery children. This is greatly appreciated but only lasts a short time, but the children are always fed, giving them a better start in life than the older children. Levison commented “we are trying to make sure they don’t pass through what we passed through.” Life is and has been extremely hard. But little by little, things are improving. The nursery children have also been given blankets and uniforms. Flipflops, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more clothes for them are on the way.
  • Clean water – this time last year the first tap was turned on providing fresh, clean drinking water after funds were raised and a borehole dug. This has made a huge difference to so many who no longer have to drink from the river. From this project, plants have had water to grow and the shower block has been built providing washing facilities for all the children and young people.
  • Goats and hens are being raised and the children are learning to look after them. An incubator has recently been bought to help hatch more eggs which will also then be a source of income for The Foundation, helping them towards self-sufficiency.
  • 72 children and young people are currently sponsored which is a great achievement, and we are very thankful to our sponsors, but many more children need our help. Being sponsored means they get a monthly food parcel and secondary school education paid for. This is the main way we can try to improve these children’s futures by supporting them to access education which will help provide better employment prospects.
  • School uniform, clothes & shoes donations. School uniform donations have been a way of reusing preloved clothes and also engaging with those schools. There are a lot of clothes needed for 800 children and young people and their self-esteem is better now as they are no longer in rags, as well as having warm clothes when needed. Clothes are also given to the elderly in the village.
  • Sports kit & coaching sessions – providing a sense of belonging to a team and the young people are able to forget their difficulties whilst they play football or netball with their friends. They know that the people who have made donations care about them.
  • Mother & baby project – thanks to generous donations, Levison has been able to donate lots of baby clothes, blankets & beautiful knitting to the maternity ward at the local health centre. If the mothers come back a few weeks later then they are given some more clothes for their baby and this gives the health centre staff an opportunity to see them that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
  • Emma’s Rainbow Library – in memory of a lovely girl who would have liked to visit Malawi and who loved stories. The library is a great hit with the children & young people and proving to be a great resource. The young people want to learn so much now they have access to books. More books are on their way as are tables and more chairs. Hopefully, next year some computers will be an addition to the library.
  • School Literacy Project – how can children learn to read properly if they don’t have books to practice with? Levison recently delivered 17 boxes of books to the nearest primary school. The children can take these home to practice their reading skills, hopefully literacy levels will improve. More books are on their way for another school.

Please read these answers to four questions I asked some of the children;

  • What is better in your life since the Foundation started?
  • Suggest two things that you would like the Foundation to do in the future?
  • What is your favourite thing to do at the Foundation and why?
  • What are your hopes for the future? For your own life and your village?

They are very insightful. What struck me is their thirst for knowledge and how much they appreciate the library and that they are all desperate for education. The two girls Eunice and Maria are really in need of sponsors. Levison has told me that they are bright and hard worker and just need someone to take a chance on them. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com .Thank you for reading and celebrating the children’s lives with us. Sarah x

Constructing a Maize Silo

Sarah’s blog 19/11/21

Tony and Maxwell, who are welders, have been at The Foundation for three days constructing a maize silo. Maize varies in price throughout the year and can double in price when it gets scarce. As you might expect, The Foundation goes through a great deal of maize to feed so many orphans & other vulnerable children. The feeding programme runs once a week and feeds approximately 500 children each week. The Foundation does grow it’s own crop of maize, very successfully, but it’s nowhere near enough for what is needed.

Thanks again to the generosity of Welding Engineers, who also contributed to the Eco Stoves project. This has been a great opportunity for the apprentices to help and learn about construction and welding. Some of the young people who have left primary school were also interested in watching them work. Hopefully, as funds allow, some more silos can be made to purchase and store maize at it’s cheapest. The silo will also protect the maize from being eaten by bugs. Enjoy the photos of three busy days of learning at The Foundation. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Another two girls are going to secondary school!

Sarah’s blog 17/11/21

January is only a few weeks away and I’ve been trying to find sponsors for the young people who have finished primary school. Without sponsors they have no hope of getting to secondary school. They don’t have enough money to eat a proper meal each day…so how are they going to afford the fees for secondary school? The children and young people’s concentration, self-esteem, confidence, school attendance and their exam results have improved now that they have been given new clothes and they attend the feeding programme each weekend at The Foundation. Approximately 500 children are fed a nutritious meal once a week. If we could afford it, we would be feeding them twice a week or providing money for the children to be fed at school. There are no big charities feeding children in the far north of Malawi, so children walk from as far as 20km away for their one proper meal of the week at The Foundation.

Soon, the young people who are lucky enough to be matched with sponsors and whose lives have now amazingly changed direction, will all need measuring for school uniform and shoes. All their bags, soap, exercise books, pencil cases etc will all need to be bought too. It’s going to be a busy time.

However, there are some young people still waiting for that chance of education. There are photos of some of them below. It’s £25 per month to support a young person to go to school. You could be a sponsor as an individual, a family, split the cost with a friend or sponsor from your club or business. Every little helps as the saying goes…it might not seem like much to us, but to one of these young people it will be the biggest gift they’ve ever received. To change a life please email contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com or send us a message. We are on facebook, instagram & twitter. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

In memory of a special lady

Sarah’s blog 14/11/21

It would have been my lovely mother-in-law’s birthday today. After she passed away, we sent money to Levison for him to buy fruit tree saplings in memory of her. Levison has kindly taken photos of some of the saplings for me to add to this post and we are sending more money to mark her birthday and to buy some more tree saplings.

As you know, it’s so important for the planet to plant more trees and we are hoping that people will join this initiative and support us. With COP26 having just finished and there still being a huge amount of work to do, it’s so important to plant hundreds of tree saplings to protect the environment and planet.

As wood has been the only source of fuel for cooking and warmth, previously lots of wood has been needed. However, Levison and team are going to look at making briquettes from agricultural waste and the eco-stove project is continuing so much less wood will be used in future. The eco-stoves use far less fuel and are enclosed so they are much safer to cook on.

Although these fruit tree saplings are small, Levison assures me they will grow fast during the rains which will be coming within the next few weeks. There should be fruit in the next couple of years. This project benefits the planet and the people. The most vulnerable people. The William Stewart Foundation supports over 800 orphans and other vulnerable young people and there are no agencies feeding children in schools in that area. Approximately 500 malnourished children are fed a nutritious meal once a week at the Foundation. That is their one substantial meal of the week. Imagine being able to add fruit to their diet too? A huge orchard of fruit trees will mean a healthier community. It will also create employment and any surplus fruit will be able to be sold as a source of income for the Foundation, helping them on the road to self-sufficiency.

Four fruit tree saplings are £10. I am buying 8 today in memory of Isa Black, my lovely mother-in-law. We would love your help to support this project to plant a sustainable future in rural northern Malawi. I can change the wording on e-gifts for any occasion and personalise them. You could also have a sign in the orchard in memory of a loved one. Just let me know and I can help. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com . Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Fruit Tree Saplings – planting a sustainable future

Sarah’s blog 12/11/21

Imagine a community without enough to eat. Not much energy to work as they haven’t eaten enough, not much work to go around as everyone is after the same jobs doing piecework. Children missing school to walk long distances to the nearest maize mill carrying heavy burdens. No water to drink, no food to eat.

Thankfully, things are improving in Ibuluma where The William Stewart Foundation is. However, the situation was so bad that there is a lot still to do. The task is daunting but we know we have people supporting us to raise the money needed to fund the projects. We are very grateful for the group of people who contribute funds, goods, their time and effort. However, we need to do more. How can we reach more people? How can we increase our regular income? Who could donate or fundraise? Please have a think about these questions as just maybe you might have the answer.

These are some of the ways that lives have improved so far for the hundreds of orphans and other vulnerable children supported by The Foundation. Remember, there are no big charities in the far north of Malawi feeding children in schools….The William Stewart Foundation is all these extremely vulnerable children have. We need to ensure more food for their future.

  1. The Feeding Programme – at least 600 children are fed once every week, maize and vegetables from The Foundations crops are used where possible.
  2. The Foundation Nursery – 50 preschool children meet 3 times a week to play and are fed porridge or other food at each session. The nursery children have all been given a blanket each and a uniform. There are waterproof jackets for them that will be given out once the rains start.
  3. The Mother & Baby project – thanks to donations of baby clothes & blankets and beautiful knitting that has been donated, Levison was able to visit the maternity ward at the local health centre. Babies will be warm and, if health professionals tell the mums that they can return for more clothes for their babies in a few weeks, that gives the health experts another chance to interact with the mums and babies and have another chance for a check up.
  4. Thanks to lots of donations of preloved school uniform, other clothes and shoes, all children and young people have had new clothes to wear and their self-esteem is improving.
  5. Thanks to several sports clubs and generous people who have donated for The Foundation, children now feel like proper football or netball teams and have a sense of identity and belonging with their friends. They can forget their problems whilst learning about and playing football, netball & other sports.
  6. 70 of the most vulnerable children and young people now have been matched with sponsors, enabling them to have a monthly food parcel and their secondary school education paid for them…an opportunity which would not have been open to them without support from their sponsors.
  7. Several orphans have been helped to find homes with foster families following bereavement. These kind families have also received support to accommodate an extra mouth to feed.
  8. 20 plus teenagers are on the apprenticeship scheme, learning agricultural skills as well as bricklaying, making eco-stoves and animal husbandry etc.
  9. Children and young people are learning life skills like gardening and growing crops, animal husbandry, sewing, knitting and carving.
  10. Period Poverty Project; each girl who needs one is gifted a drawstring bag with 3 pairs of pants (donated by charity Smalls for All) 5 reusable sanitary towels, soap and a health information sheet. They now no longer have to miss one week of school each month. They have dignity and do not need to hide in shame. There are a group of girls using the hand turn sewing machines to make these as well as masks for everyone for protection during the pandemic.
  11. School Literacy Project; local schools are being gifted boxes of books to help children practice and improve their literacy levels.
  12. Emma’s Rainbow Library has been built, giving children access to a variety of books and we are adding more as time goes on.
  13. Most importantly; The Foundation has a clean water supply making a huge difference to this community. The shower block has recently been completed as the second part of the WASH project.
  14. Fruit trees are being planted, helping the planet but also providing food for the people…planting a sustainable future…we need support with this as we are just at the start of this project.

I’m sure there are lots of other things I haven’t mentioned, and as soon as I’ve finished typing I will probably think ‘oh I forgot to say that’….but as you can see there have been many changes and improvements but lots more work to do. We’d love more people to support us….it’s all about playing a small part of a team and together we can continue #changinglivesmalawi. Thanks for reading, Sarah x