Bright Futures Secondary School

Sarah’s blog 1/8/22

I just wanted to do an update on where we are with this exciting project that is going to give a brighter future to hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in rural northern Malawi, changing their lives for the better by giving them the gift of education.

Secondary schools in Malawi charge fees, so those who cannot afford the fees just do not go to secondary school. However, because there are not enough places at secondary schools in that area, even if the children have passed their primary school leavers exams and have the money to pay for secondary school, if they don’t get picked for a place then they don’t go. This is unfortunately what happened to eleven of our sponsored children this year. It’s heart-breaking for them and they have been resitting their last year of primary school with the hope of getting better grades and therefore getting a place next time.

The nearest secondary school is too far away for children to walk so they have to board which then puts the costs up and also keeps them away from their families who may rely on the young people to help with chores and looking after younger siblings.

Bright Futures Secondary School will be for orphans and vulnerable young people supported by the Foundation. Those who cannot pay fees will still be offered a place at the secondary school and those who can pay a bit will be asked to contribute what they can afford. Obviously, young people will have been required to pass their primary school leavers exams before continuing with their secondary education.

There has been lots of work going on in the background, collecting school uniforms, liaising with other charities who may help us etc. There are over 100 chairs going on the next container. They have also been busy in Malawi with making bricks and they are going to be firing all the bricks soon when they’ve stacked them to make the kilns. I have got good news and bad news so I think I’ll go with the good news first….as there are lots of good things going on.

Good things are happening

  1. One of the neighbours of The Foundation is gifting some land to ensure there is enough land to build the secondary school on. That is extremely generous.
  2. We had a grant from The Souter Charitable Trust for £3,250 for secondary school text books and are very grateful for their support.
  3. Recently we had a cheque for £4,000 from The Inverclyde Trust to help towards the secondary school. This was a lovely surprise and we are so thankful.
  4. I had a fundraiser in May to start off the brickmaking for the school. People were very kind and contributed over £1,000.
  5. We have a gofundme page open for donations towards building the school. If you would like to contribute a few £££ towards the school and to support those who are doing our kilometre challenge then here is the link; https://gofund.me/44a92444
  6. There have also been some donations straight into the bank account for which we are very thankful.

The not so good news

  1. The Malawian currency has been devalued and everything has also gone up in price. Maize is double what it previously was and also the building supplies have all gone up, some being double the price that they cost in the shower block build. All this makes it extremely difficult when we think we are working towards a target then the goalposts keep changing.
  2. We had a quote over the weekend for the first phase of the secondary school. It was, because of the reasons stated above, far more than any of us imagined.
  3. Levison and The Foundation do not have any funds of their own so are reliant on our charity for fundraising. They have started to bring small amounts of money in but because of rising costs and the huge number of children and young people they are supporting, it is like they are swimming against the tide. Self-sufficiency is obviously the end goal but it is difficult when prices are rising and children are hungry.
  4. We need more people to help with fundraising and telling others about our charity.

Bright Futures Secondary School

We are very excited and committed to changing the lives of so many children. They know that education is their way to a brighter future for them and their families. They want education and they want to work hard.

Unfortunately, due to the trauma and lack of nutrition that many have faced, not all children will be able to complete secondary school but we hope that there will be jobs available and opportunities within the Foundation or for further vocational training.

However, because of the Feeding Programme, and the preschool children being fed in nursery, they have a better start than the older children. As well as food, they have access to showers and clean clothes and are already looking at picture books. The Literacy Project is very exiting as we are hoping that the results of having reading materials readily available will be seen over the next few years. Year on year, exam results should start to improve in the schools that we are supplying with books.

We had hoped that we would be able to raise enough money for the first phase of the secondary school to open in October 2022. However, we have had to make the decision that we cannot achieve that this year. We have a year to work hard and ensure all the money needed is in place for the start of term in October 2023. Whilst we are disappointed that costs have risen and we don’t have as much money as needed at the moment, we think it is sensible to be able to spend the next year ensuring that finances are in place and that the school is built properly ensuring all children have Bright Futures.

Please, if you know of any grant giving charities who could help, or any businesses willing to give a donation in return for some publicity then please do let us know. This is a huge undertaking for a small charity like ours but we are determined to continue Changing Lives. Can you do a fundraiser for us in the community where you live? Can you hold a coffee morning or a bake sale? There’s loads of ways in which you could get involved and we would love you to join us. The children are relying on us so they all have brighter futures. Please email contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com to suggest ways of helping, or to donate to the school. Any donation over £500 can name a classroom. Thank you for reading and supporting us, Sarah x

Getting ready for school

Sarah’s blog 26/7/22

As you know, we are trying our best to raise money to build the first block of a secondary school. Bright Futures Secondary School will be a community school for the orphans and other vulnerable young people to attend.

Education should be available for everyone. There are currently not enough places at local secondary schools. If you don’t get picked for a place, even if you have passed your primary leavers exams and can afford the school fees.

This is what happened to eleven of our sponsored young people this year. They are resitting their last year of primary school, hoping for better grades, hoping to be picked for a place.

As the local secondary school is a distance away the young people, who are sponsored and do get a place at school, have to board at school. This adds to costs and also means they aren’t available to help their families with chores.

A secondary school in the village would make such a difference to so many people. Education is their way out of dire poverty – their way to a better future for themselves and their families.

Bricks are being made…about 40,000 so far, and kilns are going to be built soon to fire the bricks.

There are people working hard in Malawi and here to try our best to help these vulnerable children. As well as education, a school will help prevent teenage pregnancies and girls being married off too soon. Already, The Foundation has proved that if the young people are kept busy and given opportunities then there will be far less teenage pregnancies. The young people’s self-esteem has increased as they learn new skills, play team sports with their peers and read in the library. They know people care about them. They have hope for a better future. We need to continue supporting the projects that support them. This is absolutely vital to protect these vulnerable young people.

Here, we are trying to raise funds and awareness. It’s really hard as we know that some people have less available cash. We need to reach a wider group of people and if we all give a little, that will add up to a lot!

Also, we are trying to source supplies to provide for the young people when the school is built. We need to plan ahead as the container takes approximately 3 months for its journey.

There are over 100 chairs at The Bananabox Trust warehouse that we are sending for the first phase of the school. Someone donated boxes of new laptop bags. We are sending 80 of these for the young people to use as school bags. Pencil cases and pens are in boxes too as well as some secondary school uniform.

Stuart, my husband, delivered some boxes and 72 rugby balls to Dundee today and took a photo of all the chairs to show Levison.

I also received a photo from one of our supporters today who put a shout out on her village Facebook page asking for preloved secondary school uniform. People have been very generous as she’s collected a great amount which will kit out some of the pupils who will attend Bright Futures Secondary School.

There’s still so much to do and so much money to raise but we WILL do this. The children are relying on us. So if you can spare a few £££ we would be so grateful. Thank you for reading and supporting, Sarah x

Donate here: https://GoFund.me/44a92444 or get in touch contact_us@changibglivesmalawi.com

The donations that Stuart took to Dundee today including 72 rugby balls from Annan rugby club and Merchiston Castle School. You can see that the warehouse is getting full.
The chairs that we are sending for Bright Futures Secondary School
We are grateful for this huge pile of secondary school uniform donations that we will send for the pupils when they start school

The children need food

Sarah’s blog 20/7/22

Running a Foundation is a huge responsibility and the rural location of The Foundation adds to the pressure that Levison is under.

There are no big agencies feeding children in schools in the far north of Malawi. The responsibility has fallen to The Foundation to feed 500+ children once a week. Children are walking from up to 20km away to have that one substantial meal each week.

This is all we can afford at the moment. There are so many calls on finances as we try our best to support a community back to self-sufficiency.

The Foundation teaches life skills to the children and young people. Growing crops is part of the skills the children learn. Unfortunately the crop of maize was affected by the flooding earlier this year and part of the crop was washed away. This year’s crop will only feed the children for two months.

The price of buying maize fluctuates throughout the year depending on availability and time of year.

The Malawian Kwacha was devalued a few months ago and all prices have gone up. However, maize is more than double the price it was this time last year.

Thank you to the few people who have given £5 per month towards the feeding programme as we have been grateful for this to top up the money we send each month to feed the children.

We know that we are asking for a lot of help but the more people who know about our charity and The Foundation, the more we can spread the help we need across more supporters. So I urge you to please share our posts and also tell your friends about us and the help we need.

All of us in the U.K. are volunteers and no money is spent on admin costs as we donate our time, petrol for transporting boxes to Dundee etc. So you can be sure if you donate money for feeding children, that’s where it will go.

Please, please can you donate £5 per month towards our feeding programme? I need 20 people to commit to £5 per month to enable the children to still be fed a substantial meal each week at The Foundation.

Please, if you can, donate £5 p/m by emailing contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com for bank details. The children have come to rely on that one substantial meal each week…we can’t let them down.

Please help us continue helping the children by donating £5 per month for food. contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com to help feed the 500+ vulnerable children today. Thank you for reading and supporting, Sarah x

Some of the children having their one nutritious meal of the week.

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 24, 25 and 26

Sarah’s blog 26/5/22

7am. So glad I am nearly at the end of my challenge. It’s tough because I am thinking about the food that I will be able to have next week and it’s making it harder to keep going with all the vegetables and rice!

As I had done 20km on my bike that I mentioned in my last blog, I decided just to do 10km on my bike for the next couple of days as my legs were sore.

I’ve been eating rice with mixed vegetables, lots of roasted vegetables, soup and a waldorf salad. Trying to drink enough water and finding that quite hard to fit in an extra couple of glasses. As I was out a lot yesterday, I did have a shop bought pack of melon and mango which tasted amazingly sweet and delicious.

6.30pm Just cycled another 20km and really pleased with myself! Never thought I’d be able to do that at the start of this challenge… I was struggling to get past 5km. So I will definitely try for at least two more 20km before I finish.

I decided to do this challenge for the following reasons;

  1. To raise money to build a much needed school as there are not enough places in the local secondary school. If you don’t get picked for a place in secondary school then you don’t go. Education should be available to all. It is the children’s way out of poverty to build themselves a better future.
  2. To raise awareness of the Feeding Programme and what the children have to eat. I am eating rice (instead of maize flour) and vegetables. I am fortunate that I have a choice. I am fortunate that I am eating more than once a day. I am fortunate that I am only doing this challenge for 31 days in May. The Feeding Programme feeds 500 children and young people once a week with a substantial and nutritious meal. As there are no big agencies feeding children in schools in that area, some children are walking from 20km away for this one meal a week. There will be some children who do not eat every day. Teachers have said that children are able to concentrate better and their grades have improved since The Feeding Programme was implemented. It’s not enough but better than it was. We would love to be able to send money to feed the children more often.
  3. I set out to cycle 10km a day on my exercise bike to represent how far the younger children are walking to and from school (approximately 5km each way). However, some days I have been able to cycle 15km and have even done one 20km. I will try to do another couple of 20km before my challenge ends.

If you think that all children deserve an education please donate to my fundraiser https://gofund.me/ca9c1629 Please help me help the children.

Ten ways you can help us

Sarah’s blog 14/04/22

Children – There are hundreds of children, like Rodrick and his sister Lucia, who are suffering from malnutrition. They are hungry. They cannot concentrate properly as their bodies are lacking nutrients. Some have very stunted growth. Rodrick and Lucia have been given new clothes and attend the weekly feeding programme were , along with 500 other vulnerable children, they are given a substantial and nutritious meal. They are all still hungry and malnourished as they don’t eat every day. No big agencies are feeding children that far north in Malawi, so it is down to us to send money to feed these malnourished children.

Education – is also the key to these children having a better future. Unfortunately, there are not enough school places. We need to raise money to build a school so these children can have the education they deserve. Education should be available to everyone. The villagers want to be self-sufficient. They want to be able to provide for their families. They want their children to go to school and have the opportunities that they didn’t. The children work hard and are desperate to go to school.

Lack of school places – Currently, there are not enough school places available. Eleven sponsored children who passed their primary school leavers exams did not get picked for a place at secondary school and are resitting their last year at primary school. Will they get picked this year? So worrying for them and heart-breaking.

Help us please – There are great things happening at The Foundation and lives are changing for the better. However, there are so many children and so much to do that we cannot do what needs to be done without adding to our supporters and team.

  1. We need fundraisers – we need people to organise small or larger events where you live, for your friends or community, on our behalf for the children.
  2. We want active people to take part in sponsored events for our charity – is that something you can do? Walking, running, swimming, trampolining, a sponsored silence? Can you do this with your friends?
  3. We need people to help us at events we organise eg looking after a stall, selling raffle tickets, making tea & coffee.
  4. We need more sponsors to be matched with children like Rodrick and Lucia so they have a monthly food parcel at their home, clothes, a blanket, school supplies etc. We have 90 children & young people matched with sponsors so far but there are many more in desperate need. Can you help? It’s only £25 p/m.
  5. Can you make a monthly donation to the feeding programme? Even a regular donation of £5 or £10 per month will make a big difference if several people sign up for this.
  6. Can you make a donation from your company? We can give you publicity.
  7. We need people to collect books so we can send them to schools.
  8. We also need people to collect stationery, shoes, new underwear etc for all age groups to adult, and collect funds to cover the cost of transportation.
  9. Will you invite us to talk at your club, church or school and show photos of the work taking place in Malawi?
  10. Will you tell your friends, family, colleagues etc about our charity and like and share our posts?

contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com for bank details or to volunteer. It’s about teamwork and we all have a part to play in Changing Lives Malawi. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Rodrick and his sister Lucia are suffering from malnutrition

‘I alone cannot change the world….’

Sarah’s blog 10/4/22

A quote from Mother Teresa ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples’

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has’ Margaret Mead.

I found blogging very difficult to start with. It’s not in my nature to put myself forward….I’m much more comfortable behind the scenes. However, although these blogs are written by me, they are all about bringing news and photos from The Foundation about the hundreds of vulnerable children we are trying to help. The blogs are about raising awareness, raising funds and trying to bring more supporters into our team.

In order to keep helping the community towards self-sufficiency, we do need to widen the net and increase our team. Self-sufficiency is the end goal and always has been but things have been so bad for this rural community it is going to take a while and a lot of support.

All children in this rural community are malnourished. Most do not eat properly every day. Some go for a couple of days without eating at all. The plan was to set up The Feeding Programme for approximately 200 orphans and vulnerable children who live in the villages surrounding The Foundation. However, there are no big agencies feeding children in that area. I have made contact with them numerous times but they are busy further south. Some children are walking up to 20km for their one substantial, nutritious meal each week. On average 500 children and young people are fed every weekend. Teachers are noticing a difference to these vulnerable children’s concentration and grades after The Feeding Programme being set up. If this is after one meal a week, imagine the difference to these children if they were able to eat nutritious food more often?

I can’t imagine not being able to feed my children. Especially during the pandemic when the schools were closed, my youngest son was looking in the fridge for food an hour after he’d had his breakfast. He wanted lunch at 10.30am….I think quite a few children were like this whilst at home and out of their routine. We had to say ‘no’ some of the time. We said ‘have some fruit’ ‘have a carrot or cucumber’ or ‘have a glass of water to fill yourself up until lunchtime’. We live in a totally different world to those living in dire poverty in Ibuluma and surrounding villages in rural Northern Malawi.

Lack of food will affect strength to carry out manual jobs like collecting and carrying wood, carrying maize, walking to school, it will make them tired and cold, it will mean stunted growth and malnutrition and the inability to concentrate. Imagine your children were crying with hunger and you’d nothing to give them. Imagine the hopelessness of sending your young children out to work instead of them attending school as you need the pathetically small amount of money they will bring in. One boy (now sponsored) helped a farmer with his cows for the equivalent of £1.50 per month. In this situation, children are missing a huge amount of school. Life is hard and it is certainly not fair.

Some girls are at risk of being married off too young as child brides, despite this being illegal. Their families don’t want this, the girls don’t want this but their families cannot afford to feed all their children. What a desperate situation to be in.

My youngest son needed some new t-shirts and a waterproof jacket as he has grown. We don’t have an endless pot of money but I was able to order the clothes he needed. Imagine your children have one set of clothes and they grow? These families cannot afford to buy new clothes. Children have been wearing rags.

Thanks to your help and support, The Foundation is able to feed these children once a week and you have donated clothes and shoes. You’ve also generously donated stationery and books to help with the children’s education. Then there are the 90 children who are sponsored who have a monthly food parcel and their secondary education paid for them by their generous sponsors. There are lots more children needing a helping hand and a sponsor.

So what I am trying to say is that, as a team, together we are Changing Lives (in) Malawi. However, we need more people to help more people. Here are some ways you could help;

  1. Fundraising – can you do a sponsored event for us like The Kiltwalk or something else? I will help with sharing posts on social media to get more sponsors.
  2. Fundraising – can you organise an event in your community? Whether a quiz, a table top sale or a coffee morning or a carwash? Or what else? All these type of events help spread awareness of our charity to a new audience.
  3. Fundraising – could you organise a raffle, whether online or at an event?
  4. Fundraising – are you part of a church or club that you could invite us to speak at and show photos?
  5. Sponsoring – could you sponsor a week of the feeding programme or raise £100 to sponsor one meal for 500 children?
  6. Sponsoring – could you sponsor a child or young person. It’s only £25 per month.
  7. Donate – could you make a one off or regular donation towards the feeding programme or support another one of the programmes?
  8. Sign up to receive the blogs to receive up to date information.
  9. Share our posts to reach a wider audience please and talk to family and friends about what we do.
  10. Are you doing your Duke of Edinburgh Award or another volunteering activity? Do you want to add some volunteering to your CV? What could you do to raise funds or awareness for the children in Malawi?
  11. Any other ideas you have – please get in touch. As the saying goes ‘every little helps’. We cannot do this on our own. The hundreds of orphans and other vulnerable children need you.
  12. WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY? EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING. WE NEED YOU. THE HUNDREDS OF ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY NEED YOU. PLEASE HELP US CONTINUE CHANGING LIVES MALAWI.

contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you, Sarah x

500 children need your help…your £5 will help feed them

Sarah’s blog 31/1/22

January is a hard month for many after the extra expenses of Christmas, however we’ve made it to the end of January now and, hopefully, most have now been paid.

Unfortunately, in Malawi, the price of maize is going up and the rains are heavy. 500 children are being fed once a week at The William Stewart Foundation. They receive a substantial, nutritious meal….their only one of the week. All are suffering from malnutrition. It costs approx £100 to feed 500 each time. We are looking for people to commit to £5 p/m so we can feed them at least twice a week, or implement a daily porridge programme on school days. There are no big agencies feeding children in that area in rural northern Malawi, so the responsibility is ours….some children are walking up to 20km for their food.

Please help us to help them? These children are just like our children with hopes and dreams of a better future….but they are hungry, really hungry. It affects their bodies and their brains. They deserve better. We CAN do something about malnutrition and make it a thing of the past. You CAN do your bit and be part of a growing team helping 500 children to have their basic needs met. Helping them have a better future. Helping them succeed. Helping change their lives. They will know that people care about them. They will have hope. £5 isn’t much each month. We would love you to be part of our feeding team. Will you take up the challenge and help? Please? contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com Thank you for reading and please think about joining our feeding team, Sarah x

Donations…..

Sarah’s blog 21/1/22

We have lovely supporters donating in lots of different ways. Some give money to help feed the children, others sponsor young people so they can attend secondary school. I have a donation box in my front garden that people will leave things in if I’m out, and people will knock on the door with bags of preloved clothes and shoes or books. Occasionally, someone will proudly bring a bag of bargains that they’ve managed to pick up in a sale. Some supporters collect pencils, pens and soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste whilst doing their shopping. We are grateful for monetary donations to help cover transport costs as we are charged £15 per box on the container. These are all ways you can help us help the hundreds of children we help to support in Malawi. A few of our kind supporters knit lovely blankets or hats to keep babies and children warm and others help take the boxes of donations to Dundee to await the container to Malawi.

Whatever you choose to do to help and support us, ‘Thank you’. We are grateful you are part of our team. There is still so much to do…so if you want to get involved we would be very glad to have you on our team….Changing Lives Malawi. Thanks for reading, Sarah x contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com

A big donation of preloved sports clothes was recently collected
We love it when people add things to their shopping for us….the children always love receiving a new pencil or some soap….and with up to 800 children to support….that is a lot of pencils needed!
Someone very kindly left these preloved teenage boys school shoes and two maths sets in the donation box in our front garden
One of our supporters has been busy knitting again….beautiful blankets

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

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