The very long journey

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Sarah’s blog 13/12/22

I have saved writing this until I knew that Levison and his two helpers were back at The Foundation safely.

On Thursday afternoon, they left Ibuluma (in the very far north) to travel to Ekwendeni (near Mzuzu) where the Bananabox Trust container gets unloaded. The message was sent that the container was arriving on Friday morning, so off they set.

They travelled to Karonga firstly then onto Mzuzu where they were able to purchase a small amount of science equipment for Bright Futures Secondary School before being at Ekwendeni for the container being opened and unloaded. The roads, and the fact that it is now the rainy season, slows everything down and they have to travel slowly and carefully.

We had sent more aid on container number 10 as we were offered chairs for Bright Futures Secondary School so there was always going to have to be two journeys made; one with boxes and one with 8 tables and 130 chairs.

The plan was that the driver and assistant took the boxes back on Friday to Ibuluma whilst Levison stayed with the chairs and tables and that the truck would return for him on Saturday. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain, they didn’t make it as far as Ibuluma on Friday night because the roads were unsafe. A safe place was found for all the boxes in Chitipa. The truck then went back to Ekwendeni on Saturday. However, as they didn’t arrive until late, they had to stay overnight and set off with the chairs and tables on Sunday. Again, because of heavy rain, they got as far as Chitipa and slept in the truck and completed the journey to Ibuluma on Monday morning.

The teenagers from Bright Futures Secondary School helped to unload the chairs and tables and were amazed to see the lovely chairs. Levison and the driver then went back to Chitipa to collect the desks that the carpenter had made for one of the classrooms. They brought those back safely and intended to go back to collect all the boxes, however it started raining heavily again. They decided it was safer to have a good night’s sleep and to set off early this morning to collect the boxes. Plans had to change again. The roads weren’t safe to travel because of the rain until mid-morning. Finally, the boxes were collected, and they headed to fill up with diesel before heading back to Ibuluma. Another twist in the tale….no diesel. However, they were told it was on it’s way. So, more waiting.

We really don’t realise how difficult things can be when trying to make plans. The rural location of The Foundation, in the far north of Malawi certainly puts it at a disadvantage and also the community are at a disadvantage too. Fuel is expensive. There are no big agencies feeding children in schools in that area at all. They are very much forgotten. This is why the work that The Foundation does is so important. Children are hungry. Children need education. Children need clothes. Children need a helping hand. Hundreds and hundreds of vulnerable children who need our help to a brighter future and need you to help change their lives for the better.

After a long wait for diesel, they were finally able to fill up and travel slowly but safely back to the Foundation at 9.30pm. Good job done everyone and thank you to everyone who has been involved whether you’ve donated goods, money, packed boxes, driven boxes to Dundee, thanks to our friends at The Bananabox Trust for the work they do itemising everything and packing the container. Another successful mission completed to help some of the most vulnerable people in rural northern Malawi.

If you would like to support the projects we are helping, you can either email contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com or donate to https://gofund.me/44a92444 Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the photos and videos, Sarah x

Container 10 at Ekwendeni

Some of the chairs we sent
A lot of boxes on the truck!
Levison at Ekwendeni
The chairs arriving at The Foundation and some of the teens helping unload
8 tables and 130 chairs have arrived safely
There has been lots of heavy rain
Teenagers helping to unload all the chairs
The new desks that the carpenter has made
Arriving safely with all the boxes
helping to bring all the boxes in safely
A job well done!

Levison is finally back with all the boxes and fuel in the truck!

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Sarah’s blog 11/09/22

I wrote the comment below on Facebook on Tuesday 7th September. Levison and Sam had been waiting at the fuel station since the afternoon of Sunday 5th September. Little did we know that petrol deliveries wouldn’t arrive in Chitipa until Friday and diesel, which Levison’s truck needs, didn’t arrive until yesterday afternoon. Seven days after they first arrived to try to fill up the truck. It’s been an extremely stressful week but, thanks to friends in Ekwendeni, all the boxes were delivered safely to Levison at the petrol station. Then they still had the long wait for fuel. Thankfully, it seems the country’s fuel shortage is now over.

The first few boxes have been opened today and the donations of clothes will be distributed to the children during the next few days. I will post more photos when I get them. Thank you to everyone who has donated and supported. We couldn’t do what we do without you. It’s always about teamwork. Thanks, Sarah x

“The last couple of days have been extremely stressful for Levison. We have also been concerned. There is a fuel shortage in Malawi, especially in the far north where Levison is. He knew the container was being unloaded yesterday in Ekwendeni, a few hours drive south from him. He had no fuel for the truck and sat at a petrol station in a queue from Sunday afternoon until midday yesterday. No fuel arrived and has still not arrived despite people being told a delivery was imminent.
Levison had contacted some of his friends at the Bananabox Trust and other organisations who help supervise the unloading of the container. They assured Levison they would look after his boxes. Then they suggested that we pay for a truck to take everything north to Levison to save him worrying about when fuel would be available. A member of Bananabox Trust staff was also spared to travel with the truck to ensure everything arrived safely.
We are thankful and delighted to be able to say that the truck with all our boxes has arrived safely with Levison. It is very much appreciated when friends and colleagues go out of their way to help each other.”

Sarah Black, Facebook 7/9/11

In the queue for fuel for seven days

We are so grateful to our friends who work for Bananabox Trust in Ekwendeni and friends who work for other charities who looked after all our boxes when Levison couldn’t get to the container. They organised a truck, which we paid for, to take all the boxes safely to Chitipa.

Some of the lovely donations in the boxes that have been opened today

Container 8 arrived in Ekwendeni safely – Levison’s journey

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Sarah’s blog 4/2/22

We collect clothes, shoes, stationery, fabric and other supplies to go to The William Stewart Foundation in the rural north of Malawi where approximately 800 orphans and other vulnerable young people are supported as well as the elderly in the village.

So boxes start of (mostly) in my house, with my ever patient husband Stuart being the expert in packing them. He (and some other lovely volunteers) drive the boxes to The Bananabox Trust Warehouse in Dundee to await the container. Lots of charities send donations via The Bananabox Trust, so they order a container whenever their warehouse is full of boxes and also donations of medical equipment to go to the local hospitals. They charge £15 per box to cover the cost of the container. It’s loaded on a lorry and starts it’s journey to Grangemouth.

After approximately 3 months, the ship docks in Biera, Mozambique and heads north to Malawi to Ekwendeni, near Mzuzu. The lorry brings the container to The Mission Hospital at Ekwendeni and everyone who is expecting boxes is notified a couple of days before that it’s on it’s way. For some people this is a very short journey but for others they come a long way.

On Wednesday late afternoon, Levison and two helpers set out in the truck to Karonga. They arrived late and managed to sleep for a few hours and set out very early yesterday morning to get to Ekwendeni on time for the container being opened. Unfortunately, Levison’s phone had very low charge by then so most of the photos here are shared from friends of The Bananabox Trust on Facebook.

Because of the backlog and delay because of covid restrictions we sent more boxes than usual, plus 10 for Community Sports Leaders Africa in Chitipa. We also sent 20 adult chairs, 15 children’s chairs and 8 tables…. Levison is extremely excited about finally having tables for the children to work on, set the sewing machines on, food preparation etc….so many things that we take for granted. So we thought Levison was going to have to do a double journey as there was going to be too many things for the truck to take safely. However, he found a truck owner going back to Karonga who agreed to take the tables and chairs for Levison to collect from there.

Last night they got back to Ibuluma well after midnight and stored the boxes safely. This morning they set off again to Chitipa to see Wachisa, the football coach who was at The Foundation recently, to take his 10 boxes of sports kit from Community Sports Leaders Africa. Then onwards to Karonga to collect the tables, chairs and a few other boxes. The rain has been heavy so it’s been a long, hard journey on the smaller dirt roads but they’ve done a great job getting everything back safely.

More photos to follow in the coming days and weeks of boxes being opened and distributed. Many thanks to every single person who has donated, packed, delivered boxes and the lovely people at the Bananabox Trust too who document every box and load the container. We are all volunteers so it’s amazing teamwork! And to the helpers who unload the container too and ensure that everyone gets their correct boxes. Thank you, we appreciate you.

If anyone would like to sponsor a box to go on the next container, it’s £15. We can write your name on the box! contact_us@changinglivesmalawi.com Thanks for reading, Sarah x (the photo of Levison in the truck is from the previous trip to Ekwendeni to collect boxes from container number 7)

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