Update, 26 September 2020



Educating midwives in Malawi: Carlops working with Melrose & Peebles Presbytery

by Fiona Burnet; Convenor of Mission, Melrose & Peebles Presbytery

August 2020


For some years, Carlops and other Presbytery churches have been funding course fees for a student of midwifery in Malawi.  Now read on …

The only Presbytery appeal currently (August 2020) running is an appeal started in June 2018 to raise £3000 to give £200 per month to Geoffrey [the “Carlops midwife”] so that he could continue volunteering at the district hospital whilst he tried to find a permanent job. At the time we started it the [Malawian] Government was not recruiting and we wanted to continue to support him. Presbytery funds had been released to give him £50 per month for a year after graduation but this was running out and it was felt that he should be given a living wage rather than subsistence. I can’t say how many churches and individuals gave something, but we did get a lot of support. The latest figure [I have] … is that the midwife fund stood at £3830 on 31 December 2019. Since January there will have been monthly donations coming in from various sources and other one-off donations. We have certainly exceeded the £3000, target but I cannot say by how much.

At the moment we are not paying anything to Geoffrey. In February 2019, he was given the opportunity to join a NGO as an intern looking at malaria in young children. About the same time, we started exploring the possibility of him going to Mulanje district hospital (a Church hospital with connections to the Church of Scotland) with us paying part or all of his salary. The advantage of this would be that he would have the benefits of a proper salary and the hope would be that after 12-18 months he might be taken on by them if and when a vacancy occurred.  This has taken quite a while to arrange and in February this year ([2020], he had an interview. I’m led to believe they were quite impressed with him. However, coronavirus has interrupted all this and we have not heard back from them. I’m assuming they have a lot bigger problems to deal with at the moment … In the meantime, Geoffrey continues to work for the malaria group and seems to be enjoying it. He still wants to get back into midwifery and when things calm down, that is still our hope for him.

Limbikani, our other student, has had a very interrupted final year. It was meant to start around March 2019 but was delayed first of all by the [Malawian] government not having money to reopen college. Then the staff went on strike; then the elections took place, so the college did not get going till about September. Limbikani should have been sitting his finals around April/May but has been at home with the college closed since March. It’s been difficult to communicate with him, but every so often we get an email or message. He’s been volunteering at his local clinic but has no money. With all the financial concerns in our own Presbytery, I did not want to ask churches for more money so [some private individuals] have given him some money to keep him going. As far as I know there is no date for the college to open but until then we will keep supporting him as best we can.

When Limbikani finishes his training, the committee have suggested to Presbytery, and got their approval, that he will be the last midwife to train, at least for the foreseeable future. It is not that midwives are no longer needed, because they are, but if the Malawian government can’t afford to employ those it has already trained, it does not seem a good use of our funds at the moment. We still want to assist in the health of mothers and babies, hence our efforts to secure a placement for Geoffrey. I suspect that when Limbikani graduates, we will also have to continue supporting him for a while. As far as I can make out, it costs approximately £1,000 per year per student to support and train a midwife and the course is three years long. It has also cost us approximately £1,000 in extras like uniform, computer, subsistence when out on placement, etc.  Limbikani is the third student Presbytery has supported. I understand the first dropped out before the end of the course. In total, I estimate that the Presbytery has supported the midwife project to the tune of £8,000 for Geoffrey and Limbikani. Moving forward, we are looking at assisting a midwife unit in a district hospital but are open to suggestions and ideas.




Response to a coronavirus plea: Carlops working with Melrose & Peebles Presbytery

by Fiona Burnet; Convenor of Mission, Melrose & Peebles Presbytery

August 2020


Just before Easter, I got an urgent plea from Picklen (minister at Thondwe, Vice Presbytery Moderator and now, since June, Moderator) for buckets and soap for 24 of the rural congregations who had no running water.

The handwashing facilities these would provide would allow them to remain open under Malawi’s coronavirus regulations.

We worked out that it would cost about £300 to provide 2 buckets with taps and 4 bars of soap to each of the congregations. At the same time Murray and Patsy [Campbell] got in contact to ask if there was anything they could do to help in Zomba. I suggested this project and Carlops surpassed the £300 figure at their Easter service. [Another church] also gave something but I did not publicise [the project] further as the general feeling was that congregations here had money worries of their own and I did not want to burden any further, given I already had the money required from Carlops (bless you all!). In the World Mission committee, we had discussed funding posters to go up in all churches in Zomba with messages of social distancing and hygiene as the Malawi government was not doing this. [A colleague] looked into this and the result was that at the beginning of May, we sent £250 for ink and paper for these posters.  The remainder of the Easter money from Carlops went towards this.  It is safe to say that Zomba Presbytery were more than grateful for the help.

In recent days I have been asked to supply masks for the ministers but have resisted for two reasons: first, masks prevent the spread of disease, but do less to protect the wearer so if we only provide masks to ministers, it’s a waste of time; and second, more importantly, the ladies of the guilds in Zomba are more than capable of making their own masks out of chitenge material; indeed, a sewing group in Thondwe is already doing this.  By us just sending money for every request, in my view distorts the local economy and the link becomes all about money which is not healthy.

Dealing with Malawi is always a wee bit complicated, even without the pandemic, as things move and change each time we communicate. I think the biggest thing we can do at the moment is keep them all in our prayers as the next few months could be very difficult for our friends in Zomba and Malawi.




Carlops Kitchens, Classrooms and lavatories; Carlops support to two schools in Malawi

by Sheena Livingstone

September 2020


In 2011-12 Carlops donated sufficient money (£14,000) to build two kitchens in Malawi through Mary’s Meals. The first kitchen was built in Matiti in the Zomba District and the second at Mtenje in the Central District of Dowa.

Mtenje is the more rural and smaller of the two school and so struggles to recruit teachers. It has:

  • 433 pupils (School role up by 50% since Mary’s Meals project in 2012)
  • Equal male/female
  • 6 teachers; 72 pupils per teacher
  • Many of younger classes have up to 100 children
  • 7 grades
  • 4 classrooms

Matiti is the larger of the schools with:

  • 1918 pupils (School role up by 50% since Mary’s Meals – 2011)
  • Equal male/female
  • 47 teachers; 40.8 pupils per teacher
  • Many of younger classes have 70+
  • 8 grades
  • 8 classrooms: some temporary shelters and roofing put between classrooms to provide more space
  • 8 female toilets and 8 male toilets
  • Good borehole built by school
  • Water tap at admin block

Mary’s Meals is a very successful programme. Its objective is to eliminate world hunger by giving a free meal to each child in a primary school where there is a kitchen built by donations. The meal is a fortified porridge made from maize. Providing these meals not only eliminates hunger but:

  • Gives parents an incentive to send children to school
  • Materials to build kitchens and food bought locally so supports the local economy
  • Each kitchen is supplied by a borehole providing clean water

It is a well monitored programme, with Malawians employed and allocated to schools with kitchens to ensure that the programme is conducted correctly.

However, when I visited the kitchens in 2015, I realised that the success of Mary’s Meals had brought its own problems. As you can see from above statistics, the result of providing meals for the children has increased the school role by 50%. Mtenje were managing to cope with this increase, but at Matiti, as soon as it rained, the younger children were being sent home as there were no classrooms to accommodate them. Also, the older girls were not attending school because of the lack of toilet facilities. There were only 8 female and 8 male toilets for 2,000 pupils. We decided that the priority was to get a large classroom built before it rained. Carlops raised around £800 in 2016, which paid for a classroom which can take up to 100 pupils, and then a further £550 in 2018 which paid for a toilet block. This has eased the situation considerably.

Robert Chibisa is the Mary’s Meals supervisor for Matiti. He is a progressive, educated and well motivated individual, who I am currently sponsoring through a degree. He has high ambitions, as expressed in this recent message he sent me:

 What I want to do now is to open or form a local non-governmental organization that will eradicate rural poverty by encouraging and assisting poor families to send their children to school. I want to see my fellow poor villagers to send their children to school despite their poverty line.

 Most of the children mainly in my home district are growing without attending schools because of poverty but if they can be assisted and directed, they have their children educated.   I will also help those who are experiencing the challenge of poor housing and limited food resources that resulted in poor health mainly those who are on ART treatment.

 In my area, there is a problem of health care facilities where people can have a good access to health care services, mainly pregnant women. I wanted to provide my community with mobile health clinics to reduce the distance covered by pregnant women. People used to walk very long distances to access health care services. On HIV/AIDS pandemic, I will provide families with good parenting skills, so that we will have free HIV generation in the future”

 So here’s to what Carlops’ next Malawi-focussed project might be!