A year in Malawi: in pictures

Communications officer, Mary, shares some of her favourite moments from her first year in Malawi.

Mary Stokes
Mary Stokes
Communications officer, Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 20 Aug 2018 in Messages from Malawi Blog

Read Mary's story of her first year in Malawi.

My very first school visit! 

And, some learners at the last school I visited during my first year.

Backpack deliveries are always such joyful occasions. I love capturing the expressions on the children’s faces as they are handed what is likely to be their first proper school bag.

Our volunteers make Mary’s Meals what it is. And since they get up so early to come and cook, it’s not unusual for them bring their young children along for the ride if necessary, as Margaret does each morning she volunteers in Chiradzulu District.

I’ve met so many volunteers in the past year – old and young, men and women – each of them driven to serve so that their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews have the chance of a brighter future when they finish school. 

In August, I travelled north to communities that would start serving Mary’s Meals from September onwards. I will never forget arriving at school at around 4am to find the whole community ready, waiting and singing as we arrived. Read more about Nkhotakota province and see a video from my time there.

A child’s early years shape who they will become in the future. On my first day in Malawi, I went to the opening of a new Early Childhood Development centre near Blantyre. A few months later, I went back to meet the youngsters who go to class there. You can read their stories in this blog.

The learners I talk to are always keen to tell me how “porridge gives [them] strength”, or helps them “concentrate better in class”. These children in Malawi will inevitably have to overcome many obstacles before they finish school, but at least, thanks to Mary’s Meals, hunger doesn’t have to be one of them.  

I snapped this shot at a rural primary school in Blantyre District in September last year. I had been taking photos of the children receiving their phala (porridge) when I saw this Standard 1 learner (left) go and sit by the kitchen and share his mug of porridge with his two little brothers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any background information on the little trio, but that touching moment has stayed with me ever since.

Visiting schools and meeting students in Zambia has definitely been a highlight of the past year. Be sure to check out “Zoom into Zambia” to learn more about the school feeding programme across the border.

Above all, I feel so lucky to be able to meet the learners themselves. Each and every child has their own story to tell, and it’s a big responsibility to make sure they have the chance to tell it properly. I met Tadala in November, before the schools broke up for Christmas. She’s a confident, clever eight-year-old who dreams of being a teacher when she grows up, so she can teach the next generation to count as well.

And finally, you really do need a sixth sense for goats to survive in Malawi. They are everywhere (and too often want to be exactly where the car is heading). Here, a local herd takes a shortcut to their grazing land through the playground of a rural Blantyre school. 

Read Mary's story of her first year in Malawi.