Sunday, 24 March 2013

Meeting Madam President Dr Banda of Malawi

On Monday I travelled with my dad to Edinburgh to speak at an event organised by the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Because Presidents are so busy when they visit other countries we weren't sure if Dr Joyce Banda would be able to come to the event. She did and she was wonderful.

M- I started my blog NeverSeconds as a writing project to show people what my school dinners were like. I know how important school lunches are for children in Malawi too. My grandpa is a Mary’s Meals volunteer and we often talked about how a school dinner can bring kids to school and give them the energy to learn.

D- Overnight Martha’s blog became popular and people responded from around the world. Adults remembered their school dinners, children sent in photos of theirs and a debate started about the quality of school food.

M- Someone commented on my blog that ‘I was lucky to have food at all because some children have none’. I decided the best thing was to write about Mary’s Meals and try and raise some money to build a school kitchen in Malawi. When my blog was banned it was terrible but I was very happy that people supported me by making lots of donations.

D- We found ourselves in a media storm. Journalists from around the world wanted to talk to the nine year old girl who had beaten the ban. All Martha wanted to tell them about was the kids in Lirangwe and the kitchen that was going to be built. Martha practises her friendship skills every day in the busy playground at her school and it was only a small jump for her to name the kitchen ‘Friends of NeverSeconds’. When we were invited to visit the kitchen I was worried it was a long way. Martha was worried she’d be too tired to make new friends!

M- I made brilliant friends in Malawi. I spent a day with Ben who is my age. His home is different to mine but we do so many similar things. His family grow food like mine. We both have to do jobs and I think his are harder. I tried to carry water on my head but I kept spilling it. Ben started to spill his because he was laughing at me! We went to his school together and had lessons and played games. Ben shared everything with me and I will remember him always.

D- It was great watching all the kids together. They don’t worry about language or clothes they just care about smiles and fun. Since 2005, more than 200 Scottish schools have established partnerships with Malawi. Each of these educational links is underpinned by mutual respect and understanding, by friendship and solidarity. Each year, hundreds of young Scots and Malawians get the chance to visit their partner school, experiencing a new culture, a different way of life, and cementing the friendship which has existed between our two nations for over 150 years.

M- - The head teacher in Lirangwe School was so like my head teacher. She was really proud of her learners and her school. It made me nervous to paint the ‘Friends of NeverSeconds’ kitchen sign because I know they will all see it every day and I wanted it to be perfect for them. I helped to share out the Likuni Phala. Everything went quiet as all the children ate their lunch and when they finished it became extra noisy just like at my school. The biggest difference is my dinner ladies don’t sing when cooking my school dinner!

D- Our family has made strong bonds with Malawi through our new friends. These are friends we could only make because of the existing bonds between our countries. 85,000 Scots and 148,000 Malawians are linked through partnerships and all our lives are enriched as a result.

M- When I started my blog, I thought my own school food was the most important thing about it. I now know the most important thing is the friends it has brought together and the help we have given each other. I think about my friend Ben often. I think about him and his Mary’s Meal, about him carrying water and about how he wants to be President when he grows up. I don’t want to be First Minster when I grow up but I do want to be Ben’s friend.

Thank you.

I really enjoyed the event despite being nervous. Afterwards I spoke with some senior girls from Leith Academy and I hope I will be doing as much as they are when I am their age. There are lots of people in Scotland thinking of their friends in Malawi. It is good.

Madam President and I had a chance to talk at Edinburgh Castle with Alex Salmond the First Minister of Scotland. He invited me to blog my dinner and I will. It was a very special evening.


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