And another year in Malawi begins, it’s really starting to feel like home (and in so many other ways still feels really new!) I went to Cape Town for Christmas and New Year, where my family flew from the UK and joined us there. We had just the best time. It was the first time we’d flown to and from Malawi and not back to England, so weirdly it made landing back in Malawi feel even more like home… even the bus stop of an airport feels familiar now!
Our time here in this chapter is going unbelievably quickly and the thought of leaving Malawi has started creeping into my mind. I know we have a while left, we’re just about half way through our time here, but the thought of leaving already gets me choked up. I’ve started stocking up on random things to take with us… like a crocodile soap dish… why wouldn’t you want one of them?!
So right now I’m focusing on just taking everything in around me. Even now I’m sat writing this in a cafe on the road side right in the centre of the city; there are mini buses flying past crammed full of Malawians, ladies with huge baskets of bananas balanced on their heads, car horns blasting, all while the hot sun beats down. It smells dusty and real, a sense I will never forget. For me it’s all about remembering the little things.
So I’m going all in for this year and really making the most of living in Africa. Which leads me on to one of the things I’m working on…. drum roll… The Malaria Tour!
About a year ago I met Code Sangala, a well know musician here in Malawi. We clicked straight away and along with his band, The Tribe, we began meeting and jamming. Code explained to me his passion - to help combat malaria thorough his initiative: Music Against Malaria. Malawi is a severely high risk area for malaria with thousands of cases each year. Music Against Malaria aims to raise money to rebuild and refurbish the Children’s Accidents and Emergency ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, the largest hospital in Malawi. Each year about 26,000 children are admitted through the A&E and a further 65,000 are treated and sent home. Children come in with many other problems such as malaria, pneumonia, infection, heart disease and trauma. The ward opened in 2001 and since then has grown with higher demand. A&E is now open 24 hours a day, the system is fantastic and the staff are amazing, but the space for managing sick children is no longer appropriate and needs sorting out.
The main area of the ward we are focusing on is the resuscitation room. Of the children admitted, 25-50% of them come through the resuscitation room; they are desperately sick and require emergency care. The resuscitation room only has three beds. We spoke with the head of the ward who told us the most patients she’s ever had in the in one time is seventeen. It’s unbelievable - can you imagine if that were the case at home?! One of the biggest challenges within the department is the inability to provide privacy and dignity to the patients and their guardians. Due to the lack of space children in the ward witness others being brought in dead or dying in front of them. It’s just horrendous for everyone.
Buttttt… Music Against Malaria is going to help change this by aiming to raise $45,500! Hurray! Now, I totally understand… this whole thing is really hard to process and connect when you live in the first world. I always felt I was aware of these problems when I lived in the UK but I found it really hard to relate to. There are so many charity adverts on TV and it’s easy for the problems in Africa to be caricatured. Often we become desensitised to it all, so the adverts become sadder and more dramatic and the public becomes less and less connected. It’s a hard balance between getting the message across without going too over the top. So when I began working with Code I really wanted to show what we were doing in a positive light, rather than ‘end of the world’ style. We know things are bad, but let’s look at what we can do to help change it.
What’s also really cool about Music Against Malaria is I’m able to show you exactly where the money is going. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to donate to any charity and the huge ones do a brilliant job, but I do feel like you donate but then aren’t really shown where the money goes. I just think it’s so important to show progression and that we’re moving forward and be like “look what we’ve done with your donations!” rather than “thanks for donating… we still need more…”
So surely the right way to go about raising money is to make people feel a part of it by showing them exactly what’s going on and exactly where their money is going. And that’s what I’m able to do on the ground while living here…
In January we shot a short film about the initiative where you can come and take a look around the ward. Man, it was super hard to see some of the things in the hospital. But it was important to see, because now I really understand why we are doing it, and hopefully you can too through the film. We had such a great time shooting it and even ended up with our guitars out at Ndirande market! We had the amazing Eric Mugwiza, (who’s actually the IT teacher at Andy’s school!) film and edit the film for us. He’s so talented and it was great seeing the Malawian’s faces when we got the drone out on the road side; they’d never seen anything like it before!
So the plan now is put on a number of gigs hit our goal. We had a performance on Friday 23rd February at Kwa Haraba that went so great. A huge audience and loads of money raised. Code and The Band played on one of my tracks and I played on one of theirs; it was awesome! You can check out the highlights here:
Music is one of the most powerful things in the world so why not use it to bring people together for a good time while raising money for something so important :)
I really hope you enjoy the film, filming it is something I won’t ever forget: