Malawi Trip 2023
Updated: Oct 10
Many Surrey students are fortunate to have the opportunity to travel abroad, experience different cultures and broaden their world views, but when Frensham Heights students head off to Malawi, it is more than just a school trip. They are becoming part of a partnership that has lasted almost two decades. Head, Andrew Fisher describes the experience:
“Frensham Heights began its partnership with Malawi 18 years ago. In this time, we have worked together to rebuild two schools, improving the lives of teachers and students alike. Malawi is one of the poorest countries on Earth and in rural areas the percentage of children completing secondary education is as low as 2%. Our partnership with the Malawi schools also challenges and benefits the Frensham Heights students who take part in the trips. We go out every two years when we teach, make friends, complete projects and just help. But perhaps more importantly, the world becomes ‘bigger’ for our students. They see and experience extreme poverty. They meet people trying to make their lives better by tiny degrees. They all realise that there is more to understand than their own experiences.”
On 6th July 2023, after months of preparation and project fundraising, thirty-four Frensham Heights students and seven teachers travelled to Malawi. Upon landing, they found themselves in an immensely kind and warm community.
With such a large group of students taking part this year, logistics meant splitting into two groups and swapping locations halfway through the trip. One group stayed at Kamuza Academy near All Saints School, Mtunthama - the school which has sat at the heart of the Malawi-Frensham partnership for 18 years. At All Saints, Frensham students helped to paint the laboratories, the kitchen and the dining room with local students joining in during their breaks - sometimes with forty people all painting and chatting together! They also all repainted the outdoor cement map of Malawi which was first completed with Frensham Heights students in 2012. Trip leader Lynn Goodburne described the change she saw in the school,
“It was wonderful to be back at All Saints School after 11 years. I could immediately see the differences that had been made by the community and partnership, working together over the years. The school campus, which had once felt sparse, separated and quiet, was now linked and connected by sheltered pathways creating a unified, warm community.”
Over the years, All Saints School has grown and developed from a school with no desks or textbooks into a beacon school in the region - now educating over 1000 students. In recent years, the partnership, driven by local voices, realised that efforts should be spread to other schools in the region and in 2018, Frensham Heights started working, through Malawi Schools Trust, with Mikuyu Secondary School. Mikuyu was the second school the Frensham group visited this summer. There they camped, living in close contact with the local community, truly experiencing life as Mikuyu citizens. A mother's group from the local diocese came and stayed with the visitors, looking after them and cooking meals with them on an open fire. Their dancing and singing brought a smile to everyone’s face - celebrating the small yet important things in life.
In Mikuyu, Frensham Heights students taught lessons and organised sporting activities - they were really struck by the Mikuyu students’ intelligence, curiosity and passion to learn. They also helped install office equipment in the Head’s office - laptops, printer, projector, router. A highlight of the visit for all was a huge football match between Frensham and Mikuyu in blended teams. Casper, a Frensham student, said
“that day was really special to me and the first thing I think of when I look back at that trip, with the whole village at the football match and for some reason all of them knowing my name!”
The integration of the two communities living together, sharing conversations despite language gaps was the focus for both groups. Friendships were made which won’t be forgotten. Esther, a Frensham student, fondly remembers
“making friends that taught me their way of life, how they learn, what they enjoy and things that are important to them. I benefited greatly from putting myself out there, talking to new people, who taught me cooking skills, told me stories of their life and shared their culture with me.”
Andrew Fisher continues,
“Over the years we have taken approximately 120 students and 20 staff. Each trip has allowed me to watch the richness of simple human interactions across a huge divide, to see kindnesses from both sides, to see hope for a school where previously there was very little hope. Last summer Frensham took the biggest group ever to Malawi to continue the partnership and to witness for themselves what can be achieved.”
There is still a lot of work to do at Mikuyu so that the school and community can grow. The children travel miles to attend school each day and it is so valuable to all of them. Working with them and listening to what they need, we can continue to make a difference that will be respected and valuable to them. Malawi Schools Trust was established in 2018 to keep the partnership going and structure investment and support across projects. They are working with the Mikuyu community and school leaders to listen to the true needs of the community and help bring about lasting and relevant developments.
Frensham Heights students will be heading back to Malawi in 2024 to work with the schools and communities. To find out what you can do to get involved, visit the Malawi Schools Trust’s website - www.malawischoolstrust.org
There will be a presentation for Frensham parents and students to launch Malawi Summer 2024 on students and parents on Wednesday 11th October at 6.30pm. Tom Trueman, from True Adventure who are working with Frensham on this trip, will be there with Linn K and Lynn G.