Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty has spent the past week in Malawi, seeing for herself how aid from the city is helping the country’s people.
Unlike many of its neighbours, the African country has escaped warfare but is one of the poorest on the continent.
Mrs Docherty, who spoke exclusively to the Evening Times, spent her time in Malawi visiting youth centres, an infants’ home, schools and clinics which the city council helped build.
She said: “This is a vast and truly beautiful country. The people I have met have been an absolute delight.
“I am so glad to be here to see for myself the real difference our work and that of our partners, is having on the ground.
“When I went to Bangwe Youth Centre, in Blantyre, it was really encouraging and inspiring.
“I could see what we are doing is making life better for the young people in Malawi, especially girls.
“It’s a multi-purpose centre that runs educational and sporting programmes.
“The project really impressed me because it is really empowering and raising aspirations, particularly for young women.
“It has also been challenging and sad. Many girls, particularly in rural areas, are married off as young as 13 years, and quickly become young mums – children having children. It can be very upsetting.
“So, centres like that, and the Thyolo Youth Centre, which I also toured, are the gold standard for others that have been set up.”
Mrs Docherty also toured the Open Arms Infant Home in Blantyre.
She said: “Many of the children are there because their mothers died during childbirth, others, because they have been abandoned.
“It was heartbreaking to see them but they were all very happy and really well cared for.
“The home takes in the babies and looks after them until they gain strength.
“They are well looked after and nourished until they are at the stage they can fend for themselves. That’s usually around the age of two, when they will be returned to family members, most likely an aunt or grandparent.”
“This is a country of extremes and contrasts. There is grinding poverty and there is wealth.
“There are people living in mud huts.
“They were in rural areas but yes, some people still live in mud huts.
“It’s breathtaking the poverty.
“It is heartening to know that what the council is doing with UNICEF, Mary’s Meals, Water Aid and all our other partners is improving lives.
“It’s extraordinary that, despite the poverty and the challenges, the Malawians are a proud, happy and contented people.
“I am satisfied our work is helping the Malawians and the country’s progress.
“The country has also held its first democratic elections – so progress is being made, slowly but surely.”