In 24 hours I will be in Africa- Malawi to be precise. The trip was planned 8 months ago and is part of our Loving Earth strategy, aimed at giving time and financial assistance to causes around the world. The plan is to get involved with projects in the UK and abroad including tree planting, repairing footpaths and helping with community projects. In Malawi we are focusing on supporting communities by building free-to-attend schools. As you will know, readily accesible schools are in short supply in some parts of Africa and attendance costs are typically a barrier to entry for most poor African families. In remote areas this issue is made worse by even fewer institutions and higher attendance costs.

So far we have helped to support the building of a school (pictured above – Good Hope School). They are facing many challenges at the moment mostly due to lack of finance, so we are visiting the school to help them out. On our visit we will be taking part in lessons and activities with the children. It’s a jam packed nine-day schedule but I will aim to keep this blog updated each day with pictures and stories of what I have been up to.

See you all tomorrow for Day One

Keep Loving Outdoors – Scott LO

(NB: Internet access is very limited here so blog updates might not be as frequent as promised but I will do my best.)

Day One:

The day started at 4:30am for an early morning departure- a challenge for my partner but one she accepted as my chauffer for the day.

The airport was packed with Easter holidaymakers with flip flops, coral shirts and straw hats the dominant mode of dress- it was a bit like an audition for the Brady Bunch. Not sure if my microfleece, kiwi pants and Scarpa boots would get me casted but they would surely come into their own in the African bush.

At the airport my 50% DEET insect repellent was confiscated for containing more that 100ml. £12 later I had replaced the offending item with the entirely legal yet wholly insufficient 50ml version. I made a joke about my ticket being downgraded to freight class being that I was now insect food to a lukewarm response.

Currently sitting on the plane now awaiting take-off. I’m really excited about the next 9 days- it’s sure to be inspirational and will open my eyes to different ways of life. We should do more of this kind of thing.

Later On…

I write to you from Amsterdam airport where I await my connecting flight to Niarobi. Other people punching the keys of laptops and hand-held devices appear to be doing the same thing- funny how we used to read in airports and now we write…Anyway, Amsterdam airport is great. There are kids’ play areas, a museum, iPads dotted about, beds, music rooms- even a meditation centre. UK airports could learn a thing or two here. At the moment I’m sat in a chair listening to music coming from speakers built into the headrest- sounds like Vengaboys. Hmmm… hardware spot on, music taste needs work- where’s the ‘off’ button!?!

Day One-and-a-bit:

20 hrs later and I have arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi. I feel surprisingly full and fresh which is probably due to the food KLM have been serving non stop. Perhaps they were fattening me up ahead of a cautious few days food-wise -doctors back home have advised me to avoid pretty much everything. I will of course be ignoring their advice and fully indulging myself in everything Malawian cuisine has to offer.

Day Two:

I was awoken by the noise and heat of Malawian city life. A quick glance from my hotel window reveals a place of major economic division- on the one hand dire poverty and the other business people driving to work. The roads are bumpy and in places are little more than dirt tracks baked hard by the sun. Adults and children carry water on their heads in large containers and families bath and wash in the local river. Lilongwe, I am told, is one of Malawi’s more prosperous areas.

I was collected by two girls, Angela and Susan from Malawi who are guiding me around and work for a charity over here. They are lovely and very streetwise so I feel in safe hands. They arrive two and a half hours late, a lapse they put down to “African time”. Time, it seems, is one resource certinly not in short supply!

I ask my guides if they know a bank where I can change some sterling and am taken to a car park. Here 4 men come to the window and offer me a rate of 285:1 on the pound. With the dangerous parking-lot liaisons of gangster films flashing in my mind, I gratefully and somewhat excitedly accept their offer. In my haste I forget to ask if they have a commission-free buy back policy…

So far everyone I’ve met has been very friendly and so far Malawi is living up to its claim to be ‘heart of Africa’. One gets the impression of a people accustomed to hard work and uncomfortable with the idea of charity despite the dire poverty that affects some regions, however, the sight of a small hungry-looking child begging is deeply troubling.

Leaving the city we head to Lake Malawi. Total and BP were out of petrol so we join the long line for the last pump in town. Back on the road we passed a salon called ‘Nice and lovely hair salon’- Outside a customer had her partially-restyled head over a bucket.

Lake Malawi was gorgeous, unfathomably vast and bristling with life of all kinds. On the way back we passed some tribal villages more typical of the Africa we see on television. Although it was disconcerting to see people so obviously struggling it reminded me of the purpose of my visit. Today has shown me how much Malawi has to offer- hopefully I’ll have something I can offer in return…

Will be back with more later this week…

Scott L.O.

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