St Bernadette’s celebrating the completion of Malawi new build

Guests have a good time in support of the children of Namulenga
Guests have a good time in support of the children of Namulenga

A family night was held in St Bernadette’s Church Hall to celebrate the completion of a new build facility for children with special needs in Malawi.

The North Motherwell parish formed a partnership with St Anne’s Parish in the village of Namulenga in 2014, and this is the latest projects to have been developed over the last three years.

Highland dancers at St Bernadette's family event for Namulenga

Highland dancers at St Bernadette's family event for Namulenga

Kathleen Mitchell said: “The new building provides two classrooms for children with Special Educational Needs and replaces a facility that was literally falling down.

“The development and funding of the project was a partnership between St Bernadette’s Malawi Partnership team and Classrooms for Malawi, a charity dedicated to the education of children in decent accommodation.

“During the summer its volunteers also assisted in the build and the purpose of the family night, in addition to having a fun time, was to raise funds to equip the classrooms to meet the physical needs of the children.”

The family night was a huge success, being well supported by parishioners from St Bernadette’s and North Motherwell Parish Church.

The opening of the new build in Namulenga

The opening of the new build in Namulenga

It had a Scottish theme with a Malawi twist, as former parish priest Father Stephen Reilly, who founded the partnership, returned as a special guest and started the entertainment by joining children in singing a Malawi song.

There was a full programme of entertainment by St Bernadette’s Primary choir, a poetry recital by pupils from St Bernadette’s and Our Lady’s High, a team of young Highland Dancers, and two soloists from Our Lady’s Musical Society, Esther O’Hara and Liz McMahon.

There was also games for adults and children alike, as well as a raffle, with the event raising a total of £1,200, exceeding the target of £1,000, needed to equip the classrooms.

Kathleen said: “The St Bernadette’s Malawi Partnership was only established in 2014, and over its first three years has achieved much more than could reasonably have been expected.

“That has required lots of work, successful fundraising, and the excellent support of priests, parishioners and others.

“Promoting and engaging in partnerships has also been productive, and made resources go much further, leading 2016 to be a remarkably successful year.”

Members of the partnership team first visited Namulenga in 2014, both to cement the partnership and refurbish three classrooms for St Anne’s Girls Primary.

It was also fact finding visit to set priorities for the coming years and included a visit to Mary’s Meals headquarters in Blantyre, Malawi, to start the conversation about access to its feeding programmes for children in Namulenga.

Kathleen said: “Those discussions and the generosity of parishioners meant that in 2106 77 secondary school students were sponsored for four years and we also funded the emergency roof renewal of classrooms damaged by storms last year, which was organised Classrooms for Malawi.

“We also jointly funded the new build SEN project Classrooms for Malawi and funded 200 children under five receiving a meal every day through Mary’s Meals’ nursery feeding programme.

“In addition our earlier conversations with Mary’s Meals to include boy’s and girl’s primaries in Namulenga in their feeding programme means that since September approximately 1,600 children have been receiving a daily meal which is an excellent outcome.”