Earlier this month seven Aer Lingus Unicef Ambassadors travelled to Malawi in southeast Africa to witness firsthand how UNICEF uses the funds collected onboard Aer Lingus flights to make a ‘change for good’.
Read their first hand accounts:
Our first stop on the field trip brought us to Bwaila Maternity Hospital, the largest maternity referral unit in Malawi. This hospital provides amazing services from prenatal care through labour and delivery to postnatal care and child immunisation clinics alongside the very important family planning services. The first thing that hit me was the overwhelming smells and lack of basic comforts. There were too few nurses, even less midwives and just six doctors to attend to the entire hospital but these professionals were doing their very best to give the women anything they had to give. To put this into perspective, at least 40 babies are born at the hospital every single day – that’s almost two an hour or 1,200 per month.
UNICEF has helped enormously here by providing technical support, mainly for emergency obstetric care. All that is left to say is how strongly I appeal to each of you to encourage all of our passengers to give what they can to the Change for Good appeal. Ann Mackesy, Senior Cabin Crew, Cork
January 9th started with a very special visit to Namasimba Community-based Child Care Centre. We were warmly welcomed by Mary and her two full-time staff. This fantastic lady established the centre in 2004. 90 vulnerable children attend daily including 20 orphans whose parents have sadly passed away mainly due to HIV/AIDS. UNICEF has supported activities in relation to the care, protection and development of these kids. To encourage much needed early childhood development UNICEF has helped in the provision of play materials and the construction of a multipurpose hall. It was an emotional day for our team; we laughed, danced, cried and sang with these wonderful smiling children. Thanks to Mary, her volunteers and UNICEF’s continued intervention these kids can hopefully have all the love and happiness that every child should experience. Paul Dalton, Cabin Manager, Shannon Base
From the minute we drove through the gates of Naotcha Primary school it was evident to me that this was a place full of hope and vision, yet in need of help. With a pupil population reaching 5,000, a staff of 84 teachers and 19 classrooms, this school is overstretched and unable to breathe. With the aid of UNICEF they were able to add five additional classrooms;however, a majority of classes still take place under trees in the school grounds. Speaking to one 12-year-old girl, she told me how she loves going to school each day and her least favourite thing about school was home time. It was heartwarming to see the amazing work, commitment and overwhelming support provided by UNICEF. It’s important that, with the help of Aer Lingus crew, we can give these kids a better start in life, a classroom adequate for teaching and a school that has basic fundamental amenities such as electricity, books and writing paper. Someone once told me that to achieve greatness you must believe in greatness, and I believe that by continuing to support such places like Naotcha primary school, we can create a lot of happiness and change the lives for many Malawian children. Kevin Henry, Dublin-based, SCCM
I have chosen to tell you about our visit to Mikolongwe Vocational School set in a remote area of Chiradzulu, Malawi; the only one of its kind in the country. Most of the students are orphaned or vulnerable children from very deprived areas who cannot afford to pay for education and may have had to drop out during secondary school. But these boys and girls still have the thirst for learning to make a better future for themselves.
Along with the skills training the students are also taught basic living skills as most have come from households with no electricity, running water or furniture. The vocational school was established in 1997 and has graduated more than 3,000 young Malawians in various skills. With thanks to UNICEF and the funds collected from Aer Lingus’ passengers in the Change for Good appeal, we have provided the school with technical and financial support to change the lives of these young adults for the better, helping to bring them out of poverty. Wendy Kerr, BHD-based SCCM
My Malawi field trip can be summarised by one word; inspiring. On day four of the field trip we drove to Zomba to visit the ‘Youth for Development and Productivity Group’, a community-based childcare centre. Many of the children who attend the centre are orphaned or are living with AIDS or HIV. UNICEF provides funding and technical support to ensure that the organisation can follow-up on access and adherence to medical treatment and to ensure that the other developmental needs such as nutrition, health and education are accessible to the area’s most vulnerable children.
We all had the opportunity to chat with some of the children and I was so inspired by their ambition to forge a good career for themselves. It was an experience I will never forget. It was heartbreaking to leave the centre after seeing the poverty and illnesses that these children were faced with but also somewhat comforting to see first hand the positive impact UNICEF has had on their lives. Please think of these kids when carrying out your onboard collections. Shane Hodnett, Cabin Crew, Dublin/London
On our final day we traveled from the Zomba plateau to the district of Machinga. We traveled deep into the countryside to meet with a lady named Margaret who has been benefitting from the cash transfer scheme. The overall objective of the scheme is to improve the well being of ‘ultra poor’ households and specifically to reduce poverty, hunger and starvation, increase school enrolment and attendance amongst children.
We asked Margaret about the transfer scheme and how it had helped her and she explained that it literally allowed her to put a roof on her little red clay house and feed her undernourished boys. Even though Margaret had very little you could see how the money given to her through the transfer scheme allowed her to have a somewhat independent life. €6 a month can provide a family a real sense of life. A life that still, I’m sure, none of us could imagine living. As we were leaving Margaret’s home we presented her with a few gifts to say thank you for letting us into her home and life. The response we got? “I can’t thank you enough but I will pray for you always. Harvey Gill, Cabin Crew, Dublin/London Gatwick
The project site visit that I focused on was at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the south of Malawi. This is a centre for women and children who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence, providing them with all the services they need under one roof. The support of Aer Lingus cabin crew and the generous donations of passengers onboard has enabled UNICEF to purchase a vehicle for each of the three centres. One of the startling statistics identified to us is that one in four children in Malawi are victims of child sexual abuse. The centre’s team are doing an incredible job in helping the vulnerable women and children of Malawi. This centre has already done so much good work in helping and offering protection to these vulnerable women and children. With our continued support UNICEF can help this centre to develop further. Mary Kavanagh, Dublin-based Cabin Crew