Emily Cooper: 'We left Malawi with more than just friends - we left with a family'

21 December 2018

Mary Erskine School S5 student Emily Cooper reflects on the school's recent biennial trip to The Edinburgh Girls' High School in Malawi.

Mary Erskine School S5 student Emily Cooper reflects on the school’s recent biennial trip to The Edinburgh Girls’ High School in Malawi.

Visiting Malawi with ten other girls from Mary Erskine was an eye opening experience I will never forget. We met many amazing people and learnt about their inspiring stories.

There is one story which sticks with me to this day. I met a pupil called Chrissie at The Edinburgh Girls' High School. While chatting with the 12-year-old, it became clear she was interested in comparing Christmas celebrations.

‘Does Santa come down your chimney?’
‘Yes’ I said.
‘Does he leave you and all your friends gifts?’
‘Yes’ I said.
‘When Santa next comes down your chimney, can you ask him why he never comes down mine?’

Speaking to Chrissie reminded me how prevalent child poverty really is in Malawi. And yet, this trip was so much more than a reminder of this stark reality.

The people we met during our trip are among the most delicate and delightful I have ever known. No wonder Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa.

The vast majority we met on our trip had probably been through some very tough times and yet they all welcomed us with open arms.

A perfect example of this is Matron at the Edinburgh Girls’ High School. Matron made us doughnuts, tucked us into bed each night and insisted that we call her our ‘momma’. Therefore, I can safely say that we all left Malawi with more than just friends. We left with a family.

As we discussed our experiences on the flight back to Edinburgh, all 11 of us were in agreement that life tests people every day, whether that test is algebra, poverty or a fatal disease.

We met so many resilient and beautiful people during our trip to Malawi and they inspired us all with their appreciation, sensitivity and understanding of living a life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern for others.