Jackie in Malawi Blog #1 - First Aid Africa

28 June 2016

Our Jackie is currently in Malawi on a Road Trip with our sister organisation - the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP), to visit and film member projects.

Our Media and Communications Officer, Jackie Farr, is in Malawi to join our sister organisation, the Malawi Scotland Partnership, on their Road Trip!

You can follow Jackie's journey on Twitter and Instagram using #JackieInMalawi, and find out about the projects she visits in these blog posts.

Blog #1 - First Aid Africa

The first project we visited on the MaSP Road Trip was First Aid Africa who work in the north of Malawi. Based in Ekwendeni, just outside of Mzuzu, the team has a small office by the roadside and work within the local community to teach First Aid skills.

I already knew the importance of basic First Aid skills from growing up; my mum was a member of the Red Cross for 10 years and I remember as a little girl attending local Stock Car Races, where she would volunteer as a First Aider. When needed, she would leap into action, jumping over the tyre walls in her fluorescents and rush over to drivers involved in small collisions and, very occasionally, serious car crashes.

Because of my mum’s involvement in Red Cross I attended First Aid classes as a youngster learning the basics; checking the scene is safe before approaching the casualty, the recovery position, how to sling an arm etc. and I’m thankful that although I know these skills, I’ve never had to use them - hope I never need to.

First Aid Africa has been working in Ekwendeni since 2009 and they have taught hundreds of children and local community leaders basic First Aid. Volunteers work with schools and Healthcare Surveillance Assistants to teach First Aid only with local resources. Clement, Shadreck and I did not only find out about the project, we also got to watch the local First Aid Africa after-school club graduate from their First Aid training and Clement even took part in a local community demonstration!

One of the most unexpected things for me was visiting St Michael’s school, where the First Aid Africa after-school club was. Walking through the village, down a dusty road we reached the school. The first thing I noticed was the Mary’s Meals kitchen, and then a sudden realization that I had visited this school before…

Before joining the SMP, I worked in Malawi for Mary’s Meals, who provide a daily meal to every child in their place of education. Part of my role with Mary’s Meals was to visit the school feeding projects and take pictures of the programme and make videos to show the supporters back home what their generosity was providing; and one of the schools I had visited was St Michael’s. It had been two years since I had visited the school but upon meeting the Head Teacher, Stuart, he recognized me from my last visit and we spoke about how phala (maize and soya porridge) is continuing to help the learners concentrate in class and do well in their exams. It was great to see the positive impact still there after two years.

After meeting the Head Teacher, we went to visit the after-school club where the children took part in First Aid demonstrations, showing us what they had learned. Memories from my own training began flooding back and it was brilliant to see these learners confident in knowing how to give First Aid. The First Aid Africa volunteers were even more moved to see their weeks of training and support instilled in the learners. It was a very proud moment for everyone there.

Next we visited a local community meeting where they were going over what to do if someone is choking, and how to approach an unconscious casualty. Clement volunteered as the unconscious casualty to help with the demonstration. Even though the training was given in the local language, Chitumbuka, I could understand every step the trainer was going through. The great thing about First Aid is that it’s universal. Irrespective of language, First Aid is the same, and that’s probably why it’s so effective.

Since working with the SMP, I had heard about the great impact First Aid Africa was having and often listened to their CEO, Sam Abrahams, speak at events about their work. Having the opportunity to see their project in action, however, was overwhelming. The lifelong skills these learners and members of the community are learning and teaching to others is invaluable.

At the SMP we often speak about the importance of the people-to-people approach to international development. It is this unique model that our members use when starting and developing partnerships between Scotland and Malawi. First Aid Africa are just one of those members who prove that by working together in a two-way dignified partnership, we can achieve so much.

Seeing the learners in Malawi demonstrate the first aid got me thinking; why aren’t students in Scotland given the same training in school? There are, of course, First Aid courses and clubs that students can join and I would definitely recommend everyone to join one, but perhaps making it part of the curriculum could ensure that we’re all equipped with the same knowledge in giving first aid, and potentially, saving a life.

- Jackie Farr, June 2016

Blog #1 - First Aid Africa >>

Blog #2 - North Berwick High School >>

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Blog #4 - Community Energy Malawi >>

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