I am writing this update whilst sat with new friends and fellow volunteers who are sorting letters written by the girls of Tilinanu. Letters for you – the Lovers, Supporters and Uniters! I am almost at the end of my time at Tilinanu and there hasn’t been a dull moment yet. The girls have well and truly got my heart and I will miss them a whole lot. Their unrivalled sisterhood bond has been a beautiful thing to witness. Tilinanu is a home full of love, laughter and play! The girls’ ingenuity for creating new and exciting games and their overall spirit has blown me away.
It has been an absolute treat getting to know their diverse personalities, individual passions and abilities. The oldest girl at Tilinanu has now enrolled at university to study nutrition. We’ve been helping her with her college assignments this week and we had an intelligent conversation with her about the issues associated with the rapidly growing population of Malawi. This girl proudly demonstrates that school IS cool, she is so suave and has grown into a strong, incredible woman. She is an excellent role model for the younger girls. My only regret is not being able to spend more time with her as whilst most of the girls have been on Easter holidays for the past two weeks, she has been at college all day.
It’s been a blessing for me having the girls home as I’ve had more time to get to know them properly. We have spent time 1:1 with some of the girls that needed a little extra help with some of their subjects and every single one of them jumped at the chance to learn more as education is so important to them. They are ambitious and dream big. One girl dreams of studying abroad for university, either in the UK, Australia or Canada. She has been an absolute pleasure to be around these last couple of weeks and I surprised myself by holding back tears when saying goodbye and good luck to her this week as she’s back off to boarding school and I won’t see her again before I leave. Not sure I’ll be that strong when saying goodbye to all of them! But I have no doubt that I will be back again…
Since being here we have started a new team of cake bakers with some of the younger girls, the cakes are getting tastier with each batch and they are getting more and more confident. Their cakes are being sold at a back packers hostel and the girls will use the money they make to buy things to decorate their home. The first thing we bought was a few meters of chitenge (fabric) that all the girls then cut out shapes from and stuck them on their bedroom cupboards. It was a messy but fun venture!
We also had an end of term, Easter party a couple of weeks ago, with plenty of treats, a jumping castle (as they call it) and a bunch of brand new princess dresses that were donated to the girls!
I also had the pleasure of spending time with nurse Emma this week as we went with 7 other doctors and nurses on medical outreach. We drove in the ambulance to one of the remote villages out of town. A few hundred people turned up and it was incredible to see the amazing work that they are doing. They set up several stations whereby people could go for HIV testing, malaria testing and treatment, general prescriptions, family planning and there was also a nurse from the uk that gave advice about epilepsy which is extremely stigmatised out here.
Watching all the babies getting weighed was an interesting contrast to how we do things back in the uk! There was a long queue of women all dressed in beautiful multicoloured fabrics with their babies on their backs wrapped in equally colourful chitenges. There was a scale hanging from a tree branch with a hook on it whereby the mothers could simply take their children off their backs, still in the blankets, and hook them straight onto the scale, dangling in the air for just a second before the doctor called out their weight! Several of the girls at Tili want to become doctors and nurses and I have no doubt that they will do an excellent job.
I’ve also started teaching the girls yoga (which sometimes momentarily develops into leapfrog and back to yoga again!). This has been a lot of fun and the girls are really enthusiastic. One of the girls has been practicing in her own time and already has mastered a lot of the poses perfectly.
Another thing I’ve noticed as time has gone on is that their dog, Uda, becomes more and more excited to see me each day. They rescued Uda last year and he is fully part of the family which also includes two cats and a troupe of chickens that are always amusing to observe, especially as there are currently 5 tiny chicks!
I must also mention the staff here at Tilinanu who are ALL absolutely fantastic! I caught GoGo (grandma) dancing on her own in the living room the other day with the biggest smile on her face! She had some moves, as do the rest of the girls! I will miss everyone at Tilinanu so much but will endeavour to keep their spirit with me.
To all of you that have ever given to Love Support Unite, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. A little giving really does make a huge impact here and the opportunities created are not in any way wasted. The girls genuinely love their lives at Tilinanu and there’s not a day that goes by without a warm greeting, smiles and hugs.
I feel honoured to have been welcomed into the Tilinanu family with such open arms, and am so proud of each of the girls that lives here. Thank you to every single person that is involved in this beautiful little empire of love and thank you to those of you that make it possible for this amazing work to continue.