Wilma Brown’s Malawi Blog

Part 1

Sunday 22/09/19 14:50

That’s me cleared check in (bags slightly over but no extra charge!) and security at Edinburgh for the 1st leg of my journey to Malawi. Very excited about this journey. We will be finalising all the details and ensuring everything is in place for the construction on the new Manchinchiri Maternity clinic in Zomba.



Made it to London Heathrow no problems. Time for a wee bite to eat before the big flight.



Here I go, boarded and ready to fly to Johannesburg. Had a quick look at the movie selection and think I’ll be entertained if I can’t sleep.


Monday 23/09/19

09:30 arrived onto Johannesburg, huge panic about getting my next flight to Malawi  the flight leaves in 2 hours, there’s a massive queue at Passport control and I’ve got to get the cases and lug them across to check in! Made the check in by the skin of my teeth, got to the departure gate with 10 mins to spare.



I’m finally touched down in Blantyre, Malawi  just got to buy my visa, explain why I’m here and clear passport control. It took much longer than usual!

Met my friend Joseph who is going to drive me to Zomba, about 1.5hrs and not the best of roads, no motorway luxury here.



Arrive at the hotel and relax! What a 26.5 hours that was.

Dinner and early night for me.


The real work starts tomorrow, more exciting news and pictures to follow. Wilma x


Part 2

Tuesday 24/9/19

Feeling a bit more awake today, I’ve just about got over the mammoth journey.



Pick up today to meet the team responsible for drawing up the plans for the new Mother & Baby clinic and the District Health Officer to discuss Health strategy.


We arrived at the Maintenance Offices to discover that they had no electricity, it had run out! A member of staff had to go to an office in another part of Zomba to have a requisition signed for them to purchase more! Imagine if that happened in our Health Service.

The first meeting was with Mr. Collins Gama Senior Maintenance Officer who has been busy adjusting plans to meet our budget. The cost is slightly over what we planned for so I’ll have to do a bit more fundraising to close the gap! All in all a very successful meeting discussing the essential requirements.


2nd meeting with Dr. Wilson Ching’ani Interim District Health Officer, interim because Malawi like Scotland are moving to a Health and Social Care model.


I explained to Dr. Ching’ani what our aims and objectives were and that it was important to us that this met with the local Strategic plan for maternity care.

I expressed that a priority for us is to ensure staff are provided with the best possible environment to deliver the best possible patient care. We want to work with the team in Malawi to provide a facility that meets their needs not ours.


Dr. Ching’ani was pleased that we considered their strategic plan, he told me that other organisations have not had this view when undertaking projects. He agreed with our aims and objectives.


There are papers being drawn up for us to sign later in the week. Then we can get a timeline for the Clinic to be built. I will also meet with the contractors involved in the tendering process to ask any questions.


I love it when a plan comes together!!


Photos are of the Maintenance workshop, and us agreeing the build in principle before anything is signed.




Part 3

Wednesday 25/9/19



Pick up again today with 2 meetings this morning and a visit to the Machinjiri Clinic this afternoon.


The first meeting was at a Youth Development Organisation who are set up to encourage youths from within this rural community to come together and focus on local initiatives to improve their community. They also assist the youths to develop new skills and improve their knowledge, which in turn builds their confidence to become competent employable adults.


As with all meetings we begin and end with a prayer. This time I was welcomed by the committee singing a welcome song for me. The people of Malawi are so warm and very happy people, they are so grateful that we are shining a light on their work and, of course, offer any assistance.


It was very interesting to hear about all of the activities they undertake and how they manage to assist the community with barely any resources. As an example they were called upon earlier this year to assist within the community when the rainy weather caused horrendous floods and they helped to rebuild a toilet block at the local school.


They problems these youths face are not dissimilar to those of youth in some areas of Scotland. Coming together as a community the way that this group has is something we could learn from.




The next meeting was at the Teacher’s Development Centre (TDC) to meet with the Headteachers, School Governors, and Parent representatives. I was invited to address the group regarding the money UNISON have collected to assist with the school feeding programme. There are 10 Primary Schools within this district and the Government stopped the feeding programme last year. This has lead to a rise in absenteeism and lower attainment. Children here are often very hungry, and the promise of a meal at school helps to encourage them to walk the long distances to arena school. Obviously, as in all deprived areas, if the children have empty tummy’s, they can’t concentrate and retain information.


We don’t quite have enough to feed all of the schools in the area but I suggested that Mary’s Meals could assist with a feeding programme and provide support to the schools if we made a sizeable donation and asked for it to be focussed on this area. The audience were extremely grateful for this and agreed this as the way forward.



Part 4

The afternoon was spent at Machinjiri Clinic. This is our primary project and I was delighted to have a meeting with the staff to go over the plans for the new clinic. I was keen to hear their views and comments on whether this meets the needs of both them and their patients. They were delighted with plan and are keen for the build to commence. By the end of this week we will know the timeline.


I was then invited to join the Head Chief, other Chiefs, staff and the villagers in a ceremony to celebration of the project. This was quite a spectacle and I felt deeply humbled by the occasion knowing that this is to honour all of the people who have helped us get to this point. I am but the messenger taking the final message of commitment to a new build for them and informing them that all plans are in place now but they way they treated me today was absolutely wonderful.

I had the honour of presenting the Head Chief with a quaich as a token of our friendship along with the whisky to put in it but he said he was keeping the whisky for later! We shared some water in the quaich among myself and the Chiefs.


Following the ceremony, I went into the clinic to deliver the wonderful vests, babygro’s, blankets, cardigans, and much more that people have donated to them through me. We made up 2 little bundles of clothes etc., to gift to 2 baby girls born in the last 24 hours, and were still recovering in the Post Labour Ward. The mothers were delighted and, despite being slightly overwhelmed, asked that I give thanks and blessings to everyone who has been so kind.


There were 2 women in labour and they also would receive a bundle of items when the babies arrived.


I took time to discuss work of the clinic with the staff on duty, and what the new build would mean for them. Again, they are so grateful and can’t quite believe that in a country so far from their own, there are people who are thinking of them and want to help. The basic practice in Machinjiri is not that different from ours but there are many things we could help with in terms of organising and structure. They were very impressed with my description of how healthcare works in Scotland and it makes me very proud to be part of that.



UNISON Scotland Communications Awards

Congratulations to our Communication Officer Louise Noble on winning UNISON Scotland Gold Awards for Best Online Presence & Special Recruitment award at Scottish Council on Saturday 1st February 2020.

Donation to NHS Fife Staff – 05/05/2020

Today we donated over 16,000 bottles of flavoured water, cans of sparkling flavoured water and instant iced coffees to NHS Fife.

These are making their way to the staff hubs in all areas as we speak.

A huge thank you to the Transport Staff for helping us out today and to The Work Perk for the delivery 😊

Today we donated 3500 CLIF Protein Bars to NHS Fife Staff from us at UNISON Fife Health Branch. Look out for them in the staff hubs this week. Thank you to The Work Perk for the delivery 😁

Wednesday 9th December 2020

We have left tins of Nivea Creme in the Vaccination centre today at VHK and supplies are making their way to QMH and across the sites. These were donated to us courtesy of gemsatwork so please help yourself and feel free to send us any feedback about it 😁