Malawi Diaries Part 3: Kayak Challenge & Rainbow Hope Secondary School

The third and final challenge was a 25km Kayak on Lake Malawi, around Cape Maclear and Domwe Island.

I have never kayaked before, much to the amusement and disbelief of my wonderful and very patient kayaking guide. In fact, I haven’t been in a boat since 2003; 15 years ago, I went on a school trip to France, and the ferry journey was so unpleasant that I dramatically vowed to NEVER set foot on a boat again.

I was (definitely) not a natural on the kayak, but I was given some great tips from my guide and teammates, and eventually we got into a strong, comfortable rhythm. The Kayak challenge took around 4 and a half hours, and despite my initial concerns I found it rather therapeutic and of course the views were spectacular.

After the excitement of completing (and surviving!) the final Sport with a Purpose challenge, we visited Rainbow Hope Secondary School.

We were treated to a fantastic but heart-wrenching drama performance, which highlighted some of the issues that Malawian women face; serious gender disparities are prominent in Malawi and the play touched on just a few of these – education, marriage, and violence against women.

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Over the past five years, Rainbow Hope has developed from what was essentially a piece of derelict land to a functioning secondary school with three classrooms and 130 students. The aim is for the school to sustain itself by fee paying students, therefore most children must be sponsored to attend.

The Sport with a Purpose Team have sponsored 25 children, who will now be able to attend Rainbow Hope for their four years of secondary school education. * I am really excited to be a part of this!

It’s difficult to sum up my experiences, and actually I don’t want to, because I feel like I am still living it. I don’t want to come across like a pretentious moron, but I genuinely feel like a different person as a result of my time spent in Malawi. I hope that I have brought that person home with me, and I hope to continue to spread the word and inspire people to visit Malawi; friends, family, colleagues and strangers have asked me many questions and displayed a real curiosity, which was quite unexpected and very heartening.

Zikomo to everyone involved for the most challenging, emotional and inspirational trip.

*If you are interested in sponsorship, please do let me know and I can provide further details. It only costs £140 – £175 per year, and your sponsorship could make a HUGE difference to a potential pupil who will be so keen to learn.

Malawi Diaries Part 2: Cycle Challenge & YODEP

The second part of my Malawi Diaries will cover our visit to YODEP Village Community Project and our next challenge – the 55k Zomba Plateau Ride (climbing over 6000ft!)

I am a (very) nervous cyclist, therefore I anticipated that this would be my biggest challenge of the three. However, this brutal mountain bike was tougher than I ever could have anticipated, both physically and mentally.

Much like the Mulanje Mountain run, the route was very technical and therefore tricky to navigate. There were two options for the cycle, 35k or 55k, and in my head I was always going to complete the shorter ride (which was still an ABSOLUTE beast.) However, upon approaching the 35k split (whilst gripping onto my handlebars so tightly that I was beginning to lose sensation in my fingers), I was encouraged by my wonderful teammates to go for the 55k.

My biggest cycling fear is riding downhill, and this was downhill like I had never seen it before; steep, rough terrain with large rocks, holes and various other obstacles. We cycled through forests, streams and picturesque waterfalls – the views were INCREDIBLE.

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Although I wish I could say that I began to relax as the ride progressed, my honest feedback is that I felt anxious for approximately 90% of the Zomba Plateau challenge. Anxious is probably an understatement – I was sweating like a pregnant warthog.

However, it was an incredible experience, and I am very proud of everyone that completed it and so thankful for all the encouragement and words of wisdom from our fantastic guides. Despite my fear of the bike, this will not be the end of my cycling ‘career’ as I am far too stubborn/motivated/crazy to give up – plus, I’ve committed to take on my first triathlon next year!

Another highlight from my time in Malawi was our visit to YODEP Village Community Project.

YODEP (Youth for Development and Productivity) is a nonprofit community based organisation, established to help address socio-economic issues encountered by orphaned children, women and youth.

We received a very warm welcome upon our arrival at YODEP including allllll the singing, dancing, smiles and laughter.

A 5k run around the village really highlighted the strength and resilience of these amazing children – some ran in flip flops, some ran in odd shoes, and some ran in no shoes, but this most definitely did not stop them! These kids are SO fast and so talented, and with the right support and opportunities, could potentially go on to become world-class athletes.

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This was another eye-opening experience, and one that I will never forget. It was a pleasure meeting the kids at YODEP, who not only displayed exceptional sporting talent, but were also so welcoming, curious and kind-hearted.

If you are interested in helping YODEP, please let me know and I can provide further info!

Malawi Diaries Part 1: Mount Mulanje & Street Chef

I found it difficult to write this post as I have SO much I’d like to share about my trip to Malawi, therefore I thought I would break it down into three separate posts (which could potentially end up being 86 posts if I struggle to contain myself.)

This post will cover two of the highlights from my first couple of days in Malawi.

As part of the Sport with a Purpose campaign, we took part in a series of endurance challenges across Southern Malawi led by Dame Kelly Holmes – the first being a 25k mountain run up Mount Mulanje, the highest mountain in Southern Central Africa. We followed the route of The Porters Race, one of Malawi’s most challenging extreme sporting events.

The route is rocky, hazardous, unbelievably steep and incomparable to anything I have ever experienced! It was more of a scramble/fast walk/steady jog than a run, with extremely technical uphill trails and an equally challenging descent.

Mount Mulanje is incredibly beautiful; we were treated to views of spectacular waterfalls, majestic peaks, andddd I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the beauty of the landscape surrounding us so hopefully these photos will help!

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My teammates, along with the team that supported us, were fantastic throughout the challenge (and throughout the duration of the trip.) There is something very special about being part of a team of people who all share a common passion, and this set a precedent for the rest of the challenges.

Another key event from my first couple of days in Malawi was visiting Street Chef, an initiative which aims to provide more nutritious food for Malawians using locally sourced food cooked in an environmentally way.

Our visit to Street Chef was an eye-opening experience, and really highlighted some of the key issues surrounding nutrition in Malawi. More than half of Malawian children suffer from chronic malnutrition; this is a HUGE problem in Malawi and one that I cannot even begin to comprehend.

Street Chef have developed stoves that use minimal firewood and are a great accessory for a street food kitchen. These stoves come with recipes and training on how to make delicious food that is locally sourced, cheap to buy, and packed with nutrients.

I can confirm that the food was DELICIOUS (particularly the goat stew!) and it was great to see how inspired and motivated the team were.

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If you would like more information on Street Chef, or would be happy to donate*, please click here

*To those who have already donated via my personal GoFundMe page – thank you so much! To anyone else who is planning on donating, please could I ask that you use the link above.