Matt Corr’s Malawian Diary – A small part of Celtic will live forever in Malawi

Celtic Star readers, if you can please donate a few quid to the Celtic FC Foundation organised Celtic’s Malawi Adventure 2024, Matt Corr of this parish has just returned from Malawi. With internet connections issues over there, Matt’s Malawian Diary can now resume. Donations via Matt’s Just Giving page HERE…Thank you!

The kids at Masalani

Matt Corr’s Malawian Diary

Part 4 – A little part of Celtic will live forever in Malawi

Friday for the Celtic FC Foundation volunteers in Malawi involves another full day of working at the new classroom blocks at Masalani Community Day Secondary School, located in the village of Nkhwayi, in the eastern part of Chiradzulu District.

After breakfast, the group boards the Vengabus for the now familiar journey, a slight diversion added this time to pick up supplies at the paint store. Things tend to move a bit more slowly over here and even a visit to the local equivalent of B&Q seems to take forever.

Anyway, finally we have what we need and can complete the journey where, as always, there is the warmest of greetings from the children, staff and contractors on-site, many of whom we now know by name. It is a lovely feelgood ritual which has developed since we first landed here on Tuesday and it’s the perfect start to the shift.

The lovely Sarah engaging with the kids at Masalani

We’re each allocated specific tasks on arrival and I’m happy to be paired up with Lisa/Cruella again, painting blackboards in the morning. The kids might not fancy us too much but when it comes to making blackboards…er…black, well what can I say? A new future surely awaits.

Steph paints a logo above the most magnificent blackboard!

Next door in the library…not with the lead piping…James and others in the team are working on some Celtic-themed murals which will provide a lovely finishing touch to the block. James has produced some designs and has now settled on a final version which will tie in Celtic, its Foundation and Malawi in a quite unique way. He will draw this and other logos and flags in outline form on various walls, enabling others to add the colour and bring them to life.

Robert on green paint duty as the mural takes shape. The cage behind him is secure storage for the new library.

A quick break for lunch follows around noon, a quite uncomfortable time for the group as you have to eat your pack of food on the bus and out of sight of the local children, for the saddest of reasons. Every instinct is telling you to get off and hand your carton to the first child you see, but that’s not allowed as there are 12 of us and probably 40 or 50 kids around at any given time, so you will actually create a problem by doing so. I had been warned about that before leaving Glasgow, but it still hits you like a hammer, as we chew our way in silence through the contents just wanting it to be over.

The afternoon shift is really exciting, as we all get involved in developing the murals. At one point, there are probably six of us assembled together on the floor painting various colours on to the outline design. A Celtic strip. A face. A flag. A group of people who were strangers just a few days earlier are now working in perfect harmony like it’s the most normal thing in the world. It is the strangest yet nicest feeling to be part of it.

We do have to break off partly through the shift, as our hosts want to demonstrate and have us taste some traditional Malawian cuisine. We head outside and they have gone to some trouble to set this up. Tables have been pulled together and are stacked with an array of food, whilst seats have been laid out all around for us. A lovely lady is organising and stirring the various containers and pots whilst a gentleman explains what it is and how you eat it.

Then comes the acid test as the various dishes are passed around for sampling. I try some kind of soup and a banana, whilst others are braver and have a go at a few different things. One man shows us how to chew and eat sugar cane directly, which looks a recipe – pardon the pun – for a set of dentures to be ordered upon our arrival in Glasgow.

Incredible thing to see but definitely not on my bucket list, especially being 6,500 miles from home. Finally, the local moonshine appears, and I’m looking at the floor avoiding eye contact as some of the group literally step up to the plate. Taking one for the team and putting me to shame.

Thankfully, we’re soon allowed back to work and the final couple of hours will see the murals come together. On Tuesday morning this was an empty shell, and by close of play Friday we have a classroom and a library with some unique Celtic touches. And it’s the same story a few yards away, as the existing two-classroom block there has undergone a transformation and is looking as good as new.

Finishing touches
Mural complete
Artist James delighted that I’ve interrupted him at work! Sorry, big man!

There is one final task involving paint before we head for the bus. On the library wall adjacent to the main mural, Ross tells us to put our handprints and name as a lasting memento of our contribution to the room. A lovely touch. So like kids we’re donning black protective gloves, smearing each other with green paint, then finding a spot on the wall for a print, desperately trying not to botch it up. God is good and no-one does, and the finished effect is really nice.

Hand painting complete..

Gloves off, work done, it’s time for a team photo against the backdrop of our work.

I have one more personal hurdle to conquer, which involves braving the dreaded toilet block. For five days, through a combination of mind over matter and, well, crossing my legs, I have managed to avoid taking the long trek down through the field to the concrete blocks which serve as our toilets.

But there’s no way I’ll survive the 40-minute drive home so here we go. It’s not straightforward of course, as after unlocking a padlock, Ross has to balance on the gate whilst I attempt to thread the bolt through. Glad he was around, or the trees were taking a hit. Anyway, I’ll spare you the detail other than to say that the toilet facility consisted of a triangular hole on a concrete floor and…actually that was it. In Malawi, accuracy is everything.

It’s time for goodbyes then back to the bus where, as always, our little friends will follow and gather then run alongside the bus all the way down the track, until the last child runs out of energy. We will be back here on Monday to say our goodbyes but in essence we have achieved already what we set out to do, after four days of graft, laughter and not a few tears.

Two classroom blocks have been totally renovated and are now ready for use…

…and a little part of Celtic will live on in them forever.

Job done.

A time for farewells ahead of the weekend

I’ve been blown away by the generosity of those who have already supported our efforts by donating to the various Just Giving pages of the volunteers. If you have a friend or relative on the trip then please do what you can to raise awareness of their efforts and donate if, what and when you can. You will find these pages at Celtic’s Malawi Adventure 2024 – JustGiving.

Matt’s Just Giving page is Matt Corr is fundraising for Celtic FC Foundation – just click HERE to donate…

Hail Hail!

Matt Corr with the Celtic FC Foundation volunteers in Malawi

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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