Here we follow Meg from our team, as she spends just over a week in Malawi. She is working as a volunteer at the Tilinanu Orphanage, with the charity 'Love Support Unite Africa'.
Our travels began at 6:30pm on the 3rd October. We caught a flight from Heathrow to Nairobi with Kenya Airways. After an 8 1/2 hour flight we landed in Nairobi airport, where we waited for 3 hours until our connecting flight to Lilongwe.
On arrival, we were greeted by a field of Malawians that were fascinated with our appearance and bags of luggage which we'd brought with us full of donations. Some babygrows, some woman's clothes, laptops and much more... thank you again to all those that kindly donated these items!
Home sweet home
A mini bus arrived and we made our way to Mabuya Camp where we will stay for the next 3 nights. Our home, the shape of an A (an 'A hut' they call it) is furnished with 2 single beds and basic mosquitos nets. It feels a lot different from home but I love it all the same.
After a quick lunch... which I must add was a delicious homemade chicken and avocado wrap, we set off for our first visit in Malawi, the Tilinanu Orphanage.
Tili is the home to 34 extraordinary girls. All of whom are orphans from different circumstances - some have lost both their parents, others just simply because their parents can't afford the food to survive.
The orphanage is full of warmth, each room painted with bright colours and the sound of giggles playing constantly across the garden. I think it is safe to say that although these young girls, all aged between 6 and 20, had started their life in such a difficult and lonely way, the orphanage has given them another chance to rebuild their lives away from their missing families.
Girls from the orphanage
The orphanage has its very own kitchen, dining room, living area - which has a small TV, 2 bedrooms full of bunkbeds, an IT room (each computer or laptop has been donated) and a room for 'taylor-making' tuition. The idea is to teach the girls how to sew which works well in sustainable living conditions, once they leave the orphanage.
Having fun with balloons
During our time at the orphanage today, the girls were given brightly coloured balloons which ignited their high spirits, whilst dancing to Justin Bieber (from another volunteer's iPad). In the far corner, the smell of bonfire drifted across the front yard, as they prepare to make pancakes for tea... It has been quite a memorable start to our trip.
Love Support Unite (the charity we are raising money for) began with Alice working with the orphanage during a gap year. Since then Alice and Nina, both sisters, have began to grow this humbling charity and support the children less fortunate than us.
I write as we pile back onto the bus. Home for tea - I've pre-ordered a chickpea curry with rice, then time for a hot shower and a date with my bed.
The last 2 days have merged into one with very little sleep, I feel full of anticipation and I can't wait to explore more tomorrow.
After a much needed sleep and a satisfying breakfast, we set off at 9am to the Tilinanu Orphanage. On arrival we met some of the other members of the volunteer group, collected our LSU t-shirts, posed for some photos and set back off for rocky ride to the Malawi LSU School. I say rocky ride... the journey led us through town after town, every house barely built and consisting of solid brick, most unfinished but those that had were covered with a straw roof. The roads were nothing like I'd experienced before and led us through many 'off-course' tracks, at one point I thought we may have to jump out of the van to push!
On arrival at the School, the 600 children came running to the van to greet us.
They all began to sing and dance with joy, it felt incredible. I just wanted to cuddle each child one by one, their happiness was so contagious.
Once the excitement had started to die down, we sat in a classroom with Nina (the LSU charity founder) who explained the full programme and work that they had achieved at the School. I think we all couldn't help but shed a tear.
Before the charity started supporting the School, the attendance had dropped from 300 to 200 children due to malnutrition.
The children, starting at 6 years old, were not eating enough at home to conquer the, for some, 6 hour daily walk to attend school. Many of these children wouldn't eat for days. One meal every 4 days isn't a rare thing in Malawi... it's heartbreaking to hear these facts but this is exactly why this incredible charity has made such a big impact.
Helping where we can
Since LSU have worked with the school, the attendance has increased to 600 with just 2 teachers to go around. LSU have added 3 school blocks, a kitchen and 3 teachers house. With thanks to all of you for your support, Lucy Bee paid for one of these houses last year (these teachers houses save each teacher a 10k walk to and from school each day. A teacher would normally leave their home at 4am to arrive to school in time for an assembly at 7:30am).
Teacher's home funded by Lucy Bee donation
LSU have also begun planting projects in the school grounds to produce food for the children. So far they grown enough maze and soya to make 1 meal for each child twice a week.
This enables the children to attend school more regularly and fuel their lengthy walks to and from school. From next year, LSU are extending their planting foundations to a further 10 hectares, this will produce enough food for 1 meal per child every day.
They will also increase the size of their 'vegetable patch' which brings fruit and vegetables such a mango, avocados, tomatoes and lemons. Another plant growing at the school, which I was quite fascinated in, was the Moringa Tree. Oli (the project manager for the planting production) informed me that this single tree had the power to supply 17 oranges worth of vitamin C in 1 teaspoon of powder which can be made using the leaves. A real immune booster which can help the children if they are suffering with Malaria.
Our visit started with some of the local mothers and their babies. They were using a classroom for baby massage, this is where Lucy Bee Coconut Oil comes in! It was really amazing to see their faces light up when they saw our drum of coconut oil.
After a quick sing and dance, of course, we opened our bag of donations from home and the ladies shared out the baby grows and sleep suits between them.
Sharing our the donated babygrows
It was nice to see my son Freddie's fluffy green onesie go on to a very excited little boy, the mum told me that they are without blankets or mattresses at home so a padded sleep suit was just as exciting as Christmas to this family!
Freddie's onesie donation!
Next we asked the children suffering with ringworm to line up for treatment using Lucy Bee Coconut Oil. The first young boy, aged 3, came to see me.
Lucy Bee coconut oil helping to treat ringworm
His head covered in dry skin, scabs and flies. Ringworm is very common in Malawi and most children with it, suffer every day without treatment. By massaging coconut oil into their scalp twice a day for a week, can help clear ringworm completely. A treatment that is so easily practiced and can give such relief to the ever extending list of needs for daily survival.
Today, I've experienced emotion that I could only ever feel through the TV or articles online. I feel very moved and humbled to have been given an opportunity to help in such little ways to me, making huge impacts to those that need it most.
Another early start for day 3 followed by a delicious tomato omelette for breakfast.
We met the team by our van and set off for the Blossom and Berry Baby Shelter. Gayle Berry, our group organiser, has been involved with LSU for a number of years and during this time has been working on a separate project, the 'Blossom and Berry' project.
Gayle's aim was to raise enough money to build a shelter for the local communities, as well as fund teaching programmes for local mothers to learn the benefits of baby massage.
Baby massage - perfect mother / baby interaction
The shelter is a place for these mums to visit with their children and practise this. The shelter will also be used for adult teaching in the evenings and other educational projects in the future. The shelter itself, costing around £2,500 has 2 rooms, windows and a roof made of timbre and tin.
As we approached the shelter the crowds began to form. It’s becoming quite a regular experience to see the community celebrate our arrival with song and dance. It really is a special greeting and something I'll never forget about my trip to Malawi.
The shelter is beautiful - the brickwork neat and it holds a cool climate inside, with freshly painted walls and good light compared to some of the shelters we have visited so far.
The new 'Blossom and Berry' Mother and Baby Shelter
Gayle's eyes started to fill as she entered the shelter for the first time. No words were needed to describe her excitement. We almost instantly got stuck in, unwrapping pots of brightly coloured paints, paint brushes and chalk colours.
Each member of the group allocated themselves a place on the wall and we all let our imaginations take over! I, of course, with a slightly more original idea, drew a Lucy Bee bee... I just couldn't resist.
Prep and plan
The Lucy Bee bee!
And that extra special finishing touch
It's really rewarding to see the shelter and bring to life the fundraising happening back at home. As you can see, every penny we raise is creating a better life for the communities out here in Malawi.
Once the painting had finished the villagers sat us all down to say thank you to Gayle, Nina and Alice. Gift (Gayle's project manager from Malawi) spoke for 10 minutes or so about their gratitude to the charity and expressed how much the shelter means to the community.
Love creates love - this says it all
The villagers then dressed up in dance costumes and put on a performance like no other! The atmosphere was electric, I wish you could have been there to see it for yourself.
After a busy day, we were ready for home and a hot shower. A quick freshen up and a spray of perfume, everyone in the group had dressed to impress, ready for a meal out in town.
It's my birthday today, so the team had organised something special to celebrate. We had a beautiful meal followed by the most indulgent chocolate pudding I've ever eaten!!
A birthday I'll never forget ❤
Day 5 - 7
After a lovely break over the weekend at Kande Horse, I felt ready to head back to work today.
Kande Horse is a beautiful farmhouse set close to Lake Malawi, and is run by a group of friends linked to the charity. We spent Friday evening and Saturday there then on Sunday morning, we started our 5 hour journey back to Mabuya (our original accommodation). As we arrived back there, dinner was served and we all climbed into bed for an early night.
Monday morning, our work begins again but before we set off, we had a lovely playtime with some of the girls at Tili orphanage.
Playtime at Tilinanu orphanage
Today we visited 4 local Woman's Enterprises in Malawi. Each arrival started with a song and dance (I'm really going to miss this greeting once we leave) then a tour around the different centres.
The first centre was a rundown building with barred windows. As we arrived, the children, desperate to climb over one another, rushed to wave a hello through the window. The owners shook our hands and thanked us for the visit. At these shelters, most children, all aged 5 and under, are orphans. A large number of them are suffering with HIV which was given to them at birth and since have lost their parents to the disease. This was such a sad experience today, one that I can't really put into words.....
On a lighter note, our visit seemed to lift the children and the mothers were celebrating with songs.
Gayle, the founder of Blossom and Berry Baby Massage, had introduced the benefits of baby massage to the committee during one of her many previous visits. The group sat down with their babies laying on their laps while they performed baby massage, to show us all everything they'd learnt since Gayle's training programme had begun.
Baby massage class
The children, content and full of smiles, were peacefully laying along their mother's legs and having Lucy Bee Coconut Oil massaged into their toes, feet, legs, tummy and face. The benefit of baby massage is to help mothers connect with their baby through skin and touch. It also helps to stimulate the baby’s mind, which will prepare them for school in later years. Baby massage is an essential bonding tool for mothers and, as their first teacher, a loving lesson that can be practised at home.
We then repeated this visit across another 3 shelters where we met more mothers keen to learn this unique method of baby bonding.
At each of the centres we, also, left a bag of baby toys for the group (all donations from the UK) and clothes for the mothers to sell at market to raise a little extra money to feed their families.
My Final Day in Malawi
The last day of our trip had begun. We woke early to meet the group for an 8am start.
With this being our last chance to squeeze everything in, we hurried for a prompt start.
Our first visit was to a baby orphanage in Lilongwe. The orphanage felt a lot different to those we'd visited in previous days - the gated driveway was surrounded with flowers and a lawn, the building all intact and with unbroken windows. We were even asked to wash our hands and remove our shoes before entering, which was great to see and the first time we’d been asked this from all of our orphanage visits in Malawi this week - in fact, it was quite rare to find soap or even toilet roll in most centres.
The staff were a real pleasure to meet, with friendly smiles and noticeably kind natures. I instantly felt comfortable and relieved at the living conditions for these babies, all under 2 years of age.
The carers brought out each baby, one by one. We all sat on a large padded cushion on the floor while Gayle demonstrated more baby massage using Lucy Bee Coconut Oil.
Gayle explained to us, again, the hugely important benefits of baby massage, especially to these particular orphans as they had all lost that 'mother / skin connection' almost all of their very young lives.
Although this orphanage clearly had great funding which reflected on the appearance and equipment in the centre, naturally the staff had their work cut out nursing the children day to day, so emotional contact isn't always possible. Being a mum myself, I remember the importance of touch with my son in his early years. Even being able to sing to your baby and make constant eye contact, can have many positive effects for brain function later in life.
As the babies lay in front of us, all completely content, no tears or sign of restlessness, each baby embraced the massage while we all fell in love. I couldn't quite believe how happy each baby was, especially as I'd attended regular baby massage classes with my son back in the UK while he was under the age of 1 - this experience.... a lot noisier with many wrigglers.... was quite an unexpected change for me here in Malawi.
Once Gayle had finished teaching us, we all had 20 minutes of cuddle and play time to enjoy, before leaving.
Relaxing after her massage
The little girl that I had the pleasure of spending time with, fell asleep almost instantly on my chest. At this point I felt grateful for the day being our last, leaving on such a positive note after a very emotional and, at times, overwhelming week.
Our next stop was for lunch in town, where we also looked around the market selling wooden gifts.
After lunch we set off for our last visit to the Tilinanu Orphange. We spent the afternoon painting nails with the girls, reading books, helping to build a miniature 'junk yard' golf course, sponsored by a couple also volunteering in our group, and sticking glow-in-the-dark stars onto their bedroom ceiling. It still humbles me how such little gifts or rewards can make these kind-natured and grateful children, as happy as can be. It just shows how donations and aid from home, really does make such a huge impact.
Nail painting fun
Before we left, the girls sang for us and cuddled us all goodbye. I'm really going to miss this unique family at Tilinanu Orphanage.
I write this now while sitting on the last leg of my flight from Nairobi to Heathrow. Not quite believing the sights and first hand experiences we have touched this week.
I say overwhelming, a feeling noted many times in my journal in the past 8 days... because I can't quite put into words another way to share this all with you back at home. If anything, the most important part of this week, is to bring home and encourage future fundraising.
Three girls sharing their lunch - rice
As I hope you've all read in the last week, every penny and every donation is given in its entirety, through LSU. This charity is endearing, personal, hugely grateful and ever-loving and I hope to reassure anyone who is uncertain about giving to charity or where your donations may be going, that LSU really do care and are helping to make a difference. I've seen this for myself this week and it's been an incredible experience that I'm honoured to bring home with me.
Lastly, on behalf of the team at Lucy Bee, thank you all so much for your continued support.
With love from
About Lucy Bee
Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.