At a recent meeting of Omagh and District Ladies Probus, President Audrey Hodge welcomed everyone back after the summer season and updated members on previous events including the very successful All Ireland Rally and summer outings, in addition to sharing future planned activities.
The Autumn Programme started off with an enlightening and thought provoking talk given by local man Edwin Johnston who, along with five other members from First Omagh Presbyterian Church, recently visited rural Malawi.
Club Members heard of the group’s travel there and their sharp cultural shock, starting on arrival at Lilongwe airport and continuing as they travelled by minibus on increasingly poor roads to Embangweni which was to be their home for over two weeks.
Their work was based at Louden Station Mission Area, set up by Scottish missionary Donald Fraser, which consists of a hospital, primary school, secondary schools with boarding facilities, a school for the deaf, etc.
Through his extensive picture library, Mr. Johnston gave a comprehensive flavour of life there which emphasized the poverty, challenging terrain, local superstitions, primitive resources, hygiene difficulties, teenage pregnancies and early marriage etc. which impact strongly on the lives of local people. These factors, coupled with a huge population keen to access education and hospital services, highlight the many needs of this remote region of Northern Malawi.
Amazingly, local school class sizes range from 100 to 150 children being taught, often outdoors, with few resources. The local hospital also struggles with limited equipment to provide a much-needed service to a population of over 100,000 people.
Probus club members were humbled to hear of the generosity of the local people as they cheerfully presented their visitors with prized personal possessions such as goats, chickens and vegetables. They also were left with the knowledge that although Omagh volunteers had given of their time and energy to get “hands on” in helping improve the environment of the local community in Embangweni, much still needs to be done in this region.
Anne McBain thanked Mr. Johnston, on behalf of the club, for his interesting and comprehensive talk.