Old friendship ties between Sidmouth and a remote community in Malawi have been rekindled in time to celebrate a 30-year link.
It is thanks to one overseas student visiting Bicton College to take part in an agricultural course that Sid Vale Africa Link was able to re-establish contact with the village of Kawaza.
The group is now launching plans to provide ongoing support for the small community in northern Malawi – and fundraising to set up internet access in the local school so contact will not be lost again. The group’s chairman, Stephanie Kinson, said “We had accrued money that we could not spend, so we decided to support a great local charity, the Bicton Overseas Agricultural Trust (BOAT), to bring a student from Malawi to East Devon. We were delighted to meet Prince Mdolo, who is principal of an agricultural school in Liliongwe and whose family home, is close to Kawaza. Prince visited Kawaza and has helped rejuvenate our link in time for the 30th birthday”
Treasurer Roger White has been involved from the start and said the group’s aim had been to support development in Kawaza, as well as broaden the international experiences of people in Sidmouth. He said “We achieved both in the early years with a number of exchange visits and we supported agricultural projects as well as a library and games kit for the local school. A number of us had the chance to go out to the village to visit so we had very good links up to about ten years ago.”
Roger explained that a sudden lack of updates and some miscommunication led the group to believe their main contact – an elderly man named Vincent – had died. The Sid Vale Africa Link struggled to maintain ties with the village, which has limited means of communication, so was delighted to hear through Prince Mdolo that Vincent is in fact alive.
The group has started discussing with people in Kawaza ways of making next year one to remember in both communities. In particular, it is looking at support for IT development in the school as there is no computer in the village at the moment, Stephanie added that experience from other countries has shown that introducing IT can kick-start rural development.
Anyone interested in supporting the cause by fundraising or offering skills such as IT assistance, can get in touch with Roger on 07473 845145 or Stephanie on 01395 568577.
This article first appeared in the Sidmouth Herald on 20th November 2015.