In April 2012, Elaine Gibson, Director of ANCHO and Stephen Black, Chief Executive of Atrium Homes, both Ayrshire-based housing associations, joined a team of people aiming to go to Malawi to build houses for needy families. The fundraising target of £37,500 was daunting. In April 2013, the team actually went! With the help of the housing sector, the money was raised and fifteen housing and related professionals flew out of Edinburgh Airport bound for Lilongwe in Malawi. Some team members had been before, back in 2008, but for others, including Elaine and Stephen, this was to be an entirely new experience.
The team arrived in Malawi on Sunday 1 April 2013 – to be greeted by a much hotter and humid atmosphere than they had been used to back in Scotland. The countryside was much greener than expected too. The next day, the team arrived in the village where they would be working, and quickly realised that our poorest housing here in Scotland is luxury compared to what passes for housing in Malawi.
The job, then, was to provide two families with a decent roof over their head. And the team did in a record 4 days! Two houses from foundations to roof. The finished products might not comply with building regulations at home, but were 100% better than what was replaced. On the last day in Malawi, the team celebrated with the families and the entire village turned out to join in.
Of the experience, Stephen said, ‘There is no welfare state in Malawi, but our concept of poverty at home bears no relation to what it is like in Malawi – where every day, someone from each family (usually the mother or oldest female child) will walk for over an hour to the nearest town to try to earn enough money to buy food to feed the family that day. Failure means they don’t eat. They focus on immediate needs and most people in Malawi who actually eat every day would not define themselves as being poor.’
Elaine added, ‘There is a joy amongst Malawians about simply being alive to enjoy each day which is infectious. The experience has made me realise that there is no point in getting stressed about the small things in life – so long as you and your family are healthy, have a roof over your head and can eat – life is worth living.’
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Sovereign House, Academy Road,
Irvine, Ayrshire, KA12 8RL
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Tue: 9.00am - 4.00pm
Wed: 9.00am - 4.00pm
Thu: 9.00am - 4.00pm
Fri: 9.00am - 4.00pm
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Scottish Housing Regulator
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