Relations between Malawi and Scotland are an age-old, well-told story.
Between them is a history that has become a piece of culture, a way of life cherished by the people of the two countries and passed on from one generation to the next.
So when Malawi’s Rotary Club of Limbe partnered with the Rotary club of Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair from Scotland in a pilot project to train youths in leadership and service, the bond between Malawi and Scotland only strengthened.
Under the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) programme, youths from the two countries pooled together in an annual event organised to expose teenagers to life outside their comfort zones.
Sixteen Malawian youths aged between 16 and 24-years-old drawn from different backgrounds hosted two youths and three leaders from Scotland.
Together, they underwent one-week coaching at a residential boot camp held at Ku Chawe in Zomba and Liwonde National Park.
Rotary Club of Limbe President, Bernard Ndau, said his club and Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair Rotary (IWT) partnered to equip the youths with skills essential in life and citizenship.
“The camp will give the youths an opportunity to develop and sharpen their leadership skills,” said Bernard at a welcoming ceremony.
“The camp will instil them with a sense of self-belief, self-help and spirit of giving. It also aims to develop their interpersonal as well as some technical skills by exerting their energies towards community service for a charitable cause.”
We want to build future leaders who value integrity, teamwork and community service. This is what Rotarians advocate for.”
Bernard explained that the Malawian youths had been selected from diverse backgrounds from both rural and urban parts of Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre.
“We want to build future leaders who value integrity, teamwork and community service. This is what Rotarians advocate for,” he added.
In Scotland, IWT Rotary Club partnered with five other Rotary clubs Selkirk, Melrose, Peebles, Biggar and Currie Balerno to each sponsor one youth from Malawi to participate in RYLA-Malawi programme. The Scots were all self-funding their trip.
As the Scottish publication, the Border Telegraph, reported about the initiative, during the camp, “barriers of age, experience, culture and education melted away as the group worked together delivering tangible benefits at individual and community levels”.
It was an “intensive week of combined conversations about communication, self-confidence, practical ability, environmental awareness, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.”
Sessions included hands-on activities on climate change, forestry management and community engagement.
The youths helped with clearing undergrowth in Zomba mountain to provide space to newly planted trees to grow.
They engaged people living on the Zomba plateau on issues of Climate Change and forestry management and handed out mango fruit seedlings for the community to plant.
The youngsters visited counselling service in Zomba City, Malawi’s old capital city.
They helped to maintain 14 houses that had been damaged in March this year by floods in Liwonde, in the neighbouring district of Machinga.
They visited a youth organisation, Youth Network and Counselling, to learn about its activities with youth empowerment.
We have cemented our partnership and created what will truly be a memorable experience for our respective youths, and a deserving opportunity to nurture their leadership skills and to instil in them a spirit of service to the community and the environment.”
Coach for the seminar, Denis Robson from Rotary IWT said they were excited to organise RYLA-Malawi to provide a forum for the youths to learn different cultures and share skills on how they can excel in leadership and service roles.
And in his review of the project, Bernard Ndau said it had been well executed by the two Rotary clubs and had achieved its objectives.
“We have cemented our partnership and created what will truly be a memorable experience for our respective youths, and a deserving opportunity to nurture their leadership skills and to instil in them a spirit of service to the community and the environment,” said the President of the Rotary Club of Limbe.
To keep the momentum, Ndau said they will set up a RYLA alumni group to provide the youths that participated in the programme “with a platform to continue fanning the RYLA flame.”
He added: “Looking to the future, we hope to build on the lessons learnt and, together with other clubs, set up a local RYLA boot camp and thus spreading the skills and knowledge gained across the country.”
For John Little, the 19-year old leader of the Scottish youngsters, this was a wealth of experience packed into seven days. “I’m proud of everyone involved as we delivered a year’s worth of experience and education into only seven days,” he told Border Telegraph.