A team from Clifford Chance Dubai visited Malawi to volunteer at The Sparkle Foundation. Keep reading to see their account of their final day at Sparkle.
Day 7 – Emotional Rollercoaster
Our last full day at Sparkle before the long trip back to Dubai.
We started in the clinic with nurse Lena weighing and measuring the 103 pre-school children aged 3 to 5 years. This is a weekly ritual so the kids know the routine. First weight, then height and finally arm circumference. We check the weight against the World Health Organisation guidelines for girls and boys to see how they are developing and record it in a register. It was sad to see that the majority are under-developed for their age underlining the importance of Sparkle’s focus on nutrition.
Zahra and Vicki then lead a session on GDPR. As a result of the types of personal data that they store and process, Sparkle has to comply with the regulations and it was encouraging to see that they were already alive to the issue which goes to show how professionally the organisation is run. Gavin, meanwhile continued his popular Excel one-on-one sessions helping to streamline the school’s attendance register and attainment records.
A party is planned for the afternoon to mark the end of our week and as an early celebration of Sarah’s 30th birthday in December. It is amazing to think that she has been doing this for 10 years and has achieved so much in that time. Take a look at her story on the www.sparklemalawi.org website. You can see why she won the award for Humanitarian of the Year in the UAE In 2018.
The party kicked off at 4.30pm with a steady trickle of children and staff arriving until the yard was full with well over 100 people. We are also honoured with the presence of Chief Sogoja who is a big supporter of the charity. The speakers were cranked up and the music and dancing began. And boy these kids can dance!
Proceedings were paused for a few farewell speeches and for the prize giving for the best video in yesterday’s team building exercise. We had four excellent submissions explaining the work that Sparkle does. We will be turning this into a short compilation to put on Youtube and the website.
The party ended around 6.30pm and we headed off in the dark to Zomba hospital to visit the children’s ward armed with two bags of toys (thank you for all of the donations!). It was clear as soon as we arrived that we didn’t have enough toys with us as the ward was packed with over 100 sick children so we chose to visit one wing of the ward with around 70 kids.
The room (perhaps double the size of C1/2) was hot and dimly lit and packed with beds side by side. The children had everything from burns to broken bones to malaria as well as a small number of very young children suffering from hydrocephalus. There was even a new born baby only two days old. Particularly notable was the apparent lack of medical staff and ongoing treatment, with many IV drips hanging empty yet still attached to the patients. It was hard to take in but the people were welcoming and didn’t mind our visit.
The mood lifted as we handed out the toys. It was a joy to see the children take pleasure from such simple things. One little boy couldn’t contain his excitement on receiving a small rubber giraffe. The mums broke out into spontaneous singing (apparently about the importance of family planning!!) and dancing and we all joined in. It was heartwarming to see the strength and spirit of these people who have to cope with such difficult circumstances every day of their lives.
And that was it. An amazing week with the most welcoming people in a beautiful country. We have seen how Sparkle is making a huge difference to the lives of so many people and been inspired by the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. We will be back!
We look forward to sharing more of our story with everyone when we are back in Dubai. We would also like to build on our long-standing relationship with the charity and put together another team to visit next year.
Gavin, Marlou, Vicki and Zahra