January is a time when our minds turn to holidays and sunnier climes – but you won’t ever catch Becky Dunphy lazing on a beach in Spain or shopping in the Big Apple. That’s not what holidays are about for Becky, as senior NHS physiotherapist based in Glasgow.
Since aged 15, holidays have been trips to Malawi to deliver medical aid, equipment and oversee the running of two orphan care & education centres and a small rural health centre with her family or friends.
“I know it’s not everyone’s idea of a holiday, but I love it” says 26 year-old Becky, who is now planning her annual trip to the southern African nation.
“Not everyone has had the opportunities in life that I have had, and for many in Malawi and other third world countries, life is just so hard. If we can make even a small difference in their future opportunities, it makes it all worthwhile!”
Originally from Arbroath, but now working for NHSGGC and living in the Gorbals, Becky and her family are part of a charity called the Dalitso Project (check out https://en-gb.facebook.com/thedalitsoproject/ ), which is based in the town and raises funds and delivers aid to alleviate poverty, support education and develop health care in Malawi.
“Dalitso means blessing in the most common language spoken in Malawi, Chichewa, and the name was chosen by those of us on the management team of the charity because while we hope to be a blessing to those we work with in Malawi, we recognise the we ourselves have been so blessed to have been part of this project,” Becky explains.
Becky said: “We work in two centres - one in Kambilonjo which is a small town on the Mozambique border in the district of Ntcheu and one in the town of Thyolo within the district of Thyolo. Between the two centres we feed and educate more than 300 children each day (as well as providing clothes and essentials such as soap and books) and fund a further 60 through Secondary school and university education.
“We also have some skills training and local business training opportunities for pupils who will not go on to further education. We also run a local health centre in a remote part of Malawi where previously locals had to walk 10km to get to the nearest hospital. This treats more than 300 patients every month and really does save lives.”
“This year I will be travelling with my parents, younger sister and the charity chairman and close friend Charis Bowie, to work alongside our orphan centres and healthcare clinic. We have a sponsor-a-child program which links people here in the UK with individual children within our program. These sponsors contribute £15 per month to each child’s education and food which is what allows us to help so many young Malawians.”
Each summer Becky’s group takes out presents from each sponsor and interviews each child so she can take letters and reports back to the sponsors.
Becky said: “It’s always a huge job to interview so many children, but also encouraging to see each young person grow and develop and realise their potential! I will also do some work with the healthcare clinic, specifically looking into our public health promotion work.”
A big priority for the team is aiming to prevent illnesses like malaria and dysentery, which cause so many deaths in Malawi. Lives can be saved by simply helping locals to use appropriate water sources, good soap and of course mosquito nets. Some of the rest of the team will be looking into a project called Ulemu – which means dignity in Chichewa.
Becky explains: “This is a project which we launched last year looking at how we can help in the provision of reusable, sustainable sanitary products. Just like the issues some face in the UK, in Malawi very few villagers can afford sanitary products and this has a huge impact on the attendance rates of village girls at school.
“We have identified a product that our girls can make and have been providing these packs which include pants and soap to girls in our community. We will be taking out pants and soap for this is our luggage too and are collecting these items in January for anyone who wants to contribute! ”
“Once you travel to somewhere like Malawi, you can’t not go back, these people have become my friends and I really want to see them pull themselves and their family out of the poverty trap. I take great pride in the work I do there, it’s a beautiful thing to see lives changing. Recently a girl I have sponsored for 8 years has now graduated as a nurse and can care for her orphaned nephews and provide for her extended family. That’s why I keep going back!”