Traveling through the rural villages of Malawi, the third poorest country in the world, has taught me lessons on another level. We all know that children are our future. It's a phrase we often hear and I guess some people think more seriously about this than others. I had rarely thought about it. But now, reflecting on my journey in Malawi, I can’t stop thinking about the struggle for the young people here compared to the comfort they have in developed countries.
Anyone that knows me knows that I don't really have any connection with kids. I don't have any children in my family, I didn't grow up with younger children around and I don't work with young people. And generally I don't really understand children, which is most likely reciprocated.
45% of the population in Malawi is under 15 years old! This becomes very apparent as you travel the length of the country and see very small children carrying babies on their backs. Children are raising children. For many, this means they aren’t able to gain an education. And even without being a carer, education beyond primary school costs money which is a luxury to many.
It seems to me, giving education and opportunity to these young people is the only way to improve the country as they will be the adults passing on their knowledge and fighting for what's right.
This makes me reflect on the people where I live, the youth surrounding me and what impact I could have. What lessons can the future generations learn from me? How can I improve the lives of young people and inspire them? If I can make an impact on young people close to home, can I do it abroad? How can I go about this and is it even possible?
In the tornado of thoughts that are swirling around my mind I keep returning to the lessons I’ve learned through sport. Young people all over the world enjoy playing sport and doing physical activities. Not too much convincing is needed to get them running and jumping around, and the benefits can be life changing. I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if I wasn’t inspired to be active, if my teacher didn’t encourage me to join a running club. It’s not fair that a young girl here in Malawi is exactly the same as I was 20 years ago but they won’t have the opportunity that I had.
While I’ve been in Malawi I have been lucky to spend time with Mary and Keith Woodworth. They are normal people like you or I. They saw the volume of orphans in Malawi 16 years ago and wanted to do something about it. Now they help 5,000 orphans. If these two people can create such a valuable organisation from scratch, then is there anything stopping me from making a difference too. (For more information about their organisation visit their website)