23 November 2017
Over the October half term break, Bolton School Junior Girls’ School teacher Mrs Julia Marsden travelled to Malawi to work with Retrak. This charity aims to support street children in Africa and South America through education, healthcare and shelter, and to reintegrate them with families and communities.
Mrs Marsden was invited to visit Malawi with Retrak following the school’s dedicated fundraising throughout the 2016-17 school year. The girls then exceeded a further fundraising target of £1,850 to allow Mrs Marsden to make the trip: they raised £2,195.43 on House Day earlier this term and £1,106.21 on Charities Afternoon at the end of the summer term, along with additional fundraising from a sponsored trampolining session. Pupils at Hesketh House have raised over £5,300 in total for Retrak since they first got involved with the charity.
While in Malawi, Mrs Marsden worked with staff at Chisomo Children’s Centre and helped to create a new ‘Hesketh House Art Corner’ for the street children, which is named after the Bolton School Junior Girls’ School, Hesketh House.
Mrs Marsden recalls her experiences in Africa:
“Once I had committed myself to the trip to Malawi, I knew that it was going to be a very rewarding and inspiring experience, but at the same time an emotional and challenging endeavour. My core reason for becoming involved with Retrak was to make a difference, albeit in a minor way, to children who have been forced to live on the streets. I felt so privileged to visit a community in Malawi that Retrak have worked so hard with. The women within this village now understand the importance of education for their children and strive to communicate and work together to achieve the very best for the young people, despite incredibly challenging circumstances. The village leaders too were keen to learn from my experiences of teaching in the UK.
“The most challenging aspect of my trip was to say goodbye to all of the children, and whilst the language barrier was frustrating, the staff at Chisomo were always on hand to help out with translations. The highlight of the trip was meeting children with such a positive outlook on life, despite very few possessions and devastating circumstances. Words cannot describe the ecstasy on those children’s faces as they excitedly plunged into Lake Malawi whilst on a day trip out. To those children, water is such a precious gift.
“Differences between the teaching in the UK and Malawi are stark, not only with the availability of resources, but also with class sizes. After being greeted with a class size of 370, I will never again moan about marking 25 maths books! However, it was delightful to witness the pupils’ eagerness to learn and their desperate desire to better themselves. Retrak continue to work so hard in Africa to promote street children’s right to an education.
“There are many experiences I will share with the girls at Hesketh House, but I am particularly proud of the Hesketh House Art Corner we created at Chisomo Children’s Centre. Many of the street children who have suffered abuse or trauma are able to express themselves through art but the centre is in desperate need of simple resources, like paintbrushes and paper, that we so often take for granted.”
“Hesketh House is a school, full of caring and compassionate children. The girls, as well as the parents, have totally supported my vision in helping these children in Malawi to build a brighter future. I was greeted on the playground this week by lots of them keen to find out how my trip had gone. They have all demonstrated ongoing commitment to helping me with fundraising and I will certainly continue to support the aims of Retrak in helping to create better futures for innocent children.”