Kwenderana means ‘walking together’ in the language of northern Malawi and our symbol combines the flags of Malawi and Scotland. The Partnership involves a covenanted twinning with the parish church in Ekwendeni, which was built in the Scottish style around 1890, reflecting a relationship with Malawi that is continuous from the time of David Livingstone.
Historically, a cluster of East Renfrewshire churches (Busby, Giffnock South, Greenbank and Williamwood) had a Mission Partner at Ekwendeni and gave financial and material support to the community there, creating a strong rapport. Once there was no longer a Mission Partner, our churches felt they should continue to maintain the link.
Initially goods were collected and sent to Ekwendeni, e.g., baby clothes, knitting wools and needles, fabric and sewing machines, stationery materials and different types of tools, sent by container via the Raven Trust which is based at Strachur. We contributed to transport costs and to help the community at Ekwendeni.
In 2006 Anson Singini, a young accountant and Charity Chabinga, a teacher at Ekwendeni Girls’ Secondary School and secretary of the Group at Ekwendeni, came to Scotland, hosted by families in our churches and enjoyed a programme of visits and activities. Meanwhile a twinning was set up between Williamwood High School and the secondary school in Ekwendeni. The school has continued to organise very productive visits, with the Ministers of Giffnock South and Greenbank accompanying them as Chaplains, in 2014 and again in 2016.
In 2007 some of our Group visited Ekwendeni and identified ways in which we could support the community there. One of the greatest needs was to provide a school house and a double classroom block for Ekwendeni primary school, which is run by the church. Between 2008 and 2012 we raised the money to fund these projects through concerts and other activities.
In 2009 we hosted visitors from Ekwendeni and two of our committee visited there in 2010, funded by the Church of Scotland Faithshare Scheme and our own churches. As a result of that visit, we identified the need for more specific aid to their community by sending a variety of items from bicycles to knitting wool and fabric, using the Raven Trust containers and contributing to the cost of sending goods. Fiona Gunning of Williamwood Church set up a school sponsorship project which enables over 40 needy children to receive secondary education, funded by our church members.
In 2011 we welcomed to Scotland Violet Nkandwe and Maggie Msowoya, key figures in their Group, again funded by the Faithshare Scheme.
We were aware that water is a major problem at Ekwendeni as it has a low water table. Bill Steven of Giffnock South, together with Fiona and Christina Bryden of our committee visited Ekwendeni in September 2013 and investigated this matter particularly. Jim McGill, an American water engineer who lives locally, was commissioned to investigate ways of improving the water supply to surrounding villages. This project has now been completed.
2015 was an exciting year for the Partnership. In July, some of our church members joined Rev. Catherine Beattie, Rev. Jeanne Roddick and George Watson of Queen’s Park Football Club on a visit to Ekwendeni, with 16 people in the party. In the mornings they ran a Christian summer school with the children, focussing on the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers. There were games, art & craft, music and other activities together with feeding the children at the Mary`s Meals porridge station. In the afternoons health & hygiene, bicycle repair and information technology skills were shared with the adults. Then the children came to the church hall for a film show. Kwenderana members also visited projects we have funded in recent years and were delighted with the progress made. All equipment (e.g., for sports) taken out by the group was left behind for the use of the local community under the supervision of the Kirk Session and their own Partnership Group.
In September that year we hosted a visit by Jack Longwe, Session Clerk at Ekwendeni and Songelwayo Banda, Chairman of their Group. This was a very successful visit with a major focus on agriculture, including visits to the Kittochside Farming Museum, a working dairy farm at Eaglesham, vegetable gardens at Pollok House and the Scottish Agricultural College at Dumfries where a fellow Malawian, Dr. Mizeck Chugunda showed them around and discussed dairy farming. Following their return home, Jack and Songe have encouraged the community to improve their agricultural methods. Over the Christmas holidays our Partnership fed the school children with porridge funded by their Scottish partners and have continued to do so during school vacations through funds provided by our church members. Kwenderana Scotland also funded a very successful gathering for the elderly and disabled in Ekwendeni which allowed them to share in a special lunch and Christian fellowship.
Currently we are considering the purchase of land which will be owned by the Kwenderana Partnership and the congregation at Ekwendeni, to be used to grow maize for the needy to prevent hunger. In addition we are considering the funding of beekeeping and honey production.