Make Dreams Real

Posted by martin.parnell |

Next Events:

3rd Annual Marathon Quest 250 Run / Walk

  • Monday December 31st 2012

  • 9.00pm to 3.00pm

  • Location: Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, Cochrane, Alberta

Hockey Quest 500 (Quest #6)

  • Saturday January 19th 2013

  • 8.00am to 5.00pm

  • Location: Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, Cochrane, Alberta

One thing I like about the Rotary Club of Cochrane is that they are a group of people that want to make a difference. Sometimes it's an international project like the eradication of Polio, sometimes it's something local like the Rotary Youth Talent Contest. On Saturday October 27th the Rotary Clubs in district 5360 held a conference called "Make Dreams Real".

One speaker that had an incredible story was Christie Johnson. Christie was a volunteer teacher in Malawi in 2000.  One of the young women she was teaching with was Memory Mdyetseni. Memory was born in Mzuzu, Malawi in 1980 into a family of 6 children, Memory became an orphan at an early age, losing her mother while still in primary school and then losing her father when she had just started secondary school.  She and her siblings were scattered amongst various extended family members, as no single family could take in all 6 children.  Memory and her sister Lucy were adopted by their uncle and put back into secondary school where Memory graduated at the top of her class.  Memory dreamed of going to university, an almost unheard of goal for young Malawian girls born into poverty, but when her uncle passed away, Memory was left with no one to support this dream.

Memory had no option but to go back to live in her grandfather's village where she felt pressured to give up on her dream and get married as not only was she a drain on village resources, but she had no one who recognized the value of further education for girls.  It was at this point that Memory became aware of a small secondary school for girls within walking distance of her village.  Feeling that this was her chance to remain focused on her dream, she volunteered her services as a teacher and discovered a deep commitment to helping her fellow girls who were struggling just as she was.

When the school that Christie and Memory were teaching at closed due to lack of funding, Christie returned to her teaching position in Canada determined to find a way to help her 24 students complete their education.  She has since travelled back to Malawi 8 times to work with Memory and their first 24 girls, supporting them as they completed their secondary education, certification in trades, entered and completed university, started their own businesses and became independent leaders in their villages. She knows first hand the power of education in transforming lives.

Since her travels and teaching experience in Malawi in 2000, Christie has become a passionate advocate for the rights of girls and women in Malawi.  In 2006, she went on to co-found (with Memory Mdyetseni) Atsikana Pa Ulendo (Girls On The Move) Secondary School in Malawi and in just four years, the school has grown to include 320 students, employing 17 Malawian teachers, and over 300 labourers (construction workers, brick layers, architects, surveyors and engineers).

Other presentations in the conference included the refurbishment of fire trucks which were then taken to towns in Mexico and an expedition to Everest base camp in aid of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation, for the construction of the Zeke O'Connor Secondary School in the Solo Khumbu region of Nepal. I was honoured to be able to talk about "Quests for Kids" in support of Right To Play.

In the words of an old sage: "Take your dream and run with it"

Quote of the Day

"The notion of looking on at life has always been hateful to me. What am I if I am not a participant? In order to be, I must participate."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Cycling through Malawi in 2005 on the Tour d'Afrique

Make Dreams Real

comments powered by Disqus