Saturday, 26 January 2013

Feeling so small

I apologise in advance: this isn’t about filofaxes, Mulberry, paper, pens or ink. It’s about lives. Feel free to skip this post if you’re here looking for frivolous chatter about inconsequential stuff. Feel free to read on if you’re not.

It’s been one of those weeks. One that leaves me weeping at the inequality in the world and frustrated by my inability to make it all better.

This week, the actor Tom Hiddleston is in Guinea with Unicef – my favourite actor working with my favourite charity. You can follow the diary of his trip here. I have been following with mixed emotions. Although I have not been to Guinea, I have had very similar experiences to his but in Malawi – a country that many of you will already know is a place which stole my heart and broke it in pretty much the same manoeuvre. I have never met Tom Hiddleston, but in interviews he always comes across with great warmth, sincerity and humour. In the videos he posted about preparing to go, he was hugely excited about the trip and I worried that the reality on the ground would hit him hard. The way he has written of his experiences since then would imply he has indeed been deeply affected by what he has seen – starvation, poverty, inequality… and I can understand it entirely. Yes, I had watched all of the TV pictures from Africa during famine after famine, but nothing, nothing prepares you for going to a hospital and seeing children who are so ill they will die before the ward round has finished, from something utterly preventable if only there had been better education and some food. Malawi broke my heart in such a way that I think I will never recover but I suppose if it keeps me fighting for these kids, that’s not such a bad thing. I wonder if Tom Hiddleston will end up feeling the same?

Following on in the same vein, I updated my Rotary Club this week on the progress of Chimwemwe – the charity in Malawi that I helped to found and which I support. Chimwemwe works with homeless children to support them and help them return to education. These are the kids I suppose I fight the hardest for because I know them. I have seen them move from sleeping under a tree on cardboard sheets to having shelter, food and education. We might only help a handful of children – not even a drop in the ocean of poverty and inequality that there is all over the world – but to those children, we have made a difference. I will be in Malawi in a fortnight to see them again. It is always a bittersweet time seeing them – the wound in my heart gets ripped open anew, and then the kids smile at me and hold their new uniforms up with pride, and a giant sticking plaster gets slapped over the hole. Last time I was there, I asked them what they wanted to do in their life. It was so wonderful to hear their dreams because they had started to believe that there was a life beyond the streets and that nothing was closed to them any longer. That’s what I fight for.

But I feel as if however hard I fight, however loudly I shout, I am such a small voice. Which is why I was heartened by the launch of the IF campaign this week.
There’s enough food for everyone IF
  • we help the poor feed themselves
  • taxes are paid in poor countries
  • companies are more transparent
  • we use land for food not fuel
Please, if you haven’t signed up already, do it now? If everyone shouts, surely someone will listen?

Apologies to those of you looking for inconsequential trivia about things that just don’t matter. I really needed to write this.


  1. Amanda, thank you for a lovely piece. No need to apologise for writing from the heart on a topic that is very dear to you. When I reflect on others’ situations, it helps to put my Filofax obsession into perspective. You mention you’re going back to Malawi in the next few weeks – all the best with your trip, hope you return with lots of good news and wonderful photographs to share with us.

  2. @Cloudberry
    Thank you. It's a topic so dear to my heart. And I will bring back lots of pictures and news for you all when I come back from Malawi.

  3. That's a lovely post Amanda. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these issues.