Sharing my next chapter

Almost nine years ago today I was sitting my last A level exam at Felsted School. I can hear the bell ringing in my ear and the invigilator telling me to stop writing as if it was yesterday. I can remember vividly the weight lifting from my shoulders and the warm rush charging through my stomach as I realised I was free. Free from commitment, free from education and free to see and experience the world in whatever way I wanted.

Twenty eight countries lay ahead of me. As I packed my bags and headed to the airport, I had no idea that it would be this year which would change my life forever.

My trip to the warm heart of Africa, Malawi, didn’t go as planned and a twist in my bowel led to an emergency trip to a local hospital whereby hundreds of Malawians insisted I was treated first by the one and only Doctor, risking their own lives to save mine.

Indebted to the people and the country for keeping me alive, I was determined to do something to help and this is where my motivation began to start Sparkle Malawi.

Whilst at University age 21 I raised £30,000 through the support of friends and family and set off in 2011 to build a community centre in a village near Zomba. With 60 orphans in our care, four volunteers and a small structure built, I worked with the community to provide them with a new CBO (community based organisation) which could be used to help change the lives of the next generation. In my eyes my work was done and I walked away thinking to myself, no I haven’t changed the world but hopefully I have made a difference, even if its just to one child’s life.

Six years on, we now have almost 300 orphans and vulnerable children in our care, 27 paid members of staff, six community outreach programmes and a catchment area of 7500 people. We have had more than 100 international volunteers visit the project and are forming partnerships monthly with corporate and private companies around the world using their expertise to help us sparkle even brighter.

The last chapter has been a roller coaster. Being a Charity Founder at the age of 21, with dreams beyond my capabilities, forced me to learn very early on from my own mistakes and realise that failure is a good thing because you come back the next time even stronger.

For those of you who I have been fortunate enough to meet along the way and who have joined me on parts of the ride, understand that my life is far from simple. At times it feels as if I am living an episode of a TV series with the genre changing from one day to the next, thriller, drama, comedy…who knows!

The picture we paint on social media can be very far from reality and after receiving several requests to provide an insight into what it really means to be me and what life lessons I keep learning along the way, I have decided to dedicate some time to write and film blogs over the next few months. I hope to be able to give people the opportunity to learn, understand and be apart of this amazing journey with me so we can all hopefully shine a little brighter.

Playing with some of the amazing children I met in Malawi, age 18