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A team of staff and students from the Department of Nursing & Health Studies in Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) travelled to Malawi with Habitat for Humanity in June 2017. Team Leader, Mary Dunnion, gives an account of the team’s experience.

A team from LYIT first travelled to Malawi in 2010 and were delighted to get the opportunity to return once again.  This year LYIT joined up with another group of volunteers from University of Ulster, Coleraine. As with previous trips, the team had to fundraise €3,000 prior to travelling and this was achieved through many various activities including cake sales, coffee mornings, car boot sales and pub quizzes to name a few. Much preparation was undertaken prior to travel and involved team meetings, liaising with Dublin, Coleraine, Belfast and of course the Habitat team in Malawi. The LYIT Department of Nursing & Heath Studies team have chosen to be involved in this project with Habitat for Humanity because of the long-term benefits of families having good housing, including greater opportunity for education, improved health and long-term employment. All of these benefits, but in particular the enhancement in health status, are of particular interest to the LYIT team.

The LYIT team met with the team from University of Ulster in Dublin airport and then departed on the long but exciting journey to Malawi via Ethiopia. After their arrival in the country and allowing some time to recover from the journey, the team were then prepared for their task ahead. Monday morning saw the team donned in their building gear: new boots, gloves, high-vis vests and their Habitat for Humanity t-shirts. The team travelled by bus to the site, which was in the “Area 9” village in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The journey took around 30 minutes each way from the lodge where the team stayed. The team did a lot of preparation prior to travel but little could have prepared them for the welcome that they received on site. It truly was memorable and moving. The bus was met early on the first morning in the village, as was on subsequent mornings, by many excited children who were always so cheerful and happy to see the team and would run alongside the bus. The first morning on site saw the team getting a crash course in building, which was provided by the very capable tradesmen and builders on site who were organised by the very busy Habitat for Humanity team in Malawi. From then on it was all systems go and the fast development of the walls and the pride and excitement of the new homeowner’s faces spurred the team on to work as hard as they could over the next two weeks. At break-time, the team spent their time playing with the children and were amazed to see how imaginative they were with so little materials. The days passed very quickly and each day brought the houses nearer completion so that they could be handed over to the very proud new homeowners. The LYIT team were made to feel so very welcome and received overwhelming hospitality from people who had very little.

Malawi is a country of immense beauty, yet also of extreme poverty. The country is rated as one of the least developed countries in the world. Malawi has a population of 17.3 million and ninety per cent of its population lives in rural areas. The economy is predominately agricultural and is dependent on substantial international assistance. Because of the widespread poverty, four out of five families live in substandard homes, with little hope of ever being able to afford a decent house. A typical village hut is built of mud and daub with a dirt floor, thatched roof, and requires frequent repair. The conditions put families at high risk of all kinds of diseases, with leaky roofs making the house damp and mud floors attracting insects. The number of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi has increased from 937,000 in 2001 to 1,400,000 in 2010, representing a 66 percent growth in less than a decade. Twenty-one thousand new units are needed every year for the next 10 years to meet housing demand and this far exceeds supply.

Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. As a global housing organisation, they fight poverty by collaborating with people and communities all over the world – helping them to build or improve a place they can call home. A safe home saves lives and provides the foundation for families to build their future and achieve essential human rights, such as health, education, and privacy. Habitat for Humanity Ireland are always looking for volunteers and more information can be found at

The team that travelled from LYIT included the following members: Rachel Donaghey, Nicole Kelly, Tina McDermott, Karen McMahon, Aisling Noone, Marcella Tobin, Meaghan Reid, Anne Dempsey, Kevin O’Brien and Mary Dunnion. They would like to thank everyone who helped and supported them in any way including their families and friends and the wider community who responded so generously to various fundraising activities. The trip and the building of three new houses would not have been possible without the generosity of the Irish public.

Written by Mary Dunnion, Team Leader of LYIT’s Habitat team.

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