It was only fitting, as Scotland’s oldest international healthcare charity, that we should mark the final weekend of our Every Life Matters Appeal with a time honoured Scottish tradition; a Burns Night Dinner in the historic venue of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on Friday 2 February.
Guests assembled in the magnificent Library for a drinks reception and some fine Scottish tunes by musicians, Lesley Waddell and Sandy Harvey. Connor Jardine added a dramatic flourish by piping the line of guests along the corridor and into the great hall for dinner. A traditional Burns supper, wine, games, and speeches followed, all introduced by the irrepressible MC for the evening, Alex Fleming. David Lamb delivered the Toast to the Haggis with real aplomb, Gordon Mackay drew on his family life giving a kind and personal reflection in his toast to the lassies. The men got off less easily in Elaine Motion’s reply which was feisty, witty and carefully crafted.
The evening was a celebration of our work and of strong and enduring connections with the Duncan Hospital in Bihar, India’s poorest state, and with our partners in Malawi where over 70% of the population live in extreme poverty (Unctad).
James Wells, CEO of EMMS International and Prof Derek Bell OBE, President of the RCPE spoke of the plight of girls in Bihar and the massive need for appropriate healthcare, not least for better palliative care in hard to reach villages in Malawi.
Dr Graham Watson shared the latest news of the Duncan community work following a recent visit with his wife Karen. Prospects for young girls are gradually improving thanks to the healthcare and social development work of Duncan Village Task Forces. Life skills training is now available for girls, equipping them to earn a living, saving them from forced early marriages and “helping girls to dream again”.
To finish off a fantastic evening Colin Hogg, (dentist, golfer and singer) sang some beautiful traditional songs.
The Burns Night Dinner was a wonderful occasion to really make a difference and to show that every life matters. Spurred on by Alex Fleming people placed high bids for the auction lots – all of which had been donated. Over and above this, 10 Gifts for Life lots of £866 each were purchased to Lift a Girl, Lift a Village bringing the total raised on the night to an incredible £29,500. All funds raised were generously matched by the Mackays for the work in the Duncan community and the UK government matched that total as part of the “Every Life Matters” appeal for palliative care work in Malawi.
This means all donations will go four times as far, helping girls in Bihar and sick children suffering in pain and hunger in Malawi.
LIFT A GIRL, LIFT A VILLAGE
Sanja Devi's story of hope
Sanja Devi (seated right) was engaged to be married at just 15 years old. Like countless girls in Bihar she faced a life marred by poverty and devoid of prospects. It was then that she heard about the work of the Duncan Hospital in her community. Not only were they providing life-saving healthcare, but also life-transforming vocational training.
Determined to live a life that mattered, she signed up for a tailoring course so she could provide for herself and her family. Her family helped her buy a sewing machine and her determination saw her complete the course in record time.
When her father-in-law had an accident she was forced to sell her sewing machine to pay hospital bills. Undeterred, Sanja saved what little she could and sold her jewellery to buy another sewing machine.
Duncan Hospital are helping girls like Sanja to escape the cycle of sickness and poverty by providing essential, life-saving healthcare and helping them access vocational training.
Five years on, Sanja and her family have a reliable income that is helping lift them and their communities out of poverty. She now works as a teacher on the Duncan Hospital Youth for GIRLS project. She is the perfect role model for her eight protégées showing what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. She hopes to see all the girls become confident business women like her, making a difference in their families and villages.