Friday, 2 November 2012
Rhiannon McIntyre has been a trustee of the Mamie Martin Fund (MMF) since 2005, and became Treasurer of the charity shortly after. MMF was founded by Rhiannon’s grandparents in 1993, in memory of her great-grandmother, the wife of a Scottish missionary in Malawi in the 1920's.
‘Mamie Martin was a teacher in Scotland, and passionate about helping to educate the girls she met in Malawi, who at that time were not able to go to school. Sadly, she died in Malawi when my grandmother was just 18 months old. Returning to Malawi in the early 1990's, my gran found that the situation for girls’ education had not changed much since her mother had been alive. Cultural differences meant that boys were regarded as more important, and so many families gave priority to the education of their sons over their daughters. Since secondary education isn’t free in Malawi, it’s still common today for girls to drop out of school if their families cannot afford to pay their fees. The aim of MMF is that no girl who has secured a place at secondary school should have to give it up due to poverty. The fund works in partnership with the Synod of Livingstonia (CCAP) in the northern region of Malawi, to support the education of around 150 girls each year.
‘I’ve been involved in MMF since it began, informally volunteering at fundraising events as a child, then performing at them as a music student. I decided to become more involved in the management of the fund by becoming a trustee once I’d graduated from university. Having studied performing arts rather than an academic subject, and at that time pursuing a career as a freelance musician, it was great to be able to use parts of my brain which had been lying dormant since I finished my own secondary education! I’d been good at maths when at school, and had almost chosen to study accountancy at university, but chose the creative path instead. When I first joined the committee I didn't know anything about charity finance, or indeed all that much about international development, but I can now confidently say that I do! Being treasurer of MMF has taught me a lot, but I have also brought a lot to the charity. I was 23 years old when I became a trustee, and with no disrespect to my fellow trustees, I brought the average age of the membership down considerably! What I lacked in knowledge about Malawi and how the world works, I made up for in enthusiasm, a fresh perspective and an understanding of computers and marketing.
‘Since joining MMF, I have found the post of treasurer to be very rewarding. I was able to visit Malawi in 2009 in an official capacity, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity as I not only visited the place where my grandmother was born and my great-grandmother is buried, but I also met many of the girls who are supported by the charity. Meeting these enthusiastic and vibrant young women reminded me why MMF is so important, and made all the hours I spend staring at spreadsheets and bank statements worthwhile. I had always thought that people who say visiting a developing country changes your life are a bit patronising, but its true – visiting Malawi did change my life. It changed my perception of what a developing country is like. It changed my attitude to work and made me wish I could go back to school and take my studies more seriously. And most importantly, it made me realise how vital the work that the Mamie Martin Fund does is to the women of Malawi, and made me determined to carry on the legacy of my great-grandmother by making sure that MMF is managed efficiently.
‘For those considering becoming a trustee, I would wholeheartedly recommend it, and would say that you shouldn't worry about whether you're qualified enough, or whether you have enough life experience to make a difference. As long as you care about the cause and are willing to dedicate time and energy, then go for it! Being a trustee isn't always easy, but you'll learn a lot and you'll make a difference to at least one person’s life, and probably a lot more than you'll ever realise.
Posted by Trustees' Week at Friday, November 02, 2012