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How Maura’s Mission started on an everyday car journey

This opinion piece is almost 8 years old

GlasgowA&E nurse Charlie McCarthy on how he came to found Maura’s Mission to advance the education of children in Malawi by providing educational bursaries

My daughter Maura was approaching her last few days at nursery school and, as so many times before, I squeezed her into the child seat that was becoming too small for her and off we headed on the morning run.

I have the usual parental anxieties I suppose, one of which is, do I pay my children enough attention. She always had this most annoying habit of asking the most obscure question, just as the football headlines came on but this day was different. From the back of the car she spoke up, out of the blue, to say: “Daddy, it’s not fair, I’m getting to go to school but children in Africa don’t”.

“Ok my wee darling, we’ll do something about that then”. I turned the radio back up and caught the end of whatever trivial football news I was listening to that day.

I'm the youngest son and the seventh of ten children. Brought up on a welders wage in Glasgow, we knew poverty well. I watched my mother worry about how ends would meet, yet she would always make sure we had pennies to bring in for those less fortunate than us – then-called "black babies”.

Charlie McCarthy

I thought of my daughter’s words and decided I had the opportunity to do something about the unfairness that she recognised

Charlie McCarthy

We were raised to care, so the majority of my siblings ended up in some form of caring profession.

I eventually ended up as a nurse and I’ve worked in accident and emergency departments for 20 years now. Working on A&E brought me into contact with the team from Ninewells (Dundee) A&E department, who were taking part in a project to open up the first A&E department in Malawi and I flew out with them to teach in this brand new service in the warm heart of Africa.

While in Malawi I met Paul, a guard at the house we lived in. He is an insightful and intelligent man, we talked of poets and poetry and one thing he said to me will forever stay with me. “Mr Charlie, all I need is a chance, then I know I will be a success,” he said.

I returned to my room and for the first time felt bad about the times I had played truant and not tried at school. I then thought of my daughter’s words on that early morning run and decided that I had the opportunity to do something about the unfairness that she recognised at such tender years.

After many frustrations I finally found a school with people I could trust and we set up our charity.

The school is one of the top schools in Malawi and the headteacher is Emmanuel. He picks children for our scholarships using three criteria: the pupils’ academic ability, the child’s behaviour and the family’s inability to pay.

On return to Glasgow I wrote a blog of my travels and asked others to help out. I was overwhelmed by the response and our pilot project recently saw the first of our sponsored children graduate. We have launched Maura’s Mission as a registered charity on Saturday the 4 June, with a comedy night which raised close to three and a half thousand pounds.

I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved – and of how Maura’s words during that car trip started the journey we’re now all on.

Charlie McCarthy is the founder of Maura's Mission.