Executive Director Report – November 2021


Christie Johnson

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

In preparing my report for this final AGM of the Malawi Education Foundation, I found myself
reflecting on all that has been accomplished by the many people that have believed in and
supported Memory and I since our educational partnership began as volunteer teachers in
Kasungu in August of 2000.

I can close my eyes and remember the first Rotary meeting where I realized that if I could just
tell the story well enough, people would and could help the remarkable young women that
Memory and I were trying to educate.

It was such a powerful realization, that my energy, my storytelling, my relationships, could
actually change the outcome for the students that Memory and I had been teaching at the
small rural school where we first met. And for Memory, the realization was equally
transformative, that what she could teach me, could be translated through storytelling and
sharing here in Canada, into scholarships for girls in Malawi. We watched those scholarships
turn into education and we watched education turn into hope and power and resilience in the
girls that received it.

I can close my eyes and see Memory standing on stage at the Rotary Convention in Stony Plain
in 2006, inspiring Rotarians to donate the first $10,000 that would turn into the first bricks to be
fired at the newly donated land near the Nsalu Trading Center. I can clearly remember the
meeting where I first met David Stocks and Lori Messer and the Rotarians that would work with
us and offer the critical advice regarding the governance structure that would eventually
become the Malawi Education Foundation.

Fast forward through the hundreds of Rotary presentations that converted into thousands and
then millions of dollars which would convert into our first computer, first truck, the first road,
followed by running water and solar panels and wells, hostels and duplexes, classblocks and
laboratories. The hopeful, scared young girls who would walk for days for a chance to apply for
a scholarship transforming into Form 1 girls in uniforms using running water for the first time in
their lives, astounding the country by their 100% pass rate on their Junior Certificate exams,
transforming into confident Form 4 students making speeches at graduation and once again
making the headlines with their incredible success on their MSCE’s year after year after year.

I can close my eyes and see the many special sponsors over the years, many of whom made the
journey to Malawi to meet their sponsored students, starting with Tricia Timmermans and
Colleen Milne, Steve and Marie Rickard, Nicole and Rick Perron, David and Frances Stocks, Anne
McClellan, Pat Killoran and Barrie Orich, Dean Rohrs, and Tim and Sally Schilds.

I remember the special Rotary Clubs, the ones that took us into their hearts and became APU
champions, starting with my dad Larry Johnson and the Rotary Club of St. Albert, Ken Haywood
and the Rotary Club of Edmonton Northeast, David Stocks and Lori Messer and the Rotary Club
of Sooke, Tricia Timmermans and the Rotary Club of Oak Bay, Colleen Milne and the Rotary
Club of Westshore, Pat Killoran and the Rotary Club of Lethbridge whose Global Grant
catapulted us ahead into the world of solar panals, computers and electric cooking pots. I
remember the incredible group of women from SMUS lead by Dariol Haydock and their
championship of the primary school. I remember the role played by Pearson College in giving
three of our alum full scholarships to the United World College here on Vancouver Island.

However, the conversion of story into support, and money into scholarships and bricks, is but a
small sliver of the reason for the success that has brought the Malawi Education Foundation to
the point of holding our final AGM tonight. There is no doubt in my mind that the secret to this
success lies in the Malawian woman standing at the helm and steering the ship that is the
school in Malawi. The vision, the integrity, the grit and determination, the energy, the faith,
and the stubbornness that is Memory Chazeza Mdyetseni. I am under no illusion that all of the
work that has been done in support of APU in Canada, is but a miniscule fraction of what has
been poured into the realization of this dream by Memory, Henry, and their team of Directors,
teachers, parents, and students at the school in Malawi. The risks that Memory has taken on
behalf of the hundreds of young women that she is lifting up on a daily basis can not be
overstated. She has safeguarded the funds for this school with an unwavering tenacity that has
been almost superhuman.

I give ultimate credit for the success of the school to Memory and want to thank you, the
directors of MEF, for having the imagination, courage and foresight to believe in Memory, to
believe in me, to understand and believe in the strength of the relationships that we have built,
because at the heart of this project is relationship, not money.

When I was a little girl, I remember sneaking into my dad’s office downstairs in our house. This
was a place of quiet, a place that was out of bounds to my sisters and I, a place that was calm
and ordered and quite different from the boisterous chaos of the rest of the house. One of the
many quotes that my dad had framed and hanging on the wall was Margaret Mead’s “Never
underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is
the only thing that ever has.” I spent many quiet hours in the darkness of dads study, not turning on
the light because I didn’t want to get caught. And in those hours I read and reread that quote. Little
did I know that one day I would have the privelage of being part of ‘a small group of committed
people’, that would indeed ‘change the world’.

I do believe that Memory, Henry and I, with the help of the directors and trustees in Malawi and
Canada, along with our champions, donors, and sponsors, have changed the world. And I know that
the actions that we have taken in this meeting, by dissolving the Malawi Education Foundation and
handing over the full reigns of the school, to the APU Trust in Malawi, is yet another step in doing so.
And the best part of what has happened is that the change that our collective actions have wrought,
will continue to grow and magnify with each passing year, as more girls, both private and
scholarship, access the high quality education that is being delivered at APU. That is the power of
education. The power of growth. The power of girls who are ‘on the move’.

Tonight we have made a motion for the dissolution of the APU Malawi Educational Foundation.
We are walking our talk. We are following through. It feels strange and uncomfortable, even
unheard of, to have gained charitable status as a foundation, complete our mission, and have
enough courage in the product of our labours to actually close up shop and walk away, trusting
and believing that what has been created at the school in Malawi will continue without us. It is
humbling. Can they do it without us? Will it last? I believe with every fibre of my being that not
only will it last, but it will thrive without us. That this has been the very thing that we have been
working towards from the very beginning. Sustainability, independence, and empowerment.

On December 11th, we will gather together ‘virtually’ over zoom, as students, alum, teachers,
administrators, founders and directors both in Malawi in Canada, to recognize the great work
that we have accomplished together. Thank you Helene, David, Tricia, Pat, Dariol, Dean and
Lance for being part of this ‘small group of committed people’ and for the role that each of you
have played. This group has much to be thankful for, much to be proud of, and much to

Christie Johnson
In memory of our Agogo Ken Haywood, Frances Stocks, and Larry Johnson
For their patience, guidance, energy and support for all things APU

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