Estelle, Malawi

Former Craighead student fighting back against famine in Malawi


A former Craighead Diocesan School student is fighting back against famine in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Fairlie teen Estelle Arundell, 18, has spent the past four months volunteering as a teacher in Malawi.

While Estelle says her experience has been incredible, it was also heartbreaking. Malawi is the 7th poorest nation in the world and is in the midst of a severe drought.


After seeing students dropping out of school because they could not afford to go, or because they were too hungry to concentrate, Estelle decided to take action.

Along with two other volunteers, Estelle has set up a project called FightTheFamine, aimed at giving her 300 students porridge every day.

"Lack of rain has meant that Malawi's stable food, maize, has died, leaving the people with hardly any food to eat and no source of income from farming until the harvest next year.

"Some families are only able to eat once every three days and some students were walking or biking to school for up to three hours without having had breakfast."

The trio has already raised about $8,000, and were hoping to double that to keep the project sustainable, Estelle said.

The money was put towards building a shelter for the porridge and buying porridge and utensils. They were also able to pay for the school fees of 150 students starting in September.

Absence rates had dropped at the school since the project had started, she said.

"Starting up a project like this has been a lot of work but it is so rewarding to see the smile on the kids' faces when they have a cup of porridge in their hands each day.

"Students are so much more motivated to come to school because they know they will be fed there."

The group has also identified three pupils that have "exceptional ability", and had decided to sponsor them to attend a school in the nearby city of Blantyre for the next academic year. 

Estelle decided to take a gap year after finishing school. Rather than just travelling, she wanted to do something to help others.

"The people here have nothing and yet they are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. I have learnt so much about myself and what I am capable of through this experience."

Estelle's school is located in the small village of Kazunga. Kazunga is so rural and isolated that it is not even located on Google Maps, she said.

"Here I sleep on a thin foam mattress on the floor of a one roomed brick house with no electricity, no running water, and a coal fire to cook over.

"Living like this for four months has brought me back to the basics and has made me realise how unnecessary some Western luxuries are."

She will spend another two months at the school before returning home to New Zealand.

A Give a Little page has been set up for people to donate to the project.

 - Stuff