In this interview, FATSANI GUNYA catches up with STEVEN DRULL, a former headmaster of Kamuzu Academy in Kasungu (1993-1997) who is now the executive director for a UK-based charity, MedicMalawi. The charity is helping hundreds of Malawians with eye problems free monthly Eye Surgery Scheme at St Andrews Hospital of the Anglican Church in the district. Drull discusses the eye surgery project, volunteerism and tertiary education.
What special memories do you hold for this country?
Malawi is the warm heart of Africa. This is a beautiful country. I love the scenery, the lakeshore, I love travelling, but it is the people that I keep very special in my heart and to come back, see the people, the dancing and hear the music again is very special to me. This is so because we do not do that in England. I guess in England we are too polite; too restrained. And here, everybody smiles and everybody gives you a hug and it is nice.
Briefly, explain what Medic-Malawi is all about?
Medic-Malawi is a small charity and I work as a volunteer to keep it going. The hospital here, the administrator and the people who run the facility organise the programme very well. The eye surgeon comes and he is in here by 08:30 hours and will just operate throughout the day. He takes no lunch break. This is a fantastic use of money that people are able to give.
I understand one of your students during your time at Kamuzu Academy is Dr. Amos Salimanda-Nyaka who is a leading surgeon in this project. How does it feel to be working with him on a similar mission?
It is one of the nicest things of all. Yes, he was a student in my time and I remember him from back in the days. He was one of the first students who benefitted from the public scholarship programme to have an excellent education. So it is a superb example of somebody who was well educated as Kamuzu Banda would have loved. To become a doctor without having to travel the whole wide world as the founder [Kamuzu Banda] had to do to get education. Education is provided here [in Malawi] and I think he also had specialist education abroad and then he has returned here to work at Kamuzu Central Hospital as an eye surgeon. And I had not seen him since he left school and it was wonderful to see him again.
This just shows that Kamuzu Academy is doing its job and the students of Kamuzu Academy are putting back into the country the great skills that they had been lucky enough to acquire.
But how sustainable is your free medical eye treatment project?
In a sense, it is technically not sustainable because it doesn’t generate its own income. But I guess that’s the same with any other public health service. Of course, it can be continued because it is working so well and the reason I am confident is that it [the hospital] is so well run.
How do you raise the money that you help to support this hospital?
It comes mostly from individual givers of money in England. They are members of churches, members of groups like Rotary Clubs and they give generously to the cause. We get almost no money from institutions and none from government. So my job is to raise money from those individuals and they are often not particularly rich people, but they are giving money they can. My own mother, who is 93, makes a contribution from her pension funds to this cause. And those bits of money add up. We also have some good support from schools. It is like when you have a big school in the United Kingdom, you can sometimes get them to have some charity days to raise money.
What word can you offer to Malawians regarding the role of volunteerism and patriotism in growing the country’s social-economic development?
I would say to Malawians that volunteering is something which is good for the community and it is good for the person who volunteers because they are themselves enriched through their act of giving out to other people. As it is said in the Bible that it is in giving that we receive. This means we receive much more back again every time we do something for the communities, coming from our hearts and the blessings that we have.
Any last word?
Let me stress that this project would not function without volunteers from Malawi. The people are paid small amount of money to work there. Most people do not have a lot of money to give but if we give the little money we can; if we can give some of our time to charity and also some skills towards community projects, if we can encourage people to try and do that, I am sure we can make a difference in this world. n