On Tuesday 26 February 2019 date there was a high profile scientific symposium at the Glasgow Science Centre to celebrate the re-naming of the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology as the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology. (https://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/wcip/aboutthewcip/wcipnews/headline_633667_en.html)
Dr Mwapatsa Mipando, Principal of the University of Malawi College of Medicine, had travelled from Malawi to Glasgow to participate in the symposium and was the final speaker of the day.
By chance, I had already agreed to give a short presentation to the Rotary Club of Ayr about the MalDent Project on the evening of 26 February. I had met Ieuan and Alex, both members of the Rotary Club of Ayr, at the Scotland-Malawi Partnership AGM last Autumn when I was speaking with them about their link to work with Professor Bob Kalin at the University of Strathclyde on water infrastructure projects in Malawi (see below!).
I was delighted when it was agreed that Mwapatsa would be able to accompany Niall Rogerson and myself down to Ayr. We picked Mwapatsa up at the Glasgow Science Centre immediately after he had delivered his lecture at the WCIP meeting and whisked him through heavy rush hour traffic to the Rotary Club meeting at the Savoy Park Hotel in Ayr.
We arrived in time to enjoy a very tasty dinner before I was invited to speak at 7pm.
Following my talk, Mwapatsa was also invited to say a few words before the President of the Club invited questions and then closed the meeting.
I was delighted that Bob Kalin, from Strathclyde University, was in the audience. The amazing work that he and his team are doing on water infrastructure projects was well known to me after hearing him speak at meetings organised by the Scotland-Malawi Partnership and Scottish Government. After the meeting we had a very interesting conversation about an ongoing project of Bob’s on fluoride concentrations in groundwater in Malawi. He showed us a fantastic app which plots every bore hole in the country, links each one to other key local data and which is about to be used in a planned survey on dental fluorosis.
Subsequent to that discussion, Bob and his PhD student Marc Addison have met with Prof Lorna Macpherson (Professor of Dental Public Health at Glasgow Dental School), Niall and I to establish some joint working on this project – a very exciting prospect which has sprung from initial connections facilitated by the Scotland Malawi Partnership AGM.
Before leaving the Savoy Park Hotel I spied this gem of a plaque on the wall:
No trip to Ayrshire is complete without reference to Scotland’s National Poet and this one seemed particularly apt for the evening in view of the coincidence of dates that had resulted in Mwapatsa attending the meeting.
Many thanks to the Rotary Club of Ayr for their interest in the MalDent Project and for their generous hospitality – it was a tremendous evening.
My good friend Alex Mackay had arranged for me to meet again with Mwapatsa on the Thursday afternoon of his visit. By chance, a student from the University of Rwanda Dental School, Karebu Bizumuremyi, was visiting Glasgow Dental School on a two week programme from 25th February to 8th March. This had been organised by Niall Rogerson, who has played a significant role over the past four years supporting the introduction of the BDS curriculum in the new Rwanda Dental School. The first cohort of students had graduated in 2018 and Mwapatsa was keen to have a chat with Karebu about his undergraduate experiences in Rwanda so far.
We then discussed various items of MalDent Project business. Deirdre Kelliher, who is providing outstanding grant management support, joined us to discuss budgetary issues ahead of the first report that we will need to submit to the Scottish Government by 30 April 2019.
Following the two coincidences of our visit to Ayr and Karebu’s visit linking with Mwapatsa’s time in Glasgow, there was a third and final coincidence. On that Thursday evening, the Scotland Malawi Partnership had arranged a preview showing of the film ‘The Boy who Harnessed the Wind’, ahead of its official Netflix launch:
The film, shot in Malawi, tells the story of 13 year old William Kamkwamba, living in a rural village, who built a wind turbine from scrap materials to power electrical appliances for activities such as irrigation.
Alex had arranged tickets for Prof Paul Garside and his family and for Mwapatsa and myself. The screening was at the Dominion Cinema in Morningside, Edinburgh. We left Glasgow at 4.30pm and drove through to Edinburgh, arriving early enough to park very close to the cinema. Mwapatsa and I enjoyed a meal in a nearby Nepalese restaurant, before joining the queue for the film alongside Paul and his family.
I had not been in the Dominion Cinema since I was a student nearly 40 years ago. It is a very plush picture house. The foyer had a fantastic Malawian flavour for the evening and we took advantage of the photo opportunity provided:
We were offered a Malawian gin on arrival in the body of the cinema and then welcomed by David Hope Jones, CEO of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. Short videos demonstrating the fantastic work of the event’s two main sponsors, Orbis Expeditions (http://www.orbis-expeditions.com/) and Brewgooder (http://www.brewgooder.com), were shown followed by a videocast welcome from William Kamkwamba, the character on whom the film was based. He had hoped to be present in person, but instead was in the USA for the official launch of the film on Netflix.
The film itself was superb – if you have access to Netflix then please watch it. The importance of education could not be illustrated more forcefully.
After the film, we headed back to Glasgow. Paul’s daughter lives in Edinburgh and took a taxi home, but I was able to give Paul and his wife, along with Nicola Cogan who oversees our project grant at Scottish Government, a lift home.
It is a privilege to be part of the various collaborations that have developed between the College of Medicine in Malawi, the University of Glasgow and the multiple other partners that are now coming on board with the MalDent Project. There are exciting times ahead!