The begging letter that blessed a nation

Dave HallByDave Hall

The begging letter that blessed a nation

Insurance broker Chris Knott thought he was entering a cattle shed in Malawi – only to find out it was a school.

Filled with compassion, the Oxford graduate, who studied law before moving into insurance, sold his business in a management buy-out and set up Starfish Malawi – a charity which has since helped hundreds of thousands of children. It now leads bible explorer classes in 30 schools, hundreds of secondary school students have been sponsored and thousands of primary school children are being taught as UK schools link with them. 

‘When most people get a begging letter from Africa it goes straight into the waste-paper bin but 17 years ago Chris wrote a tentative reply to a pastor and then decided to visit a country he had never thought about before,’ explained Peter Bell, head of fundraising for the charity.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, in which one in four of the 19 million people are under 14 years old. But that simple letter has resulted in a massive impact in the land to which Christian explorer Dr David Livingstone took the message of Jesus Christ in 1859.

Starfish Malawi now run a school-linking programme, currently involved in approximately 30 construction projects, from adding toilets, to building complete school blocks, teachers’ homes, school halls, offices and libraries. A Gateway project provides over 10,000 free reusable sanitary kits to girls and more than 200 pastors are given access to Christian study books through pastor’s resources libraries. Some 4000 children have had nursery education, food, clothing provision and child healthcare. 

‘From July this year, four villages in the rural community, with an estimated 13,000 people, will have access to the facilities at our new Hope Clinic, providing free adult and child outpatients care,’ said Peter.

As a response to the recent Covid 19 crisis, Starfish Malawi has provided 80 washstands to be installed in the Salima town centre and in rural areas, together with distribution of face masks, made by a sewing group. The washstands use foot pedals to provide clean water and liquid soap.

‘It’s all embracing – life encapsulating,’ explained Chris. ‘This is a job which demands the whole of you – just to give a bit of yourself is not enough.’

The Starfish story speaks about how even the smallest act of a young child can change a life forever.

‘We can’t help everyone but we help as many as we can – one at a time!’ said Peter.

Click here to find out more about Starfish Malawi.

Photo: A Starfish Malawi nursery education site.

• Starfish Malawi will be exhibiting at CRE National 2021 (Oct 12-14, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)

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CRE South West 2021 – 17-18 March 2021
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CRE National 2021 – 12-14 October 2021
Sandown Park, Surrey

About the author

Dave Hall

Dave Hall author