FRIENDS and family of Joan and Brian Kirk may have expected the Boston couple to celebrate 50 years of married life with a big party.
Instead they decided to mark their golden wedding anniversary in a very personal way.
ActionAid supporters Joan and Brian celebrated their marriage with an adventure of a lifetime to Africa and an incredible and moving visit to meet Memory, a Malawian child they have sponsored since 2004.
Joan and Brian first became involved with the anti-poverty charity in 1998 when they joined the ActionAid ‘Sponsor a Child’ scheme.
Joan, a fully trained nurse, decided to sponsor a child, after she toured Malawi with St John Ambulance to teach first aid and saw the difficulties faced by many Malawians.
ActionAid introduced Joan and Brian to Memory Gondwe halfway across the world in Rumphi, Malawi.
Their journey began with a meeting at the ActionAid project staff in the Mzuzu office and from there it was a three hour drive to the small area office of Rumphi, where they met local ActionAid guides Hanna and Anna.
Arriving in Memory’s village, the couple could tell that this was a real day of celebration. They both joined in with the dancing and presented all the children with pencils and writing books brought with them from England.
“Our whole trip was wonderful, but the icing on the cake was to meet Memory face-to-face,” said Joan.
She added: “It was four years ago we received a picture of Memory, but the beautiful young lady, who came with her family to greet us, was instantly recognisable. It has to be one of the most special memories we’ve taken away from our trip”.
Joan continued: “For our visit, the community had made us a large basket on which was written – for your golden jubilee. We were so incredibly touched by their gesture.”
On the second day of the visit, Joan and her husband went to see a primary school and had the chance to witness firsthand what a school day is like in Malawi.
The head teacher said the new school block meant that 300 children could now be taught in the school’s classrooms.
Back in England the couple is taking in what was a very emotional visit.
Joan, who is 72, may have retired 12 years ago, but still puts in a full time 35 hour working week running a training agency with an ex-nursing colleague.
To sponsor a child or to find out more about supporting ActionAid’s work, call 01460 23 8000 or log onto http://www.actionaid.org.uk/.