Norwich couple’s inspiring missionary work across Africa

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Norwich couple’s inspiring missionary work across Africa

St John’s Cathedral parishioners Andy and Mary Clark have spent the last 18 years working with development charities in Africa. Andy is now chair of Network for a Better World and is looking for volunteers who might like to get involved.

Andy and Mary’s journey began in 2006 when they left Norwich for Kakamega, Kenya, answering a calling to serve as lay missionaries, where they worked in an orphanage and school as a nurse and teacher, having been recruited by an organisation called Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM). Later they were transferred to Makeni, near Lusaka, in Zambia, where, for 18 months, Andy worked in a school for orphans and vulnerable children and Mary worked as a nurse in a community-based HIV/AIDS project.

In Southern Malawi, the N4BW has been active for 12 years, particularly in the Sitima Parish in the Zomba Diocese, run by the Montfort Missionary Order. This area was chosen for its limited NGO presence and the profound material poverty of the local population, though Andy says these people are “rich in spirit.” The Clarks first task in Sitima was to oversee the construction of a volunteer house, a project funded through private donations, which has since housed volunteers for durations ranging from two weeks to over a year.

Throughout the last year, N4BW’s initiatives have ranged from constructing school buildings and training teachers, to organizing community-wide educational conferences. Their work extends beyond education into community assistance, like distributing essentials post-Cyclone Freddy, supporting vulnerable populations, and enhancing local infrastructure with fuel-efficient stoves and literacy programs.

Additional efforts include the creation of subject-specific resource boxes to enhance learning, the promotion of kitchen gardens in schools, and the refurbishment of several school buildings. In the community sector, N4BW has built houses for elderly women affected by Malawi’s severe weather conditions and provided ongoing support to families to develop kitchen gardens. They’ve also launched craft workshops and organized sports leagues to enrich community life.

The Clarks’ experience in Africa is a testament to the joy and fulfilment that comes from immersing oneself in a culture vastly different yet full of life and celebration. Andy said: “To work in local communities gives an opportunity to observe and at times to be part of an African culture which is very different but very joyful despite the hardships which many face every day. Celebrations are frequent and are vibrant, joyful occasions with much singing and dancing. Masses are celebrated in an especially lively manner and with real joy. It is a privilege to attend and brings home the various ways in which the universal church celebrates but the mass remains a central focus in our lives.”

N4BW’s mission resonates deeply with the ideals of solidarity espoused by Pope John Paul II, emphasizing a committed effort towards the common good. This call to action is not just for those in distant lands but also for individuals in the UK who can support through volunteering, donations, or prayers.

As Andy now chairs N4BW, he invites more volunteers to join in their mission. He says: “When we talk about projects in far-flung places such as Africa, they might seem very removed from us here in England and Wales. But you are building the Church around the world, by supporting our global family. Your prayers are needed to encourage the people who take part in the sort of activities that have been described here, as well as local communities; some of you may be in a position to support N4BW as a volunteer in this country or travel to Sitima, as will four new volunteers this year, and to experience the joy of answering God’s call.”

For those moved by the Clarks’ story or inspired by the prospect of helping communities thrive, N4BW offers a pathway to participate in a life-changing journey. It’s about bringing joy, aid, and education to those who need it most and experiencing the profound satisfaction of answering God’s call.

Visit the N4BW website here or contact them at

Pictured above are Andy and Mary with two Sitima community workers.