Changing lives and sharing hope in Malawi


For 39 years, the Presbyterian Church in Canada has been offering a helpful hand of love in Malawi.

One of the church’s 73 people who have spent time in Malawi carrying out the commandment to love others is Mary Helen Garvin, a member of St. Andrew’s Barrie’s Women’s Missionary Society.

She recalls one vivid memory that inspired incredible work: On a Saturday morning in 2007, a woman named Faith came to visit her. She told Mary Helen about the struggles of grandmothers who were raising their grandchildren, left orphaned by the deaths of their parents due to AIDS.

Faith asked Mary Helen how she could help these courageous women. Mary Helen suggested creating a support group for them.

One day, as Mary Helen walked outside, “I found 12 grannies sitting on a straw mat under a tree waiting for me to tell them how to create a support group,” she recalled., adding she suggested they work together by creating gardens, learning to compost and all the while, singing and praying.

We did sing and pray and dance,” Mary Helen, who is appreciated in St. Andrew’s for her support groups for those who want to learn about aging gracefully and or struggling privately in their bereavement.

The grannies group in Malawi has grown and the group has harvested produce from their garden and is continuing to raise goats that provide milk from Mary Helen’s start-up gift of money to buy two goats many years ago.

The grannies have been able to also provide school uniforms for their grandchildren who attend school.

The WMS also helps Hope, who in turn is committed to learning and helping others. (Stay tuned for more on Hope.)

Mary Helen noted that when we support the WMS, including via its spring Butterfly Tree fundraiser, we help make life better for others.

The guest speaker on St. Andrew’s Mission Awareness Sunday is Rev. Joel Sherbino, the minister at Paris Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Malawi liaison.

You can read more about the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s work in Malwai at or join us on Oct. 30 to hear more from Rev. Sherbino.