Reverend Dr Merryl Blair is a graduate of the University of Divinity and has taught at Stirling Theological College within the University since the mid 1990s.
In 2009, Merryl and her husband Graeme first travelled to Ndola, Zambia, to teach at Northrise University, a private university founded Moffat and Doreen Zimba, to give affordable higher education to the largely rural and poor Zambian people. There they met Joyce Chimbila and her budding school. Merryl said:
One of my students was a woman named Joyce Chimbila, who I learned had been working for the Zambian government travelling around the country teaching small business entrepreneurship to women in villages.
Joyce had recently begun a feeding program for abused and orphaned children, in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of Ndola, Old Mushili. She invited me to come and see the work. I then persuaded Graeme to see what had amazed me: the love and care being offered these children, along with pre-school teaching and regular meals.
Together, we experienced a ‘Damascus Road’ moment. Like many developed world people of conscience, we had long felt dissatisfied with the ‘scatter-gun’ approach to overseas aid, wondering if it really made any difference. We felt we had now found our calling, which was to support Joyce’s work in any way we were able.”
Merryl and Graeme continued to visit the school another four times, for 4-6 weeks each time. In between visits, Graeme spent many hours trawling through sporting shops, gathering appropriate games that would work well in the school’s context. Each visit, Graeme would carry large bags full of frisbees, soccer balls, skipping ropes, badminton sets, volleyballs, rounders sets, and kites – with one small bag for his own actual luggage.
In 2019, Graeme died suddenly just as he and Merryl were about to attend a fundraising dinner for this school. His passion for Joyce’s work had led to an ever-widening ring of support here in Australia, and the growing school – then farm – was only possible because of the on-going devotion of the many who caught the vision.
This man loved Zambia; loved children; loved the work being achieved by Joyce and her committed group. He would love knowing that the new school (only a future dream at the time of his death) is going ahead. We are proud to present this project as a fitting memorial to this wonderful man.”
Merryl has established the Graeme Blair Memorial Fund, in loving memory of Graeme Blair, to continue to support the school. If you would like to contribute to the Fund, visit https://graeme-blair-memorial-fund-for-alms.com/Donate More about the project