ONE of the strange things about this strange job is that you never know where you might end up next.

Whether that's being sent to a crime scene or out to interview a celebrity who emphatically does not want to be interviewed; or to drive a £180,000 supercar or have your face made out of mozzarella on a pizza.

This phenomena is also one of the great things about this great job and no more so than that it allows the opportunity for travel. Unless you are a foreign correspondent or a travel writer, trips overseas are few and far between but if you make the right contacts you can end up anywhere in the world.

READ MORE: In a Malawi refugee camp porridge is providing life

I've had the opportunity to take part in press trips to Serbia, the Cayman Islands, Canada and Mauritius. These were privilege itself, flying business class or staying at the Ritz Carlton, but they are designed to ensure the journalist writes nice things about the place they are visiting.

A privilege of a better sort, are trips overseas with charities to write about their work. I've been fortunate enough to travel twice with Christian Aid: first, to the Thai-Myanmar border to visit refugee camps, and then also to Sierra Leone to look at maternal health in remote parts of the country.


Most recently I was invited to travel to Malawi with the Scottish charity Mary's Meals. Begun in a shed by its founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, 20 years later the charity now feeds two million children a meal a day in schools in 20 countries.

"How was your trip?" friends and colleagues will ask, with some sort of sense that this is a holiday. It can be quite difficult to persuade people sometimes that what we call work is, hand on heart, work. But these trips can be tough.

In Malawi we were working in nearly 40 degree heat every day, which is astonishingly oppressive, even for those who are used to it. Our alarms were set for 4am each morning as we started early on long drives along dusty roads to remote schools to listen to stories of hardship and want.

You are fortunate, too, if the group you've been pressed into at close quarters is decent. It's not always the case and people can become unlike themselves in high pressure situations.

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Sometimes the sense of strangeness of being away escalates to feeling like out of body experiences. Life, as goes the truism, finds a way and so does civilisation. In the refugee camps I've visited, people have built scale monuments to the lives they left behind, using what they now have to hand.

In a camp on the Thai border people had built a cafe and some overseas organisation had donated an espresso machine. Having worked in a coffee shop I found myself in a refugee camp teaching teens how to steam milk for cappuccinos during the two hour daily window they had electricity.

For a short while you step outside yourself and focus on the importance of what others are doing, such as the life changing school programmes in Malawi, feeding children a morning meal and keeping them in school. In the Malawian heat we felt the warmth of people turning something ordinary - porridge - into something extraordinary.

If you can donate to Mary's Meals please see:

Mary’s Meals provides a daily meal in a place of education to the world’s poorest children in 20 countries, including Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, South Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe.

Donate today and double your love. Make a donation until January 31, 2023, and it will be doubled, up to £1.5million, by a group of generous supporters, meaning Mary’s Meals can reach even more hungry children around the world with life-changing, nutritious school meals.

A donation of just £15.90 to Mary’s Meals will feed a child for a whole school year.

To help hungry children, call Freephone 0800 698 1212 or see to donate online.