THIS week, the Peeblesshire News launches a new monthly column by Denis Robson, of the Thondwe Community Forum. Thondwe is a small community in the Zomba district of Malawi in south-eastern Africa that is linked with Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair in Tweeddale for mutual learning, collaboration and fundraising.

A group of seven from the Thondwe Community Forum returned home on Tuesday, October 17 after 10 days in the Zomba district of Malawi, meeting with their twinning partners including church representatives, heads of schools and health clinics, community leaders and district councillors.

The programme focused on building the capacity of the new business start ups, the cafe, hairdressers and craft/sewing group who are being supported by similar businesses and friends in Innerleithen.

Some notable highlights were the distribution of 40 pairs of glasses donated by High Street Opticians Peebles; collaborating with the Days for Girls charity to support girls attendance in school; and introducing our traditional dish of porridge to over 50 school children on World Porridge Day.

One of the main features of the partnership visit was the official opening of a library at Thondwe Primary school, built by the community with funding organised by the Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Traquair Rotary Club in collaboration with InChorus, St Ronan's Primary School, ITW Parish Church of Scotland, local businesses and many individuals.

This important addition to the school, powered by solar energy will be the only building within 2km with a light shining at night.

For some it was a first trip to Africa but for all of us it was a very positive experience with much to take away and think about.

It was providing a helping hand that worked both ways.

Rev Picklen Chafulumira from Thondwe said: "It had been marvellous time to be together in the past ten days. We have benefited a lot during the visit of seven Scottish friends from ITW Parish Church and the community of Innerleithen. Thank you for sharing us your time and resources with us."