A Musselburgh graduate who grew up in a children’s home in Malawi has harnessed the power of university education in Scotland to transform his life and build relationships between young people.

Gift Thompson, 25, who spent much of his adolescent life living at STEKA (Step Kids’ Awareness) – an orphanage for vulnerable children rescued from abusive situations or living alone on the streets of Blantyre, Malawi – has graduated with a 2:1 BSc (Hons) Public Sociology degree from Queen Margaret University (QMU) at Musselburgh.

The “inspirational” young man, who has experienced “extreme poverty”, plans to use the knowledge that he’s gained during his time studying to lead the development of a Scottish/Malawian skills-based centre, which will provide vulnerable people, particularly girls and women, with a way of escaping poverty.

STEKA Centre for Vocational Skills and Community Enterprise in Malawi is being built and sustained largely through the Scottish based STEKAskills charity, of which Gift is the youngest trustee.

Gift’s “resilience, intelligence and leadership qualities” were recognised when Lilidh Aveyard, a young Scots student, volunteered at the STEKA orphanage.

She felt Gift should have the same chance of a degree as she had and lobbied her mother Emma Wood, a senior lecturer in communications at QMU.

When Emma visited STEKA, she met Gift and worked with Godknows Maseko, who runs the children’s home, to create a plan which would facilitate Gift’s degree level education in Scotland.

Seeing the value of Gift’s potential to transform hundreds of lives in Malawi, and to influence research and learning for their students in Scotland, QMU waived the tuition fees for his undergraduate degree.

Emma invited Gift to live with her and her family, firstly in Portobello and then at their new home at Edinburgh Road in Musselburgh, for the duration of his four-year degree.

This autumn, QMU will support him to achieve his MSc International Leadership, waiving course fees.