Malawi, often described as ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’, due to the friendliness of its people, has a huge variety of landscapes. These range from the rugged highlands, such as the hiker’s and climber’s paradise of the Mulanje Massif to lowland plains and unspoilt wildlife reserves. Malawi is a landlcoked country but has the stunning Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, lined with hundreds of miles of tropical golden sand beaches and boasting hundreds of species of colourful tropical fish.
Volunteers can work in one of three areas in the community - Teaching, Medical or Sport Coaching and Orphan Care. If you would like to combine your time on two of these areas this can be accommodated also and the longer you stay the easier it is for us to arrange this so it is of benefit to the local community and yourself.
Malawi is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Whilst this has preserved a huge amount of its natural beauty it has led to over half of the population living below the poverty line and an average income of just over $200 per year. Over 90% of the population of the country live in rural areas and the economy is predominantly agricultural. Improving access to education and the level of education amongst the population is one of the biggest challenges to face the country.
The teaching project is based in the Monkey Bay area at the southern end of Lake Malawi, approximately 3 hours east of Lilongwe. There are a number of rural schools in this area that face the twin challenges of severly limited funding and insufficient numbers of teachers in comparison to the number of pupils that attend. There are approximately 150 to 200 pupils per permanent teacher in these schools - a very different reality to that most of us are lucky enough to experience. The work of the volunteers at these schools makes a huge difference to the experience and learning of the children in these schools. Without the work of the volunteers, there would be no opportunity for any one-on-one teaching time. These time is a great advantage for the children, particularly for those with learning difficulties and this extra attention can make all the difference in allowing them to stay with their year groups.
The project is based in one of two rural primary schools. In 1994, primary education was made free to all in Malawi, whilst this led to increased attendance, the lack of any associated increase in funding led to a substantial decline in the quality of the teaching that could be delivered and challenges to the infrastructure of the school system. The two schools that are currently supported are just part of the local school system and it is the intention of the project to expand work into these other schools as we are able to do so.
The general structure of the education system is an 8-4-4 system with years (Standards) 1 to 8 of primary education starting at age 6 potentially followed by 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university education. Attendance at primary school is compulsory but children of different ages are often taught in the same classes due to being held back or starting their schooling late. At the end of the 8 years in primary school, children sit the Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations. Selection for attendance at government secondary schools is competitive on the basis of this exam.
Your Role as a Volunteer
Your work will take place in one or both of the schools and will involve teaching the core syllabus subjects to children of different ages and levels. Due to the number of students in the classroom, it is always of benefit to be able to divide the class into smaller groups so that there is less distraction and the children can get more from their teaching. If you are a qualified teacher, there is the opportunity to take the children to different areas to deliver the teaching. If you are not a qualified teacher you will work as a teaching assistant within the classroom and there is so much to help with as the classses are so large.
The subjects that you may teach and assist in teaching include:
- Sciences – Biology, Physics and Chemistry
- Creative arts
- Health education and HIV/AIDS awareness
Schools typically start at around 7.30am, with Standards 1 and 2 finishing at about 10.40am Standards 3 and 4 at about 12.00 and Standards 5 to 8 at about 13.15pm
After a lunch break, you and the children take part in extra-curricular activities that start around 2pm and finish around 5pm. Various sports are on offer but the two most popular are football and netball. Other sports, such as volleyball, rounders and badminton are on offer but there is a lack of equipment and local knowledge therefore these are on an informal basis.
The schools also runs informal HIV/AIDS awareness groups and sexual education projects. These benefit greatly from the help and knowledge of the volunteers and are under constant development. You can help the students to express their views through debates and forums, provide educational materials and sessions, whilst also creating fun and educational activities such as encouraging students to write songs, perform short plays and poems and create posters and flyers to try and raise awareness and the understanding about HIV/AIDS within the school and the wider community.
This type of workshop development is applied to wildlife and conservation clubs, where pupils learn about conservation and how to preserve and protect the wildlife of Malawi. This occasionally includes educational visits to National Parks and game reserves where the children gain an insight into the importance of Malawi’s natural areas. This element aims to teach the children about the interaction of humans and wildlife and of the valuable part of their heritage that wildlife and conservation are.
There is also a First Aid and nutrition group that aims to promote healthy diets, exercise and basic first aid for all pupils. The group has a very limited First Aid Kit to treat minor ailments, sporting injuries etc and few understand the way that our bodies work and how to keep them healthy – passing on basic first aid skills is a fantastic way to help the community continue to benefit after your stay. Also if do bring out a first aid kit and you don't mind leaving it behind for the children this is always greatly appreciated.
In Malawi there are three school terms each year, the dates of which vary each year and are often not confirmed until the last minute. As a general guideline the terms are as follows:
||Mid January to mid April
||From early May to the end of July.
||From late August to mid November
During the school vacations there are still opportunities and need for volunteers. You may get involved with holiday clubs and classes that encourage the children to engage with other children of their age and to keep them occupied and engaged in the learning environment even if it is in an informal manner. There is the chance to coach sports to local teams, teach art and music and spend your time interacting with the children. There is much less structure to these activities and you should expect to be more creative and motivated to implement your own ideas with the children each day and ensure that they come back each day to work with you. During the holidays it is a great opportunity to have a free reign and do some fun and exciting activities with the children and build a real bond with them.
Please Note: Schools in Africa are very different to the western standards that you are familiar with. There is little structure and time is certainly not a priority.
Spend your time volunteering on this fantastic orphanage and medical community development programme, against the backdrop of the stunning Lake Malawi.
The main focus of this project is on supporting the varied and very important work of the local Community Hospital and Local Orphanage in the Monkey Bay area of Malawi. During your time, you will have the rare opportunity to make a vital difference to those who need it most, caring for those in hospital, educating children in health workshops and also spending time with the young children who suffer from AIDS who attend the local orphanage.
All volunteers are welcome to join this project. Those without medical training or experience will spend the majority of their time working with the young orphans in Monkey Bay. Those with relevant medical experience or qualifications will spend more time on the medical aspects of the project where their skills can be put to the best use.
The majority of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas and is provided with free health care through a governmental health care system that is organised into three levels. Health centres manage the most common and easily treated problems and offer maternity services. Cases that cannot be dealt with at this level are referred to district community hospitals, which provide secondary health care, including some types of basic surgery. Tertiary care is then offered at one of the 3 central hospitals, situated in the North, Central and Southern regions.
This programme consists of 5 different project areas, suitable to all levels of volunteer experience. These are as follows:
Local Community Hospital and Clinic
This project work is suited to volunteers with previous medical experience. There is work for nonqualified volunteers, though this will usually involve shadowing local doctors, helping with administrative duties or data entry.
The project is currently based in Monkey Bay Hospital, which is funded by an Icelandic organization and thus you will be working with a mix of African and Icelandic nurses and doctors during your time here.
The Community Hospitals have two main roles. They provide primary health care to the local communities, whilst also receiving patients who are referred from the other four health faclities in the local Health Zone. Like the health centres, the community hospitals are staffed with nurse-midwives and medical assistants. In addition to these staff, they have clinical officers and a laboratory technician. The hospitals have a range of departments, such as an outpatient department, a female ward, male ward, childrens' ward, maternity ward and a nursery for children one to 14 days old.
The total number of inpatient beds at the Monkey Bay hospital is around 60; eight of which are in the maternity ward. There is a laboratory that can carry out simple tests such as measuring hemoglobin, but it also has equipment to do transfusions and appropriate tests beforehand. Some volunteers, particularly those studying or considering a career in the medical profession, may also wish to join clinicians in consultations, where there is an enormous amount to be learnt about the range of tropical and infectious diseases that present commonly to the hospital.
You will be involved in assisting the local nurses and doctors in their everyday care of the local Malawian people. Typical jobs may involve working with expecting mothers, newborn babies, administering injections, cleaning wounds and attending to dressings, small medical procedures and any other role which may be required from you by project staff. There is also a very important role available as a lab technician, carrying out all of the vital tests for the hospital. You will typically work from about 8am until 12.30pm each day at the hospitals and clinics
Local Orphan Centre
This project work is suited to any volunteers, regardless of your medical skills, but is most suitable for those with little or no previous experience. This orphan day care centre currently houses approximately 70-100 young orphans, many of whom are affected by HIV and AIDS. You will be involved in a range of activities which include some pre-school teaching to prepare them for their primary school education, helping with feeding each day, teaching the importance of health and nutrition and HIV/AIDS prevention.
In general, your day is primarily focused upon making the children smile, in providing much needed love and support. You will be working typically from 8am until 12pm each day. In the afternoons however, you are free to develop some sports and games with the children.
HIV and AIDS workshops and Home Based Care
This is a fantastic new initiative, which is keen to generate the support of our medical volunteers. This programme was set up by five local Malawian staff who have developed an interactive workshop for HIV and AIDS education and awareness together with an important home-based care unit.
They currently visit all of the surrounding areas of Monkey Bay and smaller communities (approximately 100 in total), presenting drama workshops and presentations (in English and Chichewa) to children and families. During this time, they also carry out home-based visits, to offer support, medical supplies and aid to those families who are too ill or do not have the facilities to make the journey into town to seek the help and assistance they need.
The aim of this project is to increase the awareness of HIV and AIDS, thus reducing the stigma associated with such an illness, whilst also educating local communities in the prevention of this virus. This is then partnered with a support network that has proved extremely popular and is constantly growing. The project also covers other important and relevant diseases such as Bilharzia and Malaria.
Please Note: It is important to remain flexible in your attitude and be prepared to help in any of the areas that are developing and use your initiative to instigate new project areas. Thus we do ask that you arrive with an open-minded attitude and strong work ethic in order to utilise your time best in a way that leaves behind a lasting impression for you of your time in Africa and for the community of all you achieved whilst you were there.
Sport & Community Volunteers
Join this excellent programme and help to teach sport in schools on the shores of Lake Malawi. You will play a vital role in teaching children how to play different games and sports such as football, volleyball, netball and more.
You will also be able to choose what you'd like to do in the mornings. The majority of our volunteers choose to get involved with one of the orphanages in the Monkey Bay area - this is the 'Community' part of the 'Sports & Community' volunteers.
This programme is ideal if you are interested in a wide range of sports and you want to help the development and wellbeing of the young children of Malawi
Your Role as a Volunteer
You will start in the morning, about 8am, helping in one of the two orphanages in the Monkey Bay area. You will help teach the pre-school children the alphabet, numbers, basic times tables and English.
Then, in the afternoon, starting at about 2pm and finishing around 5pm, you will be involved in teaching and playing the various sports that are offered at the schools with the children. Football is by far the most popular sport in Malawi, as in much of Africa and netball is also played by many of the girls; with the schools having teams for both sports.
In the morning, you will spend time assisting the teachers in the orphanages with giving the lessons and helping to feed the children (usually porridge with sugar).
As a sports volunteer in the afternoon, your key role is to lighten the load on teachers in two of the local schools in the Monkey Bay area of Lake Malawi. You can perform a number of roles on this project, which may include:
- Teaching sports in schools
- Organising after school sporting events such as clubs, tournament and matches
- Working with local sports teams to assist coaches and gain coaching experience
- Help with building projects at the schools.
Due to the weather, most sports activities are in the afternoons and evenings when temperatures are cooler. Volunteers have the opportunity to help with various building projects at the schools. These building projects range from building sports facilities, storage rooms, kitchens, libraries and emergency class rooms etc.
A Typical Day on the Project
Please note that your itineraries may vary, depending on your own experience and the number of other volunteers on the placement at the same time. Please use this itinerary as an example only. Here is how a typical day in the life of a Malawi Sports & Community Volunteer might take shape:
||Help in one of the orphanages
||Sports classes and after school sports clubs
||Free time for travel or extra coaching with local football teams and interacting with the childre
See the above notes regarding school holidays. There will always be a need to help in the orphanages in the morning, as school holidays do not apply to them.
Malawi With Amanzi Travel - Explore Africa
Why visit Malawi ?
Malawi, “the warm heart of Africa” is a landlocked country whose landscape is stunning and surprisingly diverse. Head for the misty heights of Mount Mulanje or to the Nyika National Park where one will find sheer escarpments, dramatic peaks, endless rolling grassland and some of the most enjoyable hiking routes in the whole of Africa.
However, the huge draw for most visitors is “the lake of stars”, Lake Malawi, a peaceful inland freshwater sea with sandy beaches. This magnificent lake stretches 500km along Malawi’s eastern border, covering over 20% of Malawi’s total area, separating it from the wild and mountainous coast of Mozambique and Tanzania. Isolated villages pepper the northern lakeshore and beautiful Liwonde National Park rests at its southern tip. Around 500 species of fish inhabit the lake and the freshwater diving and snorkelling here are excellent. Malawi’s temperate climate allows for swimming in the clear blue freshwater lake all year round. Also popular are a multitude of water sports, horse-back rides and visits to local villages and schools. Traditional fishing techniques are still practiced and boating skills will be appreciated by anyone who tries to paddle a dug-out canoe themselves!
Highlights of Malawi
- Magnificent and peaceful clear blue freshwater lake with sandy beaches – the second largest in the world.
- Temperate climate for year round swimming.
- Stunning , varied scenery of mountains, lakes and endless rolling grasslands.
- Fabulous freshwater diving and snorkelling.
- Great fishing, with around 500 species of fish in the lake.
- Lilongwe is a small city distinctly divided into the old town and the new administrative centre.
|Seasons ||Max ||Min
|Summer (dry): May – mid-November
|Winter (wet): mid-November - April
|Rainfall: mid-November to April, with the peak rain late March
Although Malawi has an equatorial climate, it is generally hot in the low-lying areas of the south, and temperate in the northern highlands.
The best time to visit Malawi is during the dry season. From May to July the landscape is attractive and the vegetation is green and lush and the temperature is cooler. October and November, at the end of the dry season, is the best time for wildlife viewing, although temperatures can be uncomfortably hot. The wettest months are March and April where rainfall is heavy.
Population – 15 million
Capital – Lilongwe
Currency – Malawi Kwacha (MWK)
Language – English, Chichewa
Time difference – GMT +2 hours
Telephone – country code 265, international access code 101