Duration: 4 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2016
In the spring of 2016 I decided I wanted to travel to a country in Africa and combine this with volunteer work. I’d already been to a couple of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and was excited to see more of the continent. A few hours of research later, and I had decided that Malawi was where I wanted to go. The ‘warm heart of Africa’ was as well known for its friendly people as its beautiful landscapes and majestic wildlife. I was not disappointed when I arrived!
I travelled on my own, but met so many fabulous people here, I certainly never felt alone. Part of the experience for me was getting to know everyone else there, and what had brought everyone from all corners of the world to MVO. The volunteer house was pretty busy while I was there, so there was always something going on, whether it was playing silly games, guitar sing-a-longs, swimming in the lake, climbing the ‘mountain’ behind the volunteer house or sharing stories from home.
More from Bella...
I was taking part in the medical volunteering scheme, which was a fantastic experience. The biggest element was medical education – doing daily talks in local communities about health and awareness. It was a big challenge because the healthcare system in Malawi is very different from the UK, so your advice had to take this into account. Writing and delivering our own talks really built my confidence and it was amazing to see people engaging with what we were saying and asking questions.
The content of the talks was quite flexible. I am very passionate about menstrual health for women, and have been involved in workshops teaching women how to make their own washable sanitary pads in the past. I was able to do several of these workshops during my time with MVO, and they went down really well! So many women and girls don’t have access to menstrual hygiene products, and so aren’t able to go to school or work. It is something I take for granted, but having protection can make such a big difference to the opportunities available to women and girls (click to visit ecosiren on facebook). These workshops had some of the biggest turnouts of all our talks! So if you have any passions, there will probably be a chance to include these in the volunteer activities that you do.
The other major aspect of the scheme was going to wound clinics, which were held at local schools. These clinics gave children with minor wounds or skin problems a chance to have them dressed and be advised on wound care. As a volunteer, bringing out any first aid materials would be very much appreciated, as we got through supplies very quickly. Especially anti-fungal cream, cotton buds, gloves and TCP/betadine.
Two mornings a week we also went to a local health clinic/hospital and were able to sit in on general consultations – getting a chance to see the kind of complaints that bring people in to the equivalent of a GP practice. We were also able to help out in ante-natal clinics, feeling for the size and position of babies and listening to heart beats. The nurses and clinicians were all so friendly and keen to get to know us.
I would say that the medical program is perfect for anyone thinking of going into a career in healthcare, whether it be medicine, nursing, physiotherapy etc. It was a great introduction to the healthcare system in Malawi, and the different problems faced there. You didn’t need any medical knowledge or background, so it was a perfect introduction.
The Malawian lifestyle allows for a lot of relaxation time, which is great!! Not too far away is a beautiful resort on the edge of Lake Malawi called Cape Maclear, where we spent several weekends relaxing on the beach, drinking cocktails, going on boat trips, making friends with the local residents and even having a go at Malawian dancing. There are also opportunities to go on a safari weekend, climb some of the mountains and visit the big towns nearby.
I had a fabulous time, and made so many memories that I won’t forget. The staff at the volunteer house really make the experience special, as do all the other wonderful people you are bound to meet! The only thing I regret is not staying for more than four weeks!
Duration: 4 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
Where do I start? It's really difficult to express all my experiences and emotions about Malawi in these few words because there were so many special moments. I decided to go to Malawi for four weeks on the teaching project during my second year at university. I had just taken a module on International Education and Development which set my imagination running wild, and I was doing an education course in the hope of becoming a teacher when I graduated. I thought it would be a perfect way to gain some more teaching experience as well as being something exciting to do during those long, protracted summer holidays. Also, having done my development module, I knew that volunteers can make big differences in communities so I wanted to help as much as I could.
I was nervous about going because I'd never travelled alone before and never ventured beyond Europe, but it was something I really wanted to do so I held my nerve. I am so glad I did.
More from Alice...
From the moment I touched down in Lilongwe airport I knew I'd love being involved with MVO. This was my first opportunity to meet my fellow volunteers and they were all wonderful. They were from all walks of life, of all ages, and probably some people I would have never otherwise have had the opportunity to get to know. From the outset there was a great sense of camaraderie and support, and I relished the opportunity to become more familiar with everyone as the days went by.
The teaching project was amazing. In the mornings I would teach my class, Standard Six, English and we'd follow the curriculum. This was really interesting from my point of view as an Education Studies student who is normally chiefly exposed to curricula within the U.K. In the afternoons I would run additional lessons to help students who were struggling which was really fun because I could decide what I wanted to do and how I wanted to run the sessions. Stickers are one of the best things you can buy if you are going on the teaching project - the children worked so hard to get them and had great fun.
Further to my teaching in the mornings, I read with children in the school library in the afternoons and helped paint its interior to brighten the library up and make it a more stimulating work environment. Some of the pupils helped us and it such a good laugh! I also had the opportunity to help out at a Nursery Scdhool on a few occasions which was really rewarding - if exhausting! - and, as with the school children, it is so lovely to spend time with the children there and see their faces smiling up at you.
It was great to work alongside the teachers too. They were so easy to get along with and had a great sense of humour. There aren't a lot of resources in the school but the teachers are examples that all the gadgets and gizmos we have at home are not the makings of an effective teacher, it is resourcefulness and commitment.
It was great to feel like part of the community; the people of the surrounding villages were always friendly and everyone encouraged you to dress in the local manner and speak the language as much as you could. This was great way of learning a few phrases of Chichewa which helped you feel like part of the society to an even greater extent. Being immersed in Malawian culture gave me a much greater understanding of what it is like to be Malawian than if I'd just been a tourist in the area.
Having said that, we got to be tourists on the weekends! There was the opportunity to partake in some amazing excursions such as safari and snorkelling, which were absolutely great fun. The entirety of my stay in a Malawi was an adventure from start to finish.
Malawi was really a world away from what I was used to, so each day was a new and exciting experience. Every day something crazy happened, or something would challenge my assumptions. Matola rides (public transport) are more exciting than a day out at a theme park!
I'm not going to say there weren't hard times; I saw some things which brought home the reality of life for some people in Malawi. However, these experiences are an absolute core part of volunteering in Malawi and I feel they helped me grow as a person. I have returned not only with a pair of rather jazzy 'Happy Pants' from Malawi, but also a new perspective on life.
Volunteering as a truly life changing experience cannot be understated and you really come back with an appreciation for what you have in your life. Malawians are also so warm and generous in spite of all the odds which is a really inspiring thing to witness. The people I met in Malawi taught me as many lessons as I taught them! And, whenever it got challenging, there were always my fantastic volunteer friends to help me through.
I couldn't recommend going strongly enough to anyone, although I must warn you, there's a bug they don't tell you about at the travel clinic that will infect you for a long time; it's the love for Malawi and its people, and if you're anything like me, travelling in general! Beware: this adventure will change your life!
Duration: 10 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
As I write this I am hoping that I can find the words possible to describe how life-changing and incredible my time in Malawi was, and I'm hoping I am able to persuade you to go there too. I hope this not only for Malawi's sake and the life-long friends I have there - they will surely benefit from any volunteering you can offer them - but I also hope I can persuade you to do this and to benefit from this opportunity.
It doesn't matter how old you are, or what you are doing in life, or how well travelled you are - none of those things matter. The only thing that matters is that you are willing to make a difference and bring some happiness to the lives of people that haven't had it as good as you, and haven't had the same opportunities to make their life what they want it to be.
More from Ben...
I had recently left my job in the London corporate world to become a teacher. I had some free time before my course started, and I wanted to do some good and volunteer, particularly in Africa. There are fortunately a plethora of volunteer opportunities out there, but I am very glad that I chose Malawi and MVO. MVO is staffed by incredibly passionate and hard-working people striving to improve Malawi. It was a privilege to volunteer with them.
The project work was challenging but ultimately very rewarding. I taught classes at Monkey Bay Primary School. It's a primary school but the age range I was teaching was from 10 to 18.
I was also there during school holidays and ran summer school classes, and could teach them whatever I wanted (during term you have to stick to the curriculum) - this was really enjoyable. There's not much out there so you have to improvise - I was teaching them about negative numbers and angles using the dust in the ground outside, and a stick! My solar mobile phone charger also came in handy to explain a science lesson on energy.
I met some amazing people - both kids and adults - people I'll never forget. For this reason I'm already thinking about when I can go back! So are many of the good friends I met in the volunteer house. Yes, it's tough sometimes...yes, there are (rarely) bad days... but they are all part of the learning and personal development experience you also sign up for, and I wouldn't change a thing about my time there.
I know that I've done some good and helped many people. They've also helped me realise what is important in life. The real culture shock is when you go back home and realise that nobody smiles and everybody avoids eye contact with each other!
So, in summary - go for it! It'll be the best thing you'll ever do. Choose Malawi and choose MVO!
Duration: 4 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
I retired in April 2010 after years of managing a GP practice. Having harboured a wish for some time to see how healthcare works in developing countries, I decided to take the plunge and spend a month as a medical volunteer in Malawi. I was pretty apprehensive. How much help would I be (I don't have any medical qualification)? What was this 60 year old grandmother going to be able to offer? How would I fit into a shared house with much younger people? Would I be safe?
I needn't have worried. I suddenly realised that my experience listening to health professionals advising patients about minor ailments, as well as caring for a family, was really useful. I spent most mornings helping at one of the two nursery schools that MVO runs for the many local 3 - 5 year old children who've been robbed of their parents or other family members, usually by HIV. It was a real pleasure to encounter such eager faces each morning and to be able to play with them, bringing some fun and laughter into their lives. I also helped to teach them some basic English, numeracy and writing skills, as well as helping to prepare their porridge each day (we had to fetch the water from the well and make a wood fire to cook it on). I returned to the volunteer house each day happy, if somewhat grubby as a result of picking up, swinging and cuddling so many children!
More from Beryl...
Most of my afternoons were spent giving talks (with the help of very capable local translators) to groups of villagers on various health-related topics. The audiences were always attentive and appreciative, and the talks often took place in stunning locations. There was plenty of reference material back at the house to help me prepare but to be honest much of it was basic family healthcare.
My fellow volunteers were all younger than me - mostly by quite a long way - but without exception they made me feel part of the group and always included me in any leisure activities. I admit it was a bit of a shock to find myself sharing fairly basic facilities with about 13 others after years of living on my own, but it's surprising how quickly you adapt. When I compared our accommodation to that of the locals, it was clear that the volunteer house was a palace! The volunteers' choice in music didn't always impress me but their commitment and enthusiasm for whichever projects they were involved in certainly did. In fact I really missed the camaraderie when I got home.
I never felt unsafe in Malawi - the house staff and the local people were delightful. On the couple of occasions I got lost, some young man always materialised to see me safely home whilst clearly relishing the opportunity to practise his English.
So to anyone out there who's getting on in years but is still physically fit and young at heart, is prepared to muck in, wants a rewarding and challenging experience which will benefit others who are less fortunate, wants to be a traveller rather than a tourist, and wants to operate in a safe and supportive environment, I would say without hesitation "Go for it"! There really is a huge need in Malawi for your skills and experience.
Medical, Sports & Community
Duration: 12 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
I spent nearly 3 months in Malawi volunteering for MVO and those 3 months have definitely changed my life and hopefully the lives of others in Malawi.
I have been travelling on and off since I was 18 and ended up back home with a good job, but after eighteen months I got bored and wanted to get away again. My mum suggested volunteering in Africa and to be honest at first I wasn't keen on the idea. However after a lot of research into different projects I decided to give it a shot. I looked at many different programmes and organisations when I came across the Malawi Sport and Community Volunteers with MVO.
When I arrived I was not quite sure what to expect but once we turned up at the house (which is amazing - set on the lake with a gorgeous garden) and met the other volunteers my nerves calmed and I became quite excited. Everyone there - the other volunteers and staff at MVO are really helpful and make everything much easier for you.
More from Lindsey...
I started my time there on the Sports and Community programme. I spent every morning in one of the Nursery Schools (Chilombo Nursery School became my little project) and each afternoon coaching different sports - mainly football, netball and rounders. I really enjoyed the sport but after a few weeks into my time there the weather got a lot hotter and less people came. I spoke to the project manager about this issue and offered my assistance in other areas - such as medical. For the next 2 months I worked in the Wound Clinic every afternoon. I loved doing this and I felt I was really helping the community. It was really satisfying to watch the patients get better and see their wounds heal with your help.
My favourite thing about the project had to be Chilombo Nursery School and the children there. I spent every morning for 12 weeks with the same children and made a special bond with a number of them. After a month there and with the rainy season on its way I realised that the only building they had was made from bamboo and straw. I spoke to my mum back home and asked her for some help - she then started fundraising. Another volunteer offered to help and confident I could reach the target, I got a quote for a new building and with the help of the MVO staff, I organised its construction. The finished building, made from bricks, timber and iron sheets, looked amazing, and was completed before I left and before the rainy season started.
I would recommend volunteering with MVO to anyone. I had the most incredible time there and seeing the little children's faces so happy over the smallest thing has completely changed my life. I have made many lifelong friends and wouldn't change a second of it.
Duration: 6 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
Very simply, seeing Malawi through the eyes of a volunteer, working with MVO is a fantastic idea for these three reasons:
Good for doers as well as thinkers:
You can do something useful whilst learning a lot at the same time Whenever you visit and whatever you do, whether it be manning clinics, offering healthcare classes, running lessons in summer schools or in term-time, MVO projects allow you to get your teeth into real work and make as much of a change as you want to see. Simultaneously, only by doing something in person can you begin to understand how things happen, how they should be better, how to better inform your choices, whether it be dropping a pound into a charity bucket or lobbying a particular organisation.
An experience, a holiday and more
Whilst any project will grab you by the skin and have you scratching like mad to get you back for the next day's work, there is also plenty of time to relax...a golden beach metres from the house, amorous elephants on safari, boat tours ending with freshly grilled fish on a deserted island. All work and no play is bad for the brain so having lots to do in your free time will allow you to prepare and refresh for the sometimes challenging, but rewarding work ahead.
People like nowhere else
Children who have little more but the hands with which to hold you, locals smiling and beaming at your every word, MVO staff laughing and learning and teaching all the way through your stay and of course, the other volunteers...as big or as small a part of your trip as you want but sure to be friends for many years to come. After all, if you've chosen to spend your holiday/gap year/meditation time/crisis months/lottery winnings on a voluntary project in a small town in Malawi, it's likely you'll have something in common!
Duration: 4 weeks
Volunteering for MVO in 2010
I went to Malawi for four weeks over the summer 2010 as a medical volunteer as part of my gap year. I was seventeen at the time and at first was very apprehensive about travelling alone and going somewhere completely different from my life in Scotland. However, after arriving and meeting the other volunteers and the staff at MVO I knew I was going to love my time there. I wanted to go to Africa to help the people however I could, and make a difference with the advantages I have been given in my life. I chose MVO as they have a wide range of important tasks to do within the medical project, and I knew that with my knowledge and experience I could definitely help there. Even though I was there for a month, it really was not long enough and I'm planning to return next year.
The medical project has many different aspects and you usually do two different tasks a day, with every day bringing new experiences. I helped in the Nursery Schools; in the wound clinics; gave health talks to the people in the nearby villages; and collected data statistics for the Malaria Project. There are a few other areas within the medical project as well that you can partake in.
I have many highlights of my time there, but there isn't one thing in particular that I could say I enjoyed the most because the whole experience was amazing. There were a few ups-and-downs to my trip, as could be expected, but you always have the support of the other volunteers and the staff to help you get through them. This is one of the things that is great about volunteering with MVO - even though you are away from home, you know that there are always people to help you and that you can rely on them. I would recommend volunteering with MVO to anyone wanting to make a difference and help others less fortunate than themselves - be that through teaching, giving medical assistance, sport or as a helper in the Malaria Project.