Malawi is a beautiful country bordering Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. The people are extremely welcoming and although Malawi is not on the tourist map, the Mulanje Mountains and Lake Malawi attract adventure seekers from around the world. Slow economic growth means that almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, so education is greatly valued and our volunteers provide an invaluable service.
Placements are located throughout Malawi, either in rural areas or on the outskirts of small towns.
Is it for me?
If you are interested in really contributing to a community then Malawi is for you. In schools you will help students to improve their English skills as well as taking charge of classes teaching core subjects. Some placements involve an element of community outreach work, as you could also teach at a school attached to an orphanage or work with children with disabilities after your core teaching hours end. Other placements, whether as a health worker or in conservation have a big community focus, volunteers will always find themselves involved with the local village in some way.
Teaching placements in Malawi are either at schools or within institutions that support the community. The official language in Malawi is English, however many students speak little or no English when starting school. Volunteers teach a range of subjects such as English, maths, history, geography, drama and sport with limited resources and teaching aids. There is generally a curriculum to follow, from which lesson plans can be developed. Students appreciate the value of education and are very dedicated. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Community-focused teaching placements are within schools attached to orphanages, or for children with hearing impairments or severe disabilities as well as at a local hospital. In addition to teaching a range of subjects, volunteers assist within the institutions and provide extra support and assistance as required.
Conservation placements offer the volunteer a chance to really immerse themselves helping with the environment in areas throughout Malawi. Placements offer a wide variety of activities regarding environment conservation and sustainability
Volunteer Health Worker
Volunteer Health worker placements are one of our most challenging placements. Based at a rural health centre, volunteers aid the ‘Health Officer’ who does almost everything medical-based for their community. The role of the Health Officer is vital within a rural community and is greatly respected; it’s rare to find doctors or nurses at rural health centres, so the demands on a Health Officer’s time are great and you will need to fit in with this.
Rural health centres are likely to be in relatively remote locations, serving communities a considerable distance away from district hospitals; they are also often (but not always) part of another community or mission development, such as a school or training centre.
Your success in this role will depend greatly on your willingness to fit in and to adapt to the needs of the health centre and the Health Officer, particularly in a situation where resources, equipment and even basic facilities (electricity and fresh water) may be very limited, so being intuitive and hard working is imperative. Your flexible assistance at the health centre will quickly become valuable and relied upon!
Your ability to form a good working relationship and to learn from the Health Officer is particularly important. Of course, matched with this challenge, the rewards of persisting and making such a placement work in terms of your own personal development and as an opportunity to learn about social community development, are incredible.
The role does not require any technical or medical experience and you will volunteer under the supervision of the Health Officer (although if you do have experience, that would certainly be welcomed). Patients who required specific treatment are referred to a district hospital.
Typical activities of a Volunteer Health Worker will include assisting with some of the running of a rural health centre, often looking after a basic pharmacy and providing general administration for patient care, helping to maintain patient records, assisting with activities with babies and under-fives and monthly baby monitoring (weighing) and feeding.
You are also likely to have the chance to involve yourself in other community activities; this will often be encouraged and developing links with the community through your role as a Volunteer.
Accommodation and Food
Volunteers are allocated a teachers’ house on the school campus or live with a host family. Most accommodation is quite basic with some furniture and a small amount of cooking equipment. Not all accommodation will have electricity or running water, but it will be of the same standard as the houses lived in by the staff. Some food is supplied but volunteers should bear in mind that they are living within poor communities and will probably need to supplement their diet with extra food which they purchase and prepare themselves. This may work out at around an extra $5-$15 a week, depending on volunteer needs and the placement.
Accommodation & food
Need to know
Pre-departure: All volunteers will be invited to a group briefing.
On arrival: The majority of volunteers will be collected from the airport and attend an orientation. As part of the orientation volunteers will either undertake a Teaching Skills Course or a Special Training Course (for environmental placements).
Note: Communications can be spotty at times. Internet and mobile phone services can be sporadic but are available in most areas. Patience is sometimes necessary.
You will also need to budget for:
Teaching skills course (teaching placements only)
Volunteers have the opportunity to travel during the school holidays and at the end of their placement. Many spend time at Lake Malawi, soaking up the sun or diving, snorkeling, kayaking or sailing in or on its calm waters. Others head off on safari in Liwonde National Park where they can expect to see rhinos, elephants, antelopes, monkeys and possibly big cats. Malawi also has a rich cultural history to explore, from Stone Age rock paintings to colonial architecture. Wherever you go in Malawi, expect to be awed, from the depths of the dramatic Rift Valley to the peaks of Mount Mulanje.