I tried multiple times to write a post summing up my time volunteering in Malawi, but couldn’t find the words to give a true description. Therefore, I have decided to do a write up of the diary I kept – expanding where necessary (and with a bit more perspective) and taking out moments I didn’t feel the need to share.
Day 1 – 17th August
Today was a very full on, hectic day. We had one 7 hour 10 minute overnight flight followed by a 3 hour 20 minute flight and I’d only managed to sleep for around 30 minutes. Sleeping bolt upright on a plane was a lot harder than I had imagined, haha. We arrived in Lilongwe, changed our British pound to Malawi kwatcha and got driven to our hotel in the city centre. I remember feeling very overwhelmed at first and getting a bit upset because I didn’t like the hustle and bustle of the city.
We dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed out for food. We ate at a place called veggie delight and had the best vegan food, something I thought I’d really struggle to find in Africa.
Day 2 – 18th August
After an amazing 9 hour sleep we left early for a 7 hour car journey from Lilongwe to Rhumpi. The views on the journey were amazing, varying from tiny little villages to huge mountains and other beautiful scenery. This meant that the journey felt so short in comparison. It was such a sensory overload.
We arrived at our home for the next week and are staying with 2 other couples. One couple are doing aid work and another are in the process of starting their own moringa farm up the road.
I had the opportunity to go round with my camera for the first time and took some pictures of the nature on the land, it really is a beautiful place.
Day 3 – 19th August
I woke up this morning at 6am to the sound of chickens routing around the dead leaves. We are staying in amazing little huts with mesh windows and straw roofs, which surprisingly get cold in the night.
We went to our first local school today so that Uncle Craig could do his first lot of football coaching with the boys. It was so much fun to watch and help out with, and all of the kids loved it! One thing I have noticed is that we get lots and lots of stares from people, more out of interest in who we are and what we are doing than anything else. The crazy thing is that it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all.
In the afternoon we went to a choir festival with the other guests who we were staying with, along with one of the chefs and his family. This was such an amazing experience, one that I so desperately wanted to see. Everyone was singing and dancing to raise money for the church and it was so lovely to see. There was absolutely no judgement from anyone in the audience which is so different to what would have happened if this sort of event was hosted in the UK. Wow!
Afterwards we came back and had dinner. The water and power had been off all day and the chefs cooked out dinner by candlelight, we were all so grateful (even though unfortunately this is something that they must be used to). We learnt that due to deforestation the lake that Rhumpi gets its water from is running a lot lower than usual for the time of year.
Day 4 – 20th August
Today has made me realise how kind hearted the people of Malawi are. I had a misconception that I would feel judged and uncomfortable due to my acne, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. My experience from dealing with acne in the UK is completely different to how I feel about it here. No one seems to care about what you look like, what you are wearing etc. ❤️
We went to Luzi women’s development centre in the morning and everyone was so grateful for the sewing machine tools that we brought, and loved the idea of clearing the plastic from the streets and turning it into something useful. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is aware of the detrimental effects that plastic is having on the planet, and may not have access to social media or the news. We told the women how long plastic stays on the planet and that it would eventually begin to effect their crops and they were extremely shocked. My hope is that this information will be shared to others and this will help to spread to message.
On the way back we brought a sugar cane and 2 papayas, coming to a total of just under £1! Our guide showed us where to buy the sugar cane and some of the guests where we were staying helped us to cut them. They were super nice and very sweet but difficult to eat.
Day 5 – 21st August
A change of plan today due to a funeral meant we headed to Jombo school and women’s development centre a few days early. We were greeted by the women singing us a song and all of the teachers and children clapping, what a warm welcome! Uncle Craig went off to do the football coaching and me and Auntie Karen went to show the women how to make what we call plarn (plastic yarn). We had some time to spare so we taught the young girls how to use the plarn to make skipping ropes and bracelets.
I felt such gratitude from the people at this school/development centre. I feel like the information we shared will definitely be put to good use.
Day 6 – 22nd August
We woke up and had enough water to have a shower this morning which was very cold, but nice. It appears the water is working properly every other day at the moment. At breakfast we were told that the river that provides the water for where we are staying is lower than ever. This means that miles of pipes need to be put in from another river until the rainy season begins which usually starts in December. Its very upsetting to see a place you are so quickly falling in love with in a predicament like this.
After eating and getting ready we set off for out next school, Kacheche! We had another wonderful greeting and showed more women how to knit with the plastic bags. Because no men attended the women’s centre today, we got a chance to explain to everyone that a menstrual product holder would be a great item to make for themselves and the younger women.
In the afternoon we went to the local market and brought some material, it came to about £2 for 2 metres.
Day 7 – 23rd August
Today we went to Enukweni – the one school that none of us can ever remember how to pronounce! After meeting all the teacher, the headteacher showed us around, which was the first opportunity we had to have a look at any classrooms. The one room was really light, had desks and teaching equipment. The other, unrenovated, had absolutely nothing in it but a chalkboard. Some of the money we raised before heading out to Malawi is being put towards desks for the second classroom, which is lovely to hear.
Something I noticed at this school was a list of school rules, examples including ‘encourage spiritual growth at school’, ‘no harassment of girls at school’ and ‘be hard working learners.’
Day 8 – 24th August
Because of the funeral we were still unable to visit Thumbi so decided to go back to Luzi womens development centre. We had so much fun making friendship bracelets with the children and laughing with everyone.
One thing I have noticed all week that I absolutely love is the openness that women have when breastfeeding. No matter what company is around, no one is bothered in the slightest at someone feeding their child. It has been absolutely beautiful to see and something I wish was encouraged more in the UK.
A beautiful day to end a beautiful week.
To see more photos, take a look at my Instragram; @RhiannanGreen