Laura: I spent four months on a voluntary teaching program with AV in rural Malawi. It gave me a unique opportunity to experience life in a Malawian village; understand the culture, education system and make friends with Malawians. At the same time, I was provided with just the right amount of comfort to be able to enjoy the period we were there for (4 months is quite a bit longer than a holiday!!) but not too high comfort to exclude ourselves. I was with 3 other great girls;now life long friends in a friendly school environment where I taught English, Biology and Sport. We were supported in a steady hand approach; people in-country from AV to assist and advise, popping up when neccesary but otherwise left to experience and enjoy Malawi in our own way. I loved getting to know so many people, seeing many breath taking sunsets, going to the wonderful Lake Malawi on weekends and a different way of living than I’d ever known before. Being with AV gave me the opportunity to dig deeper into the Malawian way of living, thinking and all there is to experience there than I feel I would of got as a mere traveler or with any other organisation. I have recommended them to many other people, who similarly have had brilliant experiences!
Why did you decide to volunteer with AV in Malawi?
Laura: I chose to volunteer with AV because of the positive reviews by people I personally knew who had also had a great experience before me. They were a local organisation who came to see me personally at my secondary school to talk me through their programs and see which one would suit me best. From that initial meeting, I felt they would provide a good service, take care of me and had a depth of experience to share on a personal level. Initially I was impressed with their well established programs which also allowed you freedom to have an adventure. I was keen to go to Kenya, they suggested Malawi and I am so glad they did. It proved to me their knowledge and experience, as Malawi suited me perfectly and its now my second home!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Laura: The school day starts early in Malawi and depending on each of our timetables we would normally teach 2-3 lessons a day plus any club or activity we wanted to set up or join in with. Our school was an all girls boarding school, so we had some fun times with the girls in the evenings and weekends too. We were also willing to be involved in the community, so during our stay we joined locally run programs to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and an orphan care program. I had one week day off a week where I’d normally go to a nearby lodge for a cup of tea and marking! At weekends when we didn’t need to be at school, with the other volunteers I was living with, we would go off to explore Malawi. Usually the beautiful Lake Malawi, climbing mountains or going to stay at the schools and homes of other AV volunteers in Malawi. After our teaching and time in the community, just under a month was planned for travelling and exploring Malawi or East Africa. We chose to travel through Tanzania, Zanzibar and Kenya – all beautiful destinations too.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Laura: I think my experience impacted me more than most… I now live in Malawi! The AV experience really changed and challenged me as I came to personally know and befriend those living in completely different circumstances to my own. I was challenged by the rural Malawian way of life despite so many hardships – their joy, friendship and kindness was overwhelming. I am glad that through the teaching in schools (which were greatly understaffed) and our role in the community, that we were able to help in some way.
After AV, I returned to Malawi several times bringing many friends to experience what I was fortunate enough to do while also studying African Studies as a social science degree in London. I now work for an NGO in Lilongwe, Malawi. I regularly go back to see my old friends, and assist where I can. I will always have an unbreakable tie with that community.