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Original Volunteers, Malawi

Page history last edited by Phil Pierce 10 years, 8 months ago


Partner institution: Original Volunteers

Website: http://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/destinations/malawi.html 


Contributors (2012):

Charlotte Brown

Hayley Clark

Jessica Emma Hemming

Roxanne Stromberg

Sarah Ronaldson



Contributors: for details on what is required in each section, please look at the Guidance Notes


Placement Information



Social life

Things to do, things not to do

Useful Contacts

Before you go


Placement Information


This is set in the rural part of Malawi, in Domasi. It is surrounded by fields where the locals grow and provide the community with food. We went through Original volunteers but since being there we have received direct contact information as we were unhappy with the support. The information on the website is not sufficient and there seemed to be an issue with the donation that they ask for before you go. The aim of the project is to help the community learn new skills so that they can evolve within the developing world. It also aims to use our English to help the people within the community to develop a better chance of succeeding in the business world.  Whilst there you will be allocated a local school where you will teach the local children but also help the volunteer teachers from Malawi to learn and build up a bank of knowledge in teaching English. You can transfer your skills from childhood studies and year ones placement to help improve the setting. The local language is Chichewa and the local currency is Kwacha.  Kwacha is only used in Malawi so therefore you are unable to obtain beforehand. The project was set up by Joshua who was born in the village that you will be staying in. He will send you more information regarding his background if you decide to go. 




The accomodation in the village is very basic, with concrete floors that get very dirty easily. The accomodation is free, and everybody usually chips in to pay for food to last every few days, although you can eat seperately if you wish. The amount of volunteers at the time will depend on where you may stay. There are 2 volunteer houses; the main house sleeps 9 people and the other sleeps 4. If there is a high number of volunteers at one time there is also a room that now has electricity in Mama and Papas house thats sleeps 2/3 people. All the houses are next to each other, so there's not far to go to socialise or if you need help with something. The main house is where everybody socialises and eats dinner, as it is the only place with a large table and chairs. There is an outside toilet and shower that the 9 volunteers in the main house share. These are very basic and the shower is cold water only. The smaller house is where the main electricity is, and volunteers may take turns to charge up mobile phones, cameras etc. Although there are a couple of places not far from the village that charges a small amount of kwacha to use the electricity. The smaller house has an indoor toilet and cold shower that are in the same section of the house. Behing the smaller house there is also a space to sit down and take time-out to think and reflect. Also there is a 'rubbish bin' outside, where all rubbish is put and burnt every few days.

You will need to take a mosquito net as mosquitos are very common in this area. Also take a sheet to sleep with and maybe a sleeping bag.

There is the option of paying 500 kwacha (around £1.50) a week, every Sunday to Mama who will then help with cooking, washing pots and washing clothes.

There is also an outside tap that can be used for brushing teeth, filling empty water bottles to sterilise or to wash pots/clothes.

There is a fire outside where all the cooking can be done.

There is also an outside straw/wooden hut that's used for various things such as meetings, and also mats can be put on the floor and children can colour on paper.

There is also a plan to build a bigger volunteer house to sleep around 20-30 volunteers at a time, as the project is doing really well and they want to accomodate as many volunteers as possible.







We flew from Heathrow to Lilongwe, the capital city. We transferred in Nairobi, Kenya. It cost us £575. You can fly to Blantyre, Malawi, and is this is slightly closer to the project. We flew with Kenya Airways and they were really good.

We were picked up from the airport by Joshua, and travelled to the project in a minibus taxi which cost us £65 each. This is fairly expensive but as we weren't yet familiar with the country or where we were going, it was the easy option. The other option is to find a minibus taxi and share with the public, which is cheaper but you do not really know where you are going.  This taxi can be arranged with Joshua before you leave the UK, you'll speak to him via email when you book your place with the project.

We recommend trying to get flights when you land early in the day, as the taxi to the project takes around 4 hours and it can be stressful arriving after dark (i.e. 6pm). A taxi back to the airport at the end of your stay is available for the same price, however we managed to arrange a private minibus with the locals because we felt more comfortable with where we were going and with the local people.

Whilst in Malawi, the transport you will use is as follows:

njinga: This is the chichewa word for bike. You basically sit on a seat on the back of the bike whilst a local njinga driver takes you to your destination. This usually costs 150 kwacha/ 50p. 

Minibus taxi: These will take you from town to town, e.g. from the town closest to the project into the bigger local city. The prices vary with distance. This particular trip costs around 150 kwacha/ 50p, whilst the journey to the airport cost us 8000 kwacha/ £26. 

pick-up truck: To get to the lake we crammed onto the back of a pick-up truck! it was a brilliant experience and cost around 700 kwacha/ £2.50.

Taxi: Taxis like those in England, i.e. in a regular ford escort, are sometimes available in the towns and cities but are quite expensive. From the local city to the village costs 3000 kwacha/ £10.




Social life

As you only work Monday to Thursday it means that you have a three day weekend to explore Malawi. As you only get three weeks I would advise making the most of these weekends. During the week when you are working you will stay in the village, there is not much in to do as it is a small place quite a distance from anything. In the evenings there is no opportunity to get out of the village but it does give you a chance to get to know the other volunteers and learn more about what has been happening on the project, as well as more about the area and country.  

On the weekends however there are various things that you can do, it is best to do them in a group as it is safer and makes it a lot cheaper. Whilst we were there we choose to go to Lake Malawi, on a Boat and Jeep Safari, walked up the Zomba Plato And visited the local town of Zomba.




Lake Malawi:

It takes about 6 hours to get to the lake on public transport so it is best to get up early on the Friday to get your most out of the time there. As you have to leave pretty early on the Sunday to get back to the village before it gets dark. The accommodation at the lake varies on what you want you can go in a dorm room or you can get twin rooms. We stayed on Mufasa Lodge and choose twin rooms. When at the lake there is a verity of things that you can do depending on what you fancy. We choose to go on the boat trip this included breakfast, a morning snorkelling off of one of the islands on the lake, lunch was included and then going around too look at the eagles on the far side of the island there was also an opportunity to do some cliff jumping guided by some locals who knew the waters. In the evening there was a choice of bars and restaurants you could go to if you wanted to get out of the lodge, the food was not too expensive depending on where you went.






The safari is in Liwonde National Park and can be done in a day as it is only a few hours away from the village. Again it is best to go early as you are likely to see more animals, it also allows more time to fit the Boat safari and the Jeep safari in as they go from the same place. The tours operate out of Shire Camp which is owned and run by a very friendly local and was our guide for both tours. Both the safaris are worth doing but if you don’t have time or money you can just do one. Tours are amazing and there are lots of animals to see in particular the hippos, if you are lucky you will get to see the elephants. If you want to make a weekend trip there you can stay at Shire Camp for a reasonable price, there is catering available there. Nearby there is Hippo lodge which is a more expensive option to stay but non-guests are able to use the facilities such as the pool for a small charge.  





Zomba Plato:

The Plato delivers remarkable views if you don’t mind a few hours gentle walk up the mountain. There is a clear easy path to the top and the path is negotiable in flip flops. It is advisable to do it in the morning as you will miss the midday sun.  The first part of the trip is by car which drops you about half way up and from there you walk with the guide, you are met by a taxi when you return which is organised by the guide. Around the half way mark the guide will show you to the waterfall where if the weather is good you can paddle or swim. When you get to the top of the Plato there are two viewpoints the Queens view and the Empires view. On a clear day you can see most of Malawi, it was said to have had the best view in the whole British Empire. Whilst we went on a cloudy day the view was still amazing and it was worth walk. We were even lucky enough to see some of the baboons that live on the mountain. As for food you have the option of taking food with you or you can buy food either at the sunbird café which is near the bottom of the trail or in Zomba itself.




There are many other activities that you can do while you are there and I would recommend you have a good idea of what you want to do before you go. .


Things to do, things not to do

DO’s and Don’ts of Malawi...

- Be prepared for rough living conditions
- Buy a 5 litre bottle of water so that you can use it to purify water from the outside tap once it is empty.
- Prepare yourself for some days where there may be not water until late afternoon so ensure you have purified enough water at night for the next day.
- Do ensure you have all the correct injections from your doctor before you leave and buy malaria tablets which will be advised by your doctor.
- Do take lots of sun cream and be prepared for extreme heat.
- Make sure you have a mosquito net and buy mosquito coils.
- Be prepared to sleep alongside all sorts of creatures.
- Be prepared to be very cramped when using public transport and to be mobbed by locals who all want to speak to you and sell you things.
- Take English cash rather than using local banks as the exchange rate is much higher on the black market than the banks.
- Have a positive attitude and patience, the language barrier can often be difficult when communicating with locals but they will always say ‘hello, how are you?’
- Make sure you take advantages of the sights, visit Lake Malawi, Monkey Bay, Lilwonde for the boat and jeep safari, Climb the plateau and visit local cities.
 - Everything in Malawi is far stretched, be prepared for long journeys to destinations, for example, we were cramped onto the back of a pick-up truck for 6 hours to get to Lake Malawi.
 - Be prepared to experience some upsetting situations within the community but feel proud that you are there and you are most definitely making a difference.
- Be wary of what you eat in Malawi as the food hygiene is considerably different to the UK.

- Don’t travel anywhere on your own, especially at night, like any foreign country, Malawi can be dangerous at times.
- Don’t allow yourself to be ripped off just because you are western, ask the other volunteers what the regular prices of things are and stand your ground with the locals.
- Don’t give anyone any money, the organisation has worked hard to make the locals understand that you are there to help teach them new skills so that they can fend for themselves and have a better future, not to give them money.
- Don’t swim in Lake Malawi without protective clothing, there is a parasite called Bilharzia that is prime in that area, if you do happen to swim in the Lake make sure you ask the other volunteers about the medication you can buy in Malawi to kill the parasite 6 weeks after swimming and make sure you buy it. It is approx £3 in Malawi as opposed to £130 in the UK.
- Don’t eat any salad or peeled fruits that have been washed in the local water.
- Don’t swim in Monkey Bay, crocodile attacks are a regular occurrence in the water.
- Don’t forget to take any medication especially your malaria tablets.



Useful Contacts


Joshua Mbozole

P.O.BOX 65



Tel: 0994 371 168/ 0994 571 174

Email: Joshua.tikondwe@yahoo.com

Before you go


The vaccines you need are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio. I had already had some of these and the ones I needed I got for free at my GP.

Optional vaccines are Hepatitis B, which is transmitted through body fluids, and Rabies. Hep B is a course of 3 injections, which cost around £30 each, and Rabies is one vaccination that costs around £50.

Yellow Fever jab: Malawi is not a yellow fever zone and so is not necessary. We stopped in Kenya, which is a high risk area but were told by the embassy that we did not need the vaccination as we did not leave the airport. We had no problems at customs but you can get this vaccination if you want to for around £50.

Malaria tablets are essential for a trip to Malawi. We bought Malarone, which cost £2.50 per day, as well as 2 days before you go and 7 after you get back. They are the most expensive but have the least amount of likely side effects. There are other options which you can discuss with your GP.


You cannot get Malawian kwacha anywhere other than in Malawi.

Debit transactions: you can draw money out of the cashpoint at the rate of 250 kwacha to £1.

You can exchange cash whilst in Malawi, the volunteers will help you with this as they know who to go to. The rate when we were there was 380 kwacha to £1, but this fluctuates.

We took bum bags to keep our money with us at all times.


They are very grateful for donations either in the form of clothes for people living in the local villages or school resources. Our baggage allowance allowed us to take two large suitcases each so we crammed our stuff into one suitcase and hand luggage, and filled the other suitcase with donations. 


You can buy food from the local city, but not in the village so it is helpful to bring some food yourself. The local family will help you cook at any time so try to bring some food for lunch times, e.g. packets of pasta, noodles or soup. We also took cereal bars for mornings and sweets and crisps for snacks.








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