help2kids Malawi Survival 101
Starting with the basic necessities, be sure to read up on your tomato, onion, egg, and rice recipes, because frankly, this is all you will find at the Lifuwu market. Thankfully, we have some recipes here for you, just to get you started: eggs with rice, scrambled eggs with rice, sunny side-up eggs with rice, eggs with rice and diced onions, cubed tomatoes, onions and rice with no eggs. But don’t fret! Our lovely Annette prepares breakfast and lunch for the volunteers, so you can still be sure to find yourself enjoying some delicious Malawian meals twice a day.
Concerning your hygiene, water will provided for you to take showers. You may find yourself standing idle mid-shower, as the water supply must be re-pumped. But if you fear this happening, feel free to bathe in the lake with the locals at anytime. Even so, don’t complain to the folks back home about the “rough” conditions at the Friendly Gecko; volunteers in Blantyre don’t even have warm water. If you find that you can’t remove the dirt from you feet after your first week in Malawi, you may have contracted BFS (Black Feet Syndrome). BFS is an epidemic that has spread throughout central Malawi within the last year. Fear not, recent clinical studies have indicated that 99% of cases are resolved upon landing in your home country.
With regards to packing, don’t bother bringing white towels, white shirts or white underwear, for they will not be white for long. As for socks, you can leave those too; the amount of sand here can fill the Sahara twice over, making shoes and socks an impracticality. We strongly advise bringing appropriate protective wind gear, as the southeast winds off Lake Malawi produce gusts that have been known to tear the limbs off trees. Contrary to popular belief about the climate in sub-Saharan Africa, winter chills often reach 10 C, making a light sweater necessary.
In light of this, the Kazembe school block construction project has been running smoothly. Productivity has increased threefold over the last month due to a recent innovation by one of the volunteers: a water funnel passage system allowing water to be pumped much more efficiently. Spending hours (literally) pumping water for the cement, one of our volunteers was recently crowned Mr. Lifuwu; he won the judges over with his 18-inch triceps. Carrying 5-liter water jugs on your head can lead to possible neck injuries,; thankfully, the kids are always eager to help us with the construction jobs, but sometimes, it feels more like HelpfromKids. Tightrope walkers are also highly welcomed, as your expertise will be of great use if you’re doing roof work with Moses. If you’re like our more adept volunteers, you can join some local families in tilling the land for the coming harvest.
If manual labor is not your forte, you will find yourself at the Nursery school dropping rhymes and singing an alphabet song that sounds only vaguely familiar. Keeping order over 125 1-6 year olds is kind of like herding cats, so if you’re not well versed in this practice you should make sure you complete the necessary background readings. The childrenlove their morning porridge (all 125 of them), so don’t expect them to line up for it in an orderly fashion. DELTA airlines upped their maximum baggage weight last month, so if you have space for a tire or two, we request you bring them here. Some volunteers have made some additions to the Nursery playground, so a tire or even 30 meters of chain can really go a long way.
In the afternoons, the Kids Corner and English Corner have been a continued success. We suggest that you brush up on your basic Chichewa, otherwise it will take you 45 minutes to explain the rules of tag. If you only have a semester Chichewa under your belt, don’t worry, as the standard 7 children are always willing to assist in translations. Chichewa-English dictionaries are readily available in Lilongwe, if you are so inclined (3000 Malawian Kwacha). We strongly recommend you avoid using sweets or other treats that you might have brought from home to encourage child participation. That is, unless you remember to pack your protective gear.
Abiding by these tips, you should fare well during your volunteering experience. Even though this information may seem intimidating, we can assure you will find it difficult when it comes time to say your final goodbyes. The kids here still remember the names of volunteers from many months back, so rest assured that your time here will leave an indelible mark in the children’s heart sand yours. To those still considering their options for an engagement abroad, you should really consider, because you will never do better, there is nowhere like here (Reference video below). For those already waiting for their flight dates down here to Malawi, our final piece of advice is that you cherish every moment, minute, and second while you’re here, as this is certain to be an experience like no other.
Adamu, Kimzy, Zohay-ah
help2kids volunteers in Malawi