Katherine Curran, My Exciting Volunteer Experience in Malawi
Dear Friends and Family,
I recently returned from my trip to Malawi and I wanted to take a moment to recount my journey to everyone who helped send me on my trip. On July 1st my parents drove me to the JFK international airport, where I met up with the H.E.L.P. Malawi group. We said our goodbyes and embarked on our 16-hour journey to Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa. After finally arriving, sleep deprived and desperately needing showers, our group stayed at a nearby hotel for the night and flew about two and a half hours to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. From there, a large van drove us about 5 hours to Tuckaways Lodge, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Malawi. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up the next morning and spent the day working at the local daycare. At the daycare, we watched the kids eat lunch and played Jenga, Twister, and Duck Duck Goose with them. They also loved pictures, so we took many of them posing and wearing our sunglasses. The next day, we worked at Panda Garden, the community garden project. There, we made paper using the recycled materials of the community, which was very interesting. We also weeded the large garden and made peanut butter from scratch. It was delicious!
The next day, the van took us another 4 hours or so to the village in which H.E.L.P. built the Nanthomba Primary School. As soon as we got there, about 40 kids ran up to us and grabbed our hands. We were given a tour of the village, during which we visited the village healer who showed us different herbs and roots which are used to treat disease, infection, and even lovesickness! In the village we ate a traditional dinner of n’sima, which is made of cornmeal and potato and has no nutritional value, but at least fills the stomach. The n’sima is balled up and dipped in some vegetable or sauce, in our case, cabbage. The next day, we traveled by bike taxi into the local marketplace and bought chitengaes, which are large pieces of fabric worn by the women as skirts. Later in the afternoon, we were given a tour of the Nanthomba school by the headmaster, Abel. For dinner, we had another traditional meal of rice and beans.
The next morning, we traveled a short distance by van and took a boat across the river to Mvuu Lodge. Mvuu is located in a Liwonde National Park and is known for its wonderful safaris. Mvuu, which means hippo, is also known for its large populations of hippos! We stayed at Mvuu for five nights, and we worked at the Nanthomba school every day for most of the day. During our stay, the school opened the William Kamkwomba Library, so the H.E.L.P. group and I mostly worked there, sorting books and organizing it to prepare for the opening. In addition, we painted bricks circling trees, we worked in the garden, both weeding and planting, and we planted trees as a part of the Tree Nursery Project. Many of the administration had dogs, so on our breaks we fed the dogs and played with the puppies. While we worked, many of the children came to watch us and hold our hands as we walked. Even though the language barrier made it difficult to communicate, it was easy to admire the kindness and joy of the kids. On July 9th, the library was opened in a ceremony which the whole school attended. One morning, instead of going to the school, we worked at the mothers and babies clinic, where we helped weigh babies for the mothers’ records. Each day when we got back from the school and ate dinner, we went on a safari. We saw a huge array of animals including: elephants, warthogs, baboons, monkeys (one of which stole from one of our plates while we were eating dinner!), porcupines, impala, waterbuck, hippos, owls, mongoose, a whole assortment of birds, crocodiles, and a couple others of which I do not remember the name! My favorite animal to see were the elephants. Seeing so much wildlife was truly one of the highlights of the trip!
After our fifth night in Mvuu, we woke up and traveled about 4 hours to Open Arms Orphanage in Blantyre. We spent the afternoon playing with children ages 0-2. They were adorable! While we were there, one little boy named Pato got adopted, which was a wonderful thing to watch. We stayed at a hotel in Blantyre that night and in the morning traveled a few hours to Dedza Pottery Lodge, which is much closer to the airport in Malawi so that we did not have to travel so far the next day. They had beautiful pottery, some of which I purchased, and delicious cheesecake! The next morning, we traveled about an hour to the airport and flew to Johannesburg, where we had a 6 hour layover (!). After doing some shopping and buying lots of food for the plane, we said our bittersweet goodbyes to Africa and flew back to NYC.
I had a truly amazing time in Malawi, and I want to thank you all so much for helping to send me there!
Thank you all again so much!
Love, Katherine Curran