From stepping off the plane, being hit by the Malawian heat. Seeing the children waiting in the airport with a sign for me, to the exuberant colours of an African sites indulges the senses. The rusty brown earth. The breath-taking sunset. Never have I been so welcomed. Malawi had become my home away from home. Our group of volunteers, some pale skin, blue eyes and light hair all these representing something that is foreign.
From my first day as I wander through in to the market place, I am overcome by the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. The clothes piling up on each market stall, people shouting for you to buy from them. The women sit by their stalls, weary from the day’s heat, trying to sell their produce for such a small price.
From the city into the local town towards the orphanage. The children shout “mzungu, mzungu!”, “white person, white person!” as they jump up and down excitedly. In the back of the truck driving town the bumpy old road we pull up to the beautiful girls orphanage. Their faces light us as you drive through, they hug you, laugh with you, sing and dance with you. You don’t just become their friend you become part of their family.
With a previous volunteer we started off a cake business. Some of the girls taking their first ever trip into town, into the unknown. Helping the girls have faith that there is more to life, they can achieve, be successful and building their ambitions. Watching the old girls teach the younger girls how to use a knife and fork was such a heartfelt moment.
Starting off with team building exercises, seeing the excitement on the girls faces, the drive and the enthusiasm which they had working together in competition with each other to succeed. The girls taking a trip to an event, face to face sales and achieving just over 20’000MK was a very proud moment. They showed their drive that they wanted to learn, this making every second spent with them worthwhile. A small group of the older girls then came together, designing posters, baking trays and pulling a pitch together. One of the girls calling to book a meeting with the hostel and two of the girls pitching to them was overwhelming. To see the change in the girls from the day I walked to the orphanage to what they had achieved was touching.
Driving for hours away from the city, through fields and dirt paths to a town which would change your life. Seeing the way which they live to your life back at home. 2 school buildings had been built and the porridge project had just begun. Handing school uniforms to the children, bras to the women and clothes to the men makes you release how much we and everyone around you at home takes for granted.
Having a little boy in front of me begin to cry and run away as he seen me, but I can’t blame him for being frightened of the unknown. It is not only the way I look that is foreign to them. It is the way I walk, the way I talk, my disbelief as to what I am seeing. During those moments, I realise that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime, and while I can’t even imagine the adventures that lay before me, I am determined to make a difference.
These children give you hope and you believe they appreciate every second which you spend with them. Alice and Nina the charity founders are such amazing, inspiring, beautiful women and seeing everything they have achieved is extraordinary. Me and all the volunteers couldn’t have been more welcomed. From the nights out, to the weekends away and the passion which they have for the charity. LSU and Tilinanu will always be part of my life and I’m already counting down the until I return.
Malawi is truly my home away from home.
A great big thank you to Katrina Ralph for this post, a magnificent insight into volunteering opportunities in Malawi