Kerri’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Kerri Hobman has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Since arriving in Malawi five months ago one of the highlights of my time volunteering with RIPPLE Africa has been attending Disability groups. New to the RIPPLE Africa Malawi team is Matilda. Matilda has trained to work with individuals with special needs and joined the team this year in working with both adults and children in the community with disabilities.

Kerri Hobman

This year Matilda, alongside volunteers, has started Disability groups that meet weekly. What started as one group has now grown to four groups. Every week new families find out about the Disability groups and come with their children. Recently a group was started at Mwaya Dispensary with three people and this last week we had 12 children. One mum walks over two and a half hours from high up in the hills with her 10 year old daughter Ruth, who has cerebral palsy, on her back as she does not have a wheelchair.

Kerri Hobman

This family found out about the group from James who also has cerebral palsy and spends his time at Disability group practicing school work as he would like to learn English. The heart of these groups is to bring families together to allow time to share and learn from each other, whilst also ensuring many more clients can be seen each week.

Each session includes activities and games as well as physio work. It’s great for families to be able to watch and learn from each other. Last week I watched in amazement as the mother of Mphaso, a young girl with cerebral palsy who has learnt to walk, came alongside seven year old Steven who does not walk, picked him up and started showing Steven’s Mum how to safely stand him up and support him whilst encouraging him to take steps. She then got Steven’s Mum doing it and was helping her, whilst teaching things like head positioning and feet placement.

Kerri Hobman

As the groups get to know each other more, we have seen the families interacting a lot more and families learning and being encouraged by each other. As a nurse at these groups I’ve been able to talk to families about health concerns they have for their children and help and support them with managing seizures, wounds and pressure areas. With the help of the women’s sewing group we have been able to make simple toys to place in the children’s hands to prevent them being clenched closed, supportive belts for maintaining one boy’s position in his wheelchair, bibs for children that require them and cushions for preventing pressure areas.

Kerri Hobman

Some children attending Disability group or under the service had been unable to go school for different reasons; one had stopped going to school because of seizures and teasing and now through the work of Matilda some are back at school.

We have also been able to advocate for the families with the local health clinics to see children’s seizure medications reviewed and children referred to other clinics for treatment.

These groups have been incredibly rewarding as changes and development in some children has been significant. The first time I met Philip he was just learning how to sit unaided; now he spends his time crawling around after balloons and sitting independently. Recently Phillip spent one hour standing against a bench playing. Each week his mum has been taught new exercises and techniques to get him stronger and each week because of her effort at home, we are seeing improvements.

Kerri Hobman

Other highlights of my time in Malawi have included spending time at the clinics, being involved in the nationwide measles and rubella immunisation campaign, attending under 5s clinics and spending one morning a week at Matete 1 Preschool.

Malawi is a beautiful country and while here I’ve also had the chance to visit Likoma Island, Livingstonia, Monkey Bay and to Bua River Lodge to see elephants in Nkhotakota National Park.

My time with RIPPLE Africa has been an incredible journey and I hope to come back and visit again.

Kerri Hobman (February – June 2017)

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Kate’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Kate Morgan has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Kate Morgan

I arrived at Mwaya at the beginning of February with little idea of what to expect. As a newly qualified GP from the UK I was somewhat apprehensive about what I would find in terms of the healthcare setting and what would be expected of me as a doctor! Luckily everyone at Mwaya welcomed me with open arms and we had a gentle and thorough induction from Dan to ensure I wasn’t thrown in the deep end.

After spending the first few weeks exploring the local clinics and sitting in with the clinicians, I felt comfortable to begin my own clinics with a translator and support from the medical assistants and clinical officers. GPs do not exist in Malawi and there was some feeling that as a fully qualified doctor I should be capable of most surgical procedures and be spending all my time at the hospital! Luckily I was able to work to my level of experience and the local clinicians were interested to hear about the role of the GP in the UK and elsewhere.

I learnt a great deal from the clinics and saw some interesting cases. Although I could offer no more in terms of investigations or treatment than the local clinicians, I felt patients did benefit from spending more time with me than they were used to and having a more thorough consultation and examination which was frequently appreciated. Also, although often it was me asking questions about the management of malaria or a tropical skin complaint, sometimes I would be asked advice about a shoulder injury or unwell patient ensuring a useful transfer of skills.

In addition to the local clinics, I also spent some time at Chintheche and Nkhata Bay hospitals. It was very interesting to join the clinical officers on the ward rounds at Chintheche and meet the doctors at Nkhata Bay. I saw a few interesting cases and it was interesting to compare the facilities at the 50 year old Chintheche and brand new Nkhata Bay.

Kate Morgan

It was also a good opportunity to spend some time in Nkhata Bay for shopping and chilling out at the lodges along the lake for a lovely long weekend. I also managed to get a great curry at the indian restaurant in town!

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan

Along with clinical work at the local health centres and hospitals, I also spent some time with some of RIPPLE’s group projects. It was really good to be able to mix my experience here. I spent some time with the disabilities groups advising parents and children about any medical concerns and it was really enjoyable getting involved with some fun games and art work! I also helped out with the sex education groups at Mwaya primary and Kapanda secondary schools. Initially I was a bit apprehensive about facing a whole classroom of kids as I have zero teaching experience! However, I really enjoyed it and we certainly got into some interesting discussions at Kapanda! We also turned up in the middle of a Friday afternoon school disco at one point which was a great highlight, although my dancing needs some improvement! Other highlights outside clinical work included some lovely relaxed afternoons with adult literacy and at Lowani with Esther’s sewing group.

Kate Morgan

Mwaya beach itself is a wonderful base. The chalets and beautiful lakeside location are a lovely place to relax after a busy day. All the staff are an asset to RIPPLE. It is lovely to come back and chat with Arnold, the cooks or whoever is around and I will miss everyone here. They have been friendly, helpful and really enriched the experience. In addition, the large community of cats (and intermittent fresh kittens!), monkeys, turtle, one mega crocodile and a black mamba certainly provide extra entertainment! I also enjoyed the sometimes ferocious overnight thunderstorms, beautiful sunrises and hanging out with kids on the beach. Michek a particular favourite!

Outside Mwaya, we are perfectly located to enjoy other activities along the lake. Kande beach lodge was a lovely escape and has a perfect stretch of beach to relax on along with a bar and good food. Kachere Kastle however must be mentioned as a luxurious oasis. We spent a few lovely days relaxing by the pool and enjoying the amazing food and hospitality of Kate, Russ and their dogs. The cinnamon buns come highly recommended! Trips to Nkhata Bay and Mzuzu were also great opportunities to shop and explore! Myself and another couple of volunteers also attempted Mt Kuwirwi. It was a fair hike and the views from the top were beautiful.

Kate Morgan

Overall, the RIPPLE experience has been amazing. I feel I have learnt a lot and gained a fair few friends along the way. Malawi and Malawians have really lived up to the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ saying. Hopefully I have made some small difference where I can. I hope the charity goes from strength to strength and hope to come again in the future for some more volunteering or a visit.

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan (February – April 2017)

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The RIPPLE Rockets did it!

The RIPPLE Rockets Challenge – Land’s End to John O’Groats

Their dream has become a reality. They’ve completed the ultimate cycling challenge and pedalled the furthest possible distance across the full length of the British mainland from bottom left to top right.

 They made it to the finish line! They made it to the finish line!

Geoff, Nikki, Natasha, Rebecca and Ilka started off from Lands End and cycled through Cornwall, skirting Dartmoor, dipped across into Wales, edging around the Lake District into Scotland where they were joined by past volunteer Kieran in Edinburgh. They then cycled into the Highlands, to the North Coast and on to John O’Groats. They witnessed some of the most stunning and remote countryside in the British Isles.

Cycling 1000 miles demanded stamina, fitness, a determined attitude and plenty of camaraderie! They gave it all they had. Cycling through the pain, they still managed to smile which is reflected in the photos. They’re all superhumans doing this to raise money for our projects in Malawi.

 At the start - little did they know At the start – little did they know

It’s been a legendary trip for the team. Well done Rockets!

Thank you to everyone who has supported them and donated. You’re making a huge difference.

You can see updates and some great photos of their challenge here

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Ilka’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Ilka Hof has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Ilka becoming Kate – A German in Mwaya

Three months as a RIPPLE volunteer teacher at Mwaya Beach have taught me a lot about Malawi, the British and myself. As an English and P.E. secondary school teacher from Germany, I have introduced my favourite teaching method, the tandem activity, to Malawian teachers together with my British counterpart Tash. And I have had an amazing time!

After an extremely informative, enjoyable and thorough induction (Thanks, Dan!) to RIPPLE’s wonderful work in the Nkhata Bay District, Tash and I were condemned to a very slow start: In the first week of school, there were almost no students at school because most of them were either waiting for their exam results or they were not allowed to attend school as they had not paid their fees; in the second week of school, the teachers were on a strike as the government had not paid them. When school really started Tash and I quickly knew that we did not want to take over teaching, but that – in order to make our work more sustainable – we wanted to focus on coaching teachers and making resources.

After having been to Kapanda Secondary School and the six RIPPLE-sponsored primary schools, we also agreed that our focus would be on the latter ones as they needed support more urgently. Kazandu Primary School, for example, was terribly understaffed with seven classes and only five government teachers and also lacked proper classrooms.

After several weeks of observing, testing, re-testing, thoroughly discussing, typing, proofreading and printing, followed by an odyssey of photocopying, Tash and I were able to conduct a primary school teacher training. On that day we introduced tandem activities for English and Maths, memory card games and other resources, which the teachers can use to improve students’ activity and communication in the classroom. It was great to see how enthusiastic and grateful the teachers were for our input!

 Ilka Hof Ilka with some of the students

Apart from my work as a teacher volunteer, life at Mwaya Beach has been full of special treats, varied experiences and personal challenges. Firstly, being the only German among Malawians and Britons has posed particular intercultural experiences. Meeting the wonderful, warm-hearted and welcoming Malawians has been very special. I am definitely going to miss all the friendly smiles, greetings and short exchanges in ChiTonga!

Teaching the staff English proved to be one of my personal highlights! Similarly, although being overexposed to British humour and a hyperactive British chalet-mate (Love you, Tash!) from time to time, I have come to love all the Brits around me a lot too. After having renamed myself Kate in order to make it possible for the people around me to pronounce my name, I started becoming British myself towards the end of my stay. I realized that when I had bean burgers and eggs for lunch (and liked it!) and when after being able to understand what Nikki was saying- I even started to master the understanding of Scottish!

Secondly, little trips, excursions and adventures have made my time with RIPPLE very special and memorable. Geoff’s special treats for us volunteers (G&T, cooked breakfast), pizza nights and lazy afternoons at Kachere Castle, 5 o’clock bike rides 50k south or north on the M5, a looooong hike up and down Kwiiere Mountain as well as a trip to Zomba (everything perfectly organized by Nikki – you do an amazing job!!!) were simply wonderful, once in a lifetime experiences and facilitated a special bonding experience.

A big thank you to the RIPPLE family in Malawi and the UK!


Ilka is one of our brave RIPPLE Rockets, cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats (1000 miles!) from 19th April to 3rd May 2017 to raise funds for RIPPLE Africa’s projects. If you would like to support Ilka and the team, visit their fundraising page here

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Tom’s Volunteer Story

Tom Ridley, boyfriend of recent volunteer Natasha Mladek, has written a story about his time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

My Malawi Story

So I left London Heathrow while it was 5° and arrived in Malawi with it around 23°. After almost an hour spent sorting a visa, grabbing luggage and changing money I headed out of the front to find my taxi driver. As soon as I walked out I was bombarded by 3 offers of a taxi. I kindly declined and headed towards Chico holding a sign with my name on it. Chico is a lovely, chilled out and friendly chap who helped me with my bag to the car. And we’re off on our four hour drive from Lilongwe airport to Mwaya Beach on a sandy and pot-holey dirt road.

After being worried the roads would be the same the whole way for less than 10 minutes, I relaxed as we hit the smooth tarmac. This was enough to help me drift off to sleep after two sleepless flights. I woke a few times to watch the scenery fly by as Chico pelted us along the road, not even slowing for other cars, trucks and goats or people on foot and on bikes. Despite a few near misses I managed to keep slipping into dreamland. [Editor’s Note: You can ask him to drive more slowly if you’d prefer!] We pull off the main road onto another sandy road and I know we must be close. Five minutes pass and we pull around a corner arriving at a small brick building and patio area covered by a tin roof. I see many smiley faces heading over to greet me. I met lots of people at this point, all of them lovely and friendly.

The weekend began very relaxed; sunrise at around 5:15am and we’re up and in the lake. A great start to the day, although a little cold. Let the slow, two hour breakfast begin before ambling into the rest of the day which comprised of exploring the local area, swimming, reading, a little drinking and eating, meeting new arrivals, Mark and David, and sleeping.

Repeat this for Sunday, minus the morning swim (and meeting new arrivals) and adding a lovely evening of drinks down at Lowani, where we spotted a hippo swimming by in the lake. The locals were making lots of noise and we thought it may have been a crocodile until the characteristic yawn gave it away.

  • Preschool
  • Preschool

Monday; David, Mark and I head out on our newly acquired, squeaky bikes, led by Dan (Volunteer Projects Manager). Dan is a kind, relaxed guy who is very passionate about what he does. Dan took us to Mwaya Preschool, the local library, Mwaya Primary and Kapanda Secondary School. The preschool kids were extremely cute. They were learning the alphabet and practising their greetings (in English), followed by some singing and dancing in Chi Tonga (the local language). All three of us introduced ourselves and also ended up showing off our terrible “Dad Dancing” skills. After being torn away from the little terrors, we climbed back on the saddle. Next we explored the small local library, run by a man called Burton and a few of his helpers, one of which was called Scorpion. We never found out why…

  • Library
  • Preschool

Mwaya Primary is right next to the library. Hung over the Headmaster’s office is a board that reads “Teach the girl child and teach the nation”. This resonated particularly with David who relished the idea. We then proceeded to be introduced to a few different standard classes ranging from ages 6-18. The first class had around 20 students, which they call learners, all sat on the floor being taught songs about body parts, in English. The following class was a class of 201 learners, again sat on the floor. The classroom was about 10m2 and was full, with just enough space for the teacher at the front. All the children are always so happy to see you as ‘Azungu’ – white man, especially when you have a camera.

We also saw a class lucky enough to have desks and benches. As we entered they all stood up and we were greeted politely. “Good Morning Sir”.


Our day then took us up and out through Matete to another school, Kapanda. On our way there we stopped for an impromptu lesson on how to crush dried Cassava. A lovely lady showed us how she uses the giant pestle and mortar, and then gave us a go. After this mini workout we spent the next hour or so at Kapanda; meeting classes, seeing their boarding accommodation, water pump and new, half built kitchen, a great addition to the school.

 Pounding casava Pounding Cassava

Our morning ended with a cycle back to camp via the local grocery store for a cold Fanta in a glass bottle. My favourite is the Passionfruit flavour. Due to lots of cycling in the hot and sticky weather a dip in the lake was the next activity on the agenda, after lunch. Swimming in the lake became a regular thing, despite the hippo sighting we had over the weekend, as well as waking up to watch the sun rise.

Another thing that became regular was the drinking of Gin and Tonic in the evenings; an enjoyable, refreshing beverage to be consumed before and during a dinner in the dark, a concept that worried me a little as you can’t see what you’re eating. It turned out this isn’t an issue when everything on your plate tastes fantastic! Martha, Geddes and Fabiana did such an amazing job with the food they cooked. Pumpkin burgers were a particular favourite of mine.

The rest of the week was full of cycling from school to school in the scorching 30-40° heat, as we had been given the task of collecting personal profile information from all teachers and taking lots of film and photos. We were collecting this for RIPPLE Africa to start a school twinning programme with schools in the UK and USA. Towards the end of the week, Tash came with us on one of our trips. We all managed to get a little time, alongside collecting information, playing with the children, teaching them songs, kicking a ball around, doing magic tricks and more. All great fun and the kids loved it.

We were also shown the tree conservation area and taken around a few local villages looking at Changu Changu Motos. This shows you how the majority live, a real eye opener for living conditions. Some houses made of brick, but most made from wood, sticks, mud and tin roofs. Cooking on fire everyday cannot be easy. Just a different world.

  • Children
  • Football
  • Changu Changu Moto
  • Classroom

Being so busy and having so much fun, made the week fly by, ending with another nice drinks session at Lowani. Before the drinks, Nikki and I headed down early to see Esther and her family, who live at/run Lowani. We took her Grandson for a bit of a swim and some playing in the sand. Building a sand castle is not very easy when all the little one wants to do is pretend to be Godzilla!

Before we knew it, it was the weekend. On Friday Tash and I had booked ourselves into Kachere Kastle, an amazing hotel right on the beach. A beautiful setting for some relaxation. The owners were a lovely couple from England; they made us feel so welcome. We explored, swam, drank and laughed all before dinner. Dinner was amazing. I had a pea soup and a Thai style stir fry, Tash had chicken pâté and an Italian pesto pasta. We were so full after dinner that we had to go for a little walk which, surprisingly enough, ended up at the bar. We sat and talked the night away with the owners, learning all about their journey and how they came to build such a beautiful place. Fun fact: They used just over 802,000 bricks to build the castle.

The next morning we woke at sunrise, again, a little groggy. The sunrise was a little disappointing due to a little cloud cover, but stunning nonetheless. A return to bed for a little more sleep rejuvenated us and helped with the slight hangover before the rest of the volunteers came up to join us for lunch. We had a lovely rest of the day and enjoyed a brilliant tapas style lunch. A short cycle back and it was almost dinner time. G&T’s poured, food eaten, bed climbed into. An early start tomorrow.

  • Library
  • Preschool
  • Library
  • Preschool

Sunday 4:30am. We woke early to all bundle into the truck and be transported to the foot of the local mountain about a 40 minute drive away. I won’t go into detail as Tash has pretty accurately described this activity in a previous post. It was a very tough climb up and even tougher to get back down, but we survived, just. Back to camp for our famous post-activity swim. The rest of the day was very chilled. The perfect end to an unbelievable, packed full, insightful, inspiring, intense, fun-filled, adventurous visit to Malawi. I left early Monday morning and arrived home early Tuesday to a cold and wet England. Back to reality.

Thank you to all those who made my experience what it was and thank you to Tash for going out in the first place, and inviting me out.


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Natasha’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Natasha Mladek has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Mladek in Malawi

Well what can I say, the past few months have been eye opening, exciting, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable. I loved settling into the Malawian way of life and I am now more worried about heading back to the UK and the way of life there than I was about coming to Malawi. The staff at Mwaya Beach are friendly and helpful and there is never a dull moment. If the Jenga is still around they absolutely love playing, so challenge them to some matches from time to time. I never got over how beautiful Mwaya Beach is and the morning sunrises were something very special. If you are not a morning person, the longer you stay the more likely you are to become one!

 Morning sunrise Morning sunrise

I arrived with another volunteer, Ilka (who quickly became known as Kate due to the confusion between the letter R and L for Malawians) and we were shown the ropes by a previous volunteer who was visiting for a month as a guest. By the end of the first week we were able to find our way around easily and source anything we needed locally. The local language, Chitonga, was easier to pick up than any language I have learnt before and the locals really appreciate the Chitonga interaction. You will greet everyone you pass and the smiles on their faces are contagious. The children will walk with you wherever you go, holding your hand and grinning from ear to ear. A short walk down the beach to Lowani and the same happens. When we went swimming in the afternoon you were more often than not joined by a group of children who just wanted to play with you in the water. We used to teach them to swim and float as very few locals can swim properly.

 Swimmin g in the afternoon Swimming in the afternoon

I came out here with no presumption about what I was going to do or how it was going to be. I did not know what to expect while living at Mwaya Beach or where I would feel the support was needed most on the volunteer side of things. After an interesting and thorough introduction by Dan it was clear to see the effect RIPPLE Africa had on the area it works in. I have not volunteered for charities before but I could tell that this charity was different. “Giving a hand up not a hand out” is very important and if you come you can clearly see the benefits this has on the people in the area.

It took me a while to find exactly what I wanted to do. As a middle school teacher I was comfortable working in both Primary and Secondary, though some of the mathematics they learn is of a much higher standard than that in the UK at the same stage. I worked in Secondary and Primary schools and was able to support teachers in a variety of different subjects. After a month or so I decided I wanted to see more of the Primary schools as we were beginning to develop some resources to help support the classes which do not have teachers. I continued to work with one of the teachers at Kapanda and on Monday mornings we would create PowerPoint presentations together, adapting information on slides into activities so that the lessons did not turn into lectures for the students. IT lessons are always welcomed with teachers and students.

Both Ilka and I knew we did not want to spend our time teaching in the classroom as this is not sustainable as when we left we would leave nothing behind. The teacher will often ask you to teach for them but it was important for us to explain to them we were not there so that they could have “time off”. We explained that we wanted to help support the teaching and help the development of the learners. We ended up observing some of the teaching, giving feedback and then letting the teachers watch some of the methods we thought might help. After this we developed some activities that would support the independent learning of the pupils and would mean that the children could continue to learn when a teacher was not present, which is more common that not in some of the schools.

 One of the classroom blocks One of the classroom blocks

Life on the bike is great. If you are into fitness and fancy getting up early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, there are two good cycle routes; one heads south for 25km, turning around just after Kwiri Mountain (50km in total) and the other heads north for 15km turning around at the Makuzi Lodge sign (30km in total). Sunrise is spectacular and the mornings are one of my favourite times of day as you really could just appreciate the beauty of the region of Malawi. As well as cycling you can set the challenge of hiking up Kwiri Mountain which is the highest hill you can see from Mwaya beach when you look south. It doesn’t look too much but when you combine the constant steep terrain with questionable paths and the October heat, it can be challenging. It was a great morning out and I would advise asking Dan about it if you are interested in hiking.

 Beautiful cycle to work through the cassava fields! Beautiful cycle to work through the cassava fields!

After a few weeks lots more people started to arrive and if you have some time when Geoff is here you get some really wonderful treats, meat being the main one! As a big meat eater I was concerned I would crave it while I was here but the food is so good that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t eating it! Geddes, Fabiana and Martha really are amazing cooks and love showing you and telling you how they make all their dishes. You may choose to go to Kachere Kastle for drinks and lunch; it is a good distance to cycle to and Kate and Russ are very welcoming.

Mwaya Beach dinner deck Mwaya Beach dinner deck

In the middle of my stay I got the opportunity to go down south with Nikki (the Volunteer Coordinator) to see some of the projects she worked on before working for RIPPLE Africa. The contrast between the north and south is huge and it was very sad to see how little food was available for the rural communities around Zomba. The day I spent in the Domasi area was one of the best days I had in Malawi; I learnt a lot about the culture of this area and even saw some traditional Malawian dancing performed by a group of men from the village. Afterwards they gave Nikki and I a short lesson, you need a lot of coordination to perform the dances that we were taught!

Having never been to Africa before this has certainly given me the Africa bug. Four months at Mwaya Beach is just not enough time to experience everything you want to experience and I feel I could get to know the people here even more if I stayed longer. Malawi really is the “Warm Heart of Africa”. I have felt safer here than I do at times in the UK. You greet everyone you pass and the Malawian smile is contagious! The appreciations and gratefulness shown by everyone I have worked with has been overwhelming.

I have felt like part of a family while I have been here; a family who accepts each person for the individual they are. The Malawian sense of humour is contagious, everyone loves jokes and you rarely go through a day without hearing uncontrollable laughing from various members of staff. Being at Mwaya Beach has exceeded anything I could ever have imagined, the understanding of the Malawian culture and why it is considered the “Warm Heart of Africa”. I cannot praise RIPPLE Africa enough for the work they have done and the way in which they do it. They have empowered and educated the local people, giving them the confidence to work hard to help improve their country.

Some small things to do while you are here:

  • Have a cold fizzy drink in Matete while talking to the locals
  • Dance outside the shops in Matete with some of the local children
  • Eat mandazi- Kandi mandazi are the best!
  • Cycle at sunrise
  • Cycle through the Cassava fields along the track by Mr Longway’s house in late afternoon
  • Use the library (a great resource) and read to children if they are hanging around
  • Visit Kachere or Kandi market
  • Swim at sunrise
  • Visit the Lowani sewing group with Esther


Home - Chalet 2 Home – Chalet 2

Matete shops Matete shops

Natasha (September 2016 – December 2016)

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School should be safe

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa Project & Volunteer Coordinator, Nikki Luxford

Going to school was fun. I used to love seeing my friends every day, going into class where the walls were filled with colourful drawings and information relating to the topics we were studying.

And all the while I took for granted the actual structure, the fact that it was safe and stable – and the luxury that we had desks to work at.

Matete primary school is located in the rural village of Matete in the Nkhata Bay district in northern Malawi. And structurally, this primary school is the opposite of the Vale First and Middle School, the school which I was lucky enough to attend from the age of 5 to 11.

Built some 15 years ago, Matete primary school has received very little support, and worrying many of the classrooms are now unstable as termites have eaten the wooden beams supporting the roof.

There are holes in the flooring, damage to the walls and windows and none of the classrooms have doors on them either.

Not only this but the school only has six classrooms yet there are eight year groups. Two of the year groups have their lessons outside under the trees.

The school also only had three teachers too. Three teachers taking eight year groups!

 Termites have eaten the beams, and the walls are cracking Termites have eaten the beams, and the walls are cracking

 The broken beam outside the classroom, no longer strong enough to support the roof The broken beam outside the classroom, no longer strong enough to support the roof

 A storage facility A storage facility

 Holes in the floor Holes in the floor

 No doors, no window bricks and broken beams! No doors, no window bricks and broken beams!

How has RIPPLE Africa helped? How can you help?

Firstly RIPPLE Africa has provided an additional four teachers to the school. This enables each teacher (except one who works with two year groups) to focus on their own year group giving the children more consistency and stability.

And now RIPPLE Africa, thanks to receiving funding, is building another classroom block. This will enable the children currently sitting and learning under the trees to soon be taught in a classroom.

 One of the make-shift classrooms, common at rural schools One of the make-shift classrooms, common at rural schools

 The foundations of the new classroom block...The foundations of the new classroom block…

 ...the progress of the new classroom block …the progress of the new classroom block

 Two of the builders, Andrew and George Two of the builders, Andrew and George

Whilst the RIPPLE Africa team were at the primary school, looking at where the new classroom block would be, they were shocked by the extent of the termite and structural damage.

And this is where you can help.

To improve and make the classrooms safe for the children, we need to raise the funds to carry out all the repairs. There is a lot of work involved with removing the iron sheets on the roof, removing the timbers and replacing with new ones – which have been treated – plus repairing the floors and walls, painting the classrooms, putting on doors, creating storage and supplying desks too!

The community themselves are involved with improving the school by building teacher houses. If they can finish the houses it gives the school more standing and attracts more teachers.

 Staff house built by the community Staff house built by the community

So whilst the community are doing their bit, we equally need your help too – it’s your chance to be involved.

If you’d like more information on how you, your place of work, school or local club/society can help please email

Alternatively, if you’d like to make a donation please follow the links:

(Donating from UK and rest of the world)
(Donating from USA)

 Thank you! Thank you!

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Alyson’s Volunteer Story

Recent volunteer Alyson Klausing has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Alyson’s Story

A friend of mine introduced me to RIPPLE Africa earlier this year. While I was unsure if it would be a good fit as I am not a medical, environmental, or educational professional, it turned out to be an amazing experience. I am so thankful for the chance to have come to work with RIPPLE Africa. My time was spent working at the Under 5 and malnutrition clinics and conducting research on various projects. All of which have provided me the chance to prepare for graduate school this fall.

This was not my first time in Malawi, but it was my first time in this region and I could not get over the beauty. Mwaya Beach offered amazing views of gorgeous Lake Malawi with the surrounding of lush hills.

Research first took me to interview community members and chiefs of a few forest conservation projects. Did you know that trees are essential for rainfall and fires are set in order to smoke out mice so they can be caught and eaten? The facts were not the only interesting part, but the heights and intensely vertical incline of the hills we hiked were amazing!

I then ventured into fishing villages where I interviewed chiefs, community members, and fishermen. Having the opportunity to learn about fish conservation and the ways in which it has positively impacted the community was motivating. It was encouraging to see the impact that has been made through RIPPLE’s dedicated work in the local communities. Both projects are making big strides due to RIPPLE Africa’s approach and interest to empower the local community.

  • Forest ConservationForest Conservation
  • fish conservationFish Conservation
  • Happy with the Changu Changu MotoHappy with the Changu Changu Moto

My time spent at the local clinics was also very eye opening as I had the chance to understand not only about mother and child, but also what everyone living in the villages experience if they are ill. I had my trusty translator and friend Esther with me during most of my time at the clinics. She was always more than willing to explain anything I did not understand. She is a beautiful person inside and out and I am extremely grateful for her friendship and the way she always looked out for me.

Malaria testing never seemed to end and neither did the line of patients coming in for all different reasons. I was astounding to learn that women typically walk to the clinic in the last month of their pregnancy, which could be miles away from their homes, in order to sit at the clinic and wait to give birth. Those women were so strong, not only to walk such far distances, but anytime they were examined they always had a straight face, nothing made them grimace. Even when the midwife would poke and prod, these pregnant women would show no form of discomfort.

I happily helped with simple tasks at the prenatal and family planning days; taking and documenting blood pressure, weight, birth control methods, and scheduling follow ups. These clinics only have one or maybe two, if lucky, trained medical professionals. There are countless volunteers from the local communities which come on rotation to help out. These individuals are typically chosen by their village chief after they see what hard workers they are within their own community. Although they are not paid for their work, it is really an honor to be chosen.

The children were absolutely adorable at the Under 5 and malnutrition clinics. Even though it was difficult to see some of these moms and babies very malnourished, it was very encouraging that these clinics were there to support them via food distribution and education. The best part, aside from holding or playing with the children, was right before food distribution at Kachere clinic as the volunteers would lead a session of song and dance which reminded the moms of the importance of feeding their children nutritious food and practicing a healthy lifestyle. It was a time to laugh, sing, clap, and dance which brought welcomed smiles to all.

  • Changu Changu MotoChangu Changu Moto in use
  • Under 5 ClinicUnder 5 Clinic
  • Kapanda Secondary SchoolKapanda Secondary School

After spending six months in central Malawi last year, I wanted to see more of the country this time around. The funny thing was that Mwaya Beach was just too beautiful and full of fun to leave. A couple trips up to Mzuzu and one very adventurous trip to Vwaza Marsh were more than enough time away from the gorgeous beach we were so blessed to live on. Plus the delicious food that our amazing cook staff provided could not be beat! Although I do not miss cycling in soft sand or sleeping under a mosquito net, I would more than happily return to Mwaya Beach in order to work alongside the fantastic staff, experience the beautiful and warm people, and experience more stunning sunrises. I am forever grateful for the opportunity RIPPLE Africa provided me and I only hope to one day return!

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The results are in!

You have probably been aware that we have been running a photography competition as we wanted to create a calendar for 2017. We wanted to involve all past volunteers and visitors in order to feature their amazing photos taken during their time in Malawi with RIPPLE Africa.

The prize? The overall winner would receive an inspiring two-week stay at RIPPLE Africa in Malawi for two in 2017 (which included accommodation and food but excluded flights and in-country transport) plus a calendar and the runners up would each receive a calendar too.

We had a fantastic response and a great selection of photographs were entered.

We invited three independent judges to come into the office to make the difficult decision of selecting the best 12 entries to feature in our 2017 charity calendar.

We were honoured that Jake McNulty (Freelance Photographer) John Credland (Buckingham Camera Club) and Helen Shaw (Buckingham Art for All) agreed to be judges, providing their expert opinions on the photographs and making the difficult decisions on choosing the winning photographs.

The judges deliberatingThe judges deliberating

The decisions have been made!The decisions have been made!

Eventually the judges agreed on the final 12 and we are pleased to reveal that the winning photograph was entered by Kieran McCabe!

Kieran's winning entry Kieran’s winning entry “All work and no play”

The runners up are:

Sam Ernest-Jones, Vanessa Skelton, Tine Westerdahl, Linda Vardy, Patrick Ford, Megan McGarry, Peter and Alison Miller, Kieran McCabe, Caroline Weber, Shaney Abra and Eileen Searle. Well done to all of you.

Thank you to everyone who entered. There really was a great selection of photographs and these final twelve will all be featured in the calendar.

Watch this space for news on when the calendar will be available – it looks like it’s going to be a good one!

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Jenny’s experience at the Pre-School graduation

Volunteer Jenny Hamerstadt writes about her humbling experience at one Pre-School in Malawi.

I was invited to the Mwaya Preschool graduation ceremony on 11th July, 2016. I didn’t realize how important the event was until I heard a parent stand up and give a speech. I also didn’t realize that I was an honoured guest because I was a volunteer with RIPPLE. I was very humbled; after all, I have only been in Malawi for a month. I have done so little in the scheme of things, yet here I was representing RIPPLE Africa. It impressed upon me that everything I do while I am here, every action I take, every word I say, is a reflection on RIPPLE.

The parent went on to thank RIPPLE for everything that they do for the community and the children. He was very aware and appreciative of the fact that his child would not have a preschool to attend if not for RIPPLE. He knows that every child in that room will have better opportunities in life because of the education that they are receiving at this young age. I wish every volunteer and employee of RIPPLE could have been there.

After the ceremony, the teachers served a meal to the parents, guests and pre-schoolers. I was again humbled when I was handed a full plate of rice and vegetables. I sat on the bench with the large serving of food and looked around at the room full of children. My eyes then gazed on the scores of hungry primary students who had gathered at the windows and doors to watch the festivities, all hoping to get a taste of the food that had been served. I had been honoured with this gift of delicious food and knew that it would be disrespectful not to eat it, but everybody in and out and of that room needed it more than I. I made myself eat about half of it and then sat there wondering what to do. How can I possibly choose who gets the food when there are so many who need it? How can I give it to only a few when there are so many?

I waited for the crowd to dwindle and finally went out to the kitchen and held it up to Rebecca, one of the preschool teachers. She looked at the plate and then looked at me. I said, “I can’t do it. There are so many children.” She looked around at the children and then back to me, and I could tell that she understood my struggle. She said, “So many children. What can anyone do?” I knew that I, the white woman, could not be the one to give the food away, so I handed the plate to her and walked away. As I turned, I saw her get a spoon and tell the children to line up. I wish I could help them all.

That memory, as well as many others, will remain with me forever. RIPPLE Africa is not only impacting the people of Malawi, it is also changing the lives and viewpoints of all of us who are lucky enough to get involved.

Take a look at Pre-School Education; what we have achieved, how we work and the project’s future.

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