Sam’s Volunteer Story

Monday, 21 September 2015

Recent volunteer Sam Ernest-Jones 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.

Sam’s Story

All the butterflies that had built up during the preparation stage and journey were immediately dispersed upon arrival at the camp. It was pitch black when I alighted the taxi and began to fumble for my bags, when the welcoming voice of one the night watchmen said, ‘Sam, hello, welcome to Mwaya!’ with a warmth that I continued to see in the people I met for the duration of my stay. Aside from the beautiful landscape and lake, for me, Malawi and Mwaya’s greatest asset is the humour, kindness and hospitality of those who live there.

I spent a wonderful month at RIPPLE Africa’s Mwaya Beach camp whilst on my summer holidays away from studying Anthropology and African Studies at university. I was first told about RIPPLE from an old friend, ex volunteer and now RIPPLE employee, Charlie, who suggested that I go out there and get a feel for what life is like for those living in the villages in Malawi. A perfect place to study cultural diversity for my final year, whilst doing some volunteering! Having heard so much positive feedback from Charlie I snapped up the opportunity and saved up my student loan to go out and experience Malawi under the wing of RIPPLE.

Because Anthropological research is people-based, I spent a significant portion of my time wondering round the lovely villages of Mwaya, Matete and Mazembe talking to young locals in an effort to understand their way of life, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I would set off at 9 o’clock with my translator, Scorpion John, and walk around observing scenes at the market place and water pump, and chatting to youngsters who were always excited to try out their English. Poor Scorpion couldn’t get a word in sometimes! I would wander around with him until lunchtime and then hold some interviews on the beautiful beachfront at Mwaya camp in the afternoon.

I also took up every opportunity to be involved in the wonderful volunteering that goes on at RIPPLE as it is something that I have wanted learn more about. I was very fortunate to see first-hand what volunteering is all about and try my hand at it as well! My stay coincided with that of Aldenham School who included me in painting Mwaya pre-school, Changu-Changu Moto making, tree potting, and a visit to the fish conservation project. The facts I was given about the decline of trees and fish in the area were astonishing, which shows the necessity of the work RIPPLE and its volunteers are doing there. Aside from this, I was able to take part in peanut butter making, brick making, two football matches and some traditional dancing (which I am yet to master!). I did manage to get some quality football training from some of the primary school kids who ran rings around me on the beach front.

Life at Mwaya Beach camp is relaxed and extremely good humoured. The early rises occur, not because you have to, but because you want to (and that’s saying something coming from a student…). Awaken from your comfortable chalet, get your swim suit on, and bomb into the water to catch the sunrise over Lake Malawi. Martha and Geddis, the cooks, prepare the most amazing food for the communal volunteer meal in the evening, always with a Malawian twist – Burgers and chips made from pumpkin and sweet potato, and hand-made spaghetti and garlic bread with Narli sauce. However, there should be a disclaimer stating that ‘extra spicy Narli’ sauce is indeed as ‘narly’ as it sounds. Never learned my lesson there…

It is safe to say I had a fantastic time and I was certainly not ready to leave after a month. The landscape is as infectious as the smiles of its people and I would love to return for a longer stint in the future. Thank you RIPPLE for everything. Watch out Narli sauce, I’m coming for you!!

Sam Ernest-Jones

Published in Volunteer Stories