Volunteers’ Stories: Hannah

Hannah’s Story

“I can’t believe how quickly the last three and a half months have gone. I have absolutely loved my time at Mwaya, so much so that after a week in Zambia I am going to pop back in for a few days before continuing my travelling.”

I have been teaching science/chemistry in a secondary school in the UK for 5 years. I have volunteered a few times before for a charity in South Africa but after my last time I wanted to find a charity that wanted qualified teachers (and in my own subject) and for longer placements. When I found RIPPLE Africa (just through Google), I approached my school and asked for a term sabbatical.

I came out to Malawi for the Easter-Summer term 2015. Originally, I planned to teach at Kapanda Community Day Secondary School full time. However, I soon found that there wasn’t enough to do there to keep me busy. Unlike in the UK, teachers are only on about half timetables here mostly due to there only being one class per year, so only four lessons on at a time. I decided to do 3 days a week at Kapanda so that I could teach all the Form 1 physical science lessons and I also ran additional after school lessons for Form 4 to help them prepare for their national exams.

The students at Kapanda are fantastic! Despite class sizes of 50 they are so well behaved and nearly all of them are very eager to learn. Lessons here are fairly different to those in the UK, students aren’t really used to being active and involved in the lessons so initially they were very shy about getting up in front of the class to do any kind of modelling work or even talk to each other for group work to be possible. However, they soon got the hang of it and loved it! They have also had great fun laughing at me trying to learn ChiTonga. I have also worked quite a lot with one of the physical science teachers here, helping to come up with ideas for practicals (with limited apparatus/chemicals) and different activity ideas. I can honestly say I think I have learnt more than they have though, it has really made me reflect on my own teaching practices.

  • Kapanda football team
    Kapanda football team
  • Collins ready for his rounds
    Collins ready for his rounds

The other two days a week I have had chance to get involved in other RIPPLE Africa projects. I have helped out in one of the preschools (so cute!), helped weigh babies at under 5 clinics, visited the local and district hospitals and joined the women’s sewing group making sanitary pads. The sanitary pad project is a project I am really keen to see get off the ground. Many girls out here miss lots of school when they are on their period as they are embarrassed that people can see that they have cloth wrapped around them. The sanitary pads that the sewing group are making will be far more discreet and I think the girls will think they are great.

Even though I came out here to teach, my favourite project that I have been involved in is the Disability & Rehabilitation project. I have had the pleasure of going out four times with Collins on his rounds to meet some of his 47 clients. Collins has shown me how to do the stretches with the children to help combat spasms, how he encourages them to crawl/walk and relieve pain. Collins was very creative in his approaches and made parallel bars, specialist chairs and even a see-saw himself to help them. The highlight of my entire trip (and possibly one of the most amazing experiences in my whole life) was seeing a two year old disabled boy crawl for the first ever time because of the amazing work Collins had been doing. Collins was a truly inspirational man whose loss will be very deeply felt by the community and I am so grateful for being able to have spent that time with him. I really hope RIPPLE Africa can find a way to continue his incredible work.

I can’t believe how quickly the last three and a half months have gone. I have absolutely loved my time at Mwaya, so much so that after a week in Zambia I am going to pop back in for a few days before continuing my travelling. See you soon!

Hannah (April 2015 – July 2015)

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