Volunteers’ Stories: Ashley
“Crucially, what I will remember is a sense of warmth and openness that every single Malawian you meet radiates. Their kindness, generosity and positivity are what I will truly treasure about my time here, and this is what has made it such a happy experience for me.”
At the end of a very special three months, there is so much to tell you about and so much that I will be unable to convey, but I will have a shot at providing a vague impression of my wonderful experience.
Mwaya Beach is one of the most beautiful places in the world … perfect beach, cute wooden chalets, lush green trees, and sunrises that you will never get bored of photographing! Life at Mwaya was so much more luxurious than I expected – hot showers, comfy beds and delicious, huge meals every evening. You will be incredibly well looked after by all the staff who shower you with kindness, are unerringly positive and incredibly patient as they help you learn the local language of Chitonga. All the other volunteers were enthusiastic, chilled, considerate and lovely people. We all came from different walks of life and were a variety of ages but we got on brilliantly; bonding through treks up mountains, long discussions over lunch, and gin and tonic fuelled nights on the deck. I have made friends for life and was so upset to say goodbye to them.
I am a primary school teacher in the UK and so assumed that I would simply walk into a local school and get teaching – only to be faced with 160 kids and no teacher to help me translate on my first day! With growing assertiveness and improved understanding of the challenges facing the education system and where I could fit into that, I switched from whole class teaching to taking groups out for maths and English. I worked at two primary schools and was so welcomed and appreciated by all the staff. I also volunteered at two pre-schools and loved the energy and enthusiasm of the kids and staff alike. With two other volunteers, we held a pre-school teachers training day where all the staff met to share ideas and explore the use of resources. It was a great success and one of the highlights of my time here as it felt like it would make a sustainable and long term difference to how the children were taught.
Other special memories are:
- Cycling along the dusty track, green fields and soaring blue mountains in the background, with the sound track of children cheering “what is my name?” at me like I’m a film star!
- Dancing on the table with a red moon rising over the lake (yep, red moon!) and stars scattering the sky.
- Swimming in the perfectly calm lake at sunrise, Mozambique in the distance and just a few fishermen out in their canoes to keep us company!
- The amazing hip shaking of the pre-schoolers and their adorable singing!
- Playing charades with 160 eight-year olds!
But there are so many, many more … Crucially, what I will remember is a sense of warmth and openness that every single Malawian you meet radiates. Their kindness, generosity and positivity are what I will truly treasure about my time here, and this is what has made it such a happy experience for me.
I feel very, very lucky to be a tiny part of the RIPPLE Africa story. The more I have learnt about development work in Malawi, the more complex and overwhelming I realise it is, which makes all the steps forward RIPPLE Africa has made even more impressive and inspiring.
I will always cherish my wonderful, happy time and encourage you to come and experience it for yourself!
Ashley (Volunteer Teacher, September – December 2012)