Volunteers’ Stories: Ross
“I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of my time here and will definitely cherish all of the memories that have been made. To spend so much time borrowing books from the library, constantly buying fruit and vegetables from the local market and always greeting the locals, I feel like I am a member of the community and have lived here for years!”
I am a 20-year-old student from England, soon to start my third and last year of studying English Literature at The University of Winchester.
Approximately one year prior to arriving here in Malawi, I spent a considerable amount of time researching charities in Africa. My original intention was to get involved with building schools in the different communities, and then decided I would like to teach in Africa. After several hours of research, I found the RIPPLE Africa website and was immediately absorbing all of the information the site displayed. I contacted Susie soon after and began exchanging emails until my departure.
I thought it would be best to show my dedication to the charity and organise a fundraising event before arriving. I did some more research, and quickly booked a bungee jump at Windsor Bray with the UK Bungee Jump Club. With £300 raised, I drove to the location with my family, climbed into the 300ft crane, said my prayers and jumped! It was a great experience, and I am hugely fortunate to be able to see the community where the money I raised has been contributed.
The vaccinations I needed were taken, my anti-malarial tablets and sun-cream purchased, a sense of excitement and adventure was felt; I was ready to leave home and experience Malawi for three months. The 24 or more hours spent travelling was excruciating, and I saw myself becoming more and more determined to finally arrive at the beautiful Mwaya Beach. My brief stay in Lilongwe led to me being stared at and shouted “hello” to in a strange but friendly manner. Back in England, this appears to be a rarity. As a student, I will always try to find the cheapest option for travel, and decided it would be best to experience the AXA bus!! After waiting at the bus station for a painful three hours, the bus arrived. I demonstrated the quintessentially English standard by forming a queue, only to realise that everyone else was pushing and shoving to get on. Luckily, I was again presented with the strange but friendly behaviour from the locals by being pushed to an empty seat, despite being the last to jump on.
Fast-forward a tedious eight-hour journey, and a few days of induction and settling in. After graduation from University, I would like to train to become at English teacher at Secondary level. It seemed an obvious choice to start working in the schools straight away. I went to Kapanda Secondary School and arrived during the exam period. Although the school schedule was disrupted, I was able to teach some of the Form 3 learners outside in the sun – a luxury for many students back home. I found the first couple of days of teaching to be very daunting and struggled hugely with the language barrier. I soon noticed that the knowledge of the English language amongst the learners is poor, and the literature they study is not much better. I was shocked to learn that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is on the national curriculum here in Malawi. I felt that most of the learners studying it felt stupid for not understanding the language; when in fact I know many students in England who still have no idea what nonsense Romeo was saying to flatter Juliet.
- Helping to teach maths at the primary school
- At Matete 2 pre-school
- Playing games with the learners at the primary school
After several weeks of teaching English language to the learners at Kapanda, school finished for the holidays and I began to worry I would have nothing to fill the rest of my time here. I organised as many tutorials with the learners as I could, and unfortunately spent most afternoons waiting on the deck for them never to arrive. Fortunately, American teacher and tutor of William Kamkwamba, Chris Schmidt, arrived with the intention of organising and running a holiday school for the Standard 7 and 8 learners at Mwaya Primary School. I was happy to be welcomed into the primary school after not having done much work with any of the Standards. With the help of Ellie, I assisted Chris with the maths and English reading lessons we were teaching. Despite having to spend some time brushing up on my maths skills, I was soon teaching the learners their times tables and gradually moving on to fractions. Creating paper games, planes, origami cups and friendship bracelets with the learners was fantastic, albeit a little chaotic at times. To see the excitement and delight in their eyes as they realised the cup they were holding could hold orange squash made it all worthwhile.
I also spent a couple of days visiting the pre-schools in the local area with some of the other volunteers. The swing project, which Christian organised, was a pleasure to be a part of. With the help of Jimmy, we cycled to the pre-schools and were immediately engulfed by a big group of small children all wanting to hold my hand and to be picked up. After introducing them to the eclectic range of nursery rhymes and songs such as “Hokey Cokey”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “Once I Caught a Fish Alive”, we produced the wooden swing courtesy of one of the local carpenters. It was great to see the children excitedly line up and wait for their turn on the swing. Their hesitant looks and fear of the swing soon led to joy and laughing and is something I will never forget. Four of the pre-schools are now currently fitted with swings, and there was talk amongst the community that the rest of the pre-schools would like one to. After Jimmy’s death a few weeks ago, the motivation to build the swings without him has gradually decreased. I think that without his encouragement and contagious smile, we have found it difficult to fix the rest of the swings. I hope that in the near future, other volunteers will read or hear about the swing project and continue to finish our work in Jimmy’s name.
The rest of my stay here has been full of adventure and entertainment:
- Hours of playing cards with volunteers before dinner.
- Dinner conversations fuelled by jokes and laughter.
- Running along the beach in the hot afternoon sun.
- Swimming in the calm, cool lake in the morning.
- Building a Changu Changu Moto with Kate and Catherine.
- Having drinks at the infamous Kande Beach.
- Being taught how to make pasta by Rose.
- Climbing Mt Kuwiriwi, and spending too much of the climb down falling over.
- Offering tutorials on the laptop for the Headteacher and some Form 4 learners.
- Helping to construct the new pre-school building at Katenthere (my first plan when deciding to come to Africa).
- Cycling the 25km to Chintheche just to use the internet café – desperate times!
- Having a Malawian lunch with Bright (one of the secondary school teachers) at his house.
- Going fishing in a wooden canoe with Yona the gardener – much to by amazement, I did not fall out of the boat, but Yona did!
- Talking to the locals and the other volunteers, to understand the different ways of life.
- Learning something new everyday.
The list is endless and I would hate to bore future volunteers who are reading my story. I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of my time here and will definitely cherish all of the memories that have been made. To spend so much time borrowing books from the library, constantly buying fruit and vegetables from the local market and always greeting the locals, I feel like I am a member of the community and have lived here for years! I am more than happy to talk to any other education volunteers who would like to know more about how to get involved with the pre-schools, primary school and secondary school. I hope that RIPPLE Africa, continues with the hard work that is being done throughout the community. I look forward to reading the Monday Mwaya blogs over the next few years to see the progress being made.
Have a nice day! Yewo yewo yewo!
Ross (June 2013 – August 2013)