Volunteers’ Stories: Toby

Toby’s Story

“It feels like a real family out there, and there is a huge emphasis on enjoyment and having fun … and that is exactly what occurred – I had a huge amount of fun whilst doing good for the local community. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

I went out to volunteer for RIPPLE Africa in July 2012. I have to say, having read the Volunteer Handbook, I was full of trepidation of the journey up to Mwaya from Lilongwe, of the work I’d have to do (having never taught and having no medical or environmental background), and of the snakes that I would doubtless encounter and be bitten by. I had a university student’s feeling of guilt and dread going into an exam unprepared, as I hadn’t learnt any of the names of people at Mwaya nor any words of Chitonga, the local dialect. Suffice to say I was a little nervous.

I shouldn’t have been. The Malawians are unbelievably friendly. Arrival in Lilongwe was a doddle, and I cheated on the transfer and got a taxi with Chico up to Mwaya Beach and was delivered to the door!

On arrival I was warmly greeted by Morton and was lucky enough to meet Geoff the founder first off. Geoff immediately took me under his wing and got me directly involved in the fabulous environmental projects that RIPPLE are involved in. No need for prior experience, it is all very understandable and easy to grasp; it really is all common sense. I also got involved with the pre-schools and helping with the kids, and even turned my hand to a little of the medical side of things by attending an under 5s clinic and doing the rounds with Collins who heads up RIPPLE’s healthcare team. The most fun thing we did was to help in the creation of the ’12 Days of Christmas’ video that is now posted on RIPPLE’s YouTube channel.

I couldn’t help but fall in love with the place and the people. I was so inspired by the work that the charity is doing. Geoff & Liz and the team are making a real difference to the lives of many of the local Malawians. Even in the small amount of time I spent there, I felt as if I was making a real difference. The team out there based at Mwaya are just amazing, from Morton and Dan who run the office, to Jimmy, Collins, Force and co. who head up the individual project areas, to the gang in the kitchen and around Mwaya – Fabs, Geddess, Martha, Agnes, Daidosi … I could go on and on; they are all so friendly, make you feel so welcome and do such a great job.

The real beauty of volunteering for RIPPLE is that, having done a hard day’s work, you are then treated to a wonderful meal with all of the other volunteers out there, sitting up on the deck, overlooking the beautiful lake, admiring the stars above, and relaxing with a G&T or two … and maybe even some Port! It is the perfect antidote to what can be a full-on day. Geoff, Liz and Charlie have fostered a very social environment in which you can share your stories of the day, and help each other out in your work and your projects out there. This sharing experience I think is hugely important and forms an integral part of the RIPPLE experience.

The location of the charity is just perfect; time off and weekends are spent as if you were on holiday, sun-bathing, messing around in the water, or if you feel like it exploring the local area or even a quick safari if you have the inclination and the time. It feels like a real family out there, and there is a huge emphasis on enjoyment and having fun … and that is exactly what occurred – I had a huge amount of fun whilst doing good for the local community. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Toby (Volunteer, July 2012)

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