Alistair and Doreen’s Volunteer Story

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Medical volunteers Alistair and Doreen have written a story about their time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

In November 2018 myself and Alistair Watson arrived at Mwaya Beach to start 12 weeks voluntary work with RIPPLE Africa. Before arrival it had been decided that I, using my nursing/health visiting background would work with Matilda, the Co-ordinator of the Disability Project. Alistair, a retired G.P., was earmarked for work in the local clinics and hospitals at Kachere, Kande and Chintheche. Unfortunately problems with medical registration in Malawi meant that Alistair was unable to do clinical work. Fortunately the induction course at Mwaya provided Alistair with the opportunity to meet Matilda and do some visits with myself and Matilda, and quickly realise that working with the Disability Project would allow him to utilise some of his clinical skills and complement the educational skills of Matilda and my health visiting skills.

The following 12 weeks proved to be an amazing learning experience and happy, joyful experience for the intrepid trio that we were.

Mornings were spent cycling, mini-bussing and walking to visit clients who were unable to make their way into clinics. Home assessments allowed a holistic approach where medical and social problems could be identified and appropriate management plans and referrals formulated.

Afternoons involved group sessions at Kachere, Kande, Chituka and Mwaya where further assessments, along with massage/stretching and play therapies, were the order of the day.

Despite encountering poverty, malnutrition, severe medical problems and disability on an almost daily basis, we were increasingly touched by the welcome we received and the warmth and happiness encountered when we met clients and their families.

Matilda was inspirational and had a wonderful relationship with all the children and families. She was also very skilful in getting the mangoes off the trees!

We visited various organisations and charities that support children with disabilities. Our aim was to try and achieve a more collaborative approach to the care of children with disabilities.

One of our highlights was a sixteen year old boy who had cerebral palsy, requiring a wheelchair. It transformed his life. He was able to sit up and eat his food, paint, be part of his family and observe his surroundings. He seemed very happy and so were we.

Back at base we loved being part of the Mwaya community and so grateful to all the staff who made our experience so enjoyable.

The homemade peanut butter was the best and hard work to make. I won’t forget the mangoes – they were delicious!

Our experiences will live with us forever.

Doreen and Alistair – November 2017 to February 2018