Ilka’s Volunteer Story

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Recent volunteer Ilka Hof has written a story about her time at Mwaya which is reproduced below. Stories written by other previous RIPPLE Africa volunteers can be found on the Volunteers’ Stories webpage.

Ilka becoming Kate – A German in Mwaya

Three months as a RIPPLE volunteer teacher at Mwaya Beach have taught me a lot about Malawi, the British and myself. As an English and P.E. secondary school teacher from Germany, I have introduced my favourite teaching method, the tandem activity, to Malawian teachers together with my British counterpart Tash. And I have had an amazing time!

After an extremely informative, enjoyable and thorough induction (Thanks, Dan!) to RIPPLE’s wonderful work in the Nkhata Bay District, Tash and I were condemned to a very slow start: In the first week of school, there were almost no students at school because most of them were either waiting for their exam results or they were not allowed to attend school as they had not paid their fees; in the second week of school, the teachers were on a strike as the government had not paid them. When school really started Tash and I quickly knew that we did not want to take over teaching, but that – in order to make our work more sustainable – we wanted to focus on coaching teachers and making resources.

After having been to Kapanda Secondary School and the six RIPPLE-sponsored primary schools, we also agreed that our focus would be on the latter ones as they needed support more urgently. Kazandu Primary School, for example, was terribly understaffed with seven classes and only five government teachers and also lacked proper classrooms.

After several weeks of observing, testing, re-testing, thoroughly discussing, typing, proofreading and printing, followed by an odyssey of photocopying, Tash and I were able to conduct a primary school teacher training. On that day we introduced tandem activities for English and Maths, memory card games and other resources, which the teachers can use to improve students’ activity and communication in the classroom. It was great to see how enthusiastic and grateful the teachers were for our input!

 Ilka Hof Ilka with some of the students

Apart from my work as a teacher volunteer, life at Mwaya Beach has been full of special treats, varied experiences and personal challenges. Firstly, being the only German among Malawians and Britons has posed particular intercultural experiences. Meeting the wonderful, warm-hearted and welcoming Malawians has been very special. I am definitely going to miss all the friendly smiles, greetings and short exchanges in ChiTonga!

Teaching the staff English proved to be one of my personal highlights! Similarly, although being overexposed to British humour and a hyperactive British chalet-mate (Love you, Tash!) from time to time, I have come to love all the Brits around me a lot too. After having renamed myself Kate in order to make it possible for the people around me to pronounce my name, I started becoming British myself towards the end of my stay. I realized that when I had bean burgers and eggs for lunch (and liked it!) and when after being able to understand what Nikki was saying- I even started to master the understanding of Scottish!

Secondly, little trips, excursions and adventures have made my time with RIPPLE very special and memorable. Geoff’s special treats for us volunteers (G&T, cooked breakfast), pizza nights and lazy afternoons at Kachere Castle, 5 o’clock bike rides 50k south or north on the M5, a looooong hike up and down Kwiiere Mountain as well as a trip to Zomba (everything perfectly organized by Nikki – you do an amazing job!!!) were simply wonderful, once in a lifetime experiences and facilitated a special bonding experience.

A big thank you to the RIPPLE family in Malawi and the UK!


Ilka is one of our brave RIPPLE Rockets, cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats (1000 miles!) from 19th April to 3rd May 2017 to raise funds for RIPPLE Africa’s projects. If you would like to support Ilka and the team, visit their fundraising page here