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This is a diverse medical volunteer and health care project with huge potential to improve the standard of primary care and support provided to rural communities in Malawi. The project has a strong emphasis on education and awareness, as well as a supporting role in the provision of medical treatment. Volunteers with different levels of experience can be of assistance, either in the outreach work in the community or at under resourced medical clinics.
The governmental health care system in Malawi is organised into three levels. Local health care centres deal with the most common and easily treated problems and offer maternity services. More serious cases that cannot be dealt with at this level are referred to district community hospitals, which provide secondary health care, including some basic types of surgery. Tertiary care is then offered at one of the 3 central hospitals, situated in the North, Central and Southern regions.
However, access to these health services and facilities is poor. The majority of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas and cannot afford or is unable to reach these centres easily. Over half the population lives below the poverty line, and Malawi faces constant food uncertainty, high levels of malnutrition and high birth and dependency rates. Malawi is amongst the 10 countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and has a high prevalence of malaria.
The Malawi Medical Volunteer Project aims to address some of these issues at a local level through education, awareness and improved access to primary health care.
• Provide training to local volunteers, as part of a sustainable community home based care programme.
• Assist and gain valuable experience in the provision of primary medical treatment and care.
• Create awareness and help to reduce the incidence of epidemic diseases in Malawi, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
• Provide care and basic education to disadvantaged children.
• Be welcomed as part of a community and help them to become more self-sufficient.
The Lake Malawi Medical Volunteer Project is comprised of a number of community outreach, health care and medical initiatives. Your involvement in each of these will be dependent on your experience, interests and importantly the greatest need at the time you are volunteering. Nonetheless you will be involved with a variety of project work. Some of the areas that you may assist in are as follows:
Your daily routine may vary, depending on what areas you are involved with, the season and the needs of the project whilst you are in Malawi.
However, you will usually leave the house at 07.30 for your morning activity and return late morning. You will then have a welcome lunch break during the hottest part of the day. Afternoon sessions generally start at 14.00-14.30 until about 17.00 and take place Monday to Thursday. Friday afternoon is free time, as you may be departing on an organised weekend excursion.
The project co-ordinators will try to involve you in the activities that are of greatest interest to you where possible. However, please be flexible, as we rely on volunteers to maintain the continuity of certain programmes and activities and if there are relatively few medical volunteers when you are in Malawi these activities will take priority.
You will arrive on Monday evening and are likely to be fairly tired after travelling, so you will settle in to your room and meet the rest of the volunteers.
On Tuesday morning you will receive an orientation, which will cover:
In the afternoon you will have a quick tour of the local area and nearest town. You will have the opportunity to visit the local market there to buy cheaply priced local material for wrap-around skirts if you wish to.
You will stay in a shared volunteer house in a village at the southern end of Lake Malawi. The house is located in a fantastic spot on the edge of Lake Malawi and within a rural community. Malawi is very safe, as is the area that you will be volunteering in, but the house is also fenced and gated to provide additional security and privacy. You can relax in the sunshine in the spacious garden in your free time or cool off in the lake.
Most project activities are within walking or cycling distance of the house, but occasionally you may also be driven.
Volunteers share large bedrooms at the house, either with ensuite or a shared bathroom. There are western style flush toilets and showers; the water is cold, but this is usually welcome after a day volunteering in the heat of Malawi. The house has electricity, but power cuts are fairly common and sometimes last for up to a few hours.
The staff at the house includes a cook who will prepare your meals, a housekeeper to do most of the cleaning (although volunteers are expected to contribute to keeping the house tidy and clean up after themselves) and night watchmen.
You will be provided with three meals a day. Breakfast is generally toast, pancakes or porridge and tea/coffee. Lunch is self-service, along the lines of pasta, soups, sandwiches, or similar, or a packed lunch can be provided if you are not planning to return to the house to eat. A hot dinner will be prepared for your evening meal. The cooks do a great job of catering for everyone and accommodating most special dietary requirements. However, please bear in mind that supplies and choice of ingredients can be limited, seasonally available or imported and very expensive in Malawi, so there is not always the widest variety of food on offer.
You are fortunate to be staying in a beautifully positioned volunteer house, overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Malawi, which you may swim in each day. At weekends you can choose to relax at the volunteer house, or if you would prefer to see some of Malawi’s attractions the project staff will help you with arrangements or organise excursions.
Weekend trips can be arranged to:
Liwonde National Park with its diversity of wildlife and numerous elephant, where you can experience a vehicle safari, walking safari and boat safari looking out for the many hippo in the river.
The popular tourist village of Cape Maclear situated at the edge of the lake. Enjoy snorkelling, boat trips on Lake Malawi, barter for crafts or relax and top up your tan on the beach during the day. In the evening there are a couple of lively bars to choose from.
Relax in the cool forest canopy of the Zomba Plateau, taking in the spectacular views, trekking and horse riding if you wish.
Weekend excursions are not included in the price of the project, but can be arranged and paid for while you are there. As long as there is a reasonable sized group on an excursion they usually cost about $150 per person. This typically includes transport, 2 nights’ dorm room accommodation, 3 meals a day and a staff member to accompany you as a guide. The group trips are a cost effective and convenient way to see a little more of Malawi during your stay and we recommend doing a couple while you are there.
You should book your return flights to Lilongwe International Airport (please only do so after we have confirmed your place at the project). A project representative will meet you at the airport and you will be transferred by road to the volunteer house, which is about 3.5 hours from Lilongwe. You will also be dropped back in Lilongwe at the end of your volunteer programme.
Please make sure you arrive before 2pm on your programme start date. If your arrival, or departure is outside the usual dates for the project, or after 2 pm we will need to arrange a private transfer for you at your own expense, which will cost about $175 per person.
The project co-ordinators will be available to provide assistance and support 24/7 during your time at the medical volunteer project in Malawi.
Should they be unable to resolve something satisfactorily for you then you can also contact our UK office by email, or telephone. In addition, you will be provided with an emergency contact number in the UK prior to your departure. This should only be used for genuine emergencies out of normal office hours.
This project is suitable for qualified medical and health care professionals, medical students wishing to gain some experience in developing countries, and less experienced volunteers. Your level of experience and the needs of the project at the time will determine which areas of the project you will be involved with.
It is very important to be flexible throughout your time at the project and be willing to help out where necessary. An open mind and a strong work ethic are good attributes to have, so that you may make the most of your time volunteering and be of greatest value to the project.
Personal appearance is important to Malawians. Whilst on project activities or walking around in the village, female volunteers are expected to wear long skirts that are well below the knee and tops that cover your shoulders and cleavage. Males are expected to wear smart trousers and a shirt with a collar.
Please remember to be respectful and considerate. Staff and members of the community that you are working with will have different cultural expectations and values to those that you believe to be right, or appropriate. Things may run to African time, which can seem relaxed to the extreme sometimes. However, try to remember that the co-ordinators have much greater experience at managing local project relationships than you. Feel free to ask for their advice if you are unsure about something and please listen to it.
Minimum age is 18. There is no maximum age, as long as you are fit and healthy enough to participate in project activities.
Below are some of the feedback comments submitted by volunteers on the Lake Malawi Medical Volunteer Project.
“I enjoyed the variety of the work and am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked in the areas I worked in. I most enjoyed meeting new people, experiencing a different culture, participating in the wound clinics at Nkhudzie Bay and Matayo, going to Mangochi Hospital and the safari weekend. The food was excellent for me as a vegetarian; varied food provided even when I was working at Mangochi Hospital.
Thank you very much for this amazing experience, I have gained a valuable insight into Malawian culture and their healthcare system. I genuinely believe I have succeeded in helping a number of local children and adults and I have got a lot of good memories to take home. Thanks again.
“I just want to say thank you again for what an incredible experience I had in Malawi. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t wished I was back in Nkope! I have never met people more welcoming and warm-hearted, and the staff at the house are so friendly and helpful. It was great to be part of such a rewarding and sustainable project – I felt the ideas of volunteers were always taken on board, and over the 4 weeks I was there, even more improvements on the projects were made. I really hope to be able to return at some point to see how much the project has developed! Many thanks.”
“Thank you all for a wonderful experience; I shall definitely be trying to return to Malawi!”
“I had never visited Africa before so it was a great experience. I enjoyed getting to know the local people and culture and I was made very welcome in the village.”
“I enjoyed all the project work and found it rewarding and worthwhile making a useful contribution to the community. I enjoyed the wound clinic the most. This was a very useful contribution to the community and was rewarding as you saw the patients recover.”
“I enjoyed getting to know Malawian culture and working with the children. It is hands-down the most eye-opening experience I’ve had so far in my life. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate. “
The Lake Malawi Medical Volunteer Project has arrival and departure dates every other week on a Monday.
You should book your flights to arrive into and depart from Lilongwe International Airport for the set dates after your placement has been confirmed.
2nd, 16th, 30th January
13th, 27th February
13th, 27th March
10th, 24th April
8th, 22nd May
5th, 19th June
3rd, 17th, 31st July
14th, 28th August
11th, 25th September
9th, 23rd October
6th, 20th November
4th, 18th December
|08-Jan & 22-Jan|
|05-Feb & 19-Feb|
|05-Mar & 19-Mar|
|02-Apr & 16-Apr & 30-Apr|
|14-May & 28-May|
|11-Jun & 25-Jun|
|09-Jul & 23-Jul|
|03-Sep & 17-Sep|
|01-Oct & 15-Oct & 29-Oct|
|12-Nov & 26-Nov|
See the Price Guide at the top right of this page.