Testimonial from Kirsty McHattie

Volunteering in Africa

Kirsty McHattie, Trainee Teacher

When deciding to volunteer in Africa I was stuck for choice with so many great organisations offering volunteering opportunities. With regards my decision making it came down to the ethos of the organisation, type of experience I wanted and overall, a gut feeling. Looking back now I am so glad I went with my gut. The whole experience from start to finish, from the wonderful staff at the project I volunteered at in Malawi to the amazing locals, every aspect of the trip would make me recommend it in a heartbeat.

There are very limited words to describe the experience to someone who has never volunteered before (and to experienced volunteers, let’s face it every trip differs immensely) and I found myself struggling with this before I left for Malawi. How was I to get an accurate picture of what the three months I signed up for were going to be like?

The understanding, support and care of the staff and locals knew no bounds and the amount of hard work put in every day by each and every team member is incredible. To be a small part of it for a short period of time gives you an invaluable insight into the work these types of organisations do, whether they’re big or smaller scale. The development of the local community as a result of the hard work put in by the organisation is evident immediately and no more apparent than when you are in an area not so fortunate as to benefit from the time and resources provided by them. From the moment you arrive you are welcomed into this close knit community which in itself is one of the highlights of any volunteering trip. Although I have to say I don’t much like clichés, I feel that it is true and has been said so often for a reason. The great relationship the organisation has with the community is testament to the great work these projects can do.

Although it isn’t for the faint hearted, any amount of time experiencing school life or life on the medical side of some projects really does give you perspective on the systems we take for granted on our doorstep.

During my time in Malawi I worked in the local primary school with standard 5/ primary pupils teaching English, Maths and Science as I come from an academic science background. In the three months I learned an inordinate amount about education and working with kids! Again, wanting to avoid clichés if possible, the children were the happiest bunch I have ever had the pleasure of working with and could not be more enthused by learning. This experienced played a huge part in my decision to become a teacher as it really did drive home the importance of education in society.

On leaving Malawi after what felt like a flying visit I was deeply reflective on the incredible life-long friendships I’ve made and the difference the organisation I was a part of for a while makes to a community. I cannot imagine never having been and would encourage anyone who has even an inkling to go and volunteer (virtually everyone I’ve met) to do it and make the most of every bit of it.”

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