A Day in the Life of a Malawi Volunteer

Posted on the 29th November 2016

Domestic life in Malawi is different to home. I wake up early in the mornings and take a cold bucket shower which is surprisingly refreshing. Days in Malawi usually start between 5:30-6:30 and end at 9:00. Meals are cooked on a small, portable burner which uses coals, wood, or paraffin and sits on the floor of the kitchen and hot water is only available if you boil it for yourself. Clothes are washed in a tub of cold water, much like humans, except outside and with a bar of greenish laundry soap that will take the skin off your fingers! The clothes themselves are scrubbed to within an inch of their lives and then hung up, and if necessary guarded from clothing thieves, until dry. Access to milk and milk products is scarce and expensive so margarine is king!

I hear that there is a variation between host families and homes in terms of facilities and number and age of family members, however the overriding similarity is their hospitality. The warm welcome I have received in my host home has certainly helped to make my placement seem a lot less daunting and I was able to head off to my first day of work feeling a lot more reassured.

work placement in Malawi

“I particularly love the markets and the wide selection of chitenje”

Everything is notably slow paced and it seems that in Malawi things happen in their own time. The spare time this pace of life has left me has not gone unused however. Most of my afternoons I spend going to the Coffee Den, Mzuzu’s first café and prime tourist attraction, where I can sip the famous local coffee (or stuff my face with milkshakes and burgers when I want a change from nsima). I might explore the town, which despite not being a tourist town according to the travel guide, has its own quirky, occasionally smelly, charm. I particularly love the markets and the wide selection of chitenje and cheap used clothing they offer.

On Sundays I usually join my family at church even on the days it involves trudging through pouring rain and deep mud. A big difference between England and Malawi is the dominance of the church in Malawian culture. Everybody belongs to a church, from New Apostolic to Church of Christ and all wear their Sunday best; long skirts or trousers and blouses or shirts so that shoulders and legs are covered. This is in contrast to everyday wear which is remarkably similar to England. Jeans, tank tops, high heels and tight(ish) dresses are all a common sight here with the slight difference that midriffs and thighs are never on display.

It’s definitely been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to the challenges and continued cultural experiences the upcoming weeks will bring!

“I’m looking forward to the challenges and continued cultural experiences” 

Find out how you can volunteer in Malawi

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