This diverse medical volunteer project has huge potential to improve the level of primary health care that is currently provided in the rural communities in Malawi. The project focusses on improving the health care through education and awareness, as well as supporting medical treatment. Volunteers with different levels of experience and knowledge can be of great importance in assisting either in community work or within resourced medical clinics.
Local health care centres: These deal with the most common and easily treated problems and offer maternity services.
District community hospitals: These deal with more serious cases. They provide secondary health care, including some basic types of surgery.
Central hospitals: There are 3 central hospitals where they offer tertiary care. They are situated in the North, Central and Southern regions of Malawi.
As the majority of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas, access to these facilities is difficult and expensive as half of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line. Malawi faces constant food uncertainty, high levels of malnutrition leading to a high infant mortality rate. Furthermore, Malawi is one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS and malaria. This Medical Volunteer Project aims to address some of the above mentioned issues at a local level through education, awareness and improved access to primary and palliative health care
• Feel part of the community and experience the hospitality and culture of the friendly community
• Assist with and gain valuable experience in the provision of primary medical care
• Provide basic care health education to disadvantaged children and communities
• Be part of a rewarding and sustainable project
• Be welcomed as part of the community and help them to become more self-sufficient
• Provide training to local volunteers, as part of a vital and sustainable community home-based care programme
• Help create awareness of and help to reduce the incidence of epidemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria
Location: Mangochi District
Minimum duration: 4 weeks
• Police clearance/CRB check
• Basic level of competency in English
• Copy of return flight itinerary
• Acceptance subject to availability
Experience in the medical field is not a pre-requisite for this project. However, only medical professionals and medical students may be registered with Medical or Nursing Council to assist at a local rural hospital as part of their programme. The hospital placement is most relevant to medical students, wishing to gain some additional hospital experience during their programme or as part of their elective; nurses specifically wishing to spend some of their time in a hospital environment; or midwives on a maternity ward. We recommend 6 weeks minimum for qualified nurses/midwives who wish to register (due to the additional 1 week orientation involved), but nurses also find the outreach areas particularly rewarding.
Volunteer tasks will be dependent on experience, interests and the greatest need at the time. Below are various areas where volunteers’ help will be needed.
Based on a government curriculum and supported by our experienced translators, volunteers will plan and run training sessions to groups of local volunteers on home-based care topics, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, personal hygiene, drug administration, recording information, basic first aid, wound care, bed bathing, infection prevention, sexual health awareness, nutrition and digestion, TB and rehabilitation. Furthermore, you will carry out home visits to chronically ill patients. These visits are a valuable part of the training for the local volunteers to become home-based care providers.
Volunteers will be involved in cleaning wounds, basic dressing and bandaging referring patients to hospital for more serious wounds, or if further treatment or antibiotics are required. This is of great importance in areas where wounds would otherwise go unattended, often resulting in serious infection
Help create and increase the awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS, in order to educate local communities about prevention and treatment. Volunteers will also provide support and counselling through community groups for those living with HIV/AIDS. This may also include nutritional advice and information about other related diseases. Furthermore, volunteers will help encourage and assist with drama workshops and presentations by those living with HIV/AIDS to the communities in surrounding villages
Rural community hospital
This part of the project work is suited for volunteers with previous medical experience, medical professionals, or medical students, as the centre provides primary medical care and treatment. The centre we work in has several departments in which volunteers with relevant experience can assist, including outpatients, a female ward, a male ward, a maternity ward, a nutrition unit, a laboratory, a pharmacy and basic dental treatment.
Qualified volunteers will assist the local nurses and doctors in their daily duties. This may include midwifery, ward rounds, cleaning and dressing wounds, minor medical procedures, etc. Certain lab technician experience is also available. This may include carrying out vital tests, such as haemoglobin, malaria, syphilis and pregnancy. Less experienced medical students will have the opportunity to shadow local nurses or doctors and assist with more administrative duties, but will gain a valuable insight into medical care and treatment of tropical and infectious diseases in a developing country.
Malaria Prevention and Awareness
This part of the project includes assisting with malaria prevention techniques, providing education and creating awareness to help minimise the incidence rate. Furthermore, you will be conducting valuable malaria data collection and distribute mosquito nets and spray to the local homes. Unfortunately, this initiative comes with high material costs. This means that this part of the project is not ongoing and involvement is occasional, as it is dependent on available funding. If you would like to raise funds or make a donation to this specific program, it will be gratefully received.
Nurseries for Orphan & Vulnerable Children
This part of the project takes place in the mornings and is suitable for volunteers with little medical experience, or anyone with an interest in pre-school education and child care. Volunteers can get involved with pre-school teaching to prepare the children for their education ahead. Furthermore, by helping the local carers improve their English and teaching skills, volunteers will help promote the importance of health and nutrition, including assisting with our feeding scheme.
The volunteer house is right on the edge of Lake Malawi in the Mangochi District. It’s approximately a 40 minute drive from Mangochi Town, which is a large village where 6.500 people live.
Volunteers will stay in a comfortable, shared house in a rural village in the Mangochi District. The volunteer house is located on the shores of the stunning Lake Malawi. The area in which volunteers are based (and Malawi in general) is very safe. However, the house is fenced and gated for additional security and privacy.
The bedrooms in the volunteer house are large shared rooms (2 – 4 volunteers per room), generally with single or bunk beds. Mosquito nets are provided and the rooms either have en-suite facilities, or an adjacent bathroom. The bathrooms all consist of western style flush toilets and showers.
Three meals a day are provided.
Breakfast usually consists of french toast, eggs, porridge or pancakes, and tea and coffee.
Lunch usually consists of sandwiches, pasta, soups, wraps, or similar; or a packed lunch can be provided if you are not returning to the house in the middle of the day.
Dinner will be a hot meal prepared for you by our cook.
During free time, volunteers can relax at the volunteer house, swim in the sparkling waters of Lake Malawi and explore the local area.
Weekend trips can be organised by the project staff enabling you to visit:
Liwonde National Park, offers a variety of wildlife and large herds of elephant, where you can enjoy the combination of a vehicle safari, walking safari and boat safari in search of the numerous hippo in the rivers.
Cape Maclear, a popular tourist village at the edge of the lake. Enjoy snorkelling, boat rides on Lake Malawi, exploring the craft stalls and sunbathing on the beach during the day. In the evening there are a couple of lively bars to let your hair down.
Zomba Plateau, is a cool forest where you can relax, take in the great views, trek and even go horse riding if you wish.
Although organised weekend excursions are not included in the program price, we do recommend doing a couple of these groups trips during your stay. This way you will be able to see a little more and make the most of your time in Malawi.
Project dates 2015
August 3rd, 17th & 31st
September 14th & 28th
October 12th & 26th
November 9th & 23rd
December 7th & 21st
Project dates 2016
January 4th and thereafter every second Monday
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.
Arriving in Malawi
Do I need a visa?
Applying for a visa prior to travelling
For entry into Malawi you will require a tourist visa. UK passport holders will receive a free 30-day tourist visa stamp on entry into Malawi. For those staying longer, you will be required to pay approximately 28 Euros extra per 30 days for staying in the country up to 90 days. All other nationalities should consult the relevant embassy.
Please note that when filling out the visa form on arrival in Malawi, you should state your address, which is:
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your departure from Malawi and have two clear facing pages for the Malawian authorities to issue your visa – please check the expiry date of your passport very carefully. Make sure you write on the form the exact number of days that you require in Malawi and check that you have been granted the correct number of days in your passport.
It is important to ensure that you have the necessary Visas for your travel; this is your responsibility. The information provided below is to serve as a guideline only. We advise that you confirm this information with the embassy / consulate of the country that you will be visiting in your home country before departure.
Applying for a visa on arrival
Visas can be applied for in advance, but despite information on some embassy sites, most visitors to Malawi are obtaining visas on arrival still. They are being issued 30 day tourist/visitor visas on arrival for US$ 75. We are not aware of anyone being turned away on arrival for not having obtained a visa in advance and we have been informed that this is also clear on all airline systems.
Please ensure that you have US$ 75 cash with you to pay for this on arrival.
Although most of the below is not generally being requested or checked, it may also help to ensure that this process is as quick as possible if you can have any or all of the following with you:
• Completed application form. Please enter holiday under reason for travel, as a volunteer visa does not exist currently and a visitor/tourist visa is the appropriate visa for your stay, as a paying tourist to the country, staying less than 90 days.
• Two passport photos
• Air ticket/Itinerary
• Three months latest bank statements
Those staying longer than 30 days are still being issued 30 day visa renewals locally at MWK 5000 each time up to 90 days, as they were previously.
What do I need when arriving in Malawi?
• A copy of your Passport and your Visa
• Your Passport
• Yellow Fever Certificate
• Copy of Travel Insurance
• Immigration details for Arrival Form (This form needs to be filled out on the airplane).
You need to arrange your flights to arrive at Lilongwe Airport in Malawi prior to 2pm on the date specified. Upon arrival, you will be met by a project representative and will be transferred to the project, which is about three and a half hours drive from the airport.
If you cannot find our representative, please wait for the arrivals area to clear. If there is a delay of more than 15 minutes please call the Project Co-ordinator. If for some reason you miss the flight, or are delayed, you should contact the Project Co-ordinator:
Augustine Kambalikena: +265 (0)99 191 4633, Sam Galanje: +265 (0)99 382 5560
What vaccinations do I need?
You should visit your GP or seek professional medical advice once your volunteer placement has been confirmed by us and ideally at least 6 weeks prior to travel, regarding the vaccinations and malarial prophylaxis required for your destination. The project is located in a malarial area. If you have any general questions about this please let us know, but we are not qualified to provide specific medical advice. Below are some of the common recommendations for travel to Malawi.
Tetanus: A recent tetanus injection is highly recommended
Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B: Usually recommended
Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Polio, Rabies: Sometimes recommended
Yellow fever: Vaccination certificate required if arriving from risk areas
Bilharzia can be contracted in many lake shore areas and rivers. We recommend that you are tested on return to the UK and take the Biltricide medication if necessary. This can be cheaply and easily purchased from a pharmacy in Malawi prior to departure or obtained on your return to your home country
Whilst at the project and staying at the volunteer house there is relatively little that you will require your own spending money for. As a rough guideline, volunteers should not need more than 270 Euros pocket money per month to cover some extra luxuries, souvenirs, internet/phone etc. Soft and alcoholic drinks can be purchased, as well as handmade local crafts.
You should also have enough money available for weekend excursions and activities that you may wish to participate in. More details will be provided on arrival, but you should budget about $150 for 2 nights away, including transport and food.
What we don’t cover
• Personal Travel Insurance
• Travel Visas (where required)
• Personal Vaccinations/Medication
• Personal spending money (for souvenirs, weekend travel etc)
Staying in Malawi
Do I need to bring cash or can I use my debit / credit card?
ATM Machines are available in Lilongwe and in Mangochi, the nearest large town; withdrawals may incur a small charge. US dollars and pounds sterling are the most easily exchangeable currencies and we recommend that you take some $US with you. If you bring Traveller’s Cheques you should expect long waits to exchange these. Credit cards are not widely accepted for purchases. However, a credit card may be useful in the event of an emergency.
Can I drink the tap water?
It is not safe to drink the tap water in Malawi. The water at the volunteer accommodation comes directly from the Lake. It is boiled, filtered and kept in bottles in the kitchen to provide suitable drinking water. If you prefer there is also bottled mineral water available for sale at the cottage.
Are there a lot of mosquitoes?
You should expect there to be insects wherever you travel in Africa. Mosquitoes are common, but despite being beside the Lake not in any greater numbers than they would be found in most other regions. We recommend that shortly before dusk, when mosquitoes become more active, you put on a long sleeved top and trousers and use repellent to prevent being bitten. Also, turn off lights when you leave a room.
Is it possible to smoke?
Smoking is not permitted inside the volunteer accommodation or whilst involved in project activities. You may smoke outside at the volunteer house, in designated areas and away from others, who may be bothered by your smoke. Please pick up and dispose of cigarette butts appropriately.
Will I have internet access?
Internet is available at the volunteer house on a ‘Pay As You Go’ basis. There is also internet available in Mangochi, which you can easily get to at weekends on local transport.
Is it safe on my project?
Malawi is a very safe, welcoming and stable African country. We have staff at the volunteer accommodation and available to provide support 24/7 and watchmen at night. However, petty crime can occur, just as it can anywhere in the world and you should use common sense to avoid being a victim of crime. More advice about personal safety will be provided during your arrival orientation.
General travel safety tips are below:
• Avoid travelling around alone, especially at night.
• Find out where the unsafe areas are and avoid them.
• When travelling, keep all important documents and valuables in a safe place, like an inner hidden pocket or money belt.
• Carry only as much cash as you think you will need for the day.
• Don’t wear expensive jewellery or watches.
• Be cautious of people who seem too friendly too fast.
• Always keep bags and purses in your sight.
• Before swimming, ask how safe the area is. Although not common, crocodiles and hippos are found in Lake Malawi.
In addition, you will be working outdoors, in an unfamiliar community and environment. Please respect the advice given to you by the project staff.
Why do I have to pay to volunteer?
The cost you pay to volunteer is only to cover unavoidable costs such as accommodation, meals, transport, shuttles and donation towards the project for running costs and material to sustain the program. Most of the projects are run only on the money that is donated by volunteer fees, without these donations and the physical help from volunteers most projects would not exist.
Should I bring donations?
If you would like to bring a material donation please let us know and we can advise what is most needed at the project at the time. Shipping costs are high and procedures can be very difficult to Africa. We therefore advise that anything you bring is within your baggage allowance.
Some volunteers ask us if they can do some fundraising before they start their project. If you would like to then this is very welcome, but it is not expected and is completely voluntary. If you wish, donations may be made via our UK charity, Naturally Africa Foundation (registered number 1137411), so that we may reclaim Gift Aid on the donation. Past volunteers have undertaken fundraising activities, such as sponsored walks, charity dances, boot fairs etc., in order to raise just a little extra cash for the project.
What do I need to pack?
• Passport, insurance certificates and personal documentation
• Photocopies of all the above to be left at home with your next of kin
• Spending money
• Proof of inoculations (please speak to your GP about necessary immunisations)
• Secure, waterproof bag for documents and money: seal-able plastic bags will do
• Camera / Film or Memory card / Batteries
• Personal hygiene kit and toiletries
• Sleeping bag – optional for winter months, weekend excursions and travelling after project
• Mosquito net (for excursions)
• Silk or Cotton Liner: Ideal for hot nights or as an extra layer to your sleeping bag
• Sunglasses (high UV protection)
• Sun cream (high factor required)
• Small torch (head torch is recommended)
• Notebook/Diary and pens
• Water bottle – at least 750ml
• Day pack/rucksack for everyday use
• Mobile phone – set for roaming and ideally unlocked
• Personal stereo
• Alarm clock/watch
• Pegs and travel wash for clothes (biodegradable recommended)
• Travel Guide, such as Lonely Planet or Rough Guide
• Bring books, cards, board games etc to play in the evenings
Please Note: We recommend you take some shirts/blouses, trousers/long skirts and a good pair of shoes or sandals for project work, so that you look presentable and to show respect for African culture. NB Ladies must wear long skirts (that cover the knee when sitting down) whilst taking part in project activities within the villages (loose fitting trousers are only acceptable at the hospital) and tops should not be revealing (cover shoulders and cleavage). Wrap around skirts from local cloth can easily be purchased in the local market during your orientation. Men should wear smart trousers or long shorts and a smart top, ideally with a collar (shirt and trousers or medical apparel is required at the hospital). You can wear casual clothing in your free time, at the cottage, local beach hotels etc., although this should also be appropriate around the rural villages.
• Sets of outdoor loose fitting cotton clothes with full arm and leg cover for cooler mornings or evenings and protection from mosquitoes
• Long skirts and/or trousers for project work
• Suitable shirts/blouses for project work
• Medical whites/apparel for volunteers intending to register to assist at the Hospital
• A pair of boots or sturdy trainers
• Casual clothes for the weekends and free time
• Flip flops / sandals
• Sun hat
• Underwear – enough for at least 7 days
• Lightweight fleece or jumper
• Waterproof jacket (during rainy season)
• Warm clothes for winter and early mornings
• Hand sanitiser and wet wipes
• Anti-malarial tablets
• Personal First Aid Kit
• Personal medication e.g. prescription drugs/inhalers
• Contact lenses and solution if necessary
• Lip Balm with SPF
• Tweezers (not in hand luggage)
• Scissors (not in hand luggage)
• Sanitary products for women if necessary
• Mosquito repellent (containing DEET or equivalent)
You can wear casual clothing in your free time, although this should also be appropriate.
How do I get from the airport to the project?
On arrival at Lilongwe international airport you will be met by a project representative and transferred by road to the volunteer cottage, which is about 3 ½ – 4 hours’ drive from the airport. The project staff may need to pick up supplies and complete errands in the city en route, as we only travel to Lilongwe once every 2 weeks, so please be patient and understanding.
Please note that if you arrive on a different day to that specified in your confirmation letter or after 2pm, you will have to pay an additional private transfer fee of $175 in cash to the project co-ordinator on arrival.
How do I get to my project?
How you get to your project each day will depend on your activity and which village you are placed at. Sometimes you will travel in the project minibus, but you will be expected to walk or cycle to many programme activities. This is a nice way to see life in the community (the minibus is a bubble) and is how the locals travel. Any transport required during free time must be arranged and paid for by you. Weekend excursions, including the cost of transport, are available and can be arranged with your project co-ordinators.
Can I take photos of the children?
Please be considerate about taking photos, ask your co-ordinator if you are unsure whether it is OK to do so and always ask permission from the person first. Children enjoy seeing themselves on digital camera screens. Please also remember that a camera is a valuable item and something that most people in the communities with which you will be involved would never be able to afford. Therefore, please do not walk around flashing expensive equipment unnecessarily.
I’m scared of HIV and AIDS, what are the risks?
HIV/AIDS is widespread throughout Africa and as such we discourage any sexual relationships during your volunteer programme. In addition, volunteers who enter platonic or sexual relationships with staff that cause any issues for the management of SAVE volunteers and our projects should remember that such behaviour may have serious consequences for the staff member involved, even dismissal.
How many hours / days will I be working?
You will be involved in morning and afternoon volunteer activities 5 days per week, with Friday afternoon off to allow travel time for those going on weekend excursions. Hours vary a little between projects and season, due to temperatures etc. However, you should expect to spend between about 5-7 hours at activities each day. During your free time at lunch and evenings, you are also likely to need to spend some time planning sessions and activities to ensure they are well organised and of value.
Will I have time off?
During the week, evenings are your own time and can be spent relaxing at the volunteer house, reading, playing games and socialising with the other volunteers. Volunteers often use this time to plan lessons or activities for the following day. Weekends will be free and you may spend them as you wish. The project co-ordinators can help arrange day trips and weekend excursions.
Will there be a possibility to go shopping, (for food or groceries etc) while at the program, or are we just staying at the Volunteer Housings?
Absolute basics can be bought at the local market and stores in the village where you will be based. Weekends are free time and you may travel to Mangochi, the nearest large town, by ‘matola’ – public minibus transport. OR if you are on joining an excursion you may be able to stop off briefly en route. If the project staff are making a shopping trip at the weekend you may also be able to join them. There is an honesty bar with drinks for sale at the volunteer accommodation.
Where can I do my washing?
Personal laundry is excluded, but the local staff are happy to wash your clothes for a small fee per bundle. If you choose to do your own laundry this should be done outside the house at the designated points and please use washing tubs, as washing inside affects the drainage. During the rainy season be prepared to wait longer for your clothes to dry.
What language is spoken?
Chichewa is the local dialect. English is the main language of business and lessons are taught in English from Standard 5 at primary school. However, in the rural areas where you will be based many adults and children will not speak any English.