When Keenan and I arrived in Lifuwu almost two months ago, we were unsure what to expect. From the start, we were awed by the beautiful location of the Friendly Gecko- with Lake Malawi right in our back garden- and stunned by the friendliness of the local people. Within a few hours of arriving, we were walking through the village with countless children holding our hands and chattering away to us, curious about who we were and where we came from. We felt welcome right away.
We both had very different, but equally enjoyable, experiences as volunteers. I spent the mornings working as a nursery assistant in Tyanjane nursery. There I would try my best to lead any number from thirty to a hundred under six year olds through the morning routine of songs, stretches, lessons, story time, playing and porridge breakfast. At times it was challenging but being able to spend my mornings sharing in the laughtr of those precious children was always a privilege. Meanwhile, Keenan spent his mornings teaching Maths and English to standards 6 and 7 in Kazembe primary school. Later on, when the children were doing exams, he worked on the construction site as two new classrooms were being built.
I spent three afternoons a week giving English lessons in the nursery to the teachers there. It was a great time to get to know the ladies outside the bounds of a chaotic classroom, and really encouraging to watch many of them grow in confidence in their English. The other two afternoons were spent at kid’s corner. This is where we organise activities- maybe sports, maybe arts and crafts- for the primary school age kids in the village. It was a really special time to get to know the kids individually, and to chat to them one on one.
In the afternoons, we would all eat lunch as a group, chatting and laughing about the morning’s happenings. There would often be time for a quick dip in the lake before heading off for the afternoon- very much appreciated on a hot day!! The evenings would be spent chilling out in the guesthouse. Reading, contacting those at home, making dinner, going out to watch the stars on the beach, or just chatting with the other volunteers. The weekends were our free time, and there was plenty to occupy ourselves with- from hiking up Senga Mountain, to a boat trip to lizard island, to an overnight stay in a community wildlife park, to just walking down to one of the local resorts for a bite to eat. We were lucky to have a great group of volunteers to share these experiences,and many funny memories with.
All in all, I will always look back on our time in Lifuwu with great fondness, and a slight sense of disbelief. Even now, just a week after leaving, it is hard to believe that I, a girl from Ireland, felt like a part of a tiny village community in Malawi, for however brief a time. That I could walk down sand roads and be greeted by name by local people who I came to consider friends. That I could walk to the local market, speak to the vendors in Chichewa, and walk back carrying flour or firewood on my head (albeit using one hand for balance!!) This truly was a once in a lifetime experience, one that neither of us will forget in a hurry. If you are considering coming to Lifuwu as a volunteer I could not encourage you enough!!