If you are a Dutch 16-year-old girl, you’re not very likely to find yourself cleaning toilets that are occupied by cockroaches somewhere in Africa. However, that’s one of the things I did this summer when I volunteered in Malawi – and it was amazing.
When I decided to join a group of youngsters to go volunteering in Malawi, I knew I would leave behind the luxuries of modern life, such as warm showers, clean toilets, electricity, and internet access. My luggage didn’t arrive until halfway my journey, which made the experience even more back to basics. In these circumstances, going analog just felt natural.
The majority of my time was spent at YODEP (Youth for Development and Productivity) and Likhubula Youth Organisation – both local, community-based organizations that support women, orphans, the HIV/AIDS infected and the elderly. The activities we did were simple: roofing a house, making a floor, washing clothes, entertaining the children. Yet the reward was great.
As a volunteer, you get to see the Malawian daily life better than by joining any cultural tour. Life happens outside in Malawi. You see playing children, women in colorful clothes carrying water on their heads, men riding bicycles, people yelling from behind market stalls, goats, chickens. While walking through the fields and the villages on our way to one of the activities, daily life would unfold before our eyes.
Blue skies above you, a red road beneath your feet and people that work hard, laugh, and sing despite the difficulties they face. Malawi is colorful – and leaving your Lonely Planet-recommended hostel to work and talk with the locals is the best way to explore the country and capture those colors on film.