Working in and around the SOS Children's Villages in Malawi, they have seen the extent of the situation for children and communities in Africa, at the same time witnessing the many ways that SOS Children works in the country.
They have also had to adapt quickly to a new environment, witnessing the crop destruction caused by a colony of termites, thinking about the threat of crocodiles when they visit the beach, or trying to avoid intrusions from cockroaches when they sleep at night. At the same time they have started on their projects with enthusiasm and commitment, aiming to make a contribution to children's health and sharing skills that will increase confidence and help children to become independent.
Maureen, an expert in horticulture, is currently working with children and youths to try and promote a sustainable way of living through agriculture, something which is vital when money is scarce and jobs are hard to come by. She has presented classes and practical lessons on topics like leaf vegetable growing, water and soil conservation and plant identification. Agriculture is a key industry in Malawi, and knowledge of agricultural practises can provide a way to feed a family and possibly develop an income.
Martin is an associate specialist in paediatrics, who is volunteering at the SOS Medical Centre. His expertise in helping children with medical issues contributes to the work of the clinic and he can help to diagnose illnesses, so that the right treatment can be applied. Since starting work in Malawi, Martin has been particularly taken by the impact he has on the youngest children: "It is the two year olds that are so wonderful. They come into the consultation with their carers and their enormous eyes open wide in a look of complete horror. Then they bawl!"
As both Martin and Maureen have considerable expertise and can commit a long period of time to volunteering with SOS Children, they were given permission by SOS Children's Villages in Malawi to volunteer on their projects. They will spend six weeks in Malawi in total this year, with the option of returning in future for longer periods of time
To follow more of Maureen and Martin's experiences in Malawi, and to get a first hand insight into the work of SOS Children in a community, you can visit their blog: Charity in Malawi, a Volunteer Diary which is located at http://blogs.soschildren.org/malawi. You can also read more about SOS Children's projects in Malawi.