So here we are on our way to Malawi. I am Maureen, born in Holland, raised in the Dutch Caribbean and living in Cornwall, UK since 1985 with two children at university. I trained in horticulture and am interested in sustainable living and growing. The aim of my visit to Malawi is to help children become independent, and contribute to their community and wider society through a sustainable way of life.
Fortunately my companion Martin is an associate specialist in paediatrics, which is a bit handy when going on a trip like this. He will be helping out in the SOS Medical Centre. We are initially going for a 6 week period. Through this blog I would like to share our experience with you.
To our relief there was someone waiting for us at the airport, and we were taken to the SOS Children's Village, about 30 minutes south from the airport. The land here looks green, rivers are swollen and there are muddy puddles. It’s flat with mountains in the distance. Every single patch is cultivated including the roadside and verges, you wouldn’t think that such a verdant land would be the third poorest country in the world.
We make a stop to stock-up, as we will be self-catering. Everything is quiet as it is Sunday. The wadge of Kwacha (Malawi currency) I got for my £100 soon looks a lot slimmer with all the produce we bought.
We took a walk down the dirt road after we unpacked to check out the local area. A lot of people were walking in the late afternoon. Children were playing and ladies were cooking corncobs over a charcoal fire while their kids crawl between the husks, some selling tomatoes. People were very friendly, smiling and shouting, “Moni (hello), how are you?”.
The SOS Village lies behind a gate. It has been well thought-out, with a nursery, primary and secondary school immediately through the gates. Further down there is a medical centre, dispensary, x-ray department and family support centre. Behind that are the 12 different family houses where the orphans live with their SOS mother; about 10 orphans to a house.
Across the lane from the family houses are the staff and guest houses, and the houses for young adults, where they learn to become more independent before going on to further education. They are supported here until the age of 23 when they have finished university or vocational training.
We are in a guest house adjoined by one of the teachers. The whole place comes across very pleasantly, with local red brick buildings and plenty of greenery. Kids played on our porch, and had bottle top races, while one commentates into an empty tin can. Another couple playing with a very tattered ball.
Find out more about SOS Children's work in Malawi
Although SOS Children doesn't take overseas volunteers, it is sometimes possible to visit the Children's Village where your sponsored child lives.