Volunteering in Malawi

Malawi placement details

This project is now full for 2019. Our programmes in Ghana and Tanzania offer a very similar alternative. Ghana for a large group volunteer experience, Tanzania for a more individual experience living with families.


About the Project

How does the project in Malawi work?

This project is still growing on a weekly basis and so your role as the volunteer may change. Currently most volunteers are teaching local children in our schools basic English and maths.

We also have some volunteers that are working on building our schools and renovating the volunteer house. In the future we hope to have more projects and a wider range of duties available to our volunteers, but now these two duties are the ones that require the most physical need.

What’s it like to be a volunteer teacher?

Our volunteer teachers work alongside our local volunteer teachers in small villages all within easy walking of the volunteer house complex. Together they teach the children through various games, songs, dances, art work, and work on the blackboard. At busy times, volunteers divide the children up into smaller groups around the school and outside areas in the shade. The working hours are generally Monday-Thursday 8:00am-10:30am and then again from 2:00pm-4:30pm. Volunteers tend to travel away on Thursday or Friday for weekend breaks to one of the lakes to swim and relax.

We ask that you try your best to always be on time and ready to work when teaching. If you need help with teaching activities and games please talk with the project coordinator or seek advice from other volunteers. The teaching is laid back, mostly we just want you to have fun with the children and speak English to them in any form of teaching activities you can create.

What’s the schedule for volunteer builders?
The weekly and daily schedule for the volunteer builders is not set, as most work can be completed during anytime of the day. Although we would recommend getting an early start on the projects because during the early afternoon the Malawian sunshine can be very hot.

If you’re building we ask that you work hard and manage your time efficiently so you can where possible start early to avoid working in the midday heat. If you have special skills please be open and willing to teach the locals.


The new orphanage has just been completed and volunteers will shortly be moving in. Volunteers will be able to choose care and supervision work in addition or instead of teaching in the schools

What are the other volunteer opportunities in Malawi?
An orphanage has just opened close to the volunteer house complex and it is expected that the first children will be joining the home at the end of 2013. This will provide further opportunities for volunteers to get involved with children who can no longer be looked after by their parents or orphans have no extended family in the area to care for them. The coordinator would also like to develop activities such as sports and music programs for the local communities. If you are interested in starting a program we would love to hear your ideas and are happy to help you in your efforts.

Sports – The local teenagers enjoy playing netball and football. If you have experience in playing or coaching any sporting activities and would like to get locals involved we welcome you to do so.

Music – As you know Africans love to sing and dance, and this is true of Malawians as well. If you are interesting in teaching music to our local communities please let us know. If you have special talents we would love for you to teach them.


Anyone with first aid experience will find plenty of opportunities to treat basic cuts, grazes and wounds. For many local people without shoes, infected cuts and grazes are common

What is life in the local community like?

Don’t be shy about introducing yourself to the local volunteers and local families in the villages. As we say many times, the Malawian people are very warm and love to talk with you. For them and the children it is commonplace for new people to arrive, and you will soon see how quickly everyone accepts your presence.

Please keep in mind that the local field officers and teachers are also volunteers. They are working for free with the project because they have the same belief that youth education is the key to a successful future.

You will soon realise, if you weren’t already aware, that Malawi is a laid back country. Things that are scheduled to happen at a particular time may be delayed, or you may find out that plans have been altered at the last minute.

The best thing that you can do is try to go with the flow. Use your initiative and skills to help everything run as smoothly as possible. There are a handful of villages/hamlets all within walking distance of the volunteer house so if you have some time to expand into a another village to teach or assist – please do!

What are the school feeding programs?

The children in the community are very poor and sometimes their families cannot afford to eat during the day. For this reason we found it important to offer a feeding program in our schools, to make sure the children are at least receiving one meal a day.

Volunteers may also like to think about offering healthy snacks and drinks (many families drink dirty water) at their activity sessions.

By providing a meal during school time it will promote education, because the children will want to attend school to have their meal. Due to lack of funding we have in most cases had to cancel our feeding programs in the schools.

We hope in the near future we will be able to offer the program again. The cost for one school (approx. 30-40 children) is about £10 per week. If you would like to sponsor our feeding program please let us know, we would be more than happy to discuss the program with you on arrival.


Motorbike taxis are the norm in much of rural Africa, in Malawi, bicycle taxis are cheaper for local people to buy and maintain

What can you tell me about the local orphan families?

At this time we do not have a finished orphanage building; our local orphans live with other families in the community. An orphanage is currently in the process of being built.

During your stay with us you will have the opportunity to visit these local families who are taking care of the orphans. This visit usually takes place once a week on a Monday afternoon. You are welcome to play with the children and visit with the adults in their homes.

We ask that upon your visit if possible to make a small donation, such as food, money or clothing to help the orphans and the family. You may want to donate toys, however for the children their need is considerably greater than a toy, so please keep that in mind during your visits. Even a small donation of £1 can feed an orphan for almost two days.

Can I use the Internet on the placement?

There is no Internet at the project. The closest Internet cafe is located in Zomba, about one hour from the project. As of October 2011 the price was 8 Kwacha per minute. You can also purchase Internet for your mobile if you have a Malawi SIM.

Getting there

Do I need a visa?

For volunteers from the UK and USA you will be given a 30-day free visa upon arrival at the airport but you will need to arrive on a return ticket or hold an onward ticket to another country.

If you are staying longer than 30 days you must go to the visa office (Zomba is the closest) to extend before your 30 days is expired. The extension process is fairly easy and can be completed in one visit, as of October 2011 the cost for an additional 30 days was 5,000 Kwacha.

Should you be staying longer than six months please contact the coordinator in advance of your arrival to discuss obtaining a longer visa. Currently you are okay to volunteer on a tourist visa if you are staying in Malawi less than six months. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact the coordinator directly before travel to discuss, as we know the visa issues should be taken with serious care and concern.

How to I get to the placement?

Please note all transport costs are ‘pay as you go’ after arrival. These can only be approximate.


From Blantyre Airport a taxi direct to the project will cost approximately £90

Public transport option will cost approximately £50:

1. Taxi from the airport to bus station.
2. bus/minibus from bus station to Zomba
3. taxi from Zomba to Domasi Totaling approx. £50


From Lilongwe Airport a taxi direct to the project will cost approximately £160 for a car and driver

Public transport option will cost approximately £70:

1. Taxi from airport to bus station
2. bus/minibus from the station to Zomba
3. Taxi from Zomba to DomasiTotal approx.- £70•

The volunteer should confirm the mode of transport (taxi or public) with the project leader prior to arrival so the arrangements can be made in advance. Please note: In most cases the arrival time is late to the project (Domasi), in these cases the volunteer will be taken to a nearby lodge which costs approx £10 a night. This fee is payable by the volunteer upon arrival.

To make the journey as smooth and as stress free as possible a mobile phone is essential. Upon arrival please ask your taxi driver to take you to buy a Malawi SIM if you so wish. The cost is less than £1. (Your phone will need to be unlocked for the SIM to work.)


The children outside Mapanje school say a big thank you to departing volunteers



Where can I change money?

You can exchange money at the airport and at local banks in Malawi. Upon arrival your taxi driver can take you to a local bank to exchange your money if you request in advance. US dollars or UK pounds are very common and easy to exchange. Bank cards can also be used to withdraw money, only in larger cities such as Zomba, Blantyre, and Lilongwe.

Please note that sometimes there may be long lines at the cash point/ATM machines and some may not be working due to electrical outages.

Getting back to the airport

Where can I change money?

Your coordinator will help organise this after arrival in Malawi. Most volunteers will travel by public transport back to the airport but your coordinator can organise their regular driver to escort you. Some volunteers flying out of Lilongwe airport leave a few days before their flight for a break with the others at Lake Mcclear so you might want to wait a little into your stay before confirming departure plans.

Malawi Project costs

What are the costs after I have registered and booked my space?

After you have booked your space and registered with us (registered volunteers travelling within 12 months of arrival at their first project do not need to re-register) there is a one off payment for any stay from 1 week up to 4 weeks of £250. This includes accommodation and support from the local staff. All volunteers get return flights to either Blantyre or Lilongwe. Lilongwe is the cheapest airport to fly to. A visa is not required to enter Malawi but you must arrive on a return ticket or with an onward flight out of Malawi. The maximum length of stay is 30 days. A volunteer permit if needed is obtained after arrival at the project and is currently only a formality of paperwork. Airport pick and transfer if requested is payable on arrival. Many volunteers choose to make their own way to save the pennies as fuel costs are high in Malawi. You will need travel insurance, allow between £30 and £50 and check the policy covers medical bills abroad. Living costs are low in Malawi and most volunteers manage on about £15 per week when at the project. However you will need to factor in trips to Cape McClear each weekend which is something that cannot be missed. For a month’s trip without an safari but long weekend trips to McClear included with a return airport transfer, it is a good idea to have at least £300 – £400 spending money. You should have change left over if you budget carefully.


What do I need to know about Malawi?
Please be aware that the Malawian summer in Domasi is September–April, November – March can be wet so bring an umbrella and waterproof shoes/sandals.

Malawi is also known for its malaria carrying mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water. You can reduce the risk of Malaria by employing certain tactics such as taking Malaria tablets, wearing mosquito repellent spray (50% DEET is recommended) and also wearing long light weight clothing during the night time.

We are not doctors so we recommend that for all other health concerns you consult your local doctor!

Do I need vaccinations?
In the first instance it is best to contact your GP. You may also find it useful to visit your country’s Department of Health website for up-to-date vaccination and travel health information.

We would suggest you have all the recommended jabs that are required for your visit to Malawi, but this is completely at your discretion.


Access to medical care is challenging for local people without the means to pay for taxis. Volunteers (above) kindly donated a bicycle ‘ambulance’ (above) and a specially adapted wheelchair to the community



Is Malawi safe?
Overall we believe that Malawi is a safe place, however as a foreigner you need to be aware of your surroundings and be on your guard. Take extra care when going to largely crowded areas as this is where thieves will be on the look out for your personal items.

We understand that you may be travelling with large amounts of money and also your passport, so we recommend to keep them as close to you as possible and never leave your bags unattended or in the care of someone you don’t trust!

Is taking a taxi a good idea?

Keep in mind that most taxis are just locals with a car so it is important to keep your bags close. You will have to bargain the price, and it is best to agree before you start your journey.

What about using public transport?

Minibuses are the main use of public transport and in most cases they are very full and if you are travelling with a large bag/case it will have to be placed in the back of the bus.

We recommend that you try to keep your bags with you if possible, but if it must go in the back always check on it when the bus is making a stop to make sure your bag is not removed.

It is also best to keep valuables out of sight and make sure your bags are fully closed at all times.

How about going out at night?

At night it is very dark in the village as most places don’t have electric. Please use common sense when going out at night. Try and inform someone of the location you plan to go to. Have a torch and your mobile if possible.

You can also ask a local to walk with you if you are not feeling confident to walk in the dark, in most cases volunteers are escorted during night-time mainly because it is dark and the road is not easy to see.


Lake McClear is a popular weekend getaway for volunteers for swimming and boat trips


Other volunteers

Will I be on my own?

We will Buddy you up with another volunteer so you can fly out together, just let us know at the time of booking. If you can get the same flight this will make it more affordable for a direct taxi transfer to the volunteer house. This is because the transfer cost can be shared. You may like to create a profile on our travel buddy list and leave a comment on our main Facebook page.

Although there is no fixed start day, try to arrive on a Monday or Tuesday if you can. This gives you time to settle in on your project and make friends before the weekend when everyone is around. Most volunteers spend their weekends at one of the two lakes, leaving on a Thursday or Friday for a weekend of swimming, boat rides and cold beers.

There are always volunteers coming and going though, so it is rare to be on your own for more than a day or two. Everyone stays in the same volunteer complex together with a member of staff for company so you won’t be completely on your own for very long until another volunteer arrives or the staff are on site.

What happens if I book with a friend?

All friends stay together at the same volunteer house. Let us know at the time of booking if you are travelling with a friend. This helps the local team organise beds and help to keep friends in the same bedroom. Because everyone chooses what they want to do each day, you can volunteer with your friend all day unless you want to work in different locations!


Volunteer Aisling takes a break by the river close to the accommodation


What to take

What things should I pack?

This list has been created by interviewing past and present volunteers as to what items they have found useful and what items they didn’t have but wished they would have brought with them.

1. Solar charger, Power monkey (please note that the volunteer house and home stays do not have electricity)
2. Tall candles and matches or lighters (very useful at night)
3. Torch/flashlight
4. Mosquito net to cover a twin sized bed
5. Bedding, such as sheets a pillow and pillowcase
6. Mosquito repellent spray (50% DEET is best)
7. Appropriate footwear for walking on dirt roads, such as trainers or hiking boots
8. Footwear for showering, such as flip flops
9. Travel first-aid kit with sterile needles and everything you might need for accidents, slips and cuts (this is recommended in case of emergency. The local hospital is hours away from where you will be staying) kits can be purchased from Superdrug or Boots in the UK. Waterpurifying tablets essential to keep healthy and prevent disease
10. Lightweight and light color clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty
11. Sun cream
12. Small lock for suitcase
13. Towels for showering
14. Hat, sunglasses, umbrella, raincoat
15. Cleaning wipes, baby wipes. Unscented because of the mosquitoes
16. Laxatives
17. Multivitamins
18. Dry shampoo
19. Rehydration packages
20. Food from home to keep you happy for a few days


Bring everything you can from home as the only resources will be those which previous volunteers have left behind

What should I take for the children and schools?

At the current time the children’s English levels are very basic. So if you would like to bring teaching materials we would ask that you provide us with elementary supplies.

1. Chalk – and lots of it!
2. Crayons
3. Paper of all kinds
4. Small writing exercise books
5. Pencils/pencil sharpeners/pens
6. Seal tape/ sticky tack to hang things on the walls
7. Laminated cards with pictures/words
8. Math/English posters
9. CD players (battery operated only)
10. Children shoes
11. Old ‘hand’ clocks for teaching time
12. Math flash cards
13. Small plates/bowls/cups/spoons (for feeding time during school hours)
14. If you would like to bring games, please make sure they can be used for many children. Bigger is better and durable.

What should I pack for local orphan families?

We ask that you make donations when visiting local orphan families in the community. Think of the things that have been in your house that you don’t use, why not give them to people who need them. Making a monetary donation is greatly appreciated and can really go along way.

1. Cups/mugs
2. Pots/sauce pans/frying pans
3. Silverware
4. Plastic washing bowls
5. Bowls/plates
6. Brushes to clean clothes
7. Hot water flasks
8. Pots with lids that can keep rice warm
9. Tall candles
10. Old cell phone with chargers (Nokia is good, UK plug)11. Clothing/shoes
12. Bedding/blankets

What should I buy in Malawi before I get to the project?

Here are some items that are suggested to be purchased before arriving at to Domasi if you haven’t already brought them in with your luggage. Domasi is a small rural village and has very limited food and other supply shops. Zomba is the town closest to the project where you can buy supplies, however it is about a hour journey away by bike taxi and minibus.

This list has been created by interviewing past and present volunteers as to what items they have found useful and what items they didn’t have but wished they would have brought with them.

Please note they are in random order and none are 100% required for your stay; however we recommend these items for your comfort.

1. At least 4 days worth of food goods
2. A package of bottled water (20 bottles)
3. Large supply of toilet paper
4. Individual longlife fruit juice cartons
5. Washing bowl/brush
6. Personal plate/bowl/cup/spoon/knife/fork
7. Tupperware food storage box

When purchasing food items, please be aware that currently the project doesn’t have a kitchen or refrigerator, food should require little cooking. Buying food items that only require hot water or a fire and a pot is a good starting point.

In addition to these lists the project is also in need of monetary programme contributions to help fund the feeding program, renovations of the volunteer house, toilets and kitchen. Also we need funds for the renovations of the current school houses, such as cement floors and benches for the children to sit on, and a new construction of a three school buildings.

If you would like to fundraise in your community and need any more specific information about the project we will be more than happy to help you. All supplies volunteers donate for the project should be shown to the project coordinator upon arrival and will be kept in the supply safe and distributed to schools and teachers when requested. This will help maintain an even supply for all schools and teachers.


Volunteer Katie Castle with her class at Hayo school

How and when do I need to pay for my project?

An invoice for the project will be sent by email shortly after we have received your flight to Malawi. Email us if you are travelling soon and have not received an invoice. And don’t worry if you forget, if we have your flights already – we’ll send you a reminder before you go! And remember that pick up if you want one is paid on arrival, so when you have paid your one off project payment there is nothing further to pay Original Volunteers before travel.

Free time in Malawi

Malawi is one of the poorest and smallest countries in Africa yet still boasts places to visit which will take your breath away. For a landlocked country it has it all; great safari, beautiful beaches for swimming and sunbathing and friendly people. Most volunteers spend every weekend at Cape McClear after they have done Liwonde National Park which is, in African distances, virtually on your doorstep.


Cape Mcclear for swimming

Cape Mcclear for swimming

£25 travel and hostel

The number one choice for volunteers for almost every weekend after you have been on safari is Lake Macclear.

With stunning places to stay all along the lake shore and clear water, prepare to take it easy and bring all your beachwear and a good book to read. Top volunteer hostel choice is Gecko Lounge, Fat Monkeys also popular.

£25 weekend travel and hostel.


Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park

£7 pn dorm

Only an hour away from Zomba you can take a canoe trip to see wild elephants swimming in the river at the Liwonde National Park.

Stay at one of the beautiful riverside lodges or at the affordable Liwonde Safari Camp just outside owned by a Dutch family. Dorm beds £7 pn, safari tent £30. for dble. Activity rates are very reasonable, guided boat safari/game drive and walk £33 excluding park entrance fees.


Zomba Plateau

Zomba Plateau

£30 plus extras

From £30 plus guide and travel. For a break from the heat and mosquitoes head to the Zomba Plateau only 30 minutes from Zomba town and virtually on your doorstep. Enjoy the views, WIlliams Falls and walking paths.

You should spot vervet and bushbuck monkeys and baboons on the lower slopes. Take warm clothes for the plateau which rises to 1800 metres above sea level and stay the night at Zomba Forest Lodge (£30 ) they also pick up from Zomba town £17 per car, Ku Chawe Inn on the top (£60 pn) for a some overpriced luxury, taxi £12 from Zomba or hire your very own cottage, Malawian Style Zomba Cottage and grounds for yourself and friends (£100).

A forest guide costs approx £60 for a full day.


Italian Pizzeria

Italian Pizzeria

£3 with drink

For a surreal experience, enjoy Italian pizza at Domino’s in Zomba, recommended by volunteers.

Malawi 1 Pilgrimage Trail

Pilgrimage trail


You do not need to be religious or spiritual to enjoy an easy walking trail which is accessible from the centre of Blantyre town. O

pen all year there are lovely views from the top. The start point is St James Church and is well sign posted all the way to the top.


Mount Mulanje

Allow aprox. £10

Visit this 10,000 ft mountain reserve and make a 4 day hiking trip. Guides and porters are available and there are huts along the way to Fort Lister.

Allow approx. £10 per day for guide and accommodation along the way.

Kumbali Cultural Village

Free entrance

If you are flying in to Lilongwe make a visit to Kumbali near the Presential Palace for a Malawian outdoor dining experience complete with musicians and performers. Chips are recommended. Best to visit in the rainy season but you will need a driver with a 4WD vehicle. Best to call ahead and reserve.

Address: ‪Capital Hill Dairy Farm, Plot 9 & 11, Area 44, Lilongwe ‪30420, Malawi.

What happens after you have booked?

  • As soon as you have booked (and we have confirmed availability) with the once-only £125 registration fee (this covers one or more projects within a year), you will receive a welcome email confirming your booking and another timeline describing in more detail how to get organised for your trip.

Below is a simple timeline for a volunteer travelling July 2019 

  • At anytime: After we have confirmed availability, get flights to Blantyre airport to arrive on a Saturday/Sunday ideally in the morning/early afternoon. An airport pick up and transfer is organised for all volunteers arriving at Blantyre airport. Although we are often asked about flights to Lilongwe, as they may be cheaper than Blantyre, Lilongwe is on the other side of the country and requires a long independent journey of between 7 and 24 hours using taxis and slow public buses and posisbly an overnight stay depending on connection times,not recommended for the first time traveller in Africa! Volunteers flying to Blantyre airport will find things a lot easier. If you are travelling overland from elsewhere in Africa, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your Malawi local coordinator to arrange a suitable meeting point/pick up point.
  • Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
  • Join the volunteer community on Facebook to see recent pictures from projects and other interesting stories and updates
  • May: contact your travel nurse or travel clinic to make appointments for jabs and boosters (for more information on what is typically recommended please refer to the NHS website fitfortravel). Malaria tablets are essential and need to be started before travel – consult a good pharmacist about 2 weeks before travel.
  • June : Arrange suitable travel insurance.
    British passport holders require a visa to enter Malawi. This can be obtained on arrival for approximately £65. A visa currently lasts for between 30 to 90 days although a 30 day visa may need to be extended each month.
  • As soon as you have your flight: Email us your your flight.
  • At anytime : pay for your project – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget!
    We will organise your pick up and transfer from your chosen airport of arrival automatically when we receive your flights.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions big or small on any aspect of the Malawi programme or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity as we only have 2-3 spaces maximum on the programme.Alternatively complete an easy enquiry form with your contact details and we’ll be in touch asap!

If you would like to be part of a larger volunteer group (2 – 50 volunteers at any time throughout the year, 10 – 50 in the summer months) check out our Ghana or our Morocco programmes.

Placement at a glance

Volunteer options Assisting in all areas and activities with a youth group.
Support Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team and 24hr emergency support
Project location Domasi
Accommodation Shared self-catering volunteer accommodation.
Working hours Usually full-time 5 days a week. Occasional weekends
Volunteers usually stay 2 - 3 weeks.
Project operates All year. No start dates.
When to apply Spaces limited - only 15 spaces in volunteer houses! Early booking recommended.
Costs£250 once only contribution for stays up to 4 weeks & £125 (Registration to join OV which provides a year of volunteering without registering again). Extra weeks £25.
Airport Pick-up ServiceFrom Lilongwe, £160 approx. per car. Contact us for advice.

Accommodation info

  • Shop 10 minutes Shop 10 minutes
  • Bars 1 hour Bars 1 hour
  • Chemist 1 hour Chemist 1 hour
  • Bus 10 minutes Bus 10 minutes
  • Taxis 10 minutes Taxis 10 minutes
  • Cash machine 1 hour Cash machine 1 hour
  • Bank 1 hour Bank 1 hour
  • Pay phone 1 hour Pay phone 1 hour
  • Internet access 1 hour Internet access 1 hour
  • Laundry on-site + small fee Laundry on-site + small fee

Basics, what to take?

  • Headtorch
  • Sleeping bag/pillow
  • Lockable suitcase

More info

Accommodation : Currently we have a few housing options for volunteers. The volunteer house or apartment, home stay, or guesthouse. Most volunteers choose on arrival to stay wherever their fellow volunteers are staying too as it’s more fun together! 

Volunteers often spend weekends together at a guesthouse at one of the lakes leaving on a Thursday or Friday to allow enough time.

Meet the project team

The team Malawi

Your Malawi support team is committed to ensuring you are well looked after and supported during your stay in Malawi. They have looked after hundreds of volunteers before you, so you can be confident that your team fully understands your volunteering needs aswell as advice on any aspect on your stay in Malawi. The team consists of a friendly English speaking coordinator and assistant coordinators, who will assist you with your placements together with support staff from drivers to housekeepers and cleaners. Your Malawi team’s time is dedicated to making your volunteer trip not just enjoyable and worthwhile but incredible!

The benefits of your local in-country team

What is a volunteer coordinator?

Every project has a volunteer coordinator. This is the person responsible for organising your volunteering and looking after your welfare needs during your stay and they are all English speaking.

What experience do volunteer coordinators have?

All our coordinators are local people with knowledge and experience gained over many years of supporting volunteers. They have a deep knowledge of their local community, providing an invaluable source of information.

9 in 10 coordinators at our destinations have between 5 – 7 years experience and 7 in 10 of our coordinators have supported more than a thousand volunteers each (current as of August 2013).

If they don’t know where to buy Parmesan cheese when the shops are shut, no one will!

Who are volunteer coordinators?

At some destinations the volunteer coordinator will also be the manager/director of the project you are volunteering if you are based in one location. Examples of manager/coordinator projects will be Kenya-Mombasa/Peru/Cambodia/South Africa/Argentina/Uganda/India.

Some destinations require an independent volunteer coordinator because there are many projects volunteers go to. Independent coordinators will organise a variety of placements at many different projects in the local community throughout your visit. He/she will liaise with all the projects/schools/hospitals on your behalf to organise schedules for your volunteer group. Examples of volunteer programmes are: Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador.

Thailand and Nepal offer a mix of both.

Is there only one volunteer coordinator?

Coordinators have other staff supporting them, from drivers to housekeepers, and cooks and assistant coordinators.

Support team size varies between project type and time of year. The typical size of any support team will be 5 – 7. There may also be a long stay volunteer helping out

The Uganda school project had at last count 15 local staff supporting volunteers which ranged from security to water carriers!

What do coordinators do?

Airport pick up

Your in-country coordinator will organise your pick up and make sure you get to the volunteer house as smoothly as possible. If your coordinator does not meet volunteers from the airport, their trusted regular driver will be sent to meet you.

Liaise with local projects

If you are on a mixed volunteer programme (Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador) your coordinator will be regularly liaising with the projects you will be going to today, this week and next, organising suitable times and communicating schedules to the volunteer group.

Help organise specific placements

Coordinators will also ensure that volunteers with special preferences eg. medical/building can get involved as fully as possible in their preferred area of work.

Show you around and help you to locate things

Need a Sim card? Want to buy some paintbrushes for an art session tomorrow? Speak to your coordinator – they will advise on where, how to get there and prices.

Provide an orientation on arrival

Your coordinator or their local team will provide an orientation on arrival of what’s where and how to get started. This may take the form of a more formal meeting for all new arrivals by your coordinator or through informal advice for new arrivals from staff, long stay volunteers, handouts, information on the noticeboard as per needs dictate.

This will usually include any important cultural awareness if this may affect your stay. For example bare tummies should be covered in Ghana for example otherwise the children won’t stop giggling!

Help you when things go wrong

We are often asked what happens when things go wrong. Your local team are the experts on getting you the help you need immediately. They have seen it all before (in a nice way) and are well experienced in looking after hundreds of volunteers each year with all the usual niggles from sunburn to upset tummies. Whether you need a doctor in the night for sickness or you want to try out a new project or move bedroom or volunteer house.

If you have remembered to print off your project contact details and leave them with family (these are sent before travel to all volunteers) – your family can also contact the coordinator directly. Or they can call us and we can put them in touch.

But if you need further assistance or advice we are here to help you. Contact us straightaway and we might be able to make the niggly issues go away.

For any country related crises which may occur which would require volunteers to return home, your coordinator and their team will ensure everyone is safely escorted to the airport or Embassy as per the advice provided by each volunteer’s government together with any additional support that may be required.

Help you when you feel unwell

Coordinators are the first port of call if you think you may need medical assistance. They will organise an escort to the local clinic/hospital and make sure you are well treated. They can also contact home and will be happy to speak to parents to explain how you are. If you are volunteering alone, they may also stay with you in the hospital or request that a member of their staff and a volunteer keep you company as it can be quite daunting to be in a foreign hospital, even if it is only an infected mosquito bite!

Most health problems are minor and with a day or two’s bed rest either at the volunteer house or the local hospital and plenty of water, most volunteers are back to their normal selves again.

While on the subject of hospitals – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover local medical bills and repatriation. In developing countries and where medical care is mostly private, it is not uncommon to be admitted into a private room for something which would be treated as an out-patient back home. Without insurance, hospital fees can be as much as £200 per day.

For doctors appointments when you only need a prescription, your coordinator will help you to locate the nearest doctor/clinic. For these it is often easier to pay on the spot and not claim on the insurance. Expect to pay approx. £5 – £15 per consultation and £5 – £20 for basic medication.

Organise excursions

Your coordinator knows all the best trips and best prices which volunteers over the years have participated on and recommended. If the options are not posted on a notice board ask your coordinator what is available and how to book. Typical prices across all destinations as a very rough guide: £30 – £40 for a day’s activity, £200 – £400 for a trek/budget safari for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are available in Ghana and Tanzania.

Return transfer back to the airport

Your coordinator can organise the return trip back to the airport for you, simply ask a few days before your flight. This is not automatically organised as many volunteers will have made friends and may leave the project a day or two earlier to sightsee before flying home, want to go shopping right up to the last minute or forget that the transfer was booked and have already jumped in a taxi!

Placement map

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Malawi specific questions

Do I need experience?
No experience is needed, few volunteers have done anything like this before in a friendly village community where every volunteer is warmly welcomed. Although it sounds like a cliche just come with a smile and and some energy to get stuck in playing with the children and helping out wherever help or support is needed. Volunteers all live together and volunteer together so you will never be on your own!

If I have experience in a particular area – can I do this?
That’s fantastic – let us know before you go and we can inform the coordinator before travel so they are aware.

Do I have to arrive on a particular date?
There are no fixed start dates because we know flight prices can fluctuate wildly between dates. The Malawi team will collect volunteers on any date but Monday to Wednesday is the best time of the week to arrive before the weekend when the volunteer group will go to the lake and relax.

Will I be placed with my friend/travel Buddy?
Everyone arriving with a friend are met together and placed together in the same accommodation, no one is split up!

I am worried about travelling on my own – can I buddy up with someone?
Absolutely! Add yourself to the Buddy List or pop us a message on the main Facebook Group and we’ll add you to our weekly round up of travel buddies.

Will I need any jabs?
All visitors to Malawi will need some jabs and boosters. Malaria tablets are essential. The boosters which are usually advised are Diptheria, Hep A, Tetanus and Typhoid. Yellow Fever is sometimes recommended. Rabies and cholera not generally advised. It is recommended to visit your doctor or travel health clinic a few weeks in advance for further advice. (Taken from the nhs website fitfortravel 21/08/13).

Do I need a visa for Malawi?
European/UK passport holders do not require a visa to enter Malawi but if flying to Malawi from your home country you will need a return ticket or you may be asked to buy an additional flight before you board your plane. All volunteers in Malawi also require a volunteer permit, this is currently requires a form being completed after arrival at your project, the coordinator will help you with this. There is no cost for this (current as of 08/13).

Do I need to bring anything for the children?
The area is very poor, food is the main challenge for local families before toys and equipment. Volunteers might like to buy snacks to offer the children they teach a biscuit or piece of fruit at break time.

From home volunteers often take the things which will be hard to find locally : sports equipment, colouring pens, colouring books, simple wordsearches, bat and ball games, footballs and airpumps/repair kits, facepaints, balloons. Other items in demand in the local community but easily missed and can be bought locally far more cheaply than at home; painkillers, plasters, antiseptic lotion, Germalene a good local anaesthetic cream, Bonjela for children with toothache, mosquito nets (can be bought locally cheaply), underwear/bras, basic clothes (shorts , t-shirts), flip flops, sanitary items for young teens. These could be collected by all volunteers and distributed to the poorest families in the village or individual volunteers could give their own donations as prizes for competitions/tests/presentations/best boy/best girl etc.


Sustainability is an exciting area where volunteers should be scared about thinking out of the box and helping local people to help themselves. For example, you may hear about someone in the village with the confidence and the skills to start a business but does not have the money to buy a stove which might be the equivalent of 3 months wages. Volunteers could contribute to purchasing a stove which may only cost £10 to build or buy. With an extra £5 of materials to get started, the family may now be able to support itself selling bread in the local market without ever needing to live off charity or visiting volunteers. The next stage of support from volunteers could be improved marketing (i.e. from a sign on coloured card, to a cabinet to display the bread or even to help pay a deposit on a small shop) followed by product development and cakes or even hot meals. Imagine one family who started out with one stove, later running a cafe, providing jobs for more local people, from an initial start up of only £15! International charities and agencies can sometimes be too big to have the resources to spot and deliver opportunities at micro-level. They need to rely on middle-men and local agencies to distribute resources from top-down hoping it reaches those in need. As a volunteer on the ground, amongst local people, knowing what their needs are with a local coordinator to support you, you have a unique opportunity to turn local people’s lives around permanently for the better, now, not ‘possibly later’.

Should I bring anything for me?
Don’t forget to bring a mosquito net and plenty of insect repellent. Some volunteers bring a single duvet cover to sleep inside rather than take a sleeping bag which can get rather sweaty in the heat! A single duvet cover can be easier to wash and dry than a sleeping bag.
Mosquito spirals (available from pharmacies, in the UK from larger Boots stores) are great to take, they fill up the bedroom at night time with a mosquito repellent smoke, a bit smelly but jolly effective!

Do I have to choose what volunteering I want to do before I arrive?
Volunteers heading to Malawi generally join the volunteer group on arrival with whichever project they are currently working on from informal teaching, playwork, painting walls, diy or outdoor sport activities. If you would like to work in a particular area, simply speak to the local coordinator and they will assist you to swap over or get more involved with a project of your choice.

How can I keep in touch with home?
Internet cafes are available in town for at least weekly communication with home but most volunteers these days take their mobiles to receive and send text messages with family during their stay.

Contact us for specific questions

We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. We pride ourselves in the vast knowledge of our projects and are always willing to share. Give us a call for a quick chat on 01603 280702 or email [email protected] to get the answers you need!