Naturally Africa Volunteers

Naturally Africa Volunteers

About

Naturally Africa Volunteers provides teaching, medical and healthcare, childcare, sports coaching and wildlife conservation projects in Africa.

Reviews

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Rannveig Hlín
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Muli bwanji

From a young age I have wanted to volunteer in Africa and in the beginning of 2018 that dream came true. I decided on going with the volunteer organization Naturally Africa after hearing and reading nothing but great things about them and participated in the teaching project in Nkope, Malawi. I volunteered for twelve weeks and even though some days were tough my overall experience of Nkope, Malawi and Naturally Africa is positive.
I was a volunteer in the teaching project were I spent my mornings teaching pre-schoolers and the afternoons with elementary students. Naturally Africa provided me with various materials, books and equipment that had been donated for me to use when teaching. I was also able to look through reports from other volunteers to get an insight into what they had done previously with the students. To the projects I was accompanied by a wonderful woman named Thoko, who translated for me and provided me with support.
Even though I was a volunteer in the teaching project I was able to explore the other project Naturally Africa runs in Malawi during my stay. I was able to plant seeds with Victor for the agriculture project and accompany Peter, Lovemore and the medical volunteers in their medical community support.
The accommodation in Malawi are outstanding. Malambe cottage is beautiful and well kept, we were provided with three meals a day every day of the week, had access to clean water and there is security who watches the house at night. All of the Naturally Africa staff is friendly and willing to assist you with anything you might need.
I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of volunteering to go for it and I would 100% recommend doing that with Naturally Africa. When volunteering in Malawi you gain a lot, you will be able to work with wonderful children, explore Malawi, make new friends with fellow volunteers and the Naturally Africa staff and gain a new perspective of your priorities.

Zikomo, Malawi and Naturally Africa
Rannveig Hlín “Ranny” Jóhannesdóttir

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My top 10 advice for future volunteers with Naturally Africa

- "wawa" means "hi", you will hear it daily from the kids.
- Bring a water bottle with you and keep hydrated.
- Try learning some Chichewa (the local language).
- Keep an open mind, always.
- Keep a journal while you are there.
- Sitting on the cottage steps is greatly soothing.
- Explore Cape Maclear, you can snorkel, go to fun bars and on boat trips.
- Go on safaris, the walking one in Kuti is great.
- Get to know the other volunteers, the NA staff and the local people.
- Try the local food and snacks, I would recommend Tiger-puffs.
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Edward
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I returned last month from a three month stint in Malawi with Naturally Africa Volunteers, taking part predominantly with teaching projects, but also involved with healthcare, (wound care clinics & HIV support groups included).
The project staff, importantly made up mainly by local Malawians, were extremely welcoming and supportive and were passionate about making a difference within their local community, (Nkope and surrounding villages). The accommodation was comfortable and the food was good, cooked by the organisation's chef.
The thing I will remember most about my experience in Malawi will be the people. Malawians are undoubtedly the friendliest people I have ever met. They are kind, open, genuine, joyful and always welcoming. They also have wonderful characters and sense of humours. The kids are adorable; always keen to learn, have great manners and are wonderfully excitable and never fail to put a smile on your face. This is despite the many challenges that many Malawians face, whether it's health, income, resources, corruption or general opportunities to prosper.
The projects that Naturally Africa run are genuinely appreciated by the residents of Nkope and the surrounding villages where the organisation runs projects. I taught at a primary school in Nokundu where the teachers really appreciated the support that I brought. Class sizes are large; approx. 65-75 within my Standard 7 group. The schools have very limited resources and help is often required. The students relish learning and it's extremely rewarding seeing them thrive and pick up what I was teaching.
The organisation has built a resource centre in Nkope which enables young ones a place to go for a few hours in the afternoon. They learn and play - included are a few classrooms; one of which is an IT room. I started up lessons for secondary school students, many of which have never used a computer before. It was an honour to get to know these keen and enthusiastic young citizens and teach them vital PC and word processing skills which will mean it'll be easier for them to take on college if they are able to attend. If not, these skills will be useful in a hopeful future diversifying of the Malawian economy away from agriculture.
The healthcare projects Naturally Africa runs are vital to the local communities. During my time, specific medical volunteers go out and treat many people who can't afford to travel to the local hospitals. Wounds are cleaned, treated and bandaged, fungal infections are seen to and help is provided with limited resources to the best effect. The community knows that there is somewhere to turn to for advice and assistance. Elsewhere, home based care and HIV support groups are run to guide, educate and assist people in villages in and around Nkope.
The organisation is also increasing the impact of their agriculture projects with plans to improve irrigation and plant more crops for the benefit of the community and income generation.
I would wholly recommend volunteering with Natural Africa Volunteers. The work they do genuinely helps the communities they serve, while ultimately working longer term to create self sufficiency. The team is friendly, welcoming and care greatly about doing their best to make a difference to their local community. As a volunteer, you will witness something very special; the people of Malawi. Go with an open mind and energy to love, teach and provide whatever assistance you can, to the very best of your ability. Do this and you will be a vital cog in providing useful assistance to a greater movement for change. Like me, you will find it provides a wholly worthwhile and rewarding experience.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Crocodile - rather nice. Tasted like slightly chewier chicken.
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Malcolm
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Myself, and two medical student colleagues, assisted with the Lake Malawi Medical Project as part of an overseas medical elective and, while learning a lot, had a truly memorable experience. On my first day I was met at the airport by the local coordinator of the project and guided back to the accommodation where the volunteers had waited for the new volunteers to arrive before having a shared dinner. As per day 1, I was superbly supported throughout my time with the project. I always felt safe and comfortable and this aided me in making the most of my limited time in the country. The accommodation itself had everything we needed - 3 meals a day provided, beds with mosquito nets, bathrooms with showers (cold showers but it's so hot in Malawi it doesn't matter), buckets and a clothesline, board games, wi-fi (requiring extra cost, I for the most part used internet from a locally purchased data sim as it was cheaper), and even an adorable cat and couple dogs.

My schedule each week was generally as follows:
- Monday & Tuesday: Hospital placement at the regional district hospital. This was separate to the project but coordinated by Naturally Africa in support of my learning as a medical student. These days involved departing at 6.40am to take a 2 bike taxis and a matolo (the local taxis which are surprisingly reliable for family cars that fit 10-15 people in each trip) to get to Mangochi in time for the morning meeting, attending one of the clinics while supervised by permanent staff who were either locally or internationally trained (these clinics including general surgery, HIV, diabetes, eye) and getting home by a similar route after lunch and running some errands. Of particular note was a kind and excellent clinician from Congo who had trained with the WHO and took us under his wing. Originally we had planned further involvement in ward-based activities but had concerns around the practises of preventing tuberculosis transmission in the hospital (patients with query tuberculosis/pneumonia were on the open wards in a hospital lacking X-rays at the time) and had decided to restrict our involvement to activities without this risk. A particular highlight was a morning spent at the lab being shown how they diagnose Malaria and tuberculosis.
- Wednesday: Wound care clinic in the morning followed by a medical education session with a community group of HIV sufferers. The clinics were great opportunities for hands-on medical care and plugged an important gap in the local health care system. Most commonly we provided care for simple wounds and tinea capitis but often treated large infected wounds and advised patients of the need for attending a hospital. The community group sessions involved us preparing medical content of interest to the attendees and relevance of the local population e.g. follow-up of malaria management and diabetes mellitus.
- Thursday: Wound care clinic in the morning followed by assisting with the charity's education project by providing medical education sessions to the kids (hand hygiene, how to feel pulses, what happens to food after we eat it) and taking part in games (football, roll over red rover etc.)
- Friday: Wound care clinic in the morning followed by an afternoon off to have a rest or perhaps start weekend excursions early.

On two occasions I also assisted at the local medical centre with antenatal care clinics.

Most days all the volunteers congregated together for breakfast, lunch and dinner that were provided. After dinner we would often play board games and plan weekend excursions. On occasion, we also received further education in the local language. We had early starts, leaving for wound clinics by 8am, and we all got into the routine of going to bed early.

During my time there were two volunteers spending a year with the project who took on the role of volunteer coordinators. They were super helpful, having the answer to any question relating to possible weekend excursions, technical aspects of the projects, Malawian culture etc. They, along with other Naturally Africa staff, facilitated our weekend excursions including booking suitable accommodation, coordinating transport, advising of the safe places to go to eat etc. The weekend recreation I was involved in included afternoons spent at the local resorts (lovely places of strangely polarising extravagance to the surrounding towns), visiting Cape Maclear (a coastal town with an opportunity for shopping, taking boats out on the lake and relaxing at resorts) and of course the safari at Liwonde (where we got up close with elephants, water buffalos, hippos and even a cheetah).

As a medical student, I found particular value in providing hands-on care in wound clinics, developing my communication skills throughout involvement in community education and, on placement, observing health care in the resource-depleted setting. As a general volunteer, it was out of this world to see Africa for the first time and meet the locals who never ceased to amaze me with their kindness and resourcefulness. It was a broadening and enriching experience, one that I was glad to do with the excellent support of Naturally Africa volunteers.

What would you improve about this program?
At most, I can suggest minor improvements, perhaps having more tutorials in the local language (1/week ideally).
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Shilsha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered with Naturally Africa Volunteers at their Lake Malawi Project with two other medical student friends in September 2018. I absolutely loved my time in Malawi! The volunteer coordinators were very helpful and supportive. We were picked up from Lilongwe airport by one of the project coodinators and were driven to Nkope Hill where the Volunteer house is. The house was lovely- we had a beautiful view of Lake Malawi from our windows, the rooms and beds were comfortable, we were given three delicious meals per day and they even had two cute dogs that stayed at the property (they were fully vaccinated, including rabies vaccine!). Only things to note is that it can get very hot in the house as there weren’t any fans at the property and we had cold showers but that was actually pleasant as it was very hot!). Our daily routine usually consisted of attending wound clinics in the morning (where we helped treat a range of wounds and skin conditions from simple fungal infections to rashes to diabetic ulcers) and teaching in the afternoon at either the HIV support groups, home based care groups or resource centre (an after school care program for children). As medical students, we wanted to also get exposure to the hospitals, which was kindly organised by Naturally Africa Volunteers- so we attended Mangochi District Hospital on Monday and Tuesday each week (40 mins from Nkope Hill) as well as helped with antinatal care and labour ward at Nkope Health Centre. We had a lot of hands on experience, which has put us in good stead for our future medical career. We also loved being a part of the Nkope community- everyone was so friendly and welcoming and we even learnt a bit or Chichewa (their local language). I would highly recommend Naturally Africa Volunteers- my only regret was leaving at the end of the program!

Default avatar
Deni
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My husband and I recently returned home after four weeks in Nkope, Malawi. We met incredibly inspiring people, both in the village and in the volunteers residence. The work involved setting up a new preschool incorporating the principles of holistic, child led and play based learning. We thoroughly enjoyed the work, even on the most challenging of days. We felt supported by the NAV staff who worked with us to overcome some of the obstacles we faced along the way. Our outlook on life has been altered, and we hope that we will never again be complacent about the myriad of blessings and abundance in our lives, since we have been immersed in and surrounded by the kindness, generosity and resilience of the Malawian people. We hope to return to Nkope in the not too distant future. Thanks to all at NAV!

What would you improve about this program?
sending more information about Chichewa language lessons prior to arrival in Malawi.
take less clothes and more basic resources for the projects - paper, pens, printer ink, fabric bags for children's school books. Advise volunteers not to bring little plastic 'nick nacks' or toys that cannot be disposed of properly once they are broken.

Programs

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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Promise Msampha

Job Title
Livelihoods Project Manager
From a young age, Promise Msampha realised her passion to work in rural communities; to help and to facilitate change. Promise has worked with the government of Malawi, CADECOM and USAID all with a focus on empowerment, improving sanitation and breaking down inter-generation poverty.

Promise is now our Livelihood Project Manager. Her role is to improve the livelihoods of the people in the Nkope area through income-generating projects. Promise facilitates the sharing of knowledge and skills within the communities to aid the enhancement of opportunities for independent living. She also manages the Permaculture Project which aims to improve production yield and crop quality through the technique of permaculture and better farming practices.

What is your favorite travel memory?

One of my favourite travel memories is of a trip I had last year with my family to Zomba. We had the opportunity to go around Zomba Plateau, we went up the mountains appreciating the beautiful falls, the weather was just pure and cool. Lastly, we went to see the famous Chilema Trees - so huge and breath-taking!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have learnt a lot while working here. I have gained so much confidence in demonstration and talking to people from different backgrounds. I have also evolved so much as a person and I have learnt to make decisions that enhance the progress and success of the company without neglecting the people its base.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One volunteer was enrolled in our educational project - she was teaching at Nakundu Primary School. She received letters from her students here in Malawi for her to take back and give to her students back in the United Kingdom. A month later, her students in the United Kingdom responded to the letters and the students in Malawi were excited to receive them! It was wonderful that she was able to bring these students from different continents together.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

If I could choose one of the projects at Naturally Africa Volunteers, I think I would choose and educational programmes.

I would love to help at a local school. The primary and secondary schools programmes are time-oriented and have a proper syllabus this would push my buttons at the same time always keeping me busy preparing lessons for tomorrow's classes!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I am always proud of my team, but one thing that is so great about it is that we all work in a symbiotic way.

We acknowledge that working as a team would help the success of the company. The company is unique as it provides solutions that are sustainable and it empowers the community by providing the skills for them to stand on their own.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I am hugely proud of the company that I work for and my team in Malawi and for the amazing work we do together. However, I think one of the biggest factors for the company's success is having the necessary resources available and in the hands of the right people to implement the company's goals and objectives.