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Mary I College Limerick, Volunteer

Emma Cahalane

Why did you come to Malawi?

Coming out volunteering has genuinely always been something I have wanted to do and so hearing about Wells for Zoë when they visited Mary I, I just felt more drawn to them over other organisations because of their principles and their aim especially their idea of ‘hand up not hand out.’


First impressions (Positive, Negative)

My first impressions of Malawi were largely positive. I will never forget the immediate friendship of everyone we met, being greeted so warmly with hugs from Rose at the airport. This friendly nature and welcoming side of Malawi has remained visible throughout the four weeks and it is so clear why it is called the ‘Warm heart of Africa’.


Visit to Farm – Experience

I really enjoyed visiting the farm and seeing the sustainable farming aspect of Wells for Zoe work. The range of crops was so impressive and it was certainly interesting to see exotic fruits growing like the pineapples. Like most experiences, it was the people that were most memorable and hearing some of their stories and what they have overcome, like Alice & Wezzie, is what I really will remember from this experience.


Katoto Primary School Placement (Highlights, Challenges, How did you support the teachers)

I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time working in Katoto Primary School. It was a wonderful school and despite the obvious challenges of class size & lack of resources, there is still a positive, learning atmosphere created. This was so evident with the first teacher we spent time with as she was so eager to learn, this was absorbed by children and they were constantly laughing together. I feel like myself and the other two girls supported this teacher by sharing songs and different methodologies. Unfortunately, our second teacher lacked the same enthusiasm and was not there working with us a lot of the time. This was challenging as we had so little time and we wanted to share what we could.


I will never forget / I will always remember…

There are so many things I will never forget. One is partaking in the music in service in Katoto as I really felt like I was sharing my strength and that this could really benefit not only the teachers present, but others in their schools and of course, so many children. I will also never forget visiting Rodgers and in particular the reaction of sheer joy and gratitude of his carer to to the little gift of washing powder, soap and other basic items brought by Mary.


Saturday Classes, how did you contribute?

The first time we attended the Saturday classes I felt I contributed my Maths knowledge as I helped Promenence with the Form ones. I really enjoyed working through maths sums with the girls and witnessing their understanding develop and I really think these experiences will help them with their self-confidence in maths, an area that is often so difficult for many. I also felt I contributed through the typing class and all of us through simply getting to know these amazing girls and encouraging them to keep working hard pursuing their dreams.


Any other experiences – positive or negative that will remain with you from this visit?

Every single day here was packed with experiences, all of which are memorable for different reasons but it would be impossible not to mention Mica preschool. This is an amazing school that is a huge model to other schools around. Seeing these children, how happy they were and how well they were getting on it is so clear how much advantage these children will have once they go into primary school and could have huge positive impacts on their life as a whole.


Pre Planning:
What would you do differently?
Or what would you advise students coming on placement in the future?

If I was to come again I think the only thing I would do differently, or that I would advise other students to do is to do more research and to try and talk to past volunteers about their experiences. I think this would make a difference as it may help people find their feet a little faster if they are somewhat aware of what’s coming, which is so important when the length of time here is so short.


Possible follow up suggestions for 4th year trainee teachers with W4Z and Mary I:

I think we should all be encouraged to reflect, perhaps on an individual basis or as our whole group because for me anyway, I don’t think I have truly processed this experience just yet and so doing reflections I think will help me realise what I have learnt here, what impact it has had on my life and how I see/ understand things and importantly, what do I want to do next as a volunteer, how can I now help knowing what I know.


Final thoughts?

I am so glad I came to Malawi with Wells for Zoë. It has been such an amazing experience and to say John and Mary are two of the most admirable and inspirational people I have ever met is an understatement. This experience is the start of my volunteering journey and my eyes and minds have been so opened by listening to John and Mary’s stories and own experiences. I really look forward to returning at some stage and continuing to work with such a fantastic organisation.

Visited Malawi

June 2016

Student of

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Duration of visit

4 weeks