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Mary I College Limerick, Volunteer

Gráinne Murphy

Why did you come to Malawi?

I came to Malawi for a number of reasons. The main reason being that I really wanted to help and make a difference to the lives of other people. Wells for Zoë was the perfect charity to travel with and the idea of it being 100% voluntary really appealed to me. I also wanted to travel and experience what life is like for people living in poor countries. Helping others and offering assistance when I have the necessary skills (in teaching) really was the deciding factor for me to come to Malawi.


First impressions (Positive, Negative)

My first impressions were completely different to how I imagined Malawi to be – people everywhere! The drive from the airport to Mzuzu had me amazed at the land, housing and people. I noticed how friendly and warm the people are and loved how everyone smiled and waved as we passed by. I also really noticed the sense of community that is in Malawi. It was tough seeing the poverty but it seems like how Ireland would have been about 100 years ago.


Visit to Farm – Experience

I really enjoyed my 3 visits to the farm! I loved seeing all the various plants and fruit that was grown. The workers were all very friendly especially Laston and Adamson. The second and third visits were very beneficial as we were able to help out and work on the farm. I also loved how open and helpful the people were and they even let us try to do some budding! It was very interesting to see the various methods used to grow the plants.


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

Teaching in Katoto Primary School was definitely one of my favourite experiences here in Malawi. I found that the children were so so eager to learn and were very willing to sing, dance and work with us. I also found that the teachers really engaged with us and took notes during our lessons of the methodologies we used. Our teacher was especially impressed with the acrostic poem we taught to introduce a lesson. One challenge that we had was the lack of resources, but i feel that we showed the teachers how to best complete lessons with only the board, chalk and chart paper. One of the highlights was when we taught Ireland’s Call to the children and they loved it so much that they made up a little dance to it.


I will never forget / I will always remember…

I will always remember the music inservice that we taught in Katoto Primary School. There were about 10 teachers there and it was so strange to see how little basic music knowledge they had… it really shows that the training course to become a teacher here is unsatisfactory. It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to shape the skills I have in music with the teachers. I feel that they really benefitted from the inservice and will be able to pass on the knowledge they gained to the other teachers in their schools as well as the children.


Saturday Classes, how did you contribute?

I really enjoyed the Saturday classes and feel that they are of such a huge benefit to the girls. The first Saturday we were there I taught the Form 2 girls science. Their teacher wasn’t in and I had done that chapter as part of the leaving cert so I stepped in. I really enjoyed getting a taste of secondary school teaching. The following Saturday I interviewed a girl named Esther. She was such a happy, friendly girl!


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

The first time we went to install the well pump was such an amazing experience. I loved how the whole village came out and how delighted they were when the water came. It also was great to see the women and children pumping the water for the first time. The visit to the crisis nursery also had a big impact on me. It was an amazing opportunity to see the work that is done for those orphans. Throughout my whole time here I never cried, even though we saw and heard some terrible stories…but when I was holding the 2 ½ month old baby who was dumped I found it so upsetting. They do amazing work and really help the lives of those children. Finally, the whole experience of teaching in Katoto Primary School will remain with me forever.


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

For pre-planning I think I would have liked maybe one or two more meetings with John & Mary prior to travelling. I also think that a list of all items to bring and medicines could be given a month or two before we go. I would advise students that are coming in the future to stay for at least 4 weeks.


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

I think that the 4th year teachers could represent W4Z in the college and could get people to come out here next year by sharing their experiences.


Final thoughts?

I have had the best 4 weeks in my life here in Mzuzu! I think that the work that Wells for Zoë are doing is amazing and I will definitely be back! Thank you so much for everything John and Mary. I have made so many friends and met some amazing people with unbelievable stories that I will take with me forever. The Centre for Learning and everything that W4Z do to improve the lives of the school girls is something that I will spread the word about when I get home to Ireland.
Thank you for all your help and support John & Mary!

Visited Malawi

June 2016

Student of

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Duration of visit

4 weeks