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Mary I College Limerick, Volunteer

Niamh Kelly

Why did you come to Malawi?

I came to Malawi to experience, quite possibly, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I thought starvation, huts, poverty, pessimism, all negatives were what I would witness and hence, would give me thought provoking and somewhat inspiring experience to challenge myself and create new personal life goals.


First impressions (Positive, Negative)

Honestly, I was surprised at how ‘wealthy’ the city was compared to my anticipations. The bank, hotels, supermarket etc. was certainly a positive surprise, as was our accommodation. Even though we knew it, the wifi, electrical appliances, facilities were so appreciated to help make the transition a little relatable. However the mosquito net / no security man was a frightening realisation for our first night.


Visit to Farm – Experience

I adored the farm!! The jokes were had with all the farmers when we met them. But when we met our 3 leaders (Matthews, Robert, Dave) their sense of humour was soon witnessed to be additional to their incredible knowledge and adoration of the farming culture. They expressed sincere proudness of the variety, quality and abundance of food they have grown and this was somewhat tasted in the delicious passion fruit they shared with us.


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

The children hugging us, waving our hands, greeting us. When we gave them a correction, they swarmed us and would even ask us to rewrite the word in red if we wrote it in black, would do it twice to get 2 comments and would personally ask us for ‘excellent :)’! Their community, supporting each other through singing songs, dancing traditional dances and laughing as others acquired comedy roles.
teachers… so thankful for us teaching even the smallest of lessons, smiling and greeting us and asking us for our emails for future contact.

witnessing corporate punishment
Monday week II, having to teach all day, ? because we were informed we had to.


I will never forget / I will always remember…

The formal meeting, our last day in the staff room of Katoto primary school. Oftentimes, after I teach, I wonder if it was beneficial, did the children learn, was it boring, pointless etc. But the principal’s speech was so warm hearted and uplifting that it really confirmed that our time was much appreciated & valued by them. But nothing could have prepared me for the emotion that I felt when the teacher started singing my favourite Malawian song as Raymond & Brooklyn presented us with our chitenjes. Tears welled up in my eyes, the atmosphere was so touching, everyone felt so proud and thankful. It was enlightening to think that a school so poor would pay for 12 chitenjes and sodas.


Saturday Classes, how did you contribute?

Myself and Niamh Keating took one class and revised topics in History and Physics with them. While Niamh taught about the history of Africa, I revised with the girls, the topic of heat transfer. Using a football, I tried to explain the concepts of conduction, convection and radiation. It seemed to be helpful to them because they all seemed to understand the subject so much more through their practical encounters.


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

Installing the first well certainly was an emotional experience. Even the journey to the well, from the awful/hazardous roads, to the poverty stricken areas to seeing the joy on the boys’ faces who played together on the soccer pitch. But seeing the little kids with their starving tummies, weeping, infested eyes, their delight on their faces when the water was pumped, seeing the place where used get their water was all extremely emotional and hard hitting. No amount of research or videos could prepare you for these extreme emotions.


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 wouldn’t do anything differently. I didn’t research a whole pile before coming as this is a personal quality… I like surprises/challenges. Because of this I feel that the rewards were more enriching… hence I wouldn’t change how I prepared myself.


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

I would advise to bring the following as NB: camera, playing cards, mosquito spray, tea bags, hand sanitiser. As mentioned, I would advise people to be open minded coming into this as the rewards are greater.


Final thoughts?

Hope I can keep contact with everyone that I have met here: John & Mary first and foremost, followed by Alfred, Rose, Phil, Harrison, Christopher, Bishop, Smith, Syndosie etc. I hope that someday I can come back to Malawi and Wells for Zoë in the future.

Visited Malawi

June 2016

Student of

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Duration of visit

4 weeks