“In Spring 2015, I traveled to Ruarwe to be a volunteer teacher at Nyumba ya Masambiro after contacting Phunzira. My boyfriend and I were drawn to working with Phunzira because everything with this organization is so transparent and it is completely non-profit. We were also looking to avoid programs that charge volunteers, but give little opportunity to the volunteers eager to help a community. However, we almost immediately got the sense that the founders were open, honest, eager to help, and really cared about the community and the work going on in Ruarwe. Both myself and my partner have had a lot of experience working in African countries (at field schools and running research bases, during and after our undergraduate careers, respectively) but we had never had a chance to work with a non-profit or community center exclusively. Overall, our work at the center was a really fulfilling experience, and can even be very beneficial for future opportunities depending on what field you are in.
During my first trip to NYM I taught standard 8 (middle school/junior high school in the States) subjects, such as; environmental science, physics, mathematics, social studies. I was introduced to the headmaster of the primary school and provided with all the textbooks. The youth coordinator helped facilitate a teaching time schedule for my lessons in the community center. He and I also worked together to give art and swimming lessons, he was even willing to help me organize a fun swimming contest among the older kids. Everyone in the center was eager about our arrival and willing to help us in whatever we needed. We were just eager to help them though and they accepted us graciously. Everyone in the village is extremely warm and welcoming as well. The kids were all great and loved coming to class for extra help or participating in the activities I organized with the youth coordinator.
After I left Malawi a former student of mine wrote me a letter to thank me for tutoring him and to let me know that he passed his exams and could go to form 3. Unfortunately, many of the students’ families struggle to pay school fees. I wanted to be able to help him and the other students in Ruarwe so I developed a memorial scholarship in honor of a friend who passed away. Phunzira and NYM were great in assisting me with reaching my goals. With my scholarship program, I helped that student for the first year (2015-2016). With the help of the founders and another colleague who has a scholarship program in the area I could arrange for all the sponsored girls in that program, and my own, to receive reusable sanitary supplies so they wouldn’t miss school (2016-2017). I was also able to send 10 students to secondary school this year (2016-2017) with the help on Phunzira, NYM staff, and the other scholarship program I collaborate with.
I returned to Malawi January to February 2017 to visit my sponsored students and teach at the center again. Getting off the ferry was one of the most heartwarming experiences of my life. Many of my colleagues turned friends from NYM, along with some of my students, were paddling out in canoes to greet us as we departed the ferry. It truly felt like I had returned to my home away from home. Whilst at the village I realized some children in primary school went without an education because they couldn’t afford uniforms. Yet again the NYM and Phunzira helped me facilitate a plan to use my scholarship funds to buy students uniforms and it was a great success. This upcoming school year (2017-2018) I will be sending approximately 15 students to secondary school and purchasing more uniforms.
The point in sharing my aspirations for my project and what we have been able to accomplish is not to make anyone feel they are obligated to give donations or raise money when volunteering with NYM and Phunzira. My objective in sharing my story is so it is known that everyone associated with Phunzira and NYM are passionate about their work. They expect nothing from volunteers but to help in the center, but they enthusiastic and flexible when it comes to volunteers wanting to go beyond that. Everyone is welcoming and honest as well. If volunteers are truly looking for an experience where they will actually be able to help, actually be able to put forth knew ideas and suggest projects, and actually feel welcomed and appreciated – then volunteering with Phunzira and NYM is definitely the place to go!”