Volunteers are welcome to bring their skills, knowledge and experience to meaningful projects.
Over the years we have had many volunteers leave their mark on Matandani, will you be next?
If you would like to find out more about how you could help our school develop and what life is like in Malawi, please get in contact with us at the bottom of this page.
Check out our volunteer booklet (printable) and the information on this page that has all the information written with the help of past volunteers!
There are many areas where volunteers can get involved. Some potential projects include:
- General repairs and maintenance around the school
- Observing teachers during classes and giving feedback
- Modelling good teaching practices to teachers
- Reading books with the students
- Creating meaningful wall displays in classrooms
- Painting classrooms and murals
- Conducting PE classes after school
- Organising classrooms and staff offices
- Teaching basic computer skills to teachers
- Gardening around the school grounds
- Giving art lesson to students and teachers
- Creating spreadsheets to replace paper based systems
- Website management (WordPress)
- Conversing with students to boost English speaking fluency
- Encouraging good schooling practices within the school
- Helping students with iPad usage in the Learning Centre
- Project management of small construction projects
- Assisting with CBE (Community Based Education) after school project
- Social media management
Here is a list of items you might want to consider bringing with you. Bare in mind that almost anything you can think of can be bought in the country when you arrive and usually at a cheaper price than back home.
- Identification: Passport, Driving License
- Health insurance certificate
- Prescription medication
- Malaria tablets
- Insect repellent
- Clothing: Swimwear, Warm clothes for evening, Long dresses past knee, skirt or pants (especially for women around school)
- Small bag or daypack
- Head torch or lamp
- Good water bottle
- Water purification system or tablets
- Power bank charger
- Swiss Army knife or Leatherman
- Multi plug socket or converter
- Ear plugs
Matandai school is a poor rural school and any teaching resources or equipment you can bring with you would be greatly received. Also, you can ask before you leave to see if there is anything specific you could bring from back home.
Matandani is located 7km along a dirt road from the nearest village Songani. Songani is a small rural village located on the main road between Zomba and Liwonde.
Zomba is a further 10km south from Songani and is the former capital of Malawi.
Liwonde is situated 30km north from Songani and is home to Liwonde National Park.
Lilongwe and Blantyre are major cities, both with international airports, which can can be reached by car and local busses.
Blantyre is the best airport to arrive at. You have two options to get from Blantyre to your accommodation in Songani.
A local taxi can be arranged and will take you to Songani for 20,000MK. The taxi driver will meet you at the airport in Blantyre. The journey will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. And is the best option if you are 2 or more people as you can share costs.
If you don’t have much luggage or want to save money you can get local buses but this option takes longer. You can start by taking a taxi into Blantyre town form the airport for 10,000MK then a bus onwards to Zomba for 1,700MK and then finally a bus from Zomba to Songani for about 200MK. The total time can Be as much as 4 hours. Buses do not leave until they are full. We advise not to attempt this journey any later than noon, as it is not a good idea to travel by public transport at night.
The other option is to fly to the capital, Lilongwe, however it is much further away. A bus can be taken to Liwonde or Zomba and a local minibus will take you to onwards Songani.
Songani is located alongside the main road so it is very easy to access by car, taxi or local bus.
You can live very reasonably in Malawi. Locals get by with extremely low wages by world standards and many survive from subsistence farming. How much you spend is up to you, but once you start having weekends away and eating in nice restaurants your budget will be much higher.
Here is a rundown of typical costs: EXCHANGE RATE = 850MK to 1 Euro (as of June 2018)
- Accommodation – 140,000MK per month.
- Weekend at Lake Malawi – 50,000MK for 2-3 days
- Climbing Mount Mulanje – 60,000MK for 2-3 days
- Hostel – 7,000MK per night
- Local Restaurant – 2,000MK per meal
- Western Restaurant – 4,000-6,500MK per meal
- Food – 30,000MK per month
- Tomatoes- 100MK for a pile
- Apples – 150MK each
- Avocados – 250MK each
- Fanta or Coke – 300MK each
- Beer – 800MK per bottle
- 500ml Water – 200MK each
- 5 Litre Water – 660MK each
- Crisps – 750MK per packet
- Laundry – 500MK per shopping bag load
Cash is the most useful form of currency. ATMs dispense 80,000-100,000MK at a time with a limit of 3 uses per day. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in larger stores and hotels. ATMs can be found in all major cities but some ATMs will not accept international cards. (National bank & Standard Bank are the best)
Prices for Westerners can be much higher than you expect compared to what the locals pay. Bargaining or haggling is essential in local markets and when buying larger items. It is a normal part of everyday life sadly. After a few weeks you will know the local price for things and find it easier to negotiate a better price.
Lunch will be provided at the school each day and consists of rice, meat/eggs and some basic vegetables.
Cooking at the lodge or at home can be difficult but some local groceries can be bought in the village. If you are staying at the Welcome lodge, it has a restaurant which can provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for reasonable prices.
Zomba is a large city and has a selection of restaurants at different price ranges. Some recommendations include:
- Casa Rossa – Great tasting Italian food, but pricey by Malawian standards.
- Tasty Bites – A mixture of every type of food.
- Steers – A South African burger place much like McDonalds.
- African Heritage – A lovely cafe selling salads and light bites and sandwiches and he best coffee in town.
- Pakachere Hostel – An international hostel with good food, outdoor fires and volleyball.
- Dominos – A restaurant with a mixture of western food such as burgers and pizzas.
Liwonde has a smaller selection of restaurants. Some recommendations include:
- Hippo Lodge – A popular tourist lodge off the main road selling dishes aimed at tourists. They also have a swimming pool.
- Baobab Restaurant – A local restaurant selling very tasty and affordable local cuisine. ( A big hit with Andy)
- Zest Lodge – A pricey gated lodge by the main road selling a mixture of local and international food.
It would be advisable to do a weekly shop to get all the things you’ll need for the working week. Zomba is the best place for a wider choice of luxury foods like chocolate and coffee.
Soft drinks like Coke, Fanta and Sprite can be bought everywhere. They usually work on a bottle return system and cost less than 300MK each.
Alcohol is available in bottle shops, bars and restaurants. Carlsberg is the main beer and Malawi Gin & tonics are a great hit with expats. A beer cost about 800MK.
Tap water is drinkable at the school. If you prefer however you can buy bottled water easily. Also bringing a water filtration system from back home could be useful for longer staying volunteers.
IMPORTANT: You can to use your existing phone if you make sure it is unlocked. Having a good smart phone for using Whatsapp and general internet use is very worthwhile. It is very cheap to buy a sim card on arrival. An Airtel sim costs 500MK and 1GB of data costs 2850MK. You can save money on data by buying larger bundles but bundles are only valid for 30 days after purchase.
3G reaches most of the country and 4G is becoming more and more widely available.
There is no Wi-Fi in Malawi except in better hotels, hostels and restaurants. Another advantage of bringing a good smart phone, is that it is very handy to “hotspot” off your phone for using internet on your laptop!
Power cuts are common in Malawi, so bringing a power bank is advised to charge your phone during these times.
There are a number of ways to get to and from school. One option is to get a bicycle taxi (njinga). They cost the about 500MK and are safe. Some volunteers choose to buy bicycles. There are charity shops in Zomba and a decent second hand bike can be bought for around 50,000MK.(60 euro)
To get around locally, Minibuses leave frequently between Zomba and Liwonde and pass by Songani. For shopping and a wider choice of restaurants these 2 towns can provide everything you will need for your stay. Minibus prices start from 400MK to Zomba each way.
Long distance buses can be taken from Liwonde or Zomba to reach destinations nationwide.
A car can be rented but can be an expensive option. Alternatively you can even hire a driver for a few days for longer trips.
Depending on how many volunteers we receive and the nature of their stay volunteers will be housed in one of two ways.
Volunteers nearly always stay at Welcome Lodge in Songani. The lodge is a basic but perfectly safe and a hospitable place to stay. Every room is a double en-suite with a flushing toilet and shower. Each room is fitted with a large mosquito net over the bed.
The accommodation is secure and currently it costs 140,000MK a month. The lodge has a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Laundry can be done at the guesthouse and it is easy to get a bus into Zomba.
A second option for longer term volunteers is to stay at a rented house beside the school. This will naturally have pros and cons. Volunteers will have a more authentic living environment, more privacy and a shorter journey to school each day but will have limited services available. There is electricity with kettle/microwave and hot plate, but with many blackouts, having a power-bank would be very useful. Laundry can be done by Mary at the school in exchange for a very small fee.
The requirements to get a visa are constantly changing. Please check the situation before you leave. Most volunteers from Western countries can obtain a tourist visa on arrival.
For Irish and British citizens you can get a single entry tourist visa on arrival, which costs $75 for 1 month and can be extended for up to 3 months for 5000MK per month at a local police station.
For longer stays, a multiple entry visa can be obtain and is valid for up to 6 months.
More information can be found here: http://www.malawihighcommission.co.uk/index.php/visa.
To purchase a visa on arrival it is always advisable to bring US dollars with the exact change. Old or torn bills will often be rejected.
Friday is a half-day at Matandani which means there are lots of opportunities to take weekend trips to discover the country. Some popular destinations include:
- Liwonde National Park
- Zomba Plateau
- Blantyre City
- Mount Mulanje
- Satemwa Tea and Coffee Estate
- Malosa- The forest of one tree!
Lake Malawi is one of the biggest draws for tourist visiting Malawi. Here are some of its most popular destinations:
- Cape McClear
- Monkey Bay
- Nkhata Bay
- Kande Beach
- Likoma Island
Neighbouring countries include Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Busses from major cities in Malawi can connect you to all these destinations.
We love our volunteers, and they love us!
I had such a great experience working here for 2.5 months. Matandani is an absolutely delightful school and I felt at home from my first day there.I genuinely think it is impossible to spend time in Malawi without falling in love with the place and the people. I will remember my first trip to Africa for a very long time and I am so grateful to Andy for giving me the opportunity to spend it here. I would urge anyone to do the same if they can.
This is quite simply the best workaway on workaway. Thanks Andy for hosting me on my round the world tour. The school is a wonderful place and I wish the staff and pupils all the best in the future. Two thumbs up for iPad project too. Mind blowing stuff is happending in Malawi and I’m sure I’ll return one day to see the progress.
This project is amazing! I spent 3 weeks with Andy and he is a wonderful person full of energy and positivity and very passionate and committed about his job! I’m not a teacher and I can say that I’ve learnt a lot in the school but also in the other schools that we’ve visited daily!
Andy has a lot of ideas and I’ve try to do my best to pass my skills and knowledges to the teachers and the kids. I really high recommend this project to everyone who is willing to help Andy in the development of the school!
Best experience in my life. An amazing rural area with friendly local people. I have travelled all around the world and this is the best place I have been.
I spend two weeks with this great team, providing help at communication and technologies at school, but also having fun with children and teachers.
Talk to us!
Latitude: S 15° 15′ 31.7448″
Longitude: E 35° 25′ 18.6996″