The Best Places to Volunteer in Malawi

Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art
Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art | © Mphatso Katona / Culture Trip

For years Malawi has encouraged the efforts of philanthropists and volunteers who contribute towards social change in areas such as youth development, child protection and wildlife conservation. If you want to get involved for a good cause, the following organisations are making an impact in transforming the lives of Malawians.

Join the STEKA family

The children of STEKA and their carer, GodKnows Maseko (in the rear wearing a blue striped shirt)

Step Kids Awareness (STEKA) is an organisation founded by Godknows Maseko, a former street child who grew up to become a social worker. The Blantyre-based Non-profit Governmental Organisation (NGO) rescues vulnerable street children and educates them to become responsible citizens. Maseko and his wife Helen consider STEKA a family and not an orphanage and are doing their best to care for 64 homeless children and young adults (28 girls and 36 boys), aged between nine and 23, who all use the surname Maseko. The organisation has three full-time volunteers who help to mobilise outreach communities to gather resources to care for the children. But the NGO faces many financial challenges, and Maseko and his wife run various small businesses to generate additional income with the help of volunteers.

Help conserve cedar trees with MMCT

There was a time when Malawi’s most famous mountain, Mount Mulanje, was covered in cedar trees. Inspired by this, Malawi’s first president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, gave the trees national status. However, this species is now close to extinction due to deforestation and logging. The Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT), an environmental endowment initiative, is endeavouring to save the few trees left along with other natural resources in the forest reserve. MMCT has been partnering with school pupils and other stakeholders to plant cedar and other trees, but there is still more room for those who are interested in volunteering. There are international sporting races that take place in Mulanje Mountain, so volunteering for MMCT also helps boost tourism in Malawi. Any voluntary work towards such cause is noble.

School children planting cedar trees with MMCT members on Mulanje Mountain

Be part of animal rescue missions

Rampant poaching is rife in Malawi. Across the country animals are at risk of being injured by snares or muzzle load guns. Elephants and rhinos are targeted for ivory, while others are killed for meat. This situation inspired the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre (LWC) to start rescuing animals injured by humans. As the only accredited wildlife sanctuary in Malawi, LWC is another great organisation to volunteer for. At the centre, the animals from the wild as well as those that had been illegally traded are given medical care and rehabilitated. The centre currently cares for an average of 200 rescued wild animals. Volunteering to rescue wild animals in the “warm heart” of Africa can be a fulfilling endeavour. LWC focuses on where it can deliver the greatest impact and believes in the power of partnerships, be it with government or like-minded local and international organisations. Its mission is to protect Malawi’s wildlife by helping wild animals in need and combating wildlife crime.

A volunteer of LWC caring for a wounded Hyena

Help care for and protect the elderly

Across Malawi the rights of the elderly have long been the subject of concern. There have even been stories published by news media outlets about the elderly being accused of practicing witchcraft. Violence towards the elderly has prompted over 40 organisations to form a network named the Malawi Network of Older Persons’ Organisation (MANEPO). The umbrella body works towards protecting the rights of older people and to enrich their lives – most elderly people in Malawi can neither afford a decent house nor a decent meal, and face discrimination. Those who intend to advocate for the rights of the elderly will find partnering with MANEPO worthwhile. MANEPO, which is based in Lilongwe, aims to improve the livelihood of older people through the implementation of programs.

An elderly woman at MANEPO

Help the disabled with FEDOMA

Malawi also provides an opportunity to volunteer in improving the lives of people with disabilities. Most people who were born with a disability in Malawi end up begging on the streets due to a lack of access to education and other skills. Some, like those with albinism, are murdered because of the belief that their body parts bring wealth. In 1999, several organisations representing people with disabilities formed an umbrella body called The Federation of DisabilityOrganisations in Malawi (FEDOMA). The aim of the group is to create one voice that represents the rights and well-being of people with disabilities such as children who are unable to go to school because they do not have access to wheelchairs or other aids. FEDOMA assists its members accordingly, but still needs the support of volunteer workers who can equip members with knowledge, skills and the inspiration to start believing in themselves.

People with albinism marching for the rights and protection

Nancholi Youth Organisation (NAYO)

The founders of Nancholi Youth Organization (NAYO) in Blantyre were moved by an increase in the number of young people engaged in alcohol and drug abuse, and unsafe sex. The number of young people contracting HIV/AIDS prompted the foundation of NAYO, which aims to promote the living standards of young people. NAYO works with communities in ensuring that youths have access to information regarding HIV and are able to overcome social pressures which influence the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Reports indicate a high number of deaths caused of AIDS-related illnesses in Nancholi Township, and most are young people. Their advocacy makes them a perfect organisation to volunteer for, especially for those that have an interest in promoting the lives of the youth. Among other programs, NAYO also encourages people to be proactive in caring for the environment, orphans, and vulnerable children.

Nancholi Youth Organisation members pose with volunteers

Kungoni​ Centre of Culture and Art

Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art

Founded by Father Claude Boucher in 1976, Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art in Dedza district, this organisation provides an opportunity for volunteers hoping to preserve and promote Malawian culture. Kungoni is a perfect place to learn about Malawi. Its museum is filled with artefacts that tell stories of the country’s rich history and a key location in which to enjoy the Chewa people’s famous cultural dance known as “Gule Wamkulu” or masquerade dance. On the walls of Kungoni’s art gallery visitors can also view the amazing masks used in Gule Wamkulu. The NGO showcases other traditional dances by other tribes such as the Ngoni and Tumbuka, in an effort to preserve local culture. The Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art is also famous for its wood carvings, some of which were commissioned by the Vatican museum and Buckingham Palace, among other places in Europe. There are many areas at Kungoni that require expertise from volunteers to continue to make the research centre a vibrant and relevant place for visitors.

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