(UK volunteer Emily playing bulldog with children in Lilongwe)

After the long, exhausting plane journey from London to Lilongwe, sore arms from endless hours of luggage lifting and feelings of nausea from the two stop-overs in Ethiopia and Congo, we stepped out of Lilongwe airport stunned by the immediate African atmosphere; hours of  travel all worth the wait. We were welcomed by the bright sun and cool breezes of Africa’s winter and excitedly met our lovely UK team-leaders: John, Kirstie and Hiliwona, who greeted us at the airport. As we were escorted to our accommodation for our week of orientation in Lilongwe, we were stunned by the beautiful views from our vehicle and smiling children who enthusiastically waved at the mere sight of us.

In our first week, before being separated into our relative groups, all 3 teams met with Progressio Malawi staff, Thomas and Godwin and our cultural teacher Francis, who gave us a great insight into Malawian culture which should successfully prepare me for life in Malawi. We were given lessons on the fascinating history of Malawi and culture and morals which we will encounter during our time in Malawi. Information about dress-code, languages and our specific placements was also provided. The opportunity to visit a local market to experiment with some basic greetings we had learnt, was also incorporated alongside a nearby village visit to get a flavour of African village life.

(UK volunteers L-R: Nneka, Lisa, Emily, Sabah, Carolina, Katy, Ed in the local market)

The opportunity to visit the village in the first week was incredible. I was amazed at the sight of mud-houses for the first time ever and roofs made out of hay. It was impressive to see how strongly the houses were grounded. I also felt honoured to meet a village-chief, who welcomed us very kindly. Flapping chickens and little lambs casually hopping around was definitely different to what I see living in the UK but nevertheless great fun!

(Volunteers Jordan, Sabah and Lisa with children in Lilongwe)

The best thing about our first week in Malawi was that all the volunteers had the opportunity to learn about Malawi together. Personally, the most memorable moment was when we all played with the local children near our accommodation.  The children were full of life and it was good fun engaging with them, teaching them how to do the good old Hokie Okie and playing a game of Bulldog. The atmosphere was immense and the children were adorable, the way in which they hugged each of us and welcomed us with local songs.

By ICS volunteer Sabah Amreen Chohan