An African Adventure

This time last year I had just gotten back from taking twenty Year 11 school kids to Malawi, in Africa for a month.


sunriseIt was an amazing experience and one I am so glad I put my name forward for, although I probably should have thought twice before selecting this as my first school trip I was in charge of!  Not only did I have to worry about the regular trip-issues, like travel arrangements and when and where we were going to eat.  The travel issues were plane flights, I had to think about or at least to learn more when and where we were eating for a whole month and there was the added issue of worrying about kids stepping on snakes or getting chased by hippo!


This was my favourite shot from the whole trip.  I took so many photos it was ridiculous!  Despite taking so many photos there are only about four or five with me actually in them!  That’s what happens when you are in charge of kids!


This is me with my ‘Malawian friend’.  The local kids latched on to us each day when we walked into the town.  A couple of the local kids changed ‘English friends’ but Mavuto stuck to me throughout.  He was eight years old and could only speak odd words of English.  We had no real conversations, but communicated through signals instead.


He liked wearing my sunglasses and loved taking pictures with my camera.

The purpose of our visit was to complete some voluntary work with a charity known as MEL – Malawi Education Link – helping to maintain local schools and hospitals.  Our students helped limewash, paint and decorate classrooms as well as repair steps and walls of the schools.


Our students then had the chance to teach the locals some English.  The local kids were very excited and the classrooms filled up very quickly!


We put our kids into groups of 2/3 and they were told by the local headteacher that they would be teaching classes of about 20 the following day.  Word spread that we were going to be teaching though and it ended up being classes more like 120!schools

We also got to go on some fantastic trips…



And organised some fun nights at base camp as well…


This is me with the other four leaders on a dress-up night.  Each student had £2 to spend at the local market to dress another member of the team up.  We chose names from a big pot the day before.  All 20 students, all five leaders and the owner of the house, Caroline.  Then on the afternoon of the dress-up, each person put the clothes in a plastic bag with the person they were intended for written on the front of the bag.

I was the only teacher in the leaders, although Caroline used to be Head of English at my school before moving to Malawi several years ago.  Here’s the leaders looking a little more normal in our own clothes!  There’s me, third from the right.


It was a fantastic experience and one I will definitely never forget, but I was very glad to spend my Summer at home this year!  Being alert and in charge of so many students for 24 hours a day, 28 days running with no ‘time off’ was incredibly draining!

Has anybody else done any volunteer work abroad? 


What is the best school trip you ever went on?

10 thoughts on “An African Adventure

  1. Wow that looks amazing, but also really stressful! Thankfully we only ever do day trips, but even the risk assessment paperwork for that is totally ridiculous (and organising the coach/ trip/ workshops/ where we will have lunch/ parent helpers… it just goes on)- I can’t imagine doing it for longer, and in another country too! One of my friends did a week in somewhere in Africa- she took some Y6’s with her (and a few teachers went)- I think they did it in Feb half term, and then the plan was that next year some people from Africa would come and visit their school.
    I think my favourite school trip would have been the trip to Tenby in Wales- it was a mon-fri trip and so exciting that we were allowed some time alone in some of the towns.
    My cousin is a secondary school teacher and he has led trips to different places in South America (Bolivia I think, and somewhere else)- they have done that sort of volunteer work and I am sure it is such a great experience for the students too.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Getting back in to runningMy Profile

    1. Took year 6s to Africa? I’m not sure I would be brave enough for that! It was scary enough being in charge of 16 year olds! I’ve just started teaching year 5 and 6s at my new school and have been surprised at how much I’ve had to adapt my teaching style. Might be asking for some tips! :)
      I sometimes wish we could run more day trips as secondary school teachers, but there are only so many ‘cool’ places to head as an ICT teacher.
      Mary recently posted…Learning to work the differencesMy Profile

  2. Ahhh-mazing! What an opportunity! OK a potentially stressful one, but one that’s so cool. And what a great thing to do for that community as well. I’d love to do something like that for definite.

    1. It was definitely amazing and I am so glad I jumped at the chance to do it. After ten years they stopped running the trip this coming Summer, as the new Headmaster wanted to switch things up a bit, and I would have been gutted had I missed out last year.
      Mary recently posted…Learning to work the differencesMy Profile

  3. Wow I would love to do something like this. I once traveled to Mexico for a week with a church association and would love to go again to help the local community. I’m so glad you were able to do this, despite the stress!
    Brittany recently posted…It’s Been a WhileMy Profile

  4. Reading this made me smile as my “best ever school trip” was a similar situation – except with 17 excitable 14-16 year old girls going to Nepal for trekking and then charity work. It only really just crossed my mind how much of a responsibility it must be for the “teachers in charge” and I can now feel really grateful for the 2 teachers and 1 leader who were generous enough to give us their time and their care (and deal with a lot of whiny teenagers!).

    Love the photos, Malawi seems like a wonderful place to visit and would love to swim in the lake one day (though I know we’re not supposed to) 😉
    Lucy @ Lucy On The Lookout recently posted…The SkyMy Profile

    1. Haha! Yes, I definitely had to become ‘Mum’ for a month. I’m not even close to having kids, so to suddenly become Mum to 20 teenagers was a pretty scary prospect!
      We waded in the lake, although gave the kids strict instructions on how many of them had to be together at once and where they could wade. One morning, crocodiles were spotted, (this put the kids off swimming!) and another hippos wandered up the beach to where we stayed (only a couple of minutes walk). Scary, but very exciting at the same time!
      Mary recently posted…Learning to work the differencesMy Profile

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