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Wildlife Action Group - Malawi
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VOLUNTEER

Volunteer Programme


An Excellent Opportunity

(Last Update: June2016 no tax at departure, Feb. 2016-Visa, Jan. 2015-Contribution)
The main project of the Wildlife Action Group is the "Thuma Forest Reserve Eco-system Rehabilitation Project".

When considering volunteering for a project it is very important to research not only the project but also the country you will be living in. You should come with an open mind and be prepared to become involved in every aspect of the project. The more you become involved in the more you get out of it.
Volunteer Hut

The volunteer huts: not very big but big enough to sleep in;
most of the time you will spend nicely in the outdoors ;)

Volunteering in Africa can be a life changing experience. It challenges not only your physical strength but also your mental ability.

There is a lot of work involved in managing a Reserve. Wildlife Action Group has been running volunteer programs from the beginning and we have been very lucky to have fantastic volunteers over the years to assist us. Volunteers participating in the programme all have a common ambition: to see, feel, hear and smell the African bush, to develop a practical knowledge of wildlife and life in the bush and to have a lasting positive impact on the environment.

We are always looking for volunteers to help us with our day to day work as well as new projects that are always in progress. WAG volunteers come from various back grounds such as - animal behaviourist, builders, students, mechanics, agriculture, musicians, flight attendants, office worker - there are no particular criteria. If you love nature, the great outdoors and hard work, then This Is The Place For You.

See below some information that will help you to understand what to expect.

Location and Organisation

Country: The Republic of Malawi Population: 15.6 million (UN, 2010)
Capital: Lilongwe
Area: 118,484 sq km (45,747 sq miles)
Major languages: English, Chichewa (both official)
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy: 56 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Malawi kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala
Main exports: Tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton
GNI per capita: US $280 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .mw
International dialling code: +265

WAG's base camp is situated in the Central region of Malawi, approx 90km from Lilongwe.

Our nearest town is Salima Town, near Senga bay, which is a 1 hour drive from camp.

From the main tarmac road leading from Salima to Lilongwe we turn off onto a dirt road and travel approx 19km to reach our main gate entrance. We travel another 9kms of rough track through the Reserve to reach main camp.

Living Space

Volunteers stay at our base camp in Thuma Forest Reserve. The camp is in the middle of the forest on top of a hill with several magnificent view points. The camp is eco friendly with water used from a nearby spring, solar power for electricity and wood used from the fallen trees in the forest. The main camp area comprises of office, a kitchen (cooking on an open fire), 2 store rooms (one for tools and one for food), several traditional grass huts, three mud huts, toilets are surrounded by grass with drop pits, and showers are again surrounded by grass with drums filled with water. There are also two covered areas where we eat, relax or work and the scout's accommodation which is a little distance from the main camp. Although facilities are basic, it is comfortable. All huts have beds with sheets and mosquito nets, a chair and table. Water is pumped up from a natural spring close to camp. We have two solar panels to supply energy for charging phone, lap tops and other small electronic goods such as camera batteries etc. We use paraffin lights in the rooms or candles at night. Your clothes will be washed by our general workers, but we cook for ourselves. There is no TV or electric lights.

We have another camp based over in the Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve where you may be required to visit. Here living facilities are more basic. This camp has several grass huts with bush beds and mosquito nets, open fire and toilet and shower.

It is an excellent opportunity to have an adventurous stay in Malawi and contribute to the conservation of wildlife in Africa!

WAG field Staff

Our field staff is made up mainly of scouts. There will always be scouts on both premises along with general workers. The field manager will be on site most of the time. Possibly other volunteers will be here also.

You will be directly reporting to the field manager but will work daily with scouts and general workers.

All scouts speak English but their first language is Chichewa which they use amongst themselves. It is a good idea to try learn some useful words in Chichewa before coming or while you are here. Local Malawians are always really pleased with this.

VISA

-> Current informations about Malawi Visa

Please check for current information on line or at your nearest embassy, too, as it can change and depends on which country you come from.

Money

You can exchange most currencies at Lilongwe Airport as soon as you arrive in Malawi. There are many banks in Lilongwe to withdraw money if needed. There is also a Standard Bank in Salima where you can withdraw cash using your VISA, Master card or Plus credit card. This bank and other banks in Salima also change euro, dollars, sterling etc. You cannot pay for goods with your credit card unless it is a top class hotel or restaurant. Kwacha is the local currency in Malawi, even though we supply basic food and transport at base camp it is also useful to have some kwacha. This will be needed for food in town and transport if you would like to explore different places or any home comforts you would like to buy to make your stay more comfortable.

Cell phones

It is advisable to bring your cell phone to Malawi (unlocked) and buy a local sim card (which is very cheap). Or you can buy a local phone and sim pretty cheaply. Micro Sim cards for Iphones and other android phones are available but charging is limited on camp. When you thinking of bringing phone ensure it has a good battery life or a solar charger if you thinking of using it regularly. But it is advisable to have a cell phone to contact family and friends and in the case of an emergency.

Post office

There is a post office in Salima where you can post mail home.

Shopping Opportunities

We normally go to town once a week where we buy enough provisions to last at least one week. Salima has a good market where we buy all our fresh vegetables and a few bigger shops where we can get all other items required such as bread, pasta, toilet paper, soap, shampoo etc.

Food

Volunteer Kitchen

The 'dining room' where you always have to keep an eye
on your food since otherwise one of the Vervet Monkeys
will enjoy your meal!

The types of food available are bread, vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots and whatever seasonal vegetables is available), seasonal fruits, rice, beans, butter, peanut butter, jam, pasta, eggs, tuna, milk, toast, cornflakes. Food such as meat does not keep very long and can be quite expense so is an treat. To keep the protein in our diet we replace this with Soya (a bit like Quorn) but tastes surprisingly yummy!

We have a bread oven that we can bake our own bread plus pizza for the more adventurous.

Internet

The internet is available in base camp, however you will have to purchase credit to use it. The connection is not always great. To purchase credit you can do this by using your local sim card. You buy your credit on your sim card and then you can put your sim into the router and use the internet in this way, this is mainly used for work purposes and you must keep it to a limit as it is currently used for business.

You will largely be limited to internet on your phone (when the signal is strong enough), this varies on a daily basis but if you have an internet capable phone you should find you are able to send and receive emails most days.

There is also a very good internet café in Salima where you can visit while in town.

Weather

Malawi has two seasons - rainy and dry. Rainy season starts in November to April when the days are warm and humid. It may rain several times a day but there are also some days without any rain. The dry season lasts from May to October. It is very hot with strong sun. You will need to bring appropriate clothing depending on the time of year you visit.

Medical Matters

It is very important to plan well in advance before you travel to any foreign country. We advise you to check up with your dentist and your doctor. It is advisable to organize spare contact lenses, glasses (bring a spare pair or bring your prescription with you), get a first aid and medical kit together and arrange all vaccinations.

It is recommended to bring basic items such as plasters, bandages, pain killers etc. Plus malaria tablets MUST be taken while here. If you need any other personal medicine bring enough supplies along. Thuma is approx 1 hour from the nearest hospital. Medical insurance is required (proof to be shown before bookings can be taken).

Ensure your insurance plan covers you for your trip and the plan will make payments directly to providers or will reimburse you later for overseas expenditure. Also make sure you are covered for emergency medical transport if required by air and with medical attendance.

Vaccinations recommended: (this is standard recommendations for Africa)

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Measles, Mumps, Polio, Hepatitis A-B, Yellow fever, Rabies, Typhoid (Check this with your local Travel Medical Centre.)

Medical Check List:

  • Antibiotics - ie ciprofloxacin
  • Antidiarrhoeal drugs
  • Acetaminophen (paracetamol)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs - ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines tablets and cream
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Anti malarial pills
  • Bandages, gauze
  • Stomach upset tablets
  • Scissors, safety pins, tweezers, pocket knife
  • DEET - Insect repellent
  • Permethrin
  • Sun block
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Iodine tablets for water purification
  • Sterile needles, syringes

Clothing

A trip to Malawi is different than a trip to, for example, the South of Europe.

Due to living in the bush it is best to bring clothes with natural colours such as green, brown, grey (any camouflage clothing also works well). Remember that everything you will wear out in the bush on the patrols such as a backpack and the raincoat should possibly also be in the same colours as mentioned above.

Even if the temperature during daytime can be very high, it is recommended to bring long-sleeved shirts and long loose fitting trousers to protect you from mosquito and tsetse fly bites in the evening.

Depending on how long you stay we suggest you bring:

  • 2 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 3 short sleeve t-shirts
  • 2 long trousers
  • 1 shorts
  • Socks
  • Swimming suit
  • Towel
  • Sleeping bag or silk sleeping bag
  • Good strong hiking boots
  • Water proof jacket (in rainy season)
  • Fleece
  • Hat

Other things to bring: head torch, batteries, books to read, board games, flip flops.

Donations always gratefully received:

Information books about animals, trees, insects, flowers in Malawi or southern Africa, tracking techniques, bush craft, conservation (we are always looking for new books to help us with education here with photos in them not drawings), torches, rechargeable batteries, old t-shirts, old mobile phones, tents, sleeping bags, socks, laces, trousers clothes and hats for as donations for staff.

We play an important role in the local school who are always looking for different coloured large marker pens, colouring pencils, crayons, paint, copy books, paper, rubbers, rulers, net ball, footballs, pencils, any educational material, but this is not mandatory, it is only if you want to.

Specific Tasks And Work

Specific tasks and work may depend on seasonal or other circumstances, but include:

  • Construction of accommodation
  • General camp maintenance
  • Car maintenance
  • Shopping
  • Surveys - animals - trees - birds - reptiles - insects
  • Inventory of crop damage caused by elephants in the communities
  • Road construction and maintenance
  • Daily Patrols - anti poaching - removal of snares - deforestation - charcoal burning
  • Assisting the field manager with some administration work
  • Community interaction - Human-elephant conflict etc.
  • Household work such as preparing the meals or baking bread
  • Training scouts - educational activities - entertainment
  • Teaching some lessons in the local school

For people with specific skills and/or knowledge (i.e. (conservation) education, botany, reptiles, amphibians, insects etc.), we can put together a special assignment

Note: we hardly do any hands-on work with animals (i.e.: animal health care, catch, release etc). However we do have a number of wild animals around camp such as baboons, hyrax, porcupine, and vervet monkeys

The Wildlife Action Group will try to meet the interest of the volunteer as much as possible and suggestions from your side are most welcome.

And, of course, there is plenty of time available to do relaxing daytrip to Lake Malawi and/or into Lilongwe town (transport is provided for free; any additional costs (i.e. food and/or accommodation) are not included in the volunteer fee).

Your stay

The preferred minimum duration of your stay in Thuma should be 3 weeks; the maximum duration we can offer is 2 months.

The reservation for your stay as a volunteer is confirmed when you e-mail the Wildlife Action Group a scan of your flight ticket/documents and medical insurance.

The volunteers are welcomed in Lilongwe (International Airport) and transferred to Thuma F.R. Piick up in Salima is also possible.

You will stay in the base camp (grass-huts, bush-toilet, bush-shower, fire place for cooking, solar power, water from a natural spring) in the Thuma Forest Reserve so at night you will enjoy the call of the bush baby, the hyena and the night birds and hear the breaking of trees when the elephants are passing the camp..., in other words: the real bush experience!

Life in camp starts pretty early approx 7am in the morning. There are a lot of activities that you can involve yourself in and around the camp, but you will also have some spare time to relax and learn the Malawi traditional board games and enjoy the fantastic views from the top rock. There is a natural rock pool that we use as our swimming pool within 7 minutes walking from camp and is a welcome cooling down place to visit especially in the dry season. Visitors and volunteers are not permitted to wander outside of the camp area alone at any time due to the chance of encounters with our larger animals.

Volunteer contribution

The daily volunteer contribution is Euro 35.-- per night. Note: the Euro can be exchanged in Malawi Kwachas (the local currency) throughout Malawi so there is no particular need to bring US$.

This is to cover all costs during the volunteer's stay in the project, including transfers from/to Lilongwe Airport, accommodation, meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and tea, coffee, except alcoholic and soft drinks.

Food and drink while in town is not covered.

Click here for the conditions of payment

If you wish to speak to an ex volunteer please contact Iris.

Travelling to Malawi

The Wildlife Action Group advises to get informed on the latest health requirements (vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis) for Malawi at your local health care centre or physician. The Wildlife Action Group recommends a comprehensive travel insurance to cover medical and any other unforeseen costs or expenses.

The Wildlife Action Group will not be liable for any costs of any nature.

The journey to and from Malawi has to be paid by the volunteer.

There are several airlines flying from Europe to Malawi.

Those include:

  • Ethiopian Airways (note: EA has a luggage allowance of 45kg)
  • KLM/Kenya Airways
  • South African Airways

Ticket prices vary significantly between airlines and the time of the year: ask your travel agency for the best option for you.

When entering Malawi, you get a stamp into your passport which allows you to stay in the country for 30 days. It can be extended twice (with effect of June 2008 an extension for another 30 days costs 5000.-- Malawi Kwacha which is currently (November 2008) about 28.-- Euro).

Note: Please check visa regulations before departure: check with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How to Apply

Please send an e-mail to W.A.G. Malawi Group with the following information:

  • Name, address, nationality
  • Age
  • Education background
  • Interests
  • When you would like to come and for how long
  • Skills
  • Details of other travel or volunteer work you may have done
  • Expectations of your stay

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