You probably know that I have visited Africa on three occasions, each time as part of an educational field trip (Academic Travel) organized by my university. I traveled with groups of students and professors through Morocco, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia. These travels were academically oriented, studying everything from economics to environmental issues.
initially wanted to return to Africa, because the natural environment had captured
a part of my heart, and I longed to recover it. I looked for possible environmental
volunteer positions, but I quickly discovered there was a greater need for teachers
in this part of the world. I sent my
resume to hundreds of organizations hoping that the right opportunity would come to me. After months of hard work and little response, I was close to giving up. But, then the new year surprised me with an amazing offer from the Manda Wilderness Project in Mozambique.
This project is located in the northern Mozambique region of Niassa alongside Lake Malawi. Mozambique has had a very turbulent history. The Civil War littered the land with mines. These mines have been responsible for countless deaths of humans as well as animals. The Manda reserve has cleaned up the mines and stopped all hunting and fishing in the region. As a result much of the wildlife has returned, including some elephants. I fully support the environmental aims of this project, however I am not going there as an environmentalist. I am going as a teacher.
The Manda Project sustains their conservation work through eco-tourism. They have over 70 staff members from the local community. I will be in charge of improving their English skills, including teaching a few how to write. Very few of my students will have had any kind of formal education before. Since reading and writing are not an option, I am planning to teach a lot through games and role playing. I organized a donation drive at my sister’s high school to collect school supplies. The drive has gone extremely well, with three large boxes already collected! I will use a few of these supplies in my classroom, but most of it will go to the local school.
This is a volunteer position and I will not be paid. For my work I will only get room and board. Unfortunately, they could not afford my airfare, so I will be paying for that myself. I will fly to Nairobi, Kenya on the 21st of February. I will stay with the project manager's brother for one night before flying to Lilongwe, Malawi. There I will be picked up at the airport by the project manager, Patrick, who will drive me to a ferry where we will cross massive Lake Malawi into Mozambique. It should be quite an exhausting trip!
The months of March and April are the rainy session in Mozambique, but not rain like in Seattle. We are talking torrential rains, where it rains over 13 cm in an hour, and then suddenly stops, the skies clear and the sun comes out. I am loaded with rain gear, but mostly I will need shorts and T-shirts. The temperature will usually stay above 80F. It will be very humid, and I am excepting to be pretty miserable for the first few weeks as I adjust to the climate.
I will be deep in the bush for over six months and many people think this sounds scary, however, for me it sounds peaceful. Away from the cities I can enjoy the safety of the wild and the quiet nights under African skies. I can't think of another place I would like to be!