The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Malawi just before its independence in 1963. Since then, nearly 2000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served here, with the majority working in the education and health sectors.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Malawi
The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Malawi just prior to independence in 1963. Most Volunteers worked on education and health projects, and numbers quickly grew to more than 350 Volunteers. In total, more than 2,300 Americans have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Malawi. Under the very conservative Banda regime, the program was suspended for several years due to the “non-conformist” role of some Volunteers, but the program was restored in 1978. Since that time, the program has developed a close working relationship with the government of Malawi.
The change of government in 1994 opened up the possibility of re-placing Volunteers in rural villages (under the prior regime, foreigners had been suspended from living at the village level). With the increased flexibility in programming, the Peace Corps began working with counterpart ministries to focus programming efforts and identify more appropriate areas for collaboration at the community level. Currently, there are approximately 150 Volunteers working in the health, education, and environment sectors.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Malawi
Volunteers in Malawi are posted from the far north in Chitipa to the far south in Nsanje. Volunteers are almost exclusively posted to rural areas—at health centers, community secondary schools, or in communities surrounding forest or game reserves. Site placement is made during the training period after the staff has had an opportunity to evaluate individual capabilities and strengths. Site placements are determined primarily by work-related needs.
Housing can vary from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to fired-brick houses with tin roofs. Most likely, a Volunteer’s house will be comparable to their co-worker’s dwelling. Housing will include basics such as a bed, table, and chairs, but possibly not much more. Each Volunteer will receive an allowance to purchase needed settling-in items. Housing is organized and provided by the hosting site, either by the school, health center, or community. Volunteers do not generally live with families during their two years of service following training, though this is a possibility.
Volunteers might be located anywhere from a half hour to three days from the capital city. Closeness to another Volunteer varies from site to site. Your nearest Volunteer neighbor may be a VSO (British) or JICA (Japanese) Volunteer.
Most Volunteers do not have electricity or running water. Water will likely come from a well, and your evenings will be spent reading by lantern and candlelight. Your flexibility and adaptability will be important as you adjust to these new conditions.
During the training period, trainees stay with a host family and share most meals with their host family. Homestay is considered one of the most important aspects of the training program and is required for this period. Generally, trainees will be placed in a village with three to four other trainees and one to two staff members.
Main article: Training in Malawi
Pre-service training will provide you with the essential skills needed to successfully carry out your service in Malawi. The skills focus on integrating into your community and developing and implementing an appropriate work plan with your community and counterparts. Training includes five major components: technical training, cross-cultural training, language instruction, personal health and safety training, and the role of the Volunteer in development.
Pre-service training in Malawi is conducted as a community-based training, meaning that the bulk of the training takes place in the community as opposed to in a training center. Community-based training is a more difficult training model in some respects, as the learning environment is real, not artificial. During community-based training, most of your time will be spent in villages and communities similar to where you will be placed as a Volunteer. Your instructors create a learning environment with experiences and meetings designed to allow you to develop the knowledge and skills needed for your work as a Volunteer. Throughout your training, you will live with a Malawian family and work in villages and schools.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Malawi
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Malawi maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Malawi at local, U.S.-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported to either a facility in the region that meets U.S. standards or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Malawi
In Malawi, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Malawi’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Malawi are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Malawi
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi?
- What is the electric current in Malawi?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Malawian friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Malawi?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Malawi
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Malawi and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You can always have things sent to you later. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Malawi.
The three key qualities for clothing in Malawi are dark colors, many pockets, and easy to wash and care for. Overall, dress conservatively. Remember that it does get cold so bring warm clothes. Rainy season means just that—you will get wet and splattered with mud. We recommend quick-drying, breathable clothes.
- General Clothing
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Quality, Large Backpackers' Pack
- Bicycle Saddlebags
- Solar Shower
- International Travel Stove (ie MSR Whisperlite International)
- Notebook External Hard Drive
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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The Country Fund will support many varied Volunteer projects in Malawi. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Apart from poverty, Malawi is also heavily hit by HIV/AIDS. Typical projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, Income Generation Activities, youth and HIV/AIDS related programs. Many such projects fail to materialise or be implemented better due to lack of resources or the time/effort it takes to get them. You can make a big difference for both the work of the volunteers and people of Malawi by contributions to the Malawi Country Fund, which is designed for faster response to the Volunteers and their communities. An example of country fund use was funding a local mini-camp for a Volunteer's community, using resources and people that were trained at one of the national camps, like Camp GLOW or Camp Sky. These can happen frequently as $300 - $800 is above easy Volunteer fund raising, but it goes a long way in developing motivation/skills of a local group of 30 young women or youth.
- Volunteers who served in Malawi
- Friends of Malawi
- List of resources for Malawi
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports