volunteering-in-malawi

What It Was Like Volunteering In Malawi At Butterfly Space In Nkhata Bay

If you’re thinking of volunteering in Africa, find out what it was like when we spent two months volunteering in Malawi, for the beautiful small charity called Butterfly Space based in Nkhata Bay.

Whilst there are so many charities looking for volunteers in Africa, we chose to help a small independent charity whilst we were travelling Africa. Not only did we help them in a small way, they actually helped shape our future in a big way.

In this post you’ll find out why we decided to stay in Malawi for three months during our six months travels around Africa to help a local charity called Butterfly Space in Nkhata Bay.


We Didn’t Plan On Volunteering In Malawi

We hadn’t actually planned on volunteering in Malawi. When we booked our one way ticket to Mombassa in Kenya, we just knew we were going to travel around East & Southern Africa for as long as we could.

We didn’t even know how we were going to travel Africa as we weighed up between local public transport or doing an organised tour. In the end, we decided to travel alone as we braved many small local mini buses around eight countries.

There’s nothing wrong with doing an organised tour around Africa at all and I know you probably have to in some countries, especially around West Africa. Organised tours in Africa can be brilliant if you’re travelling alone, as you’ll meet like minded travellers and you don’t need to worry about dealing with the stresses of getting to places.

We decided to travel independently because we wanted the freedom to be able to stay in places longer if we wanted to. I’m not going to lie, we were worried about our safety but once we landed in the continent and we spoke to some other travellers, we thought we would be ok. And we were.

Going clothes shopping in Malawi

It was fun travelling around Africa by ourselves and it wasn’t as dangerous as people make it out to be. But you do have to be much more street smart. For example, we would’t go out after dark during our travels but it was completely fine during the daytime.

It was a good job that we decided to travel independently because after a month of travelling around the beautiful country of Malawi, we ended up staying there for an extra two months to help out the small charity called Butterfly Space.


What’s Malawi Like To Visit?

volunteering-malawi

Known as the warm heart of Africa, we realised as soon as we crossed the boarder from Tanzania how friendly people really are in Malawi. We remembered a local guy at the Malawian border telling us not to worry because we’re in Malawi now. He was right! We didn’t have the best experience getting over the boarder from Tanzania so we were shocked to be greeted by really friendly Malawians.

We fell in love with Malawi straight away. Whilst a fifth of the country is covered by Lake Malawi, you’d be forgiven to think the lake is the ocean because it’s so big. To give you perspective, we travelled to some of the Malawi Islands during our trip which took an overnight ferry to get to.

Getting the Illala ferry to the Malawian Islands

We didn’t experience another country in Africa like Malawi. Not only are the locals super friendly, the landscape is absolutely stunning. Expect paradise looking beaches, turquoise waters, tea plantations, mountains and wild life parks. It has it all! If you’re looking for Malawi attractions, checkout our 10 best places to visit in Malawi post.

View from Butterfly Space in Malawi

When we arrived at Nkhata Bay, we felt like we had reached paradise. With a crystal clear lake and stunning beaches to sit on, we settled into life very quickly.


Why Did We Volunteer At Butterfly Space In Malawi?

To be honest with you, we had heard a lot of sketchy stories about other people’s volunteering experiences around Africa. Some people had paid a lot money to volunteer but their volunteering efforts didn’t go very far. We felt that if we came across a charity we wanted to help, then we would.

When we met Alice & Josie, two English ladies who had started Butterfly Space in Malawi after bumping into each other on their own backpacking trips, we knew we wanted to help them. They were looking for volunteer teachers to help teach at their school at Butterfly Space, and although we had no teaching experience, we decided to give it a crack and before we knew it, we were volunteering in Malawi.

We promised we would stay at least a month which then turned into two months not because we loved the kids so much, but because we also wanted to help in a more sustainable way. We decided to build Butterfly Space a brand new website to help raise awareness of the amazing projects they had going.


What’s Nkhata Bay In Malwai Like?

Butterfly Space is based right on Lake Malawi in the small fishing town of Nkhata Bay. It’s a popular place for backpackers with a scuba diving centre and even a Westernised Thai restaurant to go to.

It’s also the gateway to visit some of the most beautiful islands in the world, being Likoma Island, a popular honeymoon destination in Malwai as well as the remote Chizumulu Island. We managed to go to both before we started volunteering and they were absolutely beautiful!

Although we loved Nkhata Bay when we first visited, we knew we had to go back to help out Butterfly Space.


What Is Butterfly Space In Malawi?

When Alice & Josie met in Nkhata Bay whilst they were backpacking around Africa, they were given an opportunity to take over Butterfly Space on the cliff’s edge over looking Lake Malawi. Although it was a backpacker hostel at the time, they’ve progressed their sanctuary into a charity.

You can stay at Butterfly Space as a guest but you can also volunteer if you like. Whilst they run packages to include your meals and accommodation, you’ll spend a proportion of they day helping them run their many projects.

They run 15 projects at Butterfly Space to help the local community so there’s plenty of ways you can help volunteer. From helping the disability groups, working on their own local radio station or in their media room, running their own primary schools and permaculture club, supporting local women with HIV & AIDS, and even providing Bible studies to the local prison inmates, it’s just mind blowing to think of how much they are contributing to help the local community.

volunteering in malawi

Whilst they are always looking for volunteers, you could diversify your skills and get so much out out of the experience like we did.


What It Was Like Teaching Children in Malawi

volunteering in malawi

We actually thought it would be a good idea to teach children at Butterfly Space because we had planned to move to Vietnam to teach after our trip to Africa. We thought it would be a good experience to try it out and see if that was the path we wanted to go down. Interestingly Vietnam just wasn’t for us in the end, but that’s another story.

Back to this story.

volunteering in malawi

As noted, we didn’t have any direct teaching experience. Steve had done a CELTA teaching course a few years back but it wasn’t until we started teaching at the school for Butterfly Space that he got to use those skills. Alice gave us all the instructions we needed on how to teach the kids and we just went with it.

volunteering in malawi

We spent a few hours each morning teaching 10 beautiful local kids reading, writing and maths. They were aged between 4-7 year olds who we just adored. We put on a circus during our final week teaching in front of their families which was so much fun, it’s a memory which will stay with us for a long time.


Building Butterfly Space A New Website

volunteering in malawi

But we knew we needed to help Alice & Josie in a more sustainable way. We noticed that many tourism or volunteer led businesses in Africa didn’t have the best websites at the time of visiting and so we decided to build Butterfly Space a new website.

Whilst I had a background in marketing in England, Steve had built his blogs he made when he travelled before we met. We then spent the next couple of months building them a new website which was a brilliant experience.

volunteering in malawi
One of the many pub quiz nights at Butterfly Space.

During the week we would teach the kids and build the site, as well as put on a fun pub quiz once a week. Steve was the compare whilst I wrote the questions which brought in a big crowd of backpackers. On the weekends we would pop by the backpackers next door and catch up with our friends. We had the best time.


How Volunteering In Malawi At Butterfly Space Actually Helped Us

volunteering in malawi
Celebrating my birthday at Butterfly Space in Malawi.

The funny thing is that Butterfly Space actually helped us much more than we helped them. If we hadn’t built them that website, we probably wouldn’t have started Londoner In Sydney. It was months later that when we returned to Sydney, Londoner In Sydney was born because we knew we could build another website. And if we hadn’t built Londoner In Sydney, we wouldn’t be living the dream life we always wanted.

Even though time has passed since we were fortunate to help Butterfly Space, Steve still helps them with their website maintenance and fixes any problems they might come across. I think we’ll always have a connection with Butterfly Space as it’s one of the most amazing places we’ve ever visited.

If you’re thinking about volunteering in Malawi, please check out Butterfly Space here. It will be an experience which will last you a life time of memories.


Volunteering In Malawi At Butterfly Space

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