Thursday, 23 October 2014


Maureen of Josephina Ballerina recently asked me to blog about what I was doing in Malawi all those years ago!

After I graduated from University, I decided I wanted to volunteer abroad for a couple of years with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). After a long application process and a period of time spent doing voluntary work in the UK, I was sent to teach Biology, Chemistry and Physics at St Michaels Girls Secondary School in Malawi.

I taught in the school for two years, also leading the school Wildlife Club, which went on walks round the local area, to see the weaver bird colony and the pied kingfishers on Lake Malawi.

I really enjoyed my two years, the students were polite, friendly and eager to learn and Malawi is a beautiful country, though very poor. I travelled throughout Malawi and in nearby Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, met a lot of interesting people, made many friends and had a great time. Although as an environmentalist I think it's important to cut down on one's carbon footprint by reducing the amount we travel, and also that there's a great importance in knowing your local area and not rushing off all the time, I also think there is a huge amount to be gained in spending a good long time living in a totally different culture. It gives you insights into how other people live and let's you see things in a different perspective. It's also fascinating as a naturalist to see a totally different range of wildlife!

I wrote a fair amount of poetry when I was in Malawi and published a book Bougainvillea Dancing a couple of years after returning to the UK. This book raised money for charities working in Malawi. I recently updated it, to include new poems and some illustrations and re-published it to mark the 50th Anniversary of Malawi's independence. The updated version of Bougainvillea Dancing is available to purchase in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop or on Lulu. At least 10% of profits from the sale of this ebook will go to VSO's work in Malawi.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


A Cuban In London said...

This is such a nice post to read amidst the ebola hysteria. It's good to see that someone is willing to give up her free time to go and support otehrs. Well done. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

eileeninmd said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Malawi.. It was great to volunteer and teach at the school. Thanks for sharing, have a happy weekend!

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hi Juliet!
Thanks for writing this post!
Your words, "there is a huge amount to be gained in spending a good long time living in a totally different culture," remind me of the late, great Pete Seeger's song, Maple Syrup Time.

First you get the buckets ready, clean the pans and gather firewood,
Late in the winter, it's maple syrup time.
You need warm and sunny days but still a cold and freezing nighttime
For just a few weeks, maple syrup time.
We boil and boil and boil and boil it all day long,
Till ninety sev'n percent of water evaporates just like this song
And when what is left is syrupy don't leave it too long -
Watch out for burning! Maple syrup time.

I know it's not the quickest system but each year I can't resist it.
Get out the buckets, and tap the trees in time -
Making it is half the fun, and satisfaction when it's done.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time.
My grandpa says perhaps it's just a waste of time.
Ah! but no more than this attempt to make a happy little rhyme,
So pat your feet or swing your tail, but keep in good time.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time.

I'll send this song around the world with love to ev'ry boy and girl,
Hoping they don't mind a little advice in rhyme.
As in life or revolution, rarely is there a quick solution,
Anything worthwhile takes a little time.
We boil and boil and boil and boil it all life long.
When what is left is syrupy, don't leave it on the flame too long.
But seize the minute, build a new world, sing an old song.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time!

There's a Youtube video of him singing it.

And, of course, now I want some pancakes for dinner! :) m & jb (who doesn't like pancakes)

sage said...

Sounds like this was a nice experience--one day I will get to Africa.