In June 2017, Kathryn travelled to Malawi to support Habitat NI's work with orphaned and vulnerable groups in Mulanje. We asked her some questions about her experience.
For as long as I can remember really, I have wanted to take part in a voluntary programme. One that would test me and would push me out of my comfort zone. I first heard of Habitat for Humanity last year and this summer I had no plans when I got an email about volunteering opportunities, so I felt it was perfect timing!
The local people in our village were so helpful making every job that bit easier. I enjoyed when we were up on the scaffolding as it was something I have never done before, also it meant that the house was near completion. Seeing the difference a day makes was amazing, I never thought I would enjoy brick laying so much!
I think the thing that surprised me most was the reality of it all, this was real life and it's so different to what the media portrays. Having never been to any African country before I did not know what to expect. One of my favourite surprises was how extremely friendly and happy the locals were and that despite the communication barriers we could still work and have fun with them on and off site.
There are so many things I learned from this experience that I hope to take with me for the rest of my life. One would be how life-changing a home can be, something as simple as 4 walls and a roof. Although it is often said, it really is true, that we take a lot for granted and for our families, they will live a happier life because they have a secure place to call home. They can save money instead of putting it into home repairs, and can buy food, uniforms, clothes and send their children to school. Overall, I have learned the huge knock on effect having a safe home can have.
There are too many to count but one that stands out would be what the builders we were working with said. Towards the end of the week I could see how they warmed to us more and we could joke with each other, they also trusted us to lay the bricks without as much help showing our improvement. On our last day one if the builders 'Innocent' said to me, 'I admire you, you are fast workers but good workers. I can see the way of Malawian people in you. You share everything with us and you do not complain'. I don't think I'll ever forget those words.