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Volunteer distributes sexual health advice to improve life for young Malawians

In September 2016, Anna Carter boarded a plane to Malawi and began her twelve-week volunteer experience with Progressio. She was supported in her volunteer work by an Individual Grant for Volunteering of £300 from the Jack Petchey Foundation, to help cover the costs of her volunteer trip.

Anna worked alongside twelve other UK volunteers and eight Malawian volunteers with a local, non-governmental organisation called (Youth Net and Counselling) YONECO. YONECO are committed to empowering young people, women and children, as well as reducing the spread of HIV, mitigating the effects of AIDS, and promoting human rights.

Anna and her team facilitated sessions in the local community on topics which aimed to advance YONECO’s objectives. This included informative sessions about sexual health, violence and abuse, drug and substance abuse, HIV and AIDS, stress and wellbeing, sex and sexuality, teenage pregnancy and human rights. Over the twelve weeks Anna worked on the project, her team reached out to over 3,100 people, including young people in and out of school and parents in the community. Anna remembers: “Many people thanked us for visiting their schools and communities and for the new knowledge we were able to share.” One man in particular said that he “would take this knowledge… to help him lead a better life”.

The volunteers noticed that in every school and community they visited, one of the major problems facing young people was teenage pregnancy. They therefore decided to design and organise a project which would improve young people’s knowledge and understanding of different contraceptive methods. To achieve this, they worked with health practitioners from the district hospital to offer free STI/HIV testing, condom distribution and long term contraception in rural communities. The project helped to dispel some of the myths surrounding contraception and many people got tested and received condoms.

Another part of the project was to promote the Tithandazine 116 helpline. This is a toll-free helpline for reporting cases of violence or abuse and for accessing relevant counselling services. They promoted the helpline by alerting the locals of the service through their sessions and by painting murals in 12 different communities which advertised the helpline.

When reflecting on her volunteer experience in Malawi, Anna said, “Aside from the excellent work we have carried out, a highlight of the trip for me was the people that I met. I became very close friends with my Malawian counterparts and learnt a lot from them. Many of their views and attitudes were brilliant.”

“I was also fortunate enough to spend the majority of my time in Malawi living with a Malawian family- the Mahwayhos. I was fully embraced into the family. I learnt to eat, cook and wash as a Malawian and quickly became integrated into the family. This experience meant that I was fully immersed into the Malawian culture- an experience that I don’t believe I would have otherwise been privileged enough to have.” 

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