Volunteer Blog Post

Written by: Rohan

We’ve spent 2 wonderful weeks so far at the ‘Butterly Space Community Based Lodge’ and it certainly is a space that has an impact on you quite quickly. The journey to get here from Arusha, Tanzania took us over 4 days and close to 50 stifling hours on buses, boda bodas (motorcycle taxis), tuk tuks and mini buses and we were mighty pleased to finally arrive into the paradise like settings of the Butterfly Space lodge at Nkhata Bay.

Deepa had come across Butterfly on the internet when we were on the lookout for organisations we could volunteer at in Africa, and we chose to volunteer here as they didn’t charge the ridiculous fee that most NGO’s charge their volunteers. The irony! In addition, the structure of how Buttefly sustained itself appealed to us as a share of the money from the lodging going towards the community based projects that are run on a daily basis. I am a huge believer in social entrepreneurship as I see it as the optimal way for one to make a living and at the same time ensure that the lesser privileged in the community have access to means that can help better their living.

Sunset at Butterfly

Lake Malawi transforms at night into what the locals call “A Lake of Stars”. Fishermen head out about 300 metres into the lake to catch fish that they’ll sell the following day. Quite a surreal sight when each of the fisherman switch on their LED lamps in sequence at nightfall.

The volunteers at morning Yoga

Here’s a superb little self portrait that Lenzo captured as part of a B&W assignment that required the use of natural light from a window. Delighted to see the progress this lad has been progressing and his commitment to learning more.
Hope to see international organisations in the future use more of the local freelance talent here thus providing for their living rather than send foreign hands at a cost that would equal 5 years worth of local wages.

I see this paddle boarder daily at sunrise sitting still waiting for the sun to rise from behind the mountains in Mozambique (yes you can see it from Malawi). He sits still on his board in an almost meditative pose just till the sun peeks out and then paddles away back to his lodge.

Youth Club, Butterfly Space, Nkhata Bay, Volunteering in Malawi

Kids from town

Post a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters of Lake Malawi and meeting a few of the other volunteers here (Malou, Jules and Wouter), we sat down for a sumptuous dinner consisting of tortillas, salsa and a vegetable salad. I have decided to go vegetarian for the duration of my stay here in Africa and am holding up well so far.


The next day, Josie gave us a run down of all the different projects that are run at Butterfly, from permaculture lessons, teaching at the primary school, a media and information centre where the locals can learn basic and computer skills to a full fledged recording studio for the many local artists. Music and food (especially Nsima) are integral to people’s lives here in Nkhata Bay and the town is bustling with many aspiring musicians who flood the recording studio frequently.


I chose to volunteer at the media and information centre to take over from Wouter, a Dutchman, who was finishing up and I look to continue with the work he has done with regards to photography, media and computer courses. I strongly believe that if we are able to discover, harness and advertise the talent that the locals have, we can potentially create opportunities for international and national companies to recruit freelancers such as journalists, photographers and other skilled workers to work for them in areas such as news reporting, health and education services etc. I looked to setup a series of workshops with focus on creating a marketable online presence for the local artisans and skilled talent in Nkhata Bay. The attendance at the first of the workshops exceeded my expectations with 17 eager boys showing keen interest to learn how they could create a WordPress blog for themselves. I noticed that their primary incentive in creating a blog was to see their names show in the domain URL! As always I tried my best to deliver content to them in a slow, easily understandable manner so as to try and ensure that they turned up for a 2nd workshop. There were at least 5 people in the room without email accounts and a few that were new to exploring the internet so I had to keep the conversation at a grassroots level.


During the week a few boys showed up who were keen to learn the basics of photography and Lenzo was an especially keen boy who was interested knowing more about composition and monochrome photos. He’s shown up 5 out of 7 days and I hope to work with him over the next few weeks with an eager eye to see what his eye produces!