The Book Bus Malawi
It’s an amazing feeling: being read to and then being able to read the words for yourself. Every book becomes an adventure that gives you the power of understanding and opens the doors of perception. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter or Hello Magazine to Homer’s Odyssey, all that we read shapes the person we become. Knowledge and education can keep us from harm and boost our chances of a healthy future. Or as Nelson Mandela put it:
"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”
The Book Bus - Improving children’s lives one Book at a time
The Book Bus aims to improve literacy in Malawi by engaging with children and their teachers to promote reading in a way that is creative, safe and above all, fun. Our “Book Bus” is a rugged go anywhere mobile library stocked with storybooks and materials and manned by a volunteer crew of story tellers. The legacy of each of our school visits is a reading corner and bookshelves stocked with children’s books.
Malawi is the 13th poorest country in the world with an average literacy rate of just 63%. Despite free primary schooling for all children, teachers struggle to improve the country’s education standards. Huge class sizes and lack of resources hinder teacher and pupil alike. When the Book Bus outreach team visited the country’s schools in 2010 the requests for books were overwhelming. Currently available resources in Malawian schools average less than 1 textbook per student.
The Book Bus Voluteers Crew
We are seeking volunteers who want to put on the yellow shirt and join the Book Bus on its voyage around Malawi. If you enjoy reading and have a knack for storytelling then maybe the Book Bus is for you. With creativity and imagination you can inspire a child to take up a life long interest in books.
So how does the Book Bus work?
Our base in Malawi is the Fisherman’s Rest, a set of bungalows situated within its very own mini game reserve. (No dangerous wildlife here, only antelopes!) From the gardens there is a splendid view over the Shire Valley and in the other direction, we are only 20 minutes drive from the commercial town of Blantyre. The Book Bus will work with schools in the Shire Valley and Blantyre area between October 2010 and May 2011. Each school will have its designated “Book Bus Day” when we spend the day at the school to provide resources, energy and inspiration to encourage the children to read.
The Book Bus visits a different school everyday with a crew of volunteers ready to give reading, story telling and creative arts sessions. For most of the children the Book Bus is a whole new classroom experience: instead of 100 pupils per teacher they are in groups of 5 or 6 per volunteer, everyone has a book to read and they can interpret the stories using paper, pencils and paints. Some of our volunteers have encouraged the children to enact dramas and musical events and even to write their own books! Another important Book Bus benefit is that because English is the language of secondary school education in Malawi, the primary school children can practice speaking English so that they can progress to secondary level education.
The Book Bus in Malawi is a specially adapted overland truck built to survive the African roads. It is tried and tested having already served as a Book Bus in the UNHCR refugee settlement in Zambia. The truck is fully equipped to serve as a mobile resource centre with lots of books and arts and crafts materials. There is comfortable seating for our volunteer crew and its open sides make it a great viewing platform when travelling through the country.
The Book Bus partners in Malawi
The Book Bus works closely with local teachers to share ideas and skills that will help them develop after school book clubs using the books we loan. To ensure that the service delivered is as good as it can be, The Book Bus has a committed team of Trustees in the UK as well as support from the Ministry of Education in Malawi, Local Primary Education Advisors and Blantyre Teacher Training College.
The Book Bus Crew
The Book Bus can't operate without a crew – it's their support that keeps the wheels turning! The crew travelling with the Book Bus includes the Book Bus Leader, a driver and up to twelve Volunteer Crew members. Occasionally we'll be joined by special guests, who might include local storytellers and artists, well known UK children's authors, or even a film crew! You can sign up as a Volunteer Book Bus Crew member for anything from two weeks to two months. Many of our volunteers go on to combine their Book Bus experience with an African adventure holiday or a relaxing break on the beach.
What to expect - a week in the life of the Book Bus
We spend each weekday at a different community school. Our programme of activities is led by the Volunteer Crew members and might include story-telling, one-to-one help with reading, music, arts and crafts, structured play, drama, puppet shows and sports. We also donate books and show the teachers how to set up and run a Reading Club. We revisit each school several times over the month to provide support and monitor their progress. The crew generally relaxes in the evenings. Sometimes we might host an open evening for the adults in the community to learn more about the Book Bus. Occasionally our hosts invite us to a local event. The weekends are your own - get away from it all, relax, or see something of Malawi’s beautiful countryside. Activities are often organized as a group.
What makes a good crew member?
First and foremost you should have experience or an aspiration to engage with children in a way that will improve their reading and language skills. Some measure of artistic and/or musical talent (or at least a willingness to have a go!) will stand you in good stead, and if you are shy in company, be prepared to shed at least some of your inhibitions! Our crew members all share a positive outlook, the enjoyment of being part of a team and a real desire to make a difference. We don’t promise a life of luxury to our Volunteer Crew, conditions in Africa although comfortable can be pretty basic but what we can promise is a hugely rewarding experience packed with great fun and adventure. If you're interested in a Book Bus adventure (and helping to raise funds), contact us now.
How to join the Book Bus Crew
Book Bus Volunteer placements in Malawi are available from October 2010 to late April 2011. You can volunteer for as little as 2 weeks up to the complete duration of the Book Bus season. Placements begin on any Saturday during the season, there is a project briefing every Sunday and your first school visit will be on Monday.
Flights to Malawi arrive in Blantyre or Lilongwe. Blantyre is very close to the Book Bus base at the Fisherman’s Rest, flights are via Johannesburg and range from € 800 to € 1.100. Flying to Lilongwe is slightly cheaper at about € 700 to € 900 and you can connect to Blantyre by road on a 4 hour comfortable coach journey. We have a lot of experience of travel to Malawi so please contact us for advice.
Our base at the Fisherman’s Rest is in comfortable bungalows with shared rooms. Each bungalow has a bathroom and there is an open air swimming pool overlooking the Shire Valley.
We self cater at the Fisherman’s Rest and all help out in the kitchen on a rota system. Here’s your opportunity to show off your culinary skills or to pick up some new cooking skills. The crew tend to dine together although you can always dine out in Blantyre for a change of scene.
On offer include a trip to Lake Malawi and Cape Maclear. Cape Maclear is a popular place for travellers and a great place for rest and recreation. Activities on offer include diving and snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, swimming and fishing. There is also the option of visiting Majete Wildlife reserve. Situated in the lower Shire Valley, a section of Africa’s Great Rift Valley Majete is one of the most attractive parks in Malawi. On a game drive or bushwalk you are likely to see rhino, zebra, elephant, buffalo and hippo. Lions and leopards are soon to be re-introduced to the area.
The contribution is £685 (€ 780)* for the initial 2 weeks with a local payment of $500 (€ 350)*. Each additional week is £195.00 (€ 225)* plus a $250 (€ 175)* local payment. Join for as long as you wish.
* Exchange rates of April 12, 2011
- Return airport transfers (If arriving and departing on Saturday)
- 7 nights accommodation per week
- 3 meals a day
- An experienced leader with back-up communications
- 24 hour support
- Full pre-departure support and advice including the Book Bus Field Manual
- International flights
- Optional activities
- Vaccinations and immunisations
- Personal expenditure
VentureCo Worldwide, in close cooperation with Mambulu!, manage the Book Bus Volunteer Crew recruitment process. They are hugely experienced in gap year travel, mounting expeditions and placing people into overseas charity projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of a great adventure and to help inspire in children a love of books that will serve them and their communities well. We look forward to welcoming you on board the Book Bus. Visit VentureCo Wordlwide>>
About the Founder of the Book Bus
Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran Jonathan Cape, where he published no fewer than thirteen Nobel Prize winners. He nurtured the careers of many of the Twentieth Century's most esteemed authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl and Bruce Chatwin. He also came up with the idea for the Booker Prize, now acknowledged as the most significant fiction prize in the world.