Lattitude Blog

Bho Bho,


It’s week three in Mzuzu, and we’re all finally beginning to adjust to life here in Malawi. The Malawian way of life is in stark contrast to how we do things back home and naturally it’s taken some getting used to for all of us. Foremost of these differences is something called ‘Malawian time’. Whereas in Britain punctuality is a characteristic lauded by one and all, here in Malawi it is a trait treated with less reverence. It is commonplace for meetings to be delayed by anything from 30 minutes to an hour, tardiness, it seems is something we need to embrace if we are to survive our ten weeks here without losing our minds!


That said, we cannot fault the warmth and generosity with which we have been accepted into our new host families and surrounding community. Although things do seem to go slower here, family life seems ever the richer for it. Evenings are spent together with many friends and family milling around- all are welcome.


Following our orientation week getting briefed on Malawian culture and meeting our local counterparts we were all allocated to our new families and also our ICS partner organisations. Throughout our time here Lattitude Global Volunteering is working with three NGOs.


APAUSE, which stands for Added Power and Understanding in Sexual Education is a peer education programme, which aims to deliver lessons on sex education and sexual health in schools. The problem for us at the moment is that the schools are on holiday, so we are desperately trying to find youth groups to deliver the programme to! The organization is a Catholic organization however, so some of us are finding it difficult in terms of what we can and cannot talk about. The workshops follow a strict script and effectively promote abstinence in order to avoid the risks associated with sex. Some of us have raised the issue that this message isn’t the most practical, and that contraception needs to be taught! Aside from this, the workshops undoubtedly deliver some good advice on healthy relationships, peer pressure etc.

Our goal is to create lessons on STIs/HIV and distribute leaflets– as knowledge on these is still seriously lacking. Whilst in the UK you can go to the doctors are pick up a bundle of information leaflets, they just aren’t available in Malawi. Last week we had a really interesting talk from a doctor about HIV in Malawi. There were some surprising facts – such as that male primary school teachers are among one of the most infected groups.

We have also started work planning an event in order to raise awareness of sexual health and hygiene. The event will be a talent show but will also include role plays, workshops etc. Today we have been drafting letters in an attempt to acquire sponsorship.


Saved By the Ball (SBB) is a community-based organisation that uses Tennis as a vehicle for education on a number of issues, providing a platform for youngsters to gain new skills and confidence to pursue their own personal ambitions. As well as providing education and information on HIV and AIDS the current cycle of volunteers are hoping to include English lessons, sport nutrition and also fitness/conditioning sessions in to their ‘curriculum’ in a bid to improve performance at tournaments across Africa and keep with schoolwork in the classroom.


Mzuzu Young Voices are currently changing tact, with schools out for summer their emphasis has shifted from improving literacy in schools to addressing some of the hygiene and sanitation issues which affect Mzuzu’s surrounding hospitals and clinics. The current plan of action is to establish health committees in each hospital.


Certainly, expectations have been adjusted in terms of what we will be able to achieve during our time here. Although arriving here in Malawi whilst schools are on vacation has made progress seem infinitely slow, preventing us from hitting the ground running, it does give us the opportunity to take stock and implement new ideas for the long run. Progress is progress – no matter how slowly it happens.


Much Love,

Team Mzuzu


DSCN0154 DSCN0175SDC15070



Volunteering In India: Emily’s Story

Teacher Support

“Year 12 at college was a stressful time for me; all my friends were starting to apply for university and I felt completely lost; I had no idea what I wanted to study or where I wanted to go. I went to see the college careers officer to enquire about gap years; I’d fallen in love with travelling after volunteering through my school in Africa and my college in India. The careers officer started talking about a charity called Lattitude Global Volunteering, which he had worked for before retiring! I went home and searched online, I saw they offered unique opportunities for young people to fully immerse themselves in a completely different culture for an extended period of time in remote parts of the world. It was perfect!

My previous trip to India was only a short 3 weeks but I was so fascinated by the diversity and culture that India has to offer that I decided it was the right place for me to spend my gap year!
I applied, had my interview and was blown away by the constant support and quick responses to my endless emails filled with questions I sent to Lattitude. I felt completely supported and very well informed of what was expected of me as a Lattitude volunteer leading up to my trip!

I volunteered for 4 months in a remote boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas near to the stunning tea fields of Darjeeling and was placed with a girl from New Zealand who has now become my best friend! We taught English through music, drama, games and arts and crafts to children between the ages of 2 and 17.

A typical day would start at 6am; we would get dressed into our brightly coloured Salwar Kameez and help roll the roti for breakfast in the kitchen. At 9:30am was playgroup; my favourite class which consisted of 45 minutes of constant “incy wincy spider” belting! Then we followed the timetable for the rest of the day. School finished at 3:30pm, and then we would play with the boarders or go on evening walks through the tea fields or head up into town to stock up on resources. The weekends were ours to do with what we wished, most weekends we met with other volunteers in nearby Darjeeling or stayed at school and played with the children.

Another great thing about volunteering in India was that we got to travel a lot whilst we were there! We had 2 weeks off at Easter so we backpacked in Nepal and then, after the placement ended we spent 5 weeks backpacking the northern parts of India; it was amazing!

My whole experience in India was tough yet incredibly rewarding; I really feel that my experience at the school has given me such incredible tolerance, patience, strength and happiness; and of course, amazing memories which I will treasure forever!

In September I’m off to Loughborough University to study International Business, I feel that my experience in India has been excellent preparation to move away and be completely independent and self sufficient. I want to thank Lattitude Global Volunteering for giving me the opportunity to embark on this incredible journey and for all their support 100% of the way!”

In the past week we have had some very exciting events here at the Football for Hope Centre. One of those events put on by our social team was a mixed gender football tournament. It may have took the intensity out of what are usually physical and tough games in the Ghana heat but having girl and boys on one team playing against other mixed gender teams certainly had a high entertainment factor, the Uk females played a much stronger game than the Ghanaian females, Charlotte H put in a particularly strong performance for the British whilst Linda of the same team from Ghana was absolutely embarrassing and belongs nowhere near a football pitch. Ever. The volunteers really had a good day; the football tournament won by ‘Not 4 u 2 NV’ was only the main event, other competitions included a scrabble tournament, a game of cheat, checkers and snakes and ladders, the ICV’s domination the card games and took control of the checkers games. The Uk volunteers really turned up for scrabble in a hotly contested match. The winning word was ‘xeon’ for 38 points. Truly a joyous day for all who took part and not boring at all.
That day was set up as an opportunity for all UK and Ghanaian volunteers to indulge in some friendly competition. The following day there was a more intense football match, as you can see from the picture of me just after scoring. Here the volunteers played against the ‘Football for Hope Centre’ staff. The score was slightly embarrassing for the volunteers, who were well and truly beaten despite a man of the match performance from myself.


It was on Saturday, 26th of July in the morning the volunteers woke up early and arrived at the centre for our core programme; this included variety of lessons for the children, using football as a tool to educate children basic life and social skills. This Saturday we taught children basic football skills including dribbling and passing, we taught classes on nutrition and friendship. Following this, the children had half an hour reading with a volunteer to aid them in their efforts to read a book. By afternoon the group went on their first organised trips to one of the major tourist sites in the central region of Ghana. The name of the sight is Cape Coast Castle. The castle has a tragic history which is very touching. The castle was originally built by the British, who came into Africa to colonise the local people. The castle held slaves which the British had captured from many areas in western Africa. In there are cells we visited where thousands of slaves were held captive; entering these historical cages was a poignant and moving experience. We saw how the cells were split into female and male cells. We also saw a cell which was meant for ladies who refused to have sex with the then slave masters and soldiers. We were told by our guide that, one of the doors was dauntingly named ‘the door of no return’, once a captive had been taken through this door they never returned. They were sold.

Following the trip to the castle, we visited the museum which was about the history of Cape Coast and its close links to slavery; in here we saw some of the terrible tools used on slaves including chains, weapons, cuffs and ATI which was a brand to mark slaves.

We watched an educational video which described to us the culture and the chieftaincy of Cape Coast. We also got to know that the local name for Cape Coast is ‘Oguaaman’.

It was a very positive experience for all the volunteers and very much brought the two cultures of Uk and Ghana closer together; the day lead into night and the volunteers went to a local bar called ‘Oasis’ and had drinks, shared memories from the day and took pictures.

First full week in Abrobiano, Cycle 3 ICS

We are now in our second week of our placement in Ghana and our first full week in Abrobiano. It already feels like we have been here forever. This last week was busy with an event every day. On Monday we went to the three schools in the village to greet the head teachers and the children. We also used it as an opportunity to promote our summer school that starts in week 3. We spent time interacting with children, which involved telling them our names several times over! Once we finished visiting all the schools we had our first one to ones; in them we discussed how we were coping with the new culture and what we hoped to achieve in our time in Abrobiano. After our one to ones were over it was time for a well earned rest.


On Tuesday we administered a number of tests to the school children to assess their understanding of health issues. This was a huge success with over 400 children being tested. Once the testing was done we had a street march in the afternoon. On the street march we were handing out flyers to parents about our summer school. We also used the street march as an opportunity to clean the community. Picking up litter soon became a game with the children competing to see who could pick up the most. The interaction with the village continued on Wednesday with a visit to the chiefs palace in the morning; he officially welcomed us to the village and told us that he would support us in our actions. We then had a school presentation where we gave out prizes for good achievement. Not only were we giving out prizes but we were also lucky enough to be given a dance performance by some of the school children.


Playing with the children in Abroiano

Playing with the children in Abroiano

Wednesday was a busy day with monitoring in the afternoon as well as a social in the evening. We were monitoring the community so that we could see how much of the health and hygiene teaching was being implemented. In the evening we had our first social where we played games and got to know each other better. A firm favourite with everyone was the speed dating which produced lots of laughs. Once we had recovered from the late night from Wednesday,  we continued our community monitoring in the day on Thursday. In the early evening we had our first My Culture Day where Mawuena told us about her local foods:  Akple and Fetri-Detsi, Alexandra then talked about the cape coast festival. The festival is a weeklong celebration but beware of one of the celebrations where if you do the wrong thing you could be executed (although this hasn’t happened for over 100 years).


Friday followed the same pattern with the monitoring in the day and then  team meeting in the afternoon. In this meeting we discussed our plans for the summer school and the upcoming music festival. Once all the hard work of the week was done the weekend was a good opportunity to relax. On saturday we went to the beach where we enjoyed the sea and played ball games. On sunday most of us spent the morning with our host families in church and then the afternoon playing Volleyball with the locals. All in all it has been a jam packed week with something happening everyday, more importantly we finally feel like we’re settling into local life.

Alexandra (ICV) and Alex (UKV)

Cycle 3, First few days on ICS!

Wednesday 16th July

ICVs arrived at Suma Court hotel at 4pm.  After the ICVs had finished supper, the UKVs arrived around 9pm.  The ICVs greeted the UKVs and took them back to their rooms.  The UKVs then had supper, and in the evening everyone socialised and went to bed.  We were all tired from a long journey.

The cycle 3 team at independence square in Accra

The cycle 3 team at independence square in Accra

Thursday  17th

We had a welcome party! First the ICVs greeted the UKVs with a traditional performance.  The UKVs responded with a performance of Richard’s song ‘On the road to ghana’.  We then went on a tour round the city Of Accra.  We visited the craft market, independence square and the Accra sports stadium.  We came back to the hotel, had some in country orientation sessions and then had dinner.

Volunteers enjoying Accra Crafts Market

Volunteers enjoying Accra Crafts Market

Friday 18th

The in country orientation continued in the morning. We  learned lots about both cultures and spoke about how to deal with confrontation during our placement.  We were then given our counter parts which everyone found very exciting.  In the evening we had a party to celebrate Stefan’s birthday, there was lots of dancing!

Stefan's birthday in Accra

Stefan’s birthday in Accra

Satuday 19th

In the morning we learned about safety and security of the various communities we are being placed.  We had some lunch and then set off to the placements.  The team divided at Cape Coast, and the rest of the volunteers carried on to Abrobiano. In the evening we spent time with our host families.

Sunday 20th

All of the volunteers met at the ICS office at 1pm.  We discussed our plans and what we wanted to achieve in the community.

Jenny (UKV) and Mercy (ICV)

Returned Volunteer Safiya Talks About Her Experience In Ecuador

Safiya Robinson  - volunteered in Ecuador in Feb 2014:

“My first placement, (Eugenio Espejo), was quite a challenge as there were no English speakers/teachers there. However everyone was so welcoming and the children were very eager to learn. My class were very young (around five years old) and so we didn’t cover any complicated topics. They loved learning songs and colours. I usually only taught English lessons once a week, the rest of the time I was more of an assistant. My Spanish really helped me with this as I had to help them with Maths classes and some language and literature classes which would have been very difficult without basic Spanish.

My second placement, (La Aurora), was much more relaxed. We helped the kids with homework, played a few games and gave them an evening meal. They were particularly fond of the clapping games such as “a sailor went to sea”. If the kids had any English homework we were in high demand and occasionally gave classes to the older kids. It was great to do this as we could cover more complicated material and challenge the kids.

I have had an amazing time with my family. They do not speak much English which made it much easier to practice my Spanish and I could help my “sister” with her preparation for her trip to England. They have been extremely welcoming and friendly and I have been accepted into the extended family as well, spending time with the grandparents/uncles and friends.

I spent my 20th birthday here and was woken up to a huge chocolate cake and singing. They then took me for a huge meal where I tried cuy (roasted Guinea pig) for the first and last time…

I have found everyone I have met in Cuenca (and the rest of Ecuador!) extremely kind, welcoming and helpful. We managed to fit in a few trips around the country as well, such as the beach and the jungle. This provided us with more opportunity to learn more about the country and get some sun!

Our two weeks in Quito at the start of the trip were extremely useful. We got a chance to practice and improve our Spanish and get to know a bit of Ecuadorian culture.

All in all I have had an amazing experience with Lattitude and I won’t forget it!”

Meine erste Woche in Neuseeland.

Ich kann es selbst noch kaum fassen. Ich bin seit über einer Woche hier in Neuseeland.
Seit Sonntagabend, den 20. Juli bin ich in meinem Placement angekommen.

Sonntagmorgen habe ich das Auckland-Museum besucht. Dort haben wir eine Maori-Ausstellung besucht und haben einige traditionelle Maori-Tänze gesehen. Danach ging es ab zum Busbahnhof. Das Bussystem in Neuseeland ist um weiten besser als das Deutsche (aber dafür haben sie keine Bahn). Auf der Busfahrt habe ich eine echt nette Kiwi kennengelernt. Sie hat mir einige der Ausflugsziele in meiner Umgebung genannt.
Als ich dann in Matamata angekommen bin, viel mir sofort die Touristeninformation auf. (Matamata wird auch Hobbition genannt, hier wurden die Aufnahmen der Hobbits von Tolkiens „Herr der Ringe“ und „Der Hobbit“ gedreht.)

Dort wurde ich von Jamie & Familie abgeholt. Er ist mein Team-Leader in Totara Springs. Er brachte mich zu meinem 2.Chef Andrew. Bei ihm bekam ich mein Abendessen und verbrachte einen schönen Abend mit seinen Kindern. Mir ist aufgefallen, dass die Häuser hier nicht wirklich isoliert sind und die Kiwis so etwas wie Umweltschutz & Recycling nicht wirklich kennen. Man verbrennt hier einfach alles in seinem Garten.

Am Abend wurde ich dann nach Totara Springs gebracht. Das Camp liegt gute 15 min von der Stadt entfernt am Ende einer Straße. Im Camp angekommen wurde ich gleich dem Küchenteam vorgestellt, bevor es in meine Wohnung ging. Das versorgt mich nun ein Jahr lang mit Essen.
In meiner „Wohnung“ wurde ich gleich von mehreren Leuten überrascht. Ich lernte Beth (meine Mitbewohnerin) und Zac kennen. Sie arbeiten beide mit mir im Camp, jedoch als Festangestellte (Das hat einige Nachteile wie ich festgestellt habe). Zudem waren noch Freunde von Ihnen vorbei gekommen.IMG_20140725_170440

Am Montag ging die Arbeit dann los. Die Woche war geprägt von Matratzen. Diese Woche war sehr ruhig im Camp. Es waren keine Gruppen anwesend, die irgendwelche Aktionen gebucht haben. Somit war das ganze Instructor-Team ( in dem ich ab jetzt ein Mitglied bin) dazu angeregt bei der Hausarbeit zu helfen. Das bedeutet die Aktionen zu kontrollieren, ggf. zu reparieren. Zudem wurde der komplette Essensraumboden neu gemacht, für mich bedeutete das: Teppich ausreisen. Mir haben noch nie die Hände so lange nach einer Arbeit wehgetan.
Nun zu den Matratzen. Das Camp bietet eine Übernachtungsmöglichkeit für bis zu 400 Personen. Diese Woche wurden alle Matratzen neu Bezogen. Das hieß für uns, Matratzen ab beziehen, neue Beziehen und in die Räume bringen. Das fing Montags an und hörte Freitags auf.

Nun habe ich erst mal Wochenende. Beth will mir ein wenig die Umgebung zeigen. Und am Montag geht es mit dem ersten Camp los. It’s Sportscamp-Time!

Liebe Grüße

Overseas Volunteering – The Key To Getting Brits Learning Languages?

Engaging Blog Post Banner

It is hard to know whether being brought up with English as a first language is a benefit or a hindrance. Labelled the ‘language of international communications’, those that are equipped with it are able to speak more freely around the world than anyone with any other language. But, as a result, there has been a lack of initiative to encourage widespread education of foreign languages to a high enough level in the UK; only 9% of 15 year olds being competent in their first foreign language. This has led to a language deficit.

This puts the UK at a disadvantage to the rest of the world where a higher-percentage of people speak multiple languages, including English. According to the authoritative manifesto released by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages earlier this month, it is now the case that ‘speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as no English’.

As a result of this language deficit the APPG asserts that the UK economy loses up to £50bn a year through missed opportunities within global trade and job markets. Furthermore, the UK is also damaged in respect to its diplomatic, cultural and reputational standing in the world.

Baroness Coussins, Chair of the APPG on Modern Languages explains further:

The clear outcome of these findings according to the APPG is that there must be a huge shift toward prioritising the teaching of languages in our educational system, throughout all of the schooling system and to a much higher level.

One of the major supporters of the APPG’s manifesto is the British Council, which last year published a document detailing the most important foreign Languages For The Future and necessarily the languages which should be more widely taught within the UK, to better address its language deficit.

Top 10 Languages

Here at Lattitude Global Volunteering we couldn’t agree further that more should be done to increase the language skills of young people in the UK, particularly in those languages outlined by the British Council as being the languages of the future. This view is reinforced by the language composition of our own staff, where among the 20 staff of our Reading office alone, no less than 18 languages are spoken, admittedly to varying degrees. This includes most commonly the likes of Spanish, French and German, but also a myriad of quite unusual languages such as Bulgarian, Latin, Khmer, Bislama, Tonga and even a Scottish dialect, Doric.

But, as well as mainstream education, we would also argue that overseas volunteering is a great investment option to be considered to help develop the language skills of young people in the UK. Lattitude Global Volunteering alone provides placements in countries where 5 of the British Council’s top 10 languages of the future are spoken; 4 out of the top 5!

In response to the publishing of this manifesto by the APPG on Modern Languages, we asked our alumni how volunteering overseas had enhanced their language skills and we had an overwhelming response:

Joe Baynham, China
I had no intention of studying a language at uni, let alone Mandarin! If I’m honest I really didn’t enjoy languages at school and did not continue them into college.During my placement in China the introduction to Chinese we received sparked a real interest in the language for me and this interest grew into a genuine enthusiasm as I started to pick up more and more throughout the placement and was able to communicate with locals in my day to day life and later travels. As a result of my time with Lattitude, I took extra modules when I came back to the UK to study at university, and have since graduated with a BA in business and management with proficiency in Mandarin Chinese.If I could have told myself back before the placement that I would end up studying Mandarin I would have thought it was impossible, but I’ve enjoyed studying the language hugely and owe a lot of that to my Lattitude Placement.

Roxanne Parnham, Argentina
My experience with Lattitude in Argentina gave me good Spanish language skills (I knew very little before I left) and inspired me to study Spanish at university! So my placement really had a big impact on the decisions I made for the future.

Natalie Sew, China
I’d always wanted to learn another language but found it difficult whilst at school. I took a Lattitude placement in China and decided to try and learn Chinese. I found that because I was living there I soon overcame a lot of my earlier anxieties about learning Chinese and just threw myself into it. I was lucky that my school assigned me a Chinese teacher, but even better than that I had all my students who were more than willing to correct their teacher’s Chinese mishaps! After 6 months on placement I became confident enough to go travelling by myself and kept my skills up with evening classes when I returned to the UK. I’ve now been awarded funding through the Chinese Scholarship Council to study at Fudan University in Shanghai for one year, to build on my language skills and work towards conducting social research in China. I would never have had the confidence to travel independently or believed I could work in another language, but my experiences on placement helped give me the skills and showed me what I could accomplish.

Korede Bolade, Japan
The placement forced me to speak in Japanese day in, day out which is what I wanted. My Japanese improved greatly during the time I was there and this encouraged me to continue learning after I came back. I ended up sitting the Japanese language proficiency test and passing the second highest level, which means I have an upper intermediate ability in Japanese. I have gone on to learn other languages as a result, including Korean and Portuguese.

Vicki Offland, China
I had already decided on my degree in Russian and Chinese, before I went and volunteered in China as an English teacher. However, I’d never studied Chinese before, so my 5 months in China gave me a good chance to find out what I would be getting myself in for. What really became apparent as I moved about the areas of China was how everywhere the majority of the population’s English knowledge was limited to greetings. This made me realise that if I ever really wanted to come back to this country, I should really try to make the most of my Chinese studies at university. I was so impressed when I returned several years later and found I could actually have meaningful conversations with the locals rather than struggling with some sort of sign language. Deciding to study Chinese was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. A languages degree has left me with a very open career path at the end of university, which is ideal because in the past five years I’ve struggled to come to a concrete decision in what I want to do in the future. Employers, across all disciplines, hugely value language skills, particularly in today’s interdependent world. However, first and foremost, learning the language of a place you’re going is a respectful gesture towards locals and something they hugely appreciate.

Reading through the stories of just some of our volunteers, it is clear that volunteering overseas uniquely instils an enthusiasm for languages and a real world understanding of their practical use and importance in our globalised world, which is hard to convey in a typical educational environment. They also reveal how fundamental languages are to unlocking the final barrier to a truly insightful cultural experience and exchange; bringing communities around the world closer together and allowing the next generation of young people to better understand the world they are inheriting. This helps explain why, against the grain of the growing language deficit in the UK our volunteers are ignited with a life-long passion to learn foreign languages and pursue relevant careers.

If you’ve volunteered overseas with Lattitude or any other organisation, we’d love to hear about how it affected your interest in learning a foreign language. You can get in touch with us by messaging us on Facebook or emailing us at

An Introduction To The Cradle Of Life…

In August 2011 I was rejected from enrolling onto an environmental degree based on not having enough “Tropical work experience,” I felt a little annoyed at first but then I realised I would have to find the perfect opportunity to go away to develop my skills and that is where my journey with Lattitude began.

I found Lattitude through Facebook and from already following all manner of volunteering and environmental non-governmental organisations.  I approached Lattitude asking if they could help my somewhat unique case and during my interviews Brazil was suggested to me where I would be cataloguing species as I worked my way through the Amazon, which sounded great, however I was later told the project had been axed.

I left the Lattitude office thinking it was great to have met the friendly bunch but perhaps was not meant to be, but then a week later I was called with a somewhat unique offer in acting as a guinea pig by taking a placement in Costa Rica.

Now Costa Rica was never a place I had planned to go but the more I read into what I would be doing, where I would be based, who I would be working with and the opportunities for me to develop – it sounded like an opportunity that was too good to be true.  I confirmed my interest and returned to Lattitude where the friendly staff took me through the entire process to prepare me for my solo trip to Central America.

Before Christmas I quit my jobs and bought a journal ready to fly out to New York on New Years Day 2012 and began documenting my experiences over the 7 months I was out there.  I wrote in my journal religiously each day for the 7 months I was there (I had never kept a diary or created a blog before) and took over 10,000 photos!

All of which I worked up into a blog which I am very proud of and is publicly available at

It is a long blog crammed full of beautiful pictures and links to videos hosted on Youtube but I am more than happy to share my story and journey with others.


Upon returning from Costa Rica I got onto the course I had dreamed about and successfully beat the Masters with a “Pass With Merit” and I am now happily working in the environment sector in London gaining some experience before I relocate to somewhere more… Tropical, and more me.