This is some information to help you personally plan and gather items for your trip to Malawi. This is designed primarily for ‘first-timers’ but ‘seasoned’ visitors may also need reminders. Please read through this information summary before submitting your application.
Thank you for your interest in Iris Ministries Malawi. Those volunteering with us need to have a personal commitment to Christ Jesus. Unless traveling with a parent, visitors should be at least 18 years old. We ask that first-time visitors plan on limiting their visit to 2-3 weeks. You must have approval from Iris Africa before booking your flights. Coordinate with us on your dates as we have to make special arrangements for airport pick-ups/drop offs.
Please be aware that it is mandatory that all visitors purchase travel and emergency medical insurance. The policy must include emergency evacuation for medical emergencies. Make sure you bring all documents with you. This is essential for all who visit or work at Iris Ministries, whether for a few days or several years. In the event of an emergency you should be prepared, as hospitals require payment for services in full at the time of treatment. Afterwards you can work with your insurance company on your reimbursement, in accordance with your policy.
There are no doctors in Bangula, only medical clinics. In the event of a medical emergency, you will need to be transported and then treated in Blantyre at your own cost.
There are no travel vaccines currently required by the Malawi government. Malawi requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US, Canada, UK or South Africa. If you are traveling from a country other than those listed above, check the Centre for Disease Control web site www.cdc.gov to see if you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine. You should be up-to-date on standard 10 year booster shot, which includes tetanus. We also recommend you receive immunisation for Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A & B. You may wish to have the Meningitis vaccination and we leave this with you to discuss with your local health travel clinic. For someone coming for a longer-term, it is very important to have the meningitis vaccination. Please check with your local travel clinic for current recommendations.
You are visiting a prevalent Malaria zone. Malaria prophylaxis is compulsory. Some are daily pills; others are taken once a week. You must bring these medications with you and take as prescribed. We recommend malarone, doxycycline or primaquine. We also recommend you carry Malaria treatment such as coartem or artemesin. They can be purchased in Malawi. Please also bring mosquito repellent.
Be careful to keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes while you are in Africa. It is a good idea to bring hand sanitizer for when you are not near soap and water.
Plan to arrive at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, Malawi. You can arrive via South African Airlines from Johannesburg, South Africa, or Ethiopian Airways from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. SAA flies into Blantyre on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Ethiopian Airways flies daily. An Iris Africa representative will pick you up at the airport in Blantyre and take you on the 3-hour journey to Bangula. Although road improvements are being constructed, it can be very bumpy near Bangula.
VISA’S, TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Canadian, American, and United Kingdom passport holders do not need a visa for Malawi. Malawi Immigration will stamp your passport allowing you to stay up to 30 days. This can be renewed up to two more times potentially allowing a visitor to stay up to 90 days. There is a cost of $20 USD for each renewal after the initial 30 days.
There are souvenirs around town if you are interested. We recommend that you bring US dollars or UK pounds. American dollars or UK pounds can be exchanged for Malawi Kwacha in Blantyre upon arrival. We do not recommend traveler cheques. You will get the best exchange rate using 100 USD denominations. You will not need small bills. Malawian Kwacha fluctuates with other currencies – ask your contact at Iris Africa about the current exchange rates. Currently one should receive approximately 435-460 Kwacha per $1 US Dollar.
If you would like to bring gifts for the ministry, here are some needed suggestions:
Calculators (for our secondary students)
Boys & youth size shorts
Soccer balls (size 5) and air pump needles
Children & youth size underwear and socks
Children & youth size t-shirts, tops, & short sleeve shirts,
Sweets for the children (please no chewing gum)
Children’s picture books
Single bed sheets (fitted, sheet, pillow case)
Size ‘AA’ & ‘AAA’ batteries
Unlocked 4 band mobile phones & chargers
Eye Glasses – Reading glasses for pastors
26” bicycle tubes & patches
Be prepared to eat food which is found locally. As you plan your menu, consider rice and beans, chicken, goat and the cornflower staple food called ‘nsima’. Tomatoes, spinach, onions, green pepper, fish and bread can be purchased from the market at most times of the year. Seasonal fruits are also available (banana, mango, papaya, guava, and pineapple). A kitchen is provided for you to use.
There is a small grocery store in Bangula stocked with very basic items (sugar, salt, oil, peanut butter, Fanta/Coke, etc.). In Blantyre, there is a much greater selection of food at Shoprite or Chipiku Plus but you should know that western type foods are very expensive. Also, on most days it is a 2 • hour trip each way and spaces in vehicles are limited. Bring snacks with you if you desire (e.g. granola bars, cereal, etc.). Plan to live simply. If you need help, we will assist you with the grocery shopping upon your arrival.
Cooking Facilities: There is a kitchen equipped with an electric stove top, small counter top oven, kettle, toaster, refrigerator and freezer. In the event of common electrical blackouts, a small gas cooker is available. There is a battery back-up power system at the visitor accommodation but it only powers fans and lights.
Please do not eat or drink anything other than from the mission base or approved by your Iris Africa host. We want you to stay healthy during your visit! Drink only purified water from the Iris base, or from sealed bottled water. We strongly advise you not eat food prepared by street vendors.
We dress in a way that is acceptable and modest in Malawian culture.
MEN: Men wear pants/trousers or long shorts and T-shirts or button-up collared shirts. Trousers and collared shirts are required if you are speaking at a church event or any other formal setting.
WOMEN: Women may wear loose pants/trousers or capris that cover your knees when you sit down, and skirts or dresses that go below the knee even when you are sitting down. Please also pack a slip for under your skirts and/or dresses so there is no chance of embarrassment caused by ‘see-through’ cloth. If you plan on swimming in our pool, women need to wear a modest swimsuit and board (long) shorts to be culturally sensitive. Please do not wear thinly strapped or strapless tops or tops baring the midriff. You will have opportunity to buy chitenjis (traditional skirt wraps) here in Malawi.
You are welcome to leave your clothing in Malawi for us to assist the needy after you leave.
For church services and other times of ministry, the nationals wear their best. It is disrespectful for visitors to show-up in “grubbies”. Ankle length dresses or skirts are most acceptable for ministry outreaches or church services.
The weather is hot year round, but evenings can get cool during the winter months (June through August), so bring a light sweater or jacket. A rain jacket/windbreaker is also helpful during the rainy season (January through March), although you may experience a drought when you are here! You can ask your contact at Iris Africa Malawi when your arrival is approaching.
Average Temperatures and Weather:
January – March: Rainy season, humid, temperatures 26 C night to 40 C day.
April – May: Dryer, sunny, temperatures 24 C night to 35 C day.
June – August: Clear skies, cooler, temperatures 18 C night to 30 C day.
September – December: Hot, dry, temperatures 30 C night to 47 C day.
We do ask that body rings be removed or covered with band-aids, except for normal earrings for women. Be careful not to bring expensive jewelry or wear any that attracts attention.
NECESSITIES TO BRING:
Single size bedding (pillow, fitted sheet, sheet)
Flip flops/sandals (for safe areas), boots or running shoes (for villages)
Flashlight (extra batteries) (hint: headlamps are most helpful in blackouts esp. for cooking),
Light rain jacket (Dec-March),
Water bottles (re-usable) Nalgenes are great
Sun glasses, hat, and sunscreen
Hand sanitizer and/or handi-wipes,
Camera and extra batteries.
Plug adaptors: Electrical outlets are UK type three prong plug and 220 volts.
Please do not bring valuable items such as a computer unless for a special circumstance approved by us.
Malawi electrical power is 220 volts and outlets are UK type (three prong plug). Page 5 of 6
Visitors can purchase a dongle (USB device that plugs into a computer for internet connection via Malawi cell phone network) in Blantyre or rent one from Iris. A dongle costs approximately $25. A general usage data plan costs $6 for 500mb.
Wifi internet will NOT be available for visitors at the ministry base due to the limited bandwidth available to Iris via a satellite internet system. You will not be able to connect iPads, tablets or other devices that do not have a USB port for an Internet Dongle.
There are Internet cafes in Blantyre if you happen to visit there.
Important Note: Iris Ministries cannot and does not guarantee your safety, health, or comfort. We are serving in an underdeveloped country, in unpredictable conditions. You will be joining us in trusting God as provider and protector. You will not have the full attention of any missionaries, staff or translators. Please plan on being as self-reliant as possible. We see again and again that God does amazing work in each visitor. Be open to what God may do with you here! He is very good!
Housing on the base is basic but adequate. We offer no air conditioning or heating. Expect to be without power for hours up to days at a time. Our accommodations are dorm style and you may be required to share a room with up to 6 other people. There is a shared bathroom, kitchen and living area.
Please be prepared for ‘community living’. The building is shared by all who are visiting Iris.
Iris Malawi reserves the right to require the withdrawal of any visitor who does not adhere to Iris Africa Ministry policies and procedures, at any time.
LIVING AT THE IRIS BASE IN BANGULA
Please consider the following as you live among us. Keep in mind that you are in a developing country with a very vulnerable infrastructure. Also, know that the majority of the people here in southern Malawi live on less than a dollar a day.
Water and electrical power are precious. Please have short showers and remember to turn off lights when exiting a room.
Do not give away ‘stuff’ or money to Malawians. This causes problems for full time missionaries, who have to ‘follow up’ on promises made by visitors or misunderstandings between those who received, and those who didn’t.
Do not promise anything. It is ok to say, “I’m just visiting, I don’t know.”
Keys must be handled with care, and not lost. We cannot get more made here.
You will be charged for airport pick-up and drop-off. There is a transport cost $115 USD for travelling to and from Blantyre.
Every trip to town costs money, so if you need to make an extra trip to Blantyre, you must contribute towards the cost of the driver.
Visitors cannot take Iris children off site without also a missionary, or house parent and permission from all the children’s respective parents as certain children may not be allowed to leave base at that time.
Your safety is very important to us. Never go out at night. If you want to explore, you must have an approved person escort you.
Our Malawian house parents are the children’s authority. You will also be under their direction. Ask questions and know the procedures so that you are not hindering a child from his/her responsibilities.
All visitors must refrain from smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages at all times while in Malawi. You are representatives of Iris Africa.
Iris children are never allowed at the visitor house nor inside the rooms of any visitor.
Visitors are not permitted inside the childrens’ homes without approval from David or Joanna Morrison.