Volunteer FAQ

What kind of work can I do?

Have a look at the list of projects. All of these can use volunteers. If you have relevant qualifications, it obviously helps, but we are ready to help you learn also.

What makes a good volunteer?

A good volunteer integrates with the community. To get the most from your time in Africa, you should be ready to socialise with local people, and learn from them too. If you only mix with expatriates, you will just be “passing through”.

What documents do I need to enter Zambia?

The administrative manager will apply for a Study Permit for you, on submission of the application form available from your local Zambian embassy, or from us. (Longer term volunteers may require a work permit.)

You will also need to produce a chest x-ray report for your study permit. This can be done in Zambia at a private clinic, but it would be preferable to have this before you depart.

Most visitors will require visas, which are usually available through your local consulate.

Some visitors (please check with your airline and consulate) can obtain their visas on arrival at Lusaka. This may be cheaper and more convenient. However, it is best to have the exact currency in hand to do this. Please inform yourself of the current visa charges (currently £35 single entry or US$50 for a single entry visa). If you are planning on travelling outside the country and returning, a multiple entry visa is needed.

You will be provided with accommodation and utilities (electricity, water) for as long as you work for MEC. Usually you will share a two bedroom house with one or two other volunteers.

The centre is now asking for contributions towards airport transfers ($25 one way) as well as accommodation, water and electricity ($60 per week), simply to recover the costs to the centre of providing these facilities.

You will need to cover other living expenses. US$300 a month is adequate for one person to live simply.

Will I be paid? Does MEC pay my travel costs?

Makeni Centre is unable to support volunteers financially.

Will I be able to tour the region?

Volunteers, like other workers at the Centre, are entitled to two weeks holiday for every six months worked. During this time, you are free to visit local attractions. Weekends are free, but not appropriate for long travel.

There are two museums in Lusaka worth brief visits: the main museum houses some records of the independence struggle and pre-independence days, rather less than could be done. Also worth a visit is Chilenje house, where Kenneth Kaunda’s family lived in before independence.

Do I have to be a Christian to work at MEC?

MEC is a Christian organisation which expects employees and volunteers to be practising Christians. Attendance at Sunday church services is therefore normal practice for all who work at the Centre.

How can I stay in contact with my friends and family while in Zambia?

Volunteers can use the telephone at the main office to call family and friends, provided they pay the cost of these calls at the end of each month. Telephone costs in Zambia are high. E-mail messages may be sent from the main office at times convenient to the administrative manager.

It’s a good idea to get your mobile phone unlocked and buy a local SIM card (very cheap) locally.

What are the shops like?

You can get almost anything in Zambia these days, including ‘western’ food.

Prices of imported goods, particularly electronic items or consumables (such as printer cartridges), tend to be high. Shopping in supermarkets is expensive. Prices do not seem to have caught up with the improved strength of the Kwacha.

We now have two nice shopping malls outside the Lusaka city centre, one housing a cinema.

Can my relatives/friends come and stay with me?

If accommodation is available, family are welcome to come and stay with you for limited periods. There is a minimum donation of $10 a day for such accommodation.

Is Zambia safe?

You will be accommodated in a secure compound. Visits to the city of Lusaka carry minor risks, and you will be advised of these on arrival.

Mosquito nets are well worth having. The centre may have some for loan. Outside Lusaka you are advised to take anti-malarials, particularly if you plan on visiting a game park.

What are the options for transport, locally?

In consultation with the administrative manager, volunteers can travel in the Centre’s vehicles to/from Lusaka.

There are regular inexpensive mini bus services between Makeni and Lusaka.

Travel at night is not recommended.

Lusaka has buses and trains to tourist destinations.

There is some further contact information here.

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