Book Bus Malawi
Malawi is known as “The Warm Heart of Africa” and is perhaps the most traveller-friendly and welcoming of all countries in Africa. There are strong ties with the United Kingdom that stretch all the way back to David Livingstone. The appetite to learn and improve English language skills is palpable. Book Bus is doing great work in Malawi and with your help we can do more.
The Book Bus in Malawi is based on the lip of a dramatic escarpment a few Km south of the old colonial capital, Blantyre. The view from camp is something to behold! From this safe and secure base we visit schools and remote villages in southwest Malawi, loaded with a cargo of books, hand-craft material and all sorts of spakling stationery stock!
The Book Bus operates in Malawi throughout the year and we need volunteers to join us for a minimum of 2 weeks … there is no maximum stay but we do close over the Christmas period.
Why the Book Bus needs you.
Learning to read is taken for granted in the UK but in Malawi this is not always the case. The foundation of all education is the ability to read, so we work alongside form teachers to stimulate children’s imaginations and show that reading is one of life’s pleasures, rather than a chore.
You will find a tsunami of enthusiasm greets the Book Bus! We have been working in this area long enough for children to recognise the Book Bus and understand what it’s all about. On your first Monday morning you will be bowled over by the raw enthusiasm of the children to join in and read with you. This is an immensely personal experience and the connections you make with your learners are profound.
We work in government-run schools and “community schools” which are establishments that have been set up by village communities, where there was no school, which are often held beneath trees, in an old container or in the village hall. Resources are often meagre but enthusiasm goes some way to compensate. In each type of school the task is the same, to bring books to life.
Education, and literacy in particular, is one of the best weapons that can help Malawi’s people address their circumstances and combat poverty.
What will you be doing?
Volunteers travel on “Matilda” the Book Bus and work with small groups of children. We aim to give them the opportunity to engage with the stories and experience the characters described. We encourage them to associate books with enjoyment and creativity and in doing so hope to sow the seeds of a lifelong love of reading.
This can be a case of working individually with a child or reading altogether in one small group (4 to 8 children).
Dramatising stories through art and craft
By planning arts and crafts around the storylines and characters the children have the opportunity to be creative and use their imagination.
Organise fun activities around the books
This is a chance for the volunteers to use their imagination and play games and plan fun activities related to the stories.
The Book Bus Legacy
At the end of the season, before the final goodbye, we run “A Book In Every Hand” which is a ceremony where we present each child with a book (often the first they have ever owned) but we ask them to bring it back a week later and exchange it with a friend. This swap is repeated a week later, at which point we reveal the Reading Conrer which is a modest school starter library. The “Book In Every Hand” has introduced the concept of temporary ownership and the Reading Corner provides the wherewithal to continue the practice.
The Book Bus crew
The Book Bus crew consists of the fulltime leader who is employed from the UK, Book Bus driver/mechanic (a local person) and up to 10 volunteers (often multi-national) at any one time. We travel from school to school in our yellow Book Bus T-shirts so that we are instantly recognised.
Volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds and range in age from 9 years (accompanied by parent/s) to well into retirement. A family is able to give as much, and derive as much, from this project as a single, retired person, or a gap year student or anyone inbetween. The unifying factor is a love of books and wish to give something back.
Book Bus needs people who love to read, possess an enthusiasm to pass on the skill and who enjoy the babble-and-bustle of a lively classroom environment. We also ask for a CRB check.
Do you have a passion for books and a desire to share the magic of stories with children?
If you combine these two traits please consider climbing aboard; your contribution to the Book Bus will help children become readers, boosting their education and their quality of life.
Life in Malawi can be challenging at times due to the heat and dust, but the living conditions at our base are excellent. It is fundamental that you have a desire to engage with children (previous experience of working with children is welcome by not necessary). It helps if you enjoy art or have a little musical ability, or are prepared to have a go, anything that helps to broaden access to the story. The Book Bus tends to attract volunteers with a positive outlook, who enjoy being part of a team and who share a real desire to make a difference.
Life in camp
During the project you will be staying at Fisherman’s Rest, our base which is in a rural location with excellent security. Accomodation is in brick bungalows which are generally twin-share, but we can often offer single occupancy (small additional fee). There is a 50 Ha paddock adjacent which is home to a variety of ungulate species and provides a wonderful opportunity to see these animals calmly, at close quarters. And there’s a wonderful little pool! There’s no need to bring a mosi-net, just a sheet and sleepingbag.
Typical day 7am: Wake up – breakfast 7:30am: Prep time 8:30am: Hit the road 9am-1:30pm: At school (Four, one-hour sessions) 2pm: Lunch back at campAfternoon/evening – free for activities/preparation/relaxationClick below for details on the range of exciting activities on offer in Livingstone.
Placement cost and what’s included
There are three cost elements to joining the Book Bus: the international flight (see below); the project fee and the local payment.
The project fee for an initial two week placement is £749; each additional week is £195. For a full breakdown see “VentureCo’s Relationship with Book Bus”.
The local payment is £175 per week and covers all food, accommodation and subsistence costs. This is paid in cash, locally, directly to the leader.
It is possible to raise funds for your placement and The Book Bus Foundation is listed on www.virginmoneygiving.com and www.justgiving.com There is also an on-line fundraising pack, leaflets, money boxes, stickers, posters and T-shirts to support your event or activity.
International flights, optional activities, travel insurance, vaccinations, personal expenditure.
Flights to Blantyre range from £650 to over £1,100 depending on season and availability. VentureCo have access to favourable rates and are ATOL bonded. If you would like a quote please send your approximate dates to
We will meet you at Blantyre airport so if we haven’t booked your flight, please make sure we know your schedule. It is increasingly popular to extend your trip to Africa, afterall, the biggest expense is getting there, so it’s a great opportunity to see a bit more of the area. See the “Onward Travel” page for some ideas and suggestions such as travel overland to Cape Town, explore near-by Lake Malawi or consider picking up a hire car and we can give you a suggested self-drive itinerary – Malawi has good roads, low traffic density and pretty decent maps!
You can volunteer for any duration from 2 weeks and longer. The Book Bus departs every Monday which means you need to arrive on the preceding Saturday. This allows the leader to conduct a project briefing on the Sunday and for you to meet your fellow volunteers and settle into Malawian life.
This popular project is restricted to 10 persons at any time so we advise that you send in your booking form download here as soon as possible.
You will recieve a Field Manual before you travel with everything you need to know, including advice about health, expected weather and what to pack.
VentureCo is well-practiced in preparing volunteers for remote destinations; we are here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us about any aspect of your trip, no matter how trivial you might think it.
The history of the Book Bus
Tom Maschler came up with the idea for the Book Bus when on holiday in Zambia in 2007, since then it has expanded to six projects in four countries, across three continents.
Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran publishers 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.
On holiday in Zambia he was shocked at the lack of resources in the schools and came up with the idea of the Book Bus; a mobile library, travelling from school to school promoting literacy.
Read more about the Book Bus Foundation on www.thebookbus.org
Make the most of your time in Africa
We offer a range of adventure tours, safaris, accommodation and stopover options from tours in Kruger National Park to 35 day overland adventures through East Africa to see the Gorillas in Uganda. To discuss your options just contact us.
You can secure your place on board with a deposit of £100.
Download and complete a booking form now and climb aboard for a life-changing experience.
If you have any questions or need further information or would like to speak with a past volunteer then drop us a line. firstname.lastname@example.org