“Health Warning! Teaching for SMMHEP could become addictive.”
Dr Heather Gardiner, Retired Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist


SMMHEP and all the work we do, is dependent on volunteers. All the donations we receive are spent on our projects in Malawi. We have no paid administrator in Malawi. 

SMMHEP volunteers teach 4th year medical students alongside the Malawian Department of Mental Health staff.  Dr Kulisewa, Head of Department supervises and supports the volunteers' work.  All teaching is conducted in English and during each 6 - 7 week teaching block we typically have 3-4 short-term volunteers.  The forms of teaching are very similar to methods used in the UK, for example:

  • Lectures
  • Ward and clinic based teaching
  • Problem based learning
  • Role-play
  • Case presentations and discussions

In addition, volunteers help with the end of placement psychatry exam, by setting, marking and invigilating the exams.  They also share their knowledge, professional skills and practical experience with Malawian colleagues. It can be hard work, but seeing the enthusiastic medical students develop their skills and confidence, and contributing to the knowledge of colleagues, makes it more than worthwhile.  

There are two types of volunteer:

Short-term volunteers  who ideally join us for a six week period covering a full general psychiatry rotation, but shorter time periods are possible. They act as visiting tutors and are involved in all aspects of undergraduate teaching, including supervising students in clinical areas. In addition specialist CAMHS and Intellectuality Disability volunteers join us twice a year to provide specialist teaching.  The volunteers are not registered with the Malawian Medical Council and so, are unable to provide direct clinical work, but do provide clinical teaching in wards and clinics.

Long-term volunteers who are based in Malawi for three to twelve months. They teach undergraduate and postgraduate students and help train clinical officers and psychiatric nurses. They are also registered with the Malawian Medical Council and can therefore help with direct clinical work. They are directly responsible to Dr Kulisewa and work under his direction.

Our volunteers can be anyone from experienced higher trainees to retired consultants. What unites them is their professionalism, enjoyment of teaching and ability to improvise when the unexpected happens (power-cuts mid-lecture or torrential downpours over which it is impossible to be heard.) Across Kumuzu University of Health Sciences, we have a reputation for delivering our training, whatever the circumstances.

Volunteers may also have the opportunity to teach the postgraduate psychiatry trainees if they so wish.  Volunteers are also encouraged to engage in research, though all projects must be discussed and agreed in advance by the Head of Department, as they may require consent from the Kumuzu University of Health Sciences medical ethics committee and relevant clinicians. This consent can take several months to obtain, so it is necessary to apply well in advance. Volunteers are also encouraged to write about their experiences, but any sort of publication should be discussed with the Head of Department and SMMHEP trustees.

To volunteer:

The project would be delighted to hear from psychiatrists who would be interested in volunteering for the project. If you would like to be added to our recruitment list for future years please let us know. Please contact: