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How We Work Determined to Develop Malawi

At Determined to Develop (D2D), we take a collaborative approach to our work, and believe that those who live in the area are best able to assess needs and create solutions for the community. We do not impose what we think should be solutions from the top-down, but rather work with community members from the ground-up. Our commitment to collaboration allows us to maximize impact and assist in the development of Chilumba in a responsible and positive way.

All our projects have community ownership, which is demonstrated in two ways:

First, communities are enlisted to identify their needs and solutions, which becomes the basis of our work. We participate in regular village needs assessment meetings attended by Village Headmen (chiefs), local village development committees, women’s groups, civil society leaders, and other community members. It is from these meetings that the concept, planning, and implementation stages of any of our projects begin. Furthermore, all work is vetted by community stakeholders.

Second, communities contribute to the running of each project. Our approach emphasizes the personal responsibility and accountability of all partners involved. This grassroots model for development utilizes local knowledge and ensures that we work in collaboration with traditional leaders and community-based networks, respecting cultural values and traditions. This process is assisted by the community liaison officer, who ensures that we stay fully engaged with everything taking place in the villages and vice versa.

We have expanded our programming, but maintain our focus on a relatively small geographic area of Chilumba, Malawi. Remaining a local organization has a number of benefits. We have developed a strong rapport with stakeholders in the area, which helps us to run our many projects effectively. Working on the ground also allows us to have close and on-going monitoring of all projects, and we pride ourselves on being able to adapt projects where necessary and learn through evaluation. This approach also ensures that all money donated is used in the most cost-effective way, as we have minimal overhead costs.

As a development organization, it is important to us that our initiatives are in-line with those of broader development strategies, both in the national and international context. These strategies include the Karonga District Development Plan, Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, and the United Nation’s Standard Development Goals. Each of these strategies includes specific actions for improved youth education. By aligning our programs with the initiatives in these development strategies, we ensure that our programs are following the best fit for the development of Malawi.

Learn more about how D2D works by clicking below:

Volunteer in Malawi Africa

Volunteer in Malawi with Determined to Develop. D2D is a grassroots, nonprofit organization that provides education to help break the cycle of extreme poverty among youth in Africa.


Determined to Develop was founded in 2009 as a grassroots, nonprofit organization in Malawi, Africa.

Its founder, Matt Maroon is a 2006 graduate of the University of Dayton who, before heading to law school, decided to undertake a year of service volunteering in rural Malawi from 2006 to 2008. After teaching at a secondary school, and helping to run a trade school for orphans for two years, Matt’s life-plan changed and he went home with a renewed life-purpose, starting Determined to Develop as a vehicle to assist in new development initiatives like those of which he had been apart.

Just before Christmas of 2009, and after a graduate degree in anthropology, Matt moved to an even more rural part of Malawi and began laying the foundations for an on-the-ground operation, partnering with Malawian people and connecting with the community in a way that few “outsiders” ever had. With three of his former Malawian students and one former colleague, he spent the first year living in a mud house with a grass roof, sleeping on a reed mat in the heart of the village. Slowly, together they built the infrastructure that could support the type of systemic change they hoped to bring.

Beginning more as a means to get donations to Malawi, the charity grew each year and became intentional about connecting with the community to work in partnership, rather than to prescribe solutions with a top-down approach. The inclusive approach they took meant that Matt and his Malawian team held countless meetings with chiefs, village development committees, women’s groups, civil society leaders, government stakeholders, and even the kings of various tribes to understand their take on what development meant and how they thought it should be applied in their context. In many cases, it was the first time a “white man” was asking them such questions – getting their opinion rather than dictating a solution.

From these meetings, a set of cornerstones, representing shared goals, emerged: Education & Youth Support, Health & Nutrition, Women’s Empowerment, and Environment. Additionally, three cross-cutting issues permeated all discussions: orphan care, gender equality, and social justice.

From there, projects sprouted one by one but still on a hand-to-mouth basis. When the charity had a few donations, it was able to do a few projects. And so it began with support for school fees and nursery schools, adopting education as its paramount focus area, in line with the community’s needs.

Determined to Develop moved from a passive to an active Board in October 2013 and was able to recruit talented directors who would ensure proper planning, oversight and funding was achieved in the long term, in order to realize Determined to Develop’s extended goals of development and solvency well into the future.

From that process, Determined to Develop, with an almost all Malawian contingent, has increased its programming activities each year and has been able to deliver exceptional value per dollar. Determined to Develop is now a staple within the community in Malawi, and Matt has succeeded in integrating Determined to Develop’s mission with that of the people with whom it serves. Determined to Develop continues to partner with other organizations and is continually recognized for its professional approach toward development, including partnerships with other international organizations and universities.


Malawi is the ideal destination for those wanting to volunteer in Africa. Besides being a country of stunning scenic offerings, it has a warm and welcoming population. Hence, it is often referred to as “the warm heart of Africa”.



Malawi has an average annual population increase of 3%. The United Nations currently estimates the country’s population at 19,294,749 (October 2018) with over 80% living in rural areas. In addition, the median age of the population of Malawi is 17.5 years, with an average life expectancy of 55 years.


According to a World Bank report in 2017, the average per capita income is $320. This places Malawi among the poorest nations in the world. It is currently ranked at 170 out of 187 countries. With over 50% of the population living below the poverty line, the main economy is predominantly agricultural with 80% of the working population farming on smallholdings. An IMF report from 2017 attributes this fragile state in the economy to the way governance institutions function and to climate-related external shocks.


Only 31% of the population completes primary (elementary) school, while only 8% completes secondary school. On a more positive note, 65% of people in Malawi can read and write. In addition, 50% of girls marry before their 18th birthday.


To begin with, HIV is prevalent and affects approximately 11% of the population; this is the ninth highest in the world. A direct result of this is that 50% of the 1 million orphans in Malawi have lost both their parents to HIV or Aids. Stunted growth in 42% of the child population under the age of 5 is a major problem and is a direct result of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Infant mortality rates have improved, but are still relatively high at 41 per 1000 live births in 2015 (WHO).


The rural community of Chilumba, Karonga District in Northern Malawi is where D2D focuses its volunteer in Africa efforts.  Together with community members and volunteers, D2D acts in its capacity as a Malawian NGO, meeting the needs and providing assistance in the development of the region and its people. This district has population of 30,000 scattered in the surrounding villages.


  • 2/3 of the population are under the age of 25
  • Every 2 hours one woman dies in childbirth or related causes
  • There is one infant death every 12 hours
  • One child under five dies every eight hours
  • Only one in every 20 women and one in every 10 men complete secondary education
  • 25% of women in the district cannot read or write
  • Every woman gives birth to an average of 6 children in their lifetime
  • 40% of children are born to teen mothers
  • One out of every three women gives birth at home
  • Beating of a wife by her husband is considered justifiable under certain circumstances by 20% of women and 25% of men
  • Stunted growth is observed in 40% of children
  • Electricity is only available to 7% of households in the district, while 90% use firewood for cooking
    † Source: USAID; IDEA; Population Reference Bureau; IPPF

volunteer in Malawi


Determined to Develop operates from donated office space at Maji Zuwa Water and Sun Resort in Chilumba, Malawi. Maji Zuwa functions as a social entrepreneurship venture encompassing a guesthouse lodge, conference facilities, and community space to accommodate a wide variety of functions.

Meaning “water and sun” in the local Tumbuka language, Maji Zuwa overlooks the beautiful Lake Malawi, the third-largest freshwater lake in Africa and home to over 1,000 species of tropical fish. Its beachside location makes Maji Zuwa a picturesque destination for visitors from near and far. Whether guests are looking for a day trip or overnight stay, Maji Zuwa has the accommodations, including freshly made local meals, a full bar, and lodging, to allow for a comfortable stay. Guided excursions are available, including boating to the nearby Chitende Island or experiencing the local nightlife.

Volunteers who are looking for more than just a typical vacation are hosted at Maji Zuwa. During their stay, they are offered a complete program with a full immersion experience tailored to their individual interests and projects.

Volunteering with D2D gives you the opportunity to see the development work first-hand. In addition, volunteers also experience the beauty of the region while sharing in the culture and warmth of the community.

Maji Zuwa hosts individuals, university students, researchers and welcomes groups; namely leadership programs, high school groups, mission trips, church groups and families looking for an opportunity to combine a vacation with involvement.

To learn more about volunteering in Malawi and Maji Zuwa Water and Sun Resort, please visit

Maji Zuwa Water and Sun Resort