Volunteer in Kenya, a country of real contrasts – with breathtaking scenery, incredible wildlife and a popular tourism industry on one hand, and extreme poverty on the other. We work in Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest town, where small-scale agriculture, manufacturing and tourism are the backbone of the economy. For a project-focused experience, choose Kenya.
Teaching and multi-sports
African Adventures works with 14 projects, in the heart of Kenya’s famous Rift Valley, that educate a combined total of 10,000 children between the ages of 5-16. 10 of these projects are privately run, with no government funding, and, in most cases, free to attend. They are based in low-income areas where a government education, despite being free at the point of entry, remains unaffordable overall because students must pay for their own exam fees, school books, uniform and desk. These projects therefore give the poorest children access to a full nursery and primary education.
In Kenya, students learn by rote (rote learning is a memorisation technique based on repetition) and, therefore, do not always have underpinning knowledge. This means that lesson delivery is often less interactive than in the UK. Many teachers are only part-qualified or, in some cases, volunteers themselves. A syllabus is followed using a text book and lessons are delivered accordingly. There are allocated breaktimes, although there is a relaxed attitude towards these timings. Younger children will have more frequent breaks, whereas the older students will be expected to study for longer periods of time without a break. Students are set by ability, not age, meaning it is not uncommon to be in a class of five year-olds, for example, but have older children in the lesson.
Because of the heat in Kenya, most PE lessons take place early in the morning or after school. The children are always very excited and enthusiastic when it comes to getting involved with sports – you will not be short of willing participants! Despite the nation’s profound success at long-distance running in recent years, football is Kenya’s first sport. So, if you are a keen football fan, you will be right at home in Kenya! Football is a favourite but the children love to experience a variety of sports and our multi-sports coaching programme gives you the flexibility to coach the sports that you are most comfortable with.
As a teaching assistant volunteer, you will work alongside teachers and other volunteers to help manage the demands of educating large classes of mixed students. The schools provide an education for children between the ages of 5-16, which is similar to British curricula of years gone by. Once you feel comfortable with your allocated class, it may be that you start helping with lesson delivery and then progress to delivering lessons yourself. To make your programme as productive as possible, we will provide you with vital pre-departure materials which include specific information about your project and the topics the children in your class will be studying, so that you’re ready and prepared when you arrive.
If you opt to help with sports coaching, qualifications are advantageous but certainly not essential – don’t worry that students will be expecting professionals to turn up! Additionally, we have a fantastic set of coaching resources and tips for you to read through before you go to make sure you are well-prepared. You will generally work alongside teachers to deliver your games and sessions; the majority of them will not specialise in sports coaching, so they will be grateful for your support and ideas. Some sports lessons may take place inside the classroom and be based around health, the body and the theoretical elements of sport – you will be invited to participate in these. There will be times when lessons are not sports focused and instead concentrate on other areas of the curriculum – we would encourage you to participate in these, so that your days are busy and fulfilling.
Your volunteering day
You will wake up and meet for breakfast at around 7:30am and will then be taken to your allocated project at around 8:30am to start your day’s volunteering. Remember to take plenty of water with you as it will be very hot and humid. A typical morning session at your school project will involve assisting in the classroom with English and Maths. This will involve you using books, writing out activities on the chalkboard and engaging students in interactive learning by asking them to join you at the front of class and address their peers. Learning English phrases and numbers through singing songs is often very popular. At around 10:30am, it is likely that classes will stop for morning break where there will be time for the children to have a snack and play games. This will be followed by another lesson up until around 12:30pm when lunchtime will commence. You will break for lunch and be served a delicious, hot meal that is brought to you by your trip hosts. Each project has a feeding programme attached to it, meaning that each student will receive a free lunch. Some projects also provide a mid-morning snack called uji (a thin porridge made from a combination of millet, corn, and sorghum flours). The children’s lunches usually consist of a Kenyan staple called ugali served with a cabbage or bean stew. Often, this is the only food the children will receive all day.
After lunch, you may like to take your learning outside the classroom and get the children participating in a PE lesson. Activities may include bean bag racing, co-ordination exercises and counting games. These activities will depend on the resources available so we recommend bringing some sports equipment with you if you have specific sessions planned. Afternoon activities will finish at around 3pm, at which point you will be picked up and taken back to your accommodation to relax after a hard day’s work. You may have the chance to visit the market or use the swimming pool during the afternoon. Dinner will be served at your accommodation around 7pm, following which you can relax with a book, play some games or reflect on your day’s volunteering with other travellers. You may also like to practise your Swahili!
Building and renovation
Most of the schools we work with are not government run; they are educational projects which have been set up by well-meaning community figures who want to give children opportunity in life through the provision of an education. The projects are funded largely by the Project Co-ordinators and by local community sources but they cost a lot to maintain and there are often not sufficient funds, meaning support is needed to improve what they have to offer. Our building programme focuses on developing the facilities at each school so that the children attending can enjoy a better education through improved learning environments.
Why schools need support
Large investment is needed at the schools we work with in Kenya because many of the buildings are basic structures and can subside relatively quickly. They often have leaky roofs, missing windows and old paintwork. Prior to working with African Adventures, many classroom interiors were tired and did not have any learning materials on the walls. Although cosmetic changes may seem a minor thing, a more vibrant classroom can make for a much better learning environment to engage the children – volunteers can help to create this.
There is a severe lack of resources at the projects. Many do not have desks, meaning that students sit on the floor; some students will have exercise books and pencils, others will not. In addition, only a few of the projects we work with have electricity and running water. Each classroom will have a blackboard, of varying quality, and sometimes there will be colourful displays on the walls. However, many of the classrooms are mud or iron-cast sheet structures which do not allow a lot of light in, meaning that students at the back of the class may struggle to see what the teacher is doing. You will be supporting with the improvement of classroom and school building facilities, to allow the children to learn in a better environment.
Building and renovation assistance
As a building volunteer, you will be placed at one of the 14 schools we support to carry out vital work and play a big part in helping us to deliver Our Goals throughout the year. The programme focuses on improving the standards of the school buildings and specifically focuses on new classrooms, kitchen facilities, IT suites and playgrounds. Once the new facilities are built, they need to be decorated so that they are ready for productive lessons for students and teachers alike.
You do not need any form of previous experience as all work is led by a local builder, who will deliver a short induction to explain how to carry out the work. Any specialist building work is reserved for those with qualifications, so do not worry about being out of your depth. You should be fit and healthy enough to carry out typical activities such as painting, cement-mixing, plastering and carrying moderately heavy items. If you are unsure about this, please contact your doctor.
Funding is provided by African Adventures and African Adventures Foundation, and the work you will be helping to carry out during your trip will be made clear prior to departure.
Your volunteering day
You will wake up and meet for breakfast at around 7:30am and you will then be taken to your allocated project around 8:30am to start your day’s volunteering. Remember to take plenty of water with you as it will be very hot and humid. Depending on your allocated construction work, a typical morning session at your school project might include cementing bricks for a new classroom, painting existing classrooms, or screeding classroom walls and floors. There will be a friendly team of qualified builders to help you with these tasks. You might like to take some gloves and eyewear with you for protection.
At around 10:30am, you can stop for morning break with the children, when they take time to have a snack and play games. After 30 minutes, lessons will commence again and you can continue with your building work for another hour or so. Your Trip Host will then bring you a cooked meal at around 12:30pm, which will be well-deserved after your morning’s work. In the afternoon, you will continue with your building and renovation activities until the time the school closes at around 3pm and your trip hosts take you back to the volunteer accommodation for some downtime. During the afternoon, you may like to visit the craft market or make use of the swimming pool or gym. Dinner will be served around 7pm, after which you can either spend some time with fellow volunteers or just relax with a book and reflect on your day’s volunteering.
What to Expect
During your stay, you will soon become familiar with, and adjust to, the pace of life in Kenya. Everyday life is more relaxed here than the usual fast-paced lifestyle you may be used to in Western culture so be prepared for a few obstacles along the way with timings. The best advice we can give is to travel with an open mind and fully embrace the Kenyan culture. Although we work hard with our in-country team to ensure project work is set and runs as smoothly as possible for our volunteers, the relaxed approach can sometimes delay the process, so please try to have patience and understanding with what you will get to know as “Africa time”!
Swahili is Kenya’s first language, with English being the second. Most lessons will be taught in English (with the exception of lessons for younger children) and all of the teachers at the school will speak English, so you should not find language a problem. The students will want to practise their English speaking with you. Please do not underestimate the impact this can have on a person trying to learn a new language, as it can be more valuable than you think. The students will enjoy trying to teach you some Swahili too!
Outside of project hours, you can relax, get to know the other volunteers and African Adventures staff on your programme, and explore the local area. Kenya is a beautiful country with lots to see and do, and our friendly in-country team are on hand with the best recommendations! You will have the freedom to use the local transport (tuk-tuks and matatus) for the short journey to and from town. Just ask your Trip Host for the best way to go about doing this and they’ll be more than happy to help.
We believe in providing an experience which has clear two-way benefits. Not only will you be helping to create lasting change in this deprived area of Kenya, you will go on an amazing journey and learn a great deal in the process.
We are confident that you will:
- Learn valuable skills which you can use in the future.
- Gain experience that will benefit you and your career.
- Return home a more globally aware citizen.
- Help create lasting change in the Nakuru community.
- Feel proud of the impact you have made whilst volunteering.
- Go on an emotional journey that will make you appreciate what you have.
- Build new relationships and make new friends, possibly lifelong ones.
- Be inspired to continue helping to create change.
Your programme package
- Outstanding pre-departure support and useful information
- Dedicated African Adventures Programme Co-ordinator and Kenya Trip Host
- Comprehensive personal travel insurance
- Western style, single-sex, shared accommodation with electricity, toilets and running water
- Daily transport to and from projects, if required
- Return transfers from Nairobi to project base
- Giraffe centre visit
- Three meals per day
- Fully organised project work, with clear objectives, advised prior to departure
- 24-hour in-country support
- Trips to historic and cultural areas of interest
2018 Programme Start Dates
2019 Programme Start Dates
Rift Valley Adventure Day +£150
The Rift Valley invites you to explore some of Kenya’s most iconic landmarks and scenery. You will come face-to-face with breathtaking wildlife on a safari through Lake Nakuru National Park, home to an array of animals including lions, rhinos and flamingos.
You’ll then head to the Equator for a unique photo opportunity and then to Thomson Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in East Africa, where you can hike to the bottom for some incredible views and the perfect photo opportunity!View the brochure
Maasai Mara Safari Weekend +£395
The Maasai Mara encapsulates a traditional and authentic African safari. You can camp out in the heart of the reserve surrounded by some of the world’s most iconic game including elephant, giraffe and even cheetah.
You will also have the chance to visit one of the Maasai villages where you will learn more about the nomadic Maasai people and get an insight into their culture.View the brochure
Mount Kenya Trek +£595
Ever wanted to see the sunrise at 17,000 feet or retrace the steps of some of the world’s greatest explorers? Mount Kenya is your chance to climb Africa’s second highest mountain and tick a remarkable achievement off the bucket list. This trek is a great option for the seasoned explorer and the amateur traveller alike.
The Mount Kenya Trek includes insurance, guides, accommodation, meals, insurance transport and camping equipment. Climb the Naromoru route, hike the Alpine Moorland zone, see the equator and, finally, reach the summit.
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