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Volunteer Review: Dean J., General Care Projects in Kenya

Dean exploring Kenya during his free time

I’m 42 and I’ve always wanted to volunteer. My wife surprised me at Christmas by presenting me with a Projects Abroad brochure and she said I could choose where to go for two weeks. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. Something I had always wanted to do was right before me.

I chose Kenya after doing some research. I wanted to be able to offer some help and assistance to children in need, and only being there for two weeks, I wanted to make it count.

Arriving in Kenya

From the minute I was greeted by a Projects Abroad staff member at the airport in Nairobi and personally escorted to Nanyuki the following morning, I couldn’t work out if I was feeling nerves or excitement. The staff were fantastic. They made me feel so welcome and they even phoned the other volunteers who were there to make sure I was invited to a meal on the first evening.

Dean with his host family during his volunteer childcare project

My Care placement

I had the wonderful privilege of working in three different schools. I wanted as much experience of Nanyuki life as I could get. However, I also wanted to feel like I had offered some of my own experience and come away feeling like my contribution was worthwhile.

What was quite funny was that in one school the headmistress misheard me saying I would like to help with English. She thought I was a qualified English teacher and when she introduced me to one of the class teachers, she must have explained things that way. After that, I was led into the staff room and handed several teaching books. I was then told I would be teaching a lesson in 30-minutes time!

Not wanting to complain and viewing this as an amazing challenge, I went ahead and taught the children all about direction. I loved it! It was fantastic. Their faces lit up being taught English by an English person. I had to tell the guys at Projects Abroad though, because at the end of the day I was handed several more text books and was told I could prepare for next week’s lessons over the weekend! We all had a laugh about it and the miscommunication was sorted out.

Students and teachers from a school in Kenya

I had never witnessed genuine happiness until my placements. The children were so happy and friendly, even with very few material possessions. I helped to teach the children basic English from ages four up to 14 across three different schools. Each day was never chore. It was hard work and was tiring, but it was also a joy and so satisfying.

During break time, I would show the children fun little tricks. One that they loved was when I swayed my fingers back and forth like a fish to show how bendy they are. Every time I saw them they would shout “fish” and one child even drew me a lovely fish and cut it out for me! They were also fascinated by my beard and the many colors it contained, especially the grey bits!

There’s one experience that will stay with me the most. One day the children all stopped for their lunch. We would usually help distribute their containers after warming up the food supplied by their parents, but one of the children just sat there without any. After I enquired, the head teacher said the child was one of four children from the slum and their mother was on her own and couldn’t always provide. I decided to offer my lunch to the child.

Volunteer Dean plays a ball game with students from a local school

Living with a host family

My host family were the most hospitable people and we got on so well. I felt so welcome every day and eating with them each evening was a lovely part of my trip all on its own. I made a good friend with another volunteer from Denmark and I hope to visit him.

Final thoughts

I have to say, if you can make the time and have the money to volunteer, do it and savor every minute of every day you are there! Do not waste any moments and make it a goal to contribute. You’ll leave feeling you have made a difference to people’s lives in Nanyuki.

Dean J.

This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.

This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.

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