Kenya is 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 city, where small-scale agriculture, manufacturing and tourism are the backbone of the economy. In the communities where we focus our work, the cost of an education is out of reach for many so we work with schools that have been set up by local people to give children the chance of a better future.
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. Ten of these projects are privately run, with no government funding, and are, 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. We provide the humanitarian and financial support required so that the projects can continue to operate and develop.
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. There are allocated breaktimes, although there is a relaxed attitude towards these timings. 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 – volunteers 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 keen football fans 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 volunteers the flexibility to coach the sports they are most comfortable with.
Teaching volunteers work alongside teachers and other volunteers to help manage the demands of educating large classes of mixed students, aged between 5-16. Volunteers are working in a support role and will not be asked to do anything that they are not comfortable with. Those that are confident will have the option to start helping with lesson delivery and then, ultimately, progress to delivering lessons independently. To support volunteers with preparing for this role, we have a Volunteer Resource Portal which is full of syllabus information, lesson planning tips and interactive session ideas. Our aim is to provide volunteers with the guidance and reassurance they need to effectively carry out the teaching assistance role.
Coaching volunteers will generally assist with sporting sessions before and after school, as well as getting involved with PE lessons. Volunteers generally work alongside teachers to deliver games and sessions for the children; the majority of teachers will not specialise in sports coaching, so they will be grateful for support and ideas. Qualifications are not necessary for this role; motivation and a can-do attitude will suffice! Additionally, we have a fantastic set of coaching resources and tips, on our Volunteer Resource Portal, for you to read through before you go to make sure you are well-prepared.
Your volunteering day
- Wake up and meet for breakfast at around 7:30am before being taken to your group’s allocated project at around 8:30am to start work. (We encourage volunteers to take plenty of water as it will be very hot and humid.)
- A typical morning session will involve assisting in the classroom with English and maths. This will involve the use of text books, writing out activities on the chalkboard and engaging students in interactive learning through singing and various activities.
- 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. Volunteers also break for lunch at this point and are served a delicious, hot meal that is brought to the project by our team. 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, volunteers are encouraged to take learning outside the classroom and get the children participating in PE lessons. Activities may include bean bag racing, co-ordination exercises and counting games. These activities will depend on the resources available so we recommend that volunteers bring sports equipment with them if they have specific sessions planned.
- Afternoon activities finish at around 3:00pm, at which point volunteers are picked up and taken back to their accommodation to relax after a hard day’s work. There may be the chance to visit the market or use the swimming pool during the afternoon.
- Dinner is served at the accommodation at around 7:00pm, following which volunteers can relax with a book, play some games or reflect on their volunteering experience. We also encourage volunteers to practise their 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 and 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.
Building and renovation assistance
Building volunteers support with the improvement of classroom and school building facilities, such as kitchens, IT suites and playgrounds, to allow the children to learn in a better environment. Once the new facilities are built, they need to be decorated so that they are ready for productive lessons for students and teachers alike.
Building volunteers do not need any form of previous experience as all work is led by a local builder who will be present throughout. Any specialist building work is reserved for those with qualifications, so volunteers need not worry about being out of their depth. We simply recommend that volunteers are fit and healthy enough to carry out typical activities such as painting, cement-mixing, plastering and carrying moderately heavy items.
Funding for the building work required is provided by African Adventures and African Adventures Foundation, and is organised before travel so that volunteers understand what is expected of them during their trip.
Your volunteering day
- Wake up and meet for breakfast at around 7:30am before being taken to your allocated project around 8:30am to start work. We advise that volunteers take plenty of water as it is very hot and humid.
- Depending on the allocated construction work, a typical morning session 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 assist with these tasks.
- At around 10:30am, volunteers stop for morning break with the children, when they take time to have a snack and play games.
- After 30 minutes, lessons commence again and building work continues for another hour or so.
- At around 12:30pm, building volunteers take a well-deserved break and are brought a hot meal to enjoy. 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.
- In the afternoon, building and renovation activities continue until the time the school closes at around 3:00pm, at which point volunteers are taken back to the volunteer accommodation for some downtime.
- During the afternoon, volunteers can visit the craft market or go for a swim to relax.
- Dinner is served around 7:00pm, after which volunteers can either spend some time with their group or just relax with a book and reflect on their volunteering experience.
What to Expect
Although there may be an initial culture shock, volunteers soon become familiar with, and adjust to, the pace of life in Kenya. Everyday life is more relaxed than the usual fast-paced lifestyle we are used to in Western culture so we encourage volunteers to 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 Kenya 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 we encourage patience and understanding with what people come 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 our partner projects speak English, so volunteers should not find language a problem. The students will often want to practise their English speaking with our volunteer groups. Please do not underestimate the impact this can have on a person trying to learn a new language, as it can be very powerful. The students will enjoy trying to teach volunteers some Swahili too!
Outside of project hours, volunteers can relax and explore the local area with their peers. Kenya is a beautiful country with lots to see and do, and our friendly Kenya team are on hand with the best recommendations! We certainly encourage volunteers to make the most of their time in Kenya by taking the time to see the wonder and beauty that this amazing country has to offer.
Discover and Explore
Rift Valley Adventure Day +£150
The Rift Valley invites volunteers to explore some of Kenya’s most iconic landmarks and scenery. This is an amazing opportunity to 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.
Volunteers can then head to the Equator for a unique photo opportunity and then to Thomson Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in East Africa, where a hike to the bottom brings 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. Your group 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.
There is also the chance to visit one of the Maasai villages to learn more about the nomadic Maasai people and get an insight into their culture.View the brochure
Mount Kenya Trek +£595
An incredible opportunity to see the sunrise at 17,000 feet and retrace the steps of some of the world’s greatest explorers! Our Mount Kenya Trek provides the 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.
Still want to know more? Get in touch…
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