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.
Kenya is located in East Africa. Its diverse natural landscape includes wide open savannahs, serene lakes and the Great Rift Valley, home to the second highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya. Nakuru, where our projects are based, is Kenya’s 4th largest city, with a population of over 300,000. While the Central Business District of Nakuru is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, the area we work in is relatively rural. The weather is normally hot, but fresh, with average daytime temperatures between 20-28 degrees Celsius. During the rainy seasons in November and April, there may be short bursts of refreshing rainfall.
Kenya is a beautiful, diverse and very friendly country. As a visitor, you will receive a warm welcome – karibu Kenya! Attitudes are generally conservative, with an emphasis on traditional values. Great respect is paid to elders, and public displays of affection are rare. Religion forms a focal point in many Kenyan’s lives and plays an important role in community life, with the majority of the population following Christianity. The pace of African life is more relaxed than in Western culture, so take the opportunity to slow down and enjoy!
Kenya’s official languages are Swahili and English, which has remained in use even after Kenya’s independence in 1963. An additional 62 languages are used by different ethnic groups. A couple of words you might commonly hear are “jambo!” meaning “hello!” and “karibu!” which means “you’re welcome!” The children at our projects will be keen to practice their English with you, and equally as keen to teach you some Swahili!
Kenyan food is healthy and nourishing. A diet staple is ugali, which is quite similar to porridge. This is usually accompanied by a vegetable or bean stew. Rice is another staple, and is usually served with beans. Kenyans will also sometimes have fish or meat as an accompaniment. You may also get the chance to have some delicious fresh fruit such as bananas, melon or oranges while in Kenya. The legal drinking age is 18, however being drunk is seen as shameful in Kenyan culture, and we ask volunteers to be respectful of this.
Despite Kenya’s reputation as the economic hub of East Africa, 45% of the population currently live below the poverty line, surviving on less than 80p per day. In Nakuru, African Adventures works with local projects to provide a free education and a daily meal for over 5,000 children, many of whom live around the edge of the town’s dumpsite. These projects face chronic underfunding and often lack sufficient classroom space and resources. As a volunteer, you can help by lending teaching support and improving the school environment through renovation.
Discover and Explore
African Adventures group trips proudly focus on volunteering and ensuring that all volunteers make a positive impact at their designated partner project.
During their journey, it’s important that volunteers also get an opportunity explore the magnificent sights and cultures of Africa. That’s why we have carefully selected a range of extraordinary adventure activities which groups can choose to add to their trip. Our adventure tours focus on culture, geography, history, adventure, wildlife and rest and relaxation. Be assured that there’s something for everyone, whatever their interest.
So, whether you’re looking for a rainforest trek in Ghana, a chance to explore the phenomenal Great Rift Valley in Kenya, or an ocean safari through the crystal-clear waters of Zanzibar, view our adventure activities brochure and explore all that Africa has to offer.
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