Volunteering in Kenya
Working as a volunteer in Kenya is a unique way of developing oneself and experiencing the culture and the people at hand while doing useful and much needed work.
Volunteering in Kenya
EXIS organizes volunteer work stays in Kenya in collaboration with local NGOs. Volunteering in Kenya is a unique way to explore yourself, discover a country, its culture and people while doing a meaningful job.
You must be at least 18 years old, independent, outgoing and have a sincere desire to do volunteer work. You should expect the unexpected and be flexible and enthusiastic. These are probably the qualities that made you contact EXIS in the first place.
Remember this is not a holiday or a guided tour. It is a unique experience to learn, make new friends and also make a difference with your volunteer work.
Internships are also possible. [email protected]
Board and accomodation
Volunteers will – unless stated otherwise in the work description – be accommodated with the coordinator with full board. Normally it is a double bedroom with another volunteer in the centre of Nairobi.
Kenyan food includes ugali – a kind of porridge made from corn meal; chapatti – bread similar to a tortilla made from wheat flour; irio-porridge of corn, beans, vegetables, potatoes and rice. Volunteers normally share a room.
Below you will find descriptions of the voluntary work places. Tasks and working hours differ from place to place, but are generally between 20-30 hours per week
The Projects in Kenya
Below you can learn about the different projects in Kenya.
Program and start dates
Programs start every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month, with airport pick-up, Sunday prior to the program start, at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, 15 km from Nairobi.
Volunteers are driven directly to their accommodation. During the first days you will get a brief introduction to Kenya’s various cultures, religions and local ways of life.
Most projects are located in the poorest area of the capital Nairobi, about 5 km northwest of town centre and home to one third of the capital’s population. Over a million people live at close quarters in tin shanties. The great majority of the slum population lives on less than $1 per day.
Walking around Nairobi is relatively straightforward, as the city centre is small and accessible. Taxis are widely available. The town is the centre of Kenya’s extensive bus network, with destinations throughout the country.
Most of the projects mentioned here accept internships. Send an e-mail to [email protected] explaining your wishes and the requirements of your school counsellor and we will find out, where you fit in best.
Orphanages provide orphaned, poor and disadvantaged children shelter, clothing, food, medical care and education. The children come from different backgrounds.
Many have been abandoned, abused or lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and other diseases. It is especially difficult to care for those few children who have physical disabilities.
Some orphanages host up to 250 children, others just about 20. Ages range from 2-15 years.
Orphanages often entirely depend on financial support from Christian communities, institutions and private sponsors. Examples of tasks:
- Help in the kitchen
- Wake the children in the morning and send them off to school
- Help children with personal hygiene
- Take part in activities with the children
- Teach English and arrange creative activities
As a volunteer you will be motivating, inspiring and expanding the horizon of the children. No special qualifications are needed. But is it, of course, necessary that you have knowledge about the subjects you teach. That could be English, math, physics, sports etc.
All public and private schools in Kenya teach in English. Volunteers get help and guidance before they start work. It is also expected that you help the children with homework and participate in administrative work.
Examples of tasks:
- Teaching English
- Administrative tasks
- Participate in school activities
- Any other tasks suggested by the teachers
The educational system has three terms per year in primary and secondary schools. Dates for the school terms (semesters) are as follows:
Term 1: 4th Jan – 8th April
Term 2: 2nd May – 5th August
Term 3: 5th Sept. – 18th Nov.
Vocational training and rehabilitation
Kenya’s vulnerable youth need careful attention to assist them to become responsible citizens who can play a productive role in society. This NGO has a short term program (one year) with the focus on returning boys from the street either back to family, to mainstream schools, employment and/or industrial attachments that will lead to employment.
The overall objective is to contribute to the improvement of the communities in the Mukuru slums of Nairobi by assisting the community towards self-sufficiency.
Various projects are run in the slums i.e. informal education, vocational training, health etc. The poorest of the poor live here and the work is not always easy. Street children projects focus mainly on rehabilitating children from the streets through education, drama, feeding centres etc.
The NGO supports 4 primary schools, a rehabilitation centre for up to 65 boys who participate in the one year long program, a medical clinic with a HIV/AIDS testing centre, a community based Skills Centre for up to 60 students, a secondary school sponsorship programme and an adult education programme.
Your tasks will be, depending on your skills:
- Assist children in classroom and after school with their homework
- Arrange activities like dancing, games
- Cleaning and repairing the children’s surroundings, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Take part in clubs like, reading, spelling bees, drama, music and dancing
- Help children with personal hygiene
Working hours are 20-30 hrs. per week from Monday to Friday.
St. Mary’s hospital was founded especially to offer treatment to the poor population in Nairobi. It has a 150 inpatient capacity and covers all major specialities. Volunteers, interns, nursing and medical students can work at the following departments: radiology, gynaecology, paediatrics, ophthalmology, HIV/AIDS counselling and ARV therapy, diabetic clinic and maternal and child health care.
There may also be opportunities to attend outreach sessions at rural areas. Your tasks will of course depend on your education and experience. For technical and insurance related reasons, the hospital cannot allow you to perform operations, even though you should have the necessary qualifications. But observations are allowed, so you can learn how Kenyan physicians work.
You will have to expect completely different working methods, mainly due to traditions, lack of equipment and resources. Volunteers and interns will not be obliged to work on Sundays, but if your internship requires more hours, you are more than welcome to do so. You will agree upon a time table for your entire stay, with a member of staff.
Every year AIDS takes the lives of thousands of Kenyan children and adults. An estimated 900,000 Kenyans are infected with HIV/AIDS. There is a great need for information about HIV/AIDS in order to increase awareness in the local communities and thus change attitudes.
Organizations offering help to HIV positive children and their families operate in several Nairobi slum areas.
They counsel and test the local population, give antiretroviral medical treatment, educate caregivers, establish nutrition programs and fundraise.
Their goal is to reduce the number of HIV/AIDS cases and improve quality of life for about 3000 HIV positive children and about 15,000 family members. Experience has shown that help and counselling at home has a positive effect and is cheaper than hospital care.
Examples of tasks:
- Home visits
- Distribute food to patients
- Counsel patients and their families
- Teach hygiene and nutrition
- Infection-prevention counselling
Volunteers with medical experience can work at the HIV clinic and will have the following tasks:
- Distribute medicine
- Treat injuries
- Laboratory work
- Other odd tasks at the clinic
- CD4 counts
This port school in Nairobi is located close the City. It is registered as a “Community Based Project”.
The school was established in 2004 by Anthony Nzioka who himself grew up in one of the city’s poor neighbourhoods. He saw how many children and adolescents due to the extremely difficult conditions, crime, prostitution, etc. slide into various abuses.
Anthony Nzioka wanted to help them and created a possibility for the children to get a normal life. An anchor, that offers positive, constructive activities, good role models, education and an opportunity to find work. The school has now achieved these goals and teaches the chidren not only in sports and general school subjects, but also in preventing violence against women, environmental awareness, healthy family life, civil society etc.
The school needs dedicated interns and volunteers, preferably with expertise in sports, which can contribute in both physical education classes, the class work and daily operations, and in addition act as positive role models in children’s lives.
Your contribution will be greatly appreciated by both children and staff and you will experience as a volunteer to help pass on skills and good values to the next generation in Nairobi.
Interns and volunteers will be expected to help out in all these different activities. The academy aim is to motivate the poor youth of the area. Your duties and responsibilities can be:
- Help with administration
- Calendar event planning
- Teaching or coaching if required
- Actual participation in soccer games
- Teaching at the school
In Nairobi there is professional acrobatic training program for teens and youth from Nairobi’s slums.
They practice handstands, juggle and perform acrobatic acts on the trapeze, unicycle and tight rope. The slum area is a busy residential and market area just outside central Nairobi. Half of the population of about 320,000, lives below the poverty line. Residents face problems such as a lack of adequate housing, water shortages, sanitation and waste removal issues. Many families cannot afford to pay school fees for their children.
The”Circus Academy” is a professional acrobatic training program for children and teens. It provides an alternative space for them to engage in the arts, sports and learn a lucrative trade. For two years, room and board is provided. Through their outreach program, the students teach workshops with kids in the slum area and perform at local schools. This project is part of a series exploring the role of sports and art as part of re-education for those who have experienced traumas from violent conflict or from the daily grinding of poverty.
For volunteers with gymnastic or circus experience, this would be a unique place to work and help out.
Kenyan nursing homes are in need of interns and volunteers to help the staff taking care of the residents. Traditionally the older generation has been living with and being cared for by their family. This tradition has however over the last decades changed dramatically and today there is a great need for nursing homes in the Kenya.
Many older people have lost children and grandchildren to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Furthermore many young people move to other regions with job possibilities, leaving their elderly relatives behind. This increases the need for assistance and care.
An Irish nun, named Sister Hellena, decided in the early 90’s to do something about this serious situation and set up a nursing home in Nairobi. In order to provide the residents of this home better care, the staff needs helping hands from interns and volunteers, both for practical tasks and for providing care and warmth to the elderly.
You will be helping with:
- Providing personal care
- Distribution of medicine
- Physical activities
- Personal hygiene
- Spending quality time with the inhabitants
In Mombasa there is a music school for underprivileged children. This school works with neighbouring children’s centre’s located at the Bombolulu slums. Western music is not new to anyone here but most of these kids have never seen a piano, or even knew a saxophone existed.
Many of the children reached by this program have experienced extreme poverty and violence. The children are aged 4 to 17 years and follow piano, guitar, drums, saxophone and singing lessons.
Volunteers with musical skills are welcome to help the teachers. Volunteers will be working from 9:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday. The school has 4 decent rooms at the music school and can accommodate up to 8 volunteers. You will get 3 meals a day at school.
The Nairobi National Park is part of the Kenyan Wild life service unit, located in Langata only 7 km from the city center. This park is a new conservation based recreation facility with an extraordinarily rich and unique animal and plant life. The park was established to protect Kenya’s wild life that is under great pressure, due to the fact that natural areas are being converted into agriculture. Kenya is the only country in Africa with a national park within the city environment. The combination of skilled and creative landscape design, unique wildlife species offers perfect possibilities for tourism and conservation education.
You will get a taste of Kenya’s rich fauna, including the rare bongo, white rhino, albino zebra, a collection of cats, antelopes and primates. The park is also home to a collection of 150 species of local trees.
The park needs veterinary doctors, students and dedicated volunteers to help with the many daily odd tasks. Experience is not required. Previous experience with working with animals is not required.
Example of tasks:
- Daily feeding of the animals
- Preparing educational material
- Assist in handling visitors
- Distributing medicine to animals
- Monitoring the animals
- Guiding visitors on how to feed the animals
- Tree planting and watering of the nurseries
- Supporting staff in any other conservation activities
Work with animals
For longer stays please contact us at [email protected].
Inkluderet i prisen
Voluntary Work in Kenya
Board and accommodation during the entire program (3 meals per day)
Help and guidance from the local coordinator during your stay in Kenya
Personal sponsor amount to your work place
Airport pick-up and drop-off
Internet connection in the apartment
One bottle of drinking water per day
The following is not included in the fee:
- Travel to/from Kenya
- Visa fees
- Pocket money
- Any entrance fee during sightseeing and trips
- The cost of transport to and from accommodation to work place, if it is not within walking distance
- Working in a national Park requires boots and work gloves (costs are approx. 20 Euro)
The East African country of Kenya borders Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the southwest, Uganda to the west and Sudan and Ethiopia to the north. To the southeast is an approximately 530 km long coastline on the Indian Ocean.
The land rises from the lowlands on the coast to highlands and mountains in the central area. The Great Rift Valley, west of the capital Nairobi, runs north-south through the country. In central Kenya Lake Victoria is located at 1200 meters, surrounded by mountains and the savannah.
The landscape and climate varies widely. The low-lying coastal areas are tropical but the land becomes drier and drier as you move north and northwest.
The rainy seasons are from April to June and from October to the beginning of December. The coastal area is hot and humid all year, but feels comfortable due to the refreshing breeze from the ocean.
Swahili and English are official languages. A new language “Sheng” has evolved among the younger generations. This is a combination of Kiswahili, English and a combination of other ethnic languages.
EXIS i Kenya
You will find the most of our projects in the poor suburbs of the Capital, Nairobi.
The population of Kenya is just over 34 million, with over 3 million living in the capital of Nairobi. There are more than 40 ethnic groups in Kenya. The largest group is the Kikuyu with 24%.
The Kenyan population is constituted by several tribes and population groups. Kenya’s identity is formed by influence from many countries, both the modern and the traditional. In the music you will see the cultural diversity.
Most Kenyans are Christian; 45% belong to a Protestant church and 33% are Catholics. 10% of Kenyans are Moslem and 2% follow traditional African religions.
Before you go
Volunteering in a social project demands maturity, flexibility and independence. It is emotionally very demanding to work with poor people, but it also gives you the opportunity to try something unique and not least, an unforgettable experience.
Living and working in Kenya is a huge challenge. It may seem overwhelming at first to adapt to a completely different way of life in strange surroundings.
Things do not function the way they do where you come from and people do not react as you expect. The climate, food and atmosphere are all different. During work, you will confront a harsh social reality and experience things that most tourists cannot even imagine. Do not expect to find a finished program, all ready when you start working. If you have decided to work with children in an orphanage or school, it helps if you already know how to occupy children – with handicrafts, sports, games, storybooks and music. Use your imagination and be creative.
EXIS always strives to provide the best service, also in Kenya, but European standards are not to be expected. The work is not organized by a weekly plan or schedule.
Please submit the enrolment form and send us a letter of motivation in English with a picture, in which you explain why you wish to work as a volunteer and describe yourself. The coordinator in Kenya will do her best to respect your first priority, but we may not guarantee that all your wishes can be fulfilled.
Kenyan law requires a clean criminal record. So please also mail this to [email protected].
Upon receipt of your enrolment form EXIS will send confirmation, pre-departure handbook and further useful details.
A visa is needed. We advise to apply for a tourist visa at the Kenyan embassy/consulate in your home country. Since a voluntary work visa does not exist, you must apply for a single entry/tourist visa. It takes about 5 working days to obtain it. Find the Kenyan embassy in your country on this page and download the application form.
A three months Visa can also be obtained at the airport. Extensions of visas (three months at a time and up to six months) can be made at Immigration in Nairobi. Kenya has an agreement with Tanzania to waiver visa re-entry fees if travelling between the countries as long as single-entry visas remain valid for each country. This means multiple-entry visas are not required if going from Kenya to Tanzania and back to Kenya. The same applies for travel from Tanzania.
For more information about visas for Kenya, visit www.immigration.go.ke.
It is generally advised to get vaccines for tetanus, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, yellow fever, and cholera as well as malaria pills. Contact your physician or insurance company for exact information.
Travel expenses are not included in the program fees.
Travel insurance is compulsory.
As most volunteers want to see as much as possible of the country before returning home, we advise all to save some time for tourism. Our coordinator in Kenya can help you to participate in safaris, like a 5 days trip to the Nairobi-Maasai Mara National Reserve and Lake Nakuru, with game viewing.
You can also participate in other safaris from Nairobi to Johannesburg or in the Gorilla park in Uganda.
Ask [email protected] for details about these trips.
Ready to go?
Reserve a spot for one of the projects in Kenya