Volunteering in Kenya
Three Benefits for People Volunteering with
The Abandoned Children’s Foundation
International Volunteer Program
Yes, the title of this blog says, “help you!” This might sound contradictory, since you are traveling hundreds of miles to Kenya and volunteering your time to help the less fortunate. Nevertheless, it is true.
Yes, there are many benefits to having volunteers in Kenya and our volunteers have done amazing things. You can read about our volunteers in an upcoming post. Today, we focus on your benefits as an international volunteer with the Abandoned Children’s Foundation (ACF).
This post will cover three benefits for people volunteering with the ACF. This is not a ranking system. You might benefit from all three or only one or two. In addition, only you can determine how you benefited from your volunteer experience. This lists how previous volunteers have benefited along with my own personal experience.
- Landing – Your first “career based” job out of college
Many of our volunteers are recent college graduates. They use the time after graduation as an opportunity to help less fortunate people before starting the long stage in life called – having a career. Starting with the application process, we get to know our volunteers and many times their family. We are able to connect with our volunteers because we are a small not-for-profit. Additionally, we take the time to speak with our volunteers and work with them closely to ensure they enjoy their time in Kenya. After our volunteers return home and start hunting for a job, they confidently list us as a reference.
Most organizations offer a reference that only consists of confirming a volunteer’s program, location, and length of service. They are not able to provide any insight into the volunteer’s character, work ethic, likability, etc. because for them, volunteers are only a number. This is not the case with the ACF. We provide our volunteers with a letter of recommendation that has useful information on it. It states what the volunteer was able to accomplish while in Kenya and traits the individual showed while volunteering. We are able to provide detailed recommendations because we do not accept more than eight volunteer at a given time and these small groups help us get to know each volunteer.
- Achieving – A lifelong dream
On the other side of the coin, you have “Baby Boomers” stepping into retirement healthy, strong, and wanting to be a part of something that helps others. You might ask; “There are many organizations that offer international volunteer placements in Africa, why do you feel the ACF benefit baby boomers over other organizations?” and the first response would be – Great question! In the near future, we will post a blog on the type of questions you should ask an international volunteer organization before volunteering with them.
To answer the question, it is because of our small personable approach to international volunteering. Our approach allows our volunteers to maximize their efforts with limited distractions. The distraction of other volunteers that is. Yes, it sounds weird that other volunteers can be a distraction. However, we believe having a small volunteer group increases cooperation among volunteers, reduces competition, and allows people to focus on their goals. We are not able or willing to host dozens or even hundreds of volunteers at the same time like travel brokers.
The majority of organizations offering international volunteer placements are travel brokers. They have the ability to send hundreds of volunteers aboard at the same time. We feel this approach diminishes your efforts. When you have large groups of volunteers trying to accomplish the same goals, usually in different ways, it becomes a competition. You will also have “Clicks” that form making people feel unaccepted or left out. In addition, large groups tend to focus more on vacationing than volunteering.
- Changing – Your perspective
This benefit is not unique to the ACF. You can have a change of perspective no matter how you choose to travel to a developing country. My first trip to Kenya helped change my perspective in a couple of ways. Your trip may also change your perspective in the same ways or not.
Viewing the world as half-full – Before visiting Kenya, my views on things would generally focus on the negative rather than the positive. I contribute this to having hit a few rough patching along my journey. Nevertheless, after one visit to Kenya and seeing how most people‘s views were positive and hopeful, really helped me be more positive and hopeful.
Appreciating everything more – I never had a lot in life but I felt I appreciated the little I did have. After seeing people who literally had nothing more than a mud hut, a few dishes, and a hand full of clothes: I quickly realized what I viewed as little was massive to another. This really helped put things in perspective.
In closing, whether you are volunteering with the ACF or not, volunteering your time in a developing country should be mutually beneficial. Leaving the comfort of your home country can be stressful. At first, you might ask yourself if you made the right decision because nothing can prepare you for a trip to a developing country. I do not care how many movies you have watched or how well you think you have prepared for your trip. The only way to feel at home in a developing country is through experiencing it yourself. Remember to focus on the reasons you decided to volunteer and always keep an open mind. Before you know it, you will be wondering how you can leave a place you have grown to love so much.