Alumni Spotlight: Riyanka Roy


Why did you choose this program?

There are broadly 2 main reasons why I opted for the Childcare Program in Kenya. First, I have been wanting to visit Kenya for quite some time, and I didn't want it to be like any other safari-oriented vacation. I wanted to spend quality time in the country, soaking in the culture and exploring the nooks and corners. For that, I had to be engaged in something, that would offer me a scope to work with the locals and get to know more about the country. Hence, volunteering appeared to be the best option.

Secondly, working with children is something I absolutely love. When I came to know about this program and the fact that I would get to be with kids of all ages, I instantly knew that this is what I want to do. I wanted to add some happiness to these little ones, who don't have a family of their own and deserve to be loved. There was no second thought - I opted for this one!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

It was quite convenient to choose & apply for the program with Volunteering Solutions. They guided me throughout and helped me in understanding the need for the project. I had to just get some documents sorts (like my CV, a background clearance check report) and also take the Yellow Fever vaccine. That's all, there wasn't much hassle with anything.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

It needs a lot of patience to work with the kids. While I was there, I mostly worked with infants and toddlers, and occasionally with the older ones (who were mostly in school during the time I used to be at the home). The kids don't understand English, but the language won't be a problem. The main thing is that there are a lot of kids (compared to the number of volunteers) and all of them would want your attention! Also, you need to keep them engaged in some activity so that they are not fighting with each other. So think of what all you can do, and also keep your bag full of stories, 'coz the kids love it.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We usually left the accommodation after breakfast, at around 9 o' clock. Once we reached, our day began with feeding the infants. At times, we had to help them get water and fill the buckets for cooking and cleaning. Later, some of us helped the house mothers in cleaning the clothes and drying them, as well as folding previous day’s clothes and sorting them. Others got engaged in kitchen chores – peeling the potatoes, chopping the cabbages, etc.

By 11 o'clock, the toddlers and a little older ones (varying from age 3 to 5 years old) used to get up and grabbed all our attention. While I mostly played around with them or told them stories, a fellow volunteer tried to teach them numbers & alphabets! (Later, I got to know that, in the process of teaching, he has himself ended up learning numbers, names of fruits, etc. in Swahili!)

Around 12.30 PM, the lunch used to be served to all the kids and we had to feed them. The room gets filled with noise and chirps as they all shout and scream “Chakula, Chakula!” (which means ‘food’ in Swahili).

Everyone wants to be fed, and since the number of kids was far more than the number of volunteers, we often had to feed 3 or 4 kids at the same point in time! Once the lunch scenes are over and the kids are recharged, it was time for another play session!

At around 4 o'clock, the kids who attend school return back. Once they change and freshen up, food is served to them. We often helped them with their homework, but mostly they would be interested in seeing our cell phones. So I chose to show them informative videos (about planets, or animals) and they would be engaged in learning something new! There was a Mexican volunteer who enthusiastically taught Spanish to the kids, and it was so adorable to watch him.

The day ends around 5 o'clock, when we all returned back to the accommodation together.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Honestly, I wasn't scared of anything! But the journey indeed helped me to learn a lot of things:

  • It was a journey that helped me to believe in myself and to know the fact that even I have the power to make a difference in someone’s life.
  • It was a journey that helped me understand the goodness of humans and appreciate the little things of life.
  • It was a journey that made me realize that there are people whose problems are much bigger than that of mine, yet they aren’t cribbing. Instead, they are gladly rejoicing what they have!
  • It was a journey which taught me the fact that it’s very easy to sit at home and discuss the problems, but way more difficult to come out and get hands dirty.
  • It was a journey that helped me to grow a wider mindset, to think beyond the box, to live in the moment and to enjoy every bit that comes my way.