Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VFP in Kenya?
Katie: I did research on many different volunteer programs, and VFP seemed to be the right fit. Financially it was the most affordable, the reviews were inspiring, and I have had a draw to Africa for many years. So, finally I took the plunge and did it. Each project was very detailed with location, job responsibilities, and timeline from beginning to end. This really helped me visualize what my trip may look like. Moreover, it was helpful that VFP answered my emails promptly and their website was easy to maneuver through.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Katie: While at the work camp the day to day activities varied, but still followed a pretty regular routine. As a volunteer team, we each had set responsibilities. We stayed in a rural area outside a Kenyan village. Each morning, we would wake up early and eat breakfast (prepared by the assigned volunteers that day). As a group, we would then walk to the village, which was about 1 - 1.5 miles away. Upon arriving at the village our tasks varied throughout the 3 week stay. Here are some of many things we did:
- Weeding, tilling the land and planting crops
- Slashing down overgrown trees and bushes
- "Mudding" the front of the nursery school and kitchen
- Digging out a 25 meter trench for rain run-off (so banana trees receive precipitation effectively)
- Filling in deep holes with rocks and soil in the village roads (allowing safer travel for the people)
- A Saturday orphan feeding program where we would make/serve lunch, play games, and feed the children
- Avocado soap and bead making
Given these tasks were laborious, it was never seemed that difficult. Probably because we were often times laughing, singing with the Kenyan women and playing with the nursery kids. After our days work was done, we would walk back to our camp and eat lunch, relax and get to know each other... after the first week we started doing home visits to many Kenyan women's homes. Here we would learn their stories. Some sad, some triumphant, but above all I learned the beauty of the human spirit. These women inspired me on a daily basis. They will forever hold a dear place in my heart.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Katie: Well, when I made my trip to Kenya I had just finished my first year in my Masters of Social Work Program. This 3-week work camp helped open my eyes to the need in the Developing world. I was inspired and challenged daily during my volunteer trip. I gained an understanding of the needs of a different type of at-risk population. I was humbled by these Kenyan women; their struggles and accomplishments. Not a day goes by I don't think of the work I did and how this small Kenyan village changed my life. This experience has me looking into international social work. After that trip, I didn't feel like my work was finished. Though it may sound cliche, I have more to give to Africa. As I get ready to graduate in May with my MSW, I hope I am lucky enough to continue making a difference in the lovely and inspiring Kenya.