Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Colwill

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with IVHQ in Kenya?

Sarah: I have always had a real interest and passion for Women's education and rights and would really love to work for an NGO. So I decided that I would like to volunteer abroad working in this particular area to see if it was something that I was both good at and interested in when put into practice. I did a lot of research into which organization to go through and initially found a lot of large organizations that charged a lot of money for a small amount of time volunteering. When I first thought about volunteering I decided that I would only go with an organization where I knew where the money that I was paying was being spent, with the majority of which going to the projects that I would be working with rather than on third party admin fees.

When I found IVHQ I was really pleased that they seemed to tick all the right boxes! The price that they charged was considerably lower that most other large organizations, and also gave a breakdown of what the fees were for which I found really helpful. They were also amazing with correspondence whilst I was still in England, with personal emails being sent in answer to my often long and detailed questions! Responses were really helpful and it really made my decision to go much easier! And the Facebook group really helped settle my nerves, as you can contact previous and current volunteers with all your questions and get their first hand account. I decide to go to Kenya for the simple reason that they had a Women's Education program that sounded really interesting and just what I had been looking for! It's the best decision I ever made!

Volunteer in Kenya with IVHQ

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Sarah: Describing a typical day as a Volunteer is quite difficult as days are really varied and diverse. I stayed with both a host family and in the volunteer house during my 6 weeks in Kenya, so on a morning I would get up and have breakfast and chai with the family, or the other volunteers and my host sisters, and then I would start my day.

I was based in a high school and a Primary School in Kibera slum for a lot of my placement, so I would walk to the school and deliver sexual health and life skills classes to the students there. They were the most amazing young people I have ever met! However, we often went and held one off classes in other schools as and when they were needed or requested, answering questions that the young people had and making sure that they had all the correct information. Some of the questions I will never forget! We held Women's outreach days where we saw that there was a need for them. It is really a case of getting involved and adapting to where you see a need in the community. The staff were amazing with giving support and help constantly throughout the program. From personal problems when you just need to talk, to getting projects up and running and delivered. My Women's Education coordinator was amazing and was constantly there to help and assist and turned into not only a colleague but a friend!

One thing that I would defiantly recommend for all volunteers to Kenya is the Outreach Weekend. It is a brilliant way to see what long term projects and help the team give to the community as well as a great way to see a bit of Kenya. The day often ended with having dinner with my host family or with the other volunteers and host sisters. It's a great time to sit around and talk about your day and catch up. And there is loads of free time on a weekend to either get involved with other projects or to do a bit of sightseeing, of which the staff were always really helpful with giving tips or helping to arrange. I think at the end of the day, you can do as much or as little as you want as a volunteer and it is definitely a case of you get out of the experience what you put in!!!

How has this experience impacted your future?

Sarah: I know that it sounds like such a cliche but I most definitely left my heart in Kenya! I loved everything about my volunteer experience, from the work that I was fortunate to be able to get involved with, to the amazingly wonderful people I met including the staff, other volunteers and the community. I think the biggest way that it has impacted on my future is that it has re-enforced my passion for Women's Education and International Development, and given me more of a drive for working within the charitable sector.

I'm currently back in England working for a large cancer related charitable organisation, and am determined to go back to Kenya at some point in the future. Hopefully my experiences gained will assist me in finally getting my dream job in an NGO working with Women's education. My time spent volunteering in Kenya has changed me as a person and helped me grow and develop, and I don't think that I can ever be the same person that I was before volunteering. Volunteering in Kenya was life changing and I'm so happy that I made the decision to go!!