Alumni Spotlight: Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer volunteered in Kiminini, Kenya at the Common Ground for Africa program through Village Volunteers. She is 21 years old from Whidbey Island, Washington and is currently studying Family and Human Services at University of Oregon. She plans to obtain a Masters of Public Administration degree with a focus in International Development after graduating from U of O. She loves working with people and children, playing tennis, dancing, and camping!

kenyan culture

Morning: In Kenya I was basically staying with a host family, but I had my own room that was detached from the local family’s home. Each morning I would get myself ready for the day, taking a shower if I chose. I would go to the family’s dining room where all meals are taken and have breakfast with my supervisor and other family members or visitors. For breakfast we would often have steamed vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams or taro root, roasted peanuts, mandazi (similar to donuts), or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or popcorn! After breakfast I would begin working for the day, either around the home or at the school, which was just within the same compound. If it was a weekend day, I would hand wash my clothing (though the home also had house girls who were always willing to help with this as well).

Afternoon: During the afternoons in Kenya I was often working in the school, facilitating skill building workshops with 7th and 8th grade students about HIV/AIDS, conflict resolution, goal setting, or empowerment and confidence with the girls.

If I was not working in the school I would often go out into the smaller villages around the area to do interviews with women or help with a micro-finance program that the women were involved in. There was also a women’s cooperative center store where I would go to help out during day times as well. I was also able to travel on weekends to tourist type destinations if I chose. Lunch was provided in the home, we would typically either have rice and beans, or beans and corn, along with a vegetable such as cabbage.

Evening: In the evenings, I would just relax with the family and have dinner with them as well. Dinner was always delicious! Every night there was always ugali, which is eaten with cooked greens such as kale, spinach, or pumpkin leaves plus other food that varied each night. Sometimes there was fish, beef stew, or chicken. Often we had lentils with chapatti (similar to pita bread) or rice. The family had a TV that we would sometimes watch, or I would watch movies in my room with the laptop that I brought. We did not eat or got out often in the evenings.

volunteer kenya children

Highlights: My entire experience in Kenya was so wonderful that it is hard to pinpoint the highlight of it all! My experience working with the kids in school was so great because they were always so excited and interested to interact with me. They loved to hear about American culture and were always grateful to have me in their class. I also typed up the interviews that I conducted with women in the villages and printed them out in book form so that the women are able to keep them.

They were so happy to have them back because often volunteers interview them, but then they never see anything from it, there is no benefit for the women. So when I returned the interviews about their lives, with a picture of them as well, they were very excited and even began dancing and singing! Now they have this book that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Overall, the highlight of my trip was simply getting to know the Kenyan culture and its people. I loved creating relationships with the people and children. Everyone is incredibly nice and hospitable and they never want you to leave! I loved learning about how the culture is run, the systems, traditions, music, and food. It was all wonderful and I without a doubt miss Kenya very much.