How to Volunteer in Kenya: Wildlife Research, Teach English, Medical Care

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Updated for 2024 by Munira Maricar

 

A volunteer journey in Kenya opens a door to a world of unique and captivating opportunities, beckoning those with a fervent desire to contribute their time and skills to make a positive impact. Kenya, a land of breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, and rich biodiversity, provides a multifaceted canvas for volunteering endeavors. Whether your passion lies in wildlife research, educating on health practices, or assisting in schools or orphanages, the volunteer experiences in this vibrant East African nation promise a tapestry of challenges and, in turn, offer immensely rewarding outcomes.

 Rough metal location sign to denote the equator line for travelers in Nanyuki Don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit Nanyuki

As volunteers traverse the diverse landscapes of Kenya, they encounter not only the challenges inherent in their chosen projects but also the warmth of local hospitality and the resilience of communities facing various socio-economic realities. The journey is a dynamic blend of cultural exchange, personal growth, and the satisfaction that comes from contributing to the well-being of others.

Volunteering in Kenya is an invitation to be part of something greater than yourself, a chance to weave into the vibrant tapestry of a nation striving for positive change.

Visa Requirements for Volunteering in Kenya

Before booking your flight, remember to look up the visa requirements applicable to your passport!

Obtaining a visa is a crucial step for anyone looking to volunteer in Kenya, regardless of their nationality. The Kenyan eVisa is primarily intended for tourism purposes but can be used for short-term volunteer activities that align with tourist visits. This electronic visa allows you to enter Kenya once through major airports, seaports, or land border crossings. With a Kenyan eVisa, you can stay in the country for up to 90 days. The application process is entirely online, offering convenience and efficiency as there’s no need to send any physical documents to an embassy. Once your application is approved, you simply print the eVisa and present it upon arrival in Kenya.

Visa eligibility for Kenya is categorized into three groups, with each group having different requirements:

  1. Nationals and persons who do not require visas to enter Kenya.
  2. Nationals and persons who require visas to enter Kenya. This category typically includes the processing of visas within 48 hours.
  3. Countries and persons who require referred visas, which have a longer processing time of about 10 working days.

It’s crucial for potential volunteers to check their specific visa requirements based on their nationality and the purpose of their visit. The most up-to-date information on visa applications, types, and requirements can be found on the official Kenyan government websites or through authorized visa processing channels. Additionally, it’s advisable to stay informed about any travel advisories or changes in visa policies, especially in the context of volunteering, to ensure a smooth and compliant travel experience.

What Do I need to Prepare to Volunteer in Kenya?

  1. Language Skills for Volunteering: Communication is key in volunteering. While English is widely used, some volunteer positions might require knowledge of Swahili, one of Kenya’s official languages. Researching the language requirements of your chosen program is essential.
  2. Background Check Requirements: Kenya’s immigration services will conduct a background check as part of the visa application process. Allow ample time for this process, as it can be lengthier than expected.
  3. Passport Necessities: A valid passport is indispensable for international travel to Kenya. Always ensure that your passport is up-to-date and accompanies your visa.
  4. Vaccination Protocols: Stay informed about required vaccinations for entry into Kenya. The CDC provides a regularly updated list of recommended vaccines for travelers to Kenya. Key points to note are as follows:
    • Stay updated on routine vaccines, including those for chickenpox, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, flu, MMR, polio, and shingles.
    • Ensure COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date.
    • Consider vaccination for cholera, especially if traveling to areas with active transmission.
    • Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended for unvaccinated travelers.
    • The meningococcal vaccine is recommended for travelers to Kenya’s meningitis belt during the dry season.
    • Rabies vaccination should be considered if you’ll be around dogs or wildlife.
    • Most travelers are advised to get the typhoid vaccine, especially if visiting rural areas.

Best Volunteer Organizations and Opportunities in Kenya

Volunteering in Kenya is a significant decision, and choosing the right organization can greatly influence the impact you make and the experiences you gain. Here, we explore several reputable volunteer organizations that stand out for their ethical practices, community involvement, and positive contributions to the local landscapes, and share a few of our favorite volunteering programs in Kenya.

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is one of the most affordable and most-trusted volunteer abroad organizations in the world, with more than 130,000 volunteers placed overseas since 2007, on impactful programs starting from just $20 per day.

Volunteering in Kenya with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers a range of impactful and culturally immersive projects. IVHQ’s Kenya programs are popular for their diverse opportunities, affordable program fees, and support provided to volunteers. Some of their notable projects include:

  • Childcare in Nairobi: Volunteers assist in preschools, daycares, and kindergartens, providing much-needed support in busy and under-resourced environments. Tasks include teaching basic English and math, helping with daily operations, and engaging with children in various activities.
  • Special Needs Care in Nairobi: This project involves working with individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Volunteers help with education, therapy, and general assistance, contributing positively to the lives of those with special needs and their families.
  • Sports Education in Nairobi: Volunteers engage in teaching sports at local schools, introducing students to popular local sports and those from the volunteer’s home country. This project focuses on promoting physical health and well-being among students.
  • Teaching in Maasai: Set in rural Maasailand, this project allows volunteers to assist teachers in local schools. They help in various subjects, providing one-on-one assistance to students and occasionally leading classes, enhancing the educational experience in a unique cultural setting.
  • Women’s Education in Nairobi: Focused on empowering disadvantaged women, including victims of domestic violence and those affected by HIV/AIDS, volunteers support educational programs and help women establish income-earning businesses.

Each of these projects aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and offers a unique opportunity for cultural exchange and making a meaningful impact in Kenyan communities.

GoEco

Founded in 2006, GoEco offers over 150 volunteer programs in 40+ countries, including Kenya, and their programs emphasize sustainability and responsible travel. Recognized as a sustainable operator, it has achieved significant impacts in education and wildlife conservation. GoEco’s efforts and achievements have been acknowledged in major news platforms and through awards, bolstering its profile in global volunteerism.

Volunteer with Lions and Wildlife Conservation in Kenya

Volunteering in Kenya with GoEco offers an immersive experience in the Maasai Mara, focusing on lion and wildlife conservation. This program allows volunteers to work closely with the Maasai tribe in their conservation efforts and witness incredible wildlife phenomena, including the great wildebeest migration.

Key aspects of the GoEco Kenya – Maasai Mara Lion and Wildlife Conservation program include:

  • Engagement in Wildlife Conservation: Volunteers contribute to preserving the Masai Mara ecosystem, home to a vast array of wildlife. They participate in research and monitoring of lions, leopards, cheetahs, and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
  • Cultural Immersion and Skill Development: The program provides an opportunity to learn from experienced Maasai guides, acquiring crucial skills in wildlife data collection and understanding of the local ecosystem.
  • Living Arrangements: Volunteers stay in comfortable, semi-tented structures in a remote but spectacular part of the Kenyan bush, surrounded by an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty.
  • Volunteer Work: Key tasks include lion, cheetah, and wild dog research, data collection on elephant sightings, and participation in physical conservation initiatives like soil erosion control and alien plant species removal.
  • Local Interaction: Volunteers get the chance to engage with students at the Wildlife Tourism College, enhancing their understanding of local conservation efforts and Maasai culture.

The program requires a minimum two-week commitment and includes accommodation in tents, three daily meals, airport transfers, and professional support from the GoEco team. While it’s an enriching experience, volunteers are responsible for their flights, visa fees, travel health insurance, and personal expenses. The program is open to participants aged 18 to 80, with various additional travel and excursion options available for an extra fee.

Climate Change & Wildlife Volunteering in Kenya for Teens

Embark on a transformative two-week Climate Change program in Nakuru, Kenya, tailored for international volunteers aged 15-17. Immerse yourself in a unique blend of cultural exploration, wildlife conservation, and community engagement. Highlights include Swahili courses, visits to Thomson Falls and Nakuru National Park, wildlife safaris, and traditional Kenyan cooking. Contribute to environmental projects, focusing on Rothschild giraffe conservation, women’s empowerment, and tree nursery initiatives. The schedule is dynamic, featuring Maasai cultural experiences, reserve projects, and leisure activities. The secure living arrangements offer internet access and laundry facilities. This program, designed for teens, fosters personal growth, global citizenship, and sustainable practices.

Projects Abroad

Volunteering in Kenya with Projects Abroad offers an opportunity to contribute to various community-driven projects in Nanyuki and the Soysambu Conservancy. Surrounded by the African savannah, volunteers can engage in enriching activities while experiencing the vibrant Kenyan culture. Some of their key projects include:

  • Giraffe & Lion Conservation: Volunteers work in the Soysambu Conservancy to protect wildlife, focusing on the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and lions. Tasks include setting up camera traps, conducting wildlife monitoring, and engaging in community outreach activities.
  • Conservation Work for Teenagers: Specifically designed for young volunteers, this project involves working alongside peers to protect local ecosystems and endangered wildlife, such as the Rothschild’s Giraffe. Activities include invasive plant removal, maintaining natural water holes, and community education.
  • Volunteer Teaching: This project offers practical classroom experience where volunteers assist local teachers in public schools, teaching English and other subjects, and participating in extracurricular activities like sports and arts.
  • Volunteer with Children: Focused on early childhood development, volunteers support local care centers in Nanyuki by planning and running educational activities, improving literacy and numeracy, and assisting with basic renovation work to improve learning environments.
  • Childcare & Community Work for Teenagers: Ideal for high school students, this project allows volunteers to engage in community work, helping children learn through play and taking part in light renovation work to enhance classroom environments.

Projects Abroad ensures a supportive environment for volunteers, providing 24/7 local staff support, accommodation, and cultural immersion experiences, including wildlife safaris and hiking opportunities.

African Impact

Volunteering in Kenya with African Impact provides an opportunity to engage in meaningful and impactful projects while experiencing the country’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Some of their notable projects include:

  • Big Cat & Elephant Research and Conservation: Volunteers contribute to wildlife conservation in the Maasai Mara by monitoring and researching big cats like lions and cheetahs, as well as elephants. This project involves field-based monitoring and evaluation techniques, offering a chance to live and learn in the Maasai Mara ecosystem.
  • Reforestation Volunteer Project: Located in Limuru, this project focuses on environmental sustainability, where volunteers support the conservation of indigenous forests through activities like removing alien species, seed collection, and propagating plants in nurseries. The project also includes conducting environmental education sessions in local schools.
  • Medical Volunteering Project: Aimed at supporting the healthcare system in Limuru, volunteers assist in local clinics and hospitals, offering medical support and assistance to nurses and doctors in an area where the community faces challenges due to inadequate infrastructure and resources.

Each of these projects by African Impact in Kenya offers a unique experience to volunteers, enabling them to make a significant contribution to local communities and wildlife conservation efforts.

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) is an Australian charity and non-profit organization with 30 years of experience, specializing in overseas volunteering and having successfully placed over 20,000 volunteers globally.  Volunteering in Kenya with IVI offers a variety of meaningful projects that address crucial needs in different regions of the country. Here are some of their projects:

  • English Teaching in Nakuru: Volunteers assist local school staff, share ideas and intercultural learning with teachers, and lead groups in creative activities such as drawing, coloring, and games. This project helps improve the English language skills of children, enhancing their future career prospects.
  • Sports Coaching at Kakuma Refugee Camp: This project involves empowering children and youth refugees through sports. Volunteers prepare training plans, teach various sports like football, basketball, and volleyball, and promote youths’ talents, creating a safe, sustainable living environment that enables social change.
  • Music, Dance, and Drama Education at Kakuma Refugee Camp: Volunteers in this project focus on promoting refugee youths’ aspirations and artistic integrity through music, dance, and drama. This involves teaching acting skills, developing dance curriculums, and providing a creative environment for the youth to express and explore their feelings and emotions.
  • Medical and Backpack Nurse in Nakuru: This project offers an opportunity to gain insight into the Kenyan healthcare service. Volunteers assist local staff at rural hospitals, take on various tasks depending on their skill level, and join a ‘backpacking nurse’ to reach rural areas to provide basic healthcare checks.
  • 21-Day Volunteer Road Trip in Kenya: This unique project allows volunteers to gain an authentic experience of Kenya, immersing in the country’s culture, customs, and way of life. It includes opportunities for engagement in community projects and activities while exploring the country.

Each of these projects provides a unique opportunity to make a significant impact in various communities across Kenya, enriching the lives of both the volunteers and the local people they assist. Additionally, IVI provides work experience and university credits, assisting thousands of university students with course credits and in-field experience, supported by qualified project coordinators for in-field supervision and university accreditation

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) offers a variety of volunteer programs in Kenya. Volunteers can engage in meaningful work, ranging from educational support in schools to providing care in childcare centers and assisting in medical facilities. Additionally, these programs allow volunteers to explore Kenya’s rich culture and natural beauty, making it a fulfilling adventure. Here are some of the key volunteer programs offered by Volunteering Solutions in Nairobi, Kenya:

  • Teaching English Volunteer Program: This program involves volunteers assisting in teaching different subjects in Kenyan elementary and high schools. They work in community schools and orphanage schools to teach English, mathematics, science, and other subjects, offering an invaluable experience of working overseas in education.
  • Childcare Volunteer Program: Volunteers engage in caring for children in local childcare centers. Responsibilities include assisting local staff in daily care activities such as feeding and dressing children, as well as educational and recreational activities, providing essential support in the development and well-being of these children.
  • Medical Volunteer Project: Suitable for medical professionals and students, this program places volunteers in medical clinics, dispensaries, and hospitals in and around Nairobi. Volunteers assist in various clinical tasks including supporting doctors and nurses, contributing significantly to the healthcare of local communities.
  • 1 Week Special Volunteer Program: Designed for those with limited time but a keen interest in volunteering, this program focuses on working in childcare centers around Nairobi. Volunteers engage in various activities with children, including teaching and playing, making a meaningful impact in just one week.
  • 2 Weeks Special Volunteer Program: This program offers a blend of volunteering and cultural experiences. Volunteers work in childcare centers and also get the opportunity to interact with the Maasai tribe, understand their lifestyle, and go on game drives in the Maasai Mara region, making it a holistic volunteering and travel experience.

The exposure to Kenya’s diverse culture and breathtaking landscapes during these programs adds an element of adventure, making volunteering with VolSol an unforgettable journey of personal and global impact.

Ready to Travel?

Volunteering in Kenya allows you to immerse yourself in the country’s vibrant culture and stunning natural landscapes. It provides an opportunity not only to contribute meaningfully but also to experience a new way of life. By approaching the process step by step, you can smoothly navigate the preparation phase and embark on your Kenyan volunteering journey.

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