Experience Kenya in your gap year
About the program
Briefing & Orientation
You will fly into Moi International Airport, Mombasa, where your Kenya-based AV representative will meet you on arrival. You will head straight to your orientation course. A chance to settle in, unwind after the hectic few days leading up to your departure and get to know your AV group. The orientation course is important for making sure you’re fully prepared when you arrive in your school. The course will be led by the AV in country representative, giving you a chance to get to know them too and will cover the following:
- History, customs and culture of Kenya and its people
- Safety, health and security
- Advice on communicating with your students and structuring English or sports sessions
- Some language training in Kiswahili
- The education system in Kenya
The orientation course for the Gap Year Kenya Program takes place at Diani Beach Chalets. You will stay in cottages with your fellow AVs and will have all your meals cooked for you. In between briefings you will have the chance to relax and get to know the other AV volunteers in your group! At the end of the orientation course you will be driven to Diani where you will get a chance to shop for supplies before you drive to Msambweni where your AV house awaits, ready to start your project for real. Here the AV representative will leave you to settle into your new home, but remember they’re never more than a phone call away if you need them!
What you do each day is down to you and what you have chosen to be involved with, however, two days on AV are rarely the same! If you have chosen to spend some time in the classroom all lessons are taught in English and the schools appreciate help in English, maths, science, art, drama, music and computers (if they have them). It would be extremely helpful for you to spend time with students who have been left behind at the back of the class, helping them to read, write and speak English in smaller groups. You can run your sessions in pairs or on your own. Outside of this you will spend time planning for lessons or for your one to one sessions, and may have homework to mark!
For those doing sports coaching you can run all the PE lessons and arrange sports clubs. PE lessons may involve big classes and little equipment, a game of tag or duck, duck goose are great for their simple rules and mass participation, in general they are a good test of your initiative and resourcefulness. Sports clubs involving football, rugby, athletics, rounders, volley ball, cricket and netball are all actively encouraged – however you can also teach new games. Many AVs arrange fixtures or tournaments between the different AV schools or an inter school sports day.
Outside of the classroom or on the sports field, AVs make a big impact by running after-school clubs – these have included debating, reading, French, modern dance, art, music or drama; AV volunteers have run talent shows, produced school newsletters and magazines or started a choir. Many AVs choose to brighten up classrooms by painting them or decorating the walls with educational murals from the alphabet and numbers to world maps and the solar system – let your imagination run wild and leave your mark!
Each day you can spend time socialising in the staff-room, usually over a cup of chai (sweet tea) or lunch. This is a great chance to get to know your fellow teachers and learn more about them. They will be keen to talk about where you are from, your family and life at home whilst you can practice your Kiswahili! The teachers will be on hand to show you round and advise on where to shop, the nearest internet café etc. They will also be a good link into other work within the community, with the potential for helping at local orphanages, medical clinics or community centres depending on where you are and how much you want to do outside of your responsibilities in the school.
At weekends and on public holidays you can stay at home or travel further afield. You may want to continue work on projects you have started, such as painting a classroom or revamping the desks and chairs and playground equipment or run an inter school sports competition. Alternatively you can head to Ukunda or Diani to do some shopping, catch up on news from home at an internet café or meet up with other AVs, visit their schools and travel to see other parts of Kenya. You could also go to Shimba Hills game reserve or Kisite Marine Park – there is plenty to do on the Kenyan coast!
In Kenya you will live in designated AV houses with fellow volunteers. An important part of the AV experience is living in local accommodation, shopping at the local markets, being invited to fellow teachers’ houses as well as entertaining the teachers or fellow AVs in the evenings. Depending on the size of the house you may be living in groups of 2-6 AVs. Other AVs from your group will be in houses nearby and there will often be a chance to meet up in the evenings or at weekends.
The house itself will probably have a bedroom(s), a communal/cooking area and somewhere to wash. You may or may not have electricity and you may not have running water or flushing toilets. Instead there will be an outside pit latrine or ‘long drop’. Whatever house you get, you will grow to love it and soon feel very much at home! We encourage independence and so you won’t have someone cooking for you and looking after you – it’s a chance to step up and take responsibility for yourself.
You will be given a food allowance and will be expected to shop at the local markets and cook for yourself. Again, this is the best way of getting to know people, being involved in the community and gaining the best possible understanding of living there – you are not a bystander watching from afar.
24/7 AV representative support: Whilst not living with you full time the AV representative is never far away and there whenever you need them. They can be contacted by phone 24/7 and will visit you during your project.
As your project comes to an end AV offers you the chance to stay on for an additional 4 weeks of independent travel time, to ensure a good balance of volunteer work and travel. Kenya and other parts of East Africa have lots of exciting and beautiful places to explore which you won’t get a chance to do in your weekends alone.
From our experience traveling is often when problems occur, from lost passports to getting ill – that’s why we offer this extra travel time to ensure that you experience as much as possible but with the continued 24/7 support from us whilst you do so. It’s up to you, the only rule is that you don’t travel by yourself. If 4 weeks isn’t enough and you are staying on a bit longer in Africa, don’t worry because “Once an AV, always an AV!”
Adventure Travel Ideas
Different travel options our Kenya Gap Year volunteers have done in the past include:
- Going on a wildlife safari
- Climbing Mount Kenya or Mount Kilimanjaro
- Rafting the Source of the Nile in Uganda or bungee jumping over it
- Gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Visiting the beautiful beaches of Kenya, Tanzania or Zanzibar where lots of water sports activities or sunbathing time awaits!
“Kenya – my home for 6 months. I fell in love with the place, the people and the life, as anybody who has been to Africa will understand.”Danielle, Kenya gap year program
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