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Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

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Washington DC...
12 posts
Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

We're visiting Nairobi for just one day on our way to Masai Mara and would love to volunteer that day. I have seen a lot of programs for volunteering at various orphanages, but none that offer one day opportunities.

We also plan on bringing donations with us. Let me know if you have any recommendations for reputable programs. Thank you!

Mombasa, Kenya
Level Contributor
607 posts
1. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

I think one day volunteering is not offered because it takes at least 2-3 days to orientate a person, let them know how things are done, what needs to be achieved, give a briefing, etc. In one day a person will not be able to achieve much and possibly will take some valuable time from people working on those projects. Usually they are spread very thinly anyway and their time is precious. Possibly you can identify one of the places/projects you would be donating to and ask them if they can use you for a day for anything at all: maybe reading for kids or doing some art. But I doubt that you would find anyone who offers one day volunteering. I stand corrected of course.

If you are thinking about bringing some donations and have a choice, do bring the money and purchase everything yourself here. There are plenty of supermarkets here and you can get any stationery, books, etc. This will save you some space in your luggage and also you will avoid possible hassle with customs and officially everything is subject to duties and taxes, donations or not. Clothes has some strict rules, apparently second hand underware is not allowed if it is allowed at all. There are some experienced people here who will shed some more light.

Probably, again if you have a choice, once you identify the project, ask them what is needed the most. Maybe it is mosquito nets or sanitary ware, for example. Or maybe they have a program (like the project that we support) and your donation (money) can go towards this program - maybe sponsor a child, or feeding program, etc.

Unfortunately, many people came across the situation whereby their donations are misused, this can happen to toys, stationery and money alike. If you come across the wrong people, they will misuse anything. So time and time again advice is given here to deal only with trusted projects. I will be happy to tell you the one we support, it is in the FAQ list, or some posters here participate in some as well. I am sad to say, but do not necessarily trust what you might find on Internet as projects looking for donations, etc, there are many cons out there.


Tijara Beach Hotel

Washington DC...
12 posts
2. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

Thanks Larissa! Yes absolutely understand that we would not have time to be trained up to provide support in many areas, but I am sure there is something we could help with, even if it's just playing with children or reading to them. Our neighbors here in the US would love to get together to make a donation - I appreciate the the advice about purchasing items once we arrive, and about being careful about the project to make sure it is legitimate.

Mombasa, Kenya
Level Contributor
607 posts
3. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

In this case, as donation will most probably be in money, identify the project and ask them what they need. We might have some ideas but the project might have some pressing issues at the time and your money could be much better spent that way. Also at the same time you can always ask them if you could do anything over the day when you come with your donation - possibly reading or playing will be your best bet! I think something unusual can be fun, for example, if you know or can quickly learn :) how to make animals from balloons - you can always bring a couple of dozens of long balloons (what we have here never worked for me!) and kids will be most amused! Or have a small finger theatre - you can buy those sets or make them yourself (usually people knit those characters). Face painting? Face paint will be helpful to bring. Those are small things, easy to carry and will not attract custom's attention. And the rest can be bought here, you can keep your receipts and show your friend and neighbours if need be. Or maybe you can do origami or cut out shapes from paper. Anyway, something that kids remember :) Another thing which is useful and easy to get is talking stories or talking books, you do not need to buy them as usually they are expensive, there are plenty of open sources on Internet where you can download free of charge - download and burn some CD's. This is cheap, but will last them for a long time, memorable and unusual. I know that my kids love love love them and have listened to so many books and stories which are beautifully read and presented.


Tijara Beach Hotel

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
8,599 posts
116 reviews
4. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

I saw so many broken "western" and modern toys at the orphanage my NGO managed. They are not always well cared for and there is not always supplies, i.e. batteries, machines, etc to support the toy or item over the long term.

Note that some have children at school, so there is limited time to actually interact with the kids - of course, depending on the ages of the children.

Also, one wants to be careful on how their time is seen as 'volunteering' requires appropriate government paperwork and the purchase of a working visa as considerable cost.

I would downsize your expectations to a 'visit'. If it is extended and allows you to interact with the kids, all the better.

manchester, United...
Level Contributor
1,084 posts
76 reviews
5. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

Agree with the above posters......visitors are usually welcome but "volunteering" carries a whole host of issues - not least of which is the high cost of the visas. Then there are the checks and supervision that should be required to allow you to have contact with children. Sadly there are some very dodgy people out there who go to great lengths to volunteer to be with children. Not that I think that with you, amberdc, but you see where I am coming from.

"Voluntourism" itself brings with it many problems. If you search I'm sure you'll find lots of threads highlighting some of these. Ditto bringing in donated goods. There was a thread very recently on this subject.


Someone posted on here that Kenya needs commerce not charity. This is so very true. Much better to bring cash and spend it as many places as possible. My husband escribes it as his "spread it around money". He aims to spread it around as many places as possible. We buy all kinds of stuff that we usually give away when we get home. We also used to send 100s of kgs of donated clothes but we now employ local women to make clothes for the children we support. By paying for goods and services and supporting local people we have become much more effective and it lets them support their own families rather than having to accept charity.

I'm sorry if this sounds very negative. I've been supporting an orphanage and community for the last 8 years. We've made lots of mistakes and learned the hard way. We are still learning to be honest.

Bungoma, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Kenya
Level Contributor
2,616 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

We had visitors once who brought a CD player for a school, but the school didn't have electricity and buying batteries was not in their budget! It is also hard for 100 children to listen at once.

Try to think of things MANY children can be involved in at once. Maybe Nairobi knows what face paints are, but not rural children. Balls are very popular. You can buy them here or put a football (and pump) in your luggage. You can buy rope for skipping and pens, pencils, notebooks, colouring items etc very cheaply in any supermarket and some other shops.

ValH knows what she is talking about.

For one day, visit "yes" but volunteer "no".

London, United...
Level Contributor
8 posts
6 reviews
7. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer


This is similar to what my girlfriend and I did in October except we managed to dedicate two days to volunteer activities. You can read more about it here:


Hope it helps

Nyeri, Kenya
Level Contributor
1,247 posts
16 reviews
8. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

Regarding toys, I think that there is a belief in the develped world that children must have toys. But in the rural village where my Wife grew up, children have very few toys, despite many families being in a position to afford them. My Granddaughter, growing up in Kenya has very few toys very rarely plays with them. She prefers kicking a ball, making paper planes, reading books and drawing. She certailnly isn't missing out.

Toys, while well intentioned are just not necessarily a part of the culture in Kenya. Its the simpler stuff that brings the most joy.

Otherwise agree on the comments about volunteering.

9. Re: Nairobi - One Day to Volunteer

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