Nicole Cvetnic has always wanted to visit Africa since she was a little girl. Her specific interest in Kenya began when she started fostering an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. “I knew I wanted to meet him, but I didn’t want to travel to Kenya without finding a way to give back to the local community. I also wanted to use the trip as an opportunity to experience the culture and beauty of the country. I was looking at volunteer opportunities and stumbled upon NVS, and I’m so glad I did!” Nicole came to Kenya from Washington DC!
We asked Nicole how she prepared for this opportunity in Kenya
“I put money aside with each paycheck so that I could cover the cost of the trip. I also did some preliminary research to learn about the history of Kenya, as well as how to say a few words and phrases in Swahili. I also made sure I was up to date on my vaccinations and safety protocols in case of an emergency.
I was a bit nervous to travel to Africa on my own, but I knew I had done everything I could to prepare for my trip, and that NVS would be there when I landed. My first impression after stepping off the plane was, “I’m so far away from home but I feel right at home!” I felt like I was immediately welcomed.”
Nicole volunteered in the Special Needs Care program at a school in Kibera to teach children with mental and physical disabilities. “The school, New Beginnings, acted as a reprieve of sorts for the students, as many of them lacked the support and resources they needed at home, so I saw the importance of making it a welcoming environment. I taught them reading, writing, math, and art. It was inspirational and humbling to see them come to school every day with the biggest smiles and fullest hearts. I think they taught me more than I taught them” she says.
The placement where Nicole volunteered is a placement that was started by a volunteer of the past. You may have already read that story about Kellie H. and New Beginnings (if not, check it out here). Nicole was instrumental in helping student with their skills so they can participate in employment in the local community. Her work prepared them to enter the next phase of the program in New Beginnings.
Nicole took something with her……
“I took with me a sense of perspective. In Kibera, I saw the true meaning of human resilience. In Massailand, I saw the importance of preserving traditions despite a rapidly changing world. At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, I saw perseverance in action. And in all of Kenya, I saw a welcoming and beautiful country. It was a truly amazing and worthwhile experience.”
Networks for Voluntary Services is so glad to have been part of Nicole’s journey here in Kenya! We also enjoyed watching her meet her elephant named Mwashoti at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Nicole shares a bit of advice…..
“The NVS staff ensures you’re prepared and safe, and you’ll find support and friendship in fellow volunteers. If you have an open mind and a sense of adventure, get ready because Kenya will change your life!”
A bit more about Nicole…… she went to Ohio University and earned a B.S. in Visual Communication. She later enrolled at Georgetown University and earned her M.A. in Communication, Culture & Technology.
We look forward to seeing Nicole again along with her elephant Mwashoti.