Ivanna Garcia-Velez is originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras but currently resides in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a student at Florida Atlantic University where she studies International Business.
We asked Ivanna what made her want to volunteer in Kenya and this is what she shared….
“I have always had a passion for volunteering and have volunteered in my country of Honduras on many occasions. More recently, I wanted to immerse myself in a different culture and community to have an impact in another part of our world.” Ivanna spent a great deal of time researching different countries and opportunities before choosing Kenya with Networks for Voluntary Services. “Kenya seemed like a perfect fit for me due to the vibrant culture and people,” she says.
Preparing to travel to and volunteer in a foreign country takes time and work, we asked Ivanna what she did to prepare!
Ivanna wanted to make sure she was as prepared as possible for this opportunity even though it is hard to prepare for a place you have never been to. “Before coming, I prepared by making sure I had everything the program suggests (shots, insurances, and…. an open mind), but I also made sure to learn about the country itself and the culture. I even learned some basic Swahili!”
Ivanna arrived and said “Jambo” (hello) to Kenya!
When volunteers arrive to Kenya by air, they are greeted at the airport by one of our program staff members. Ivanna arrived with a smile and ready to help our communities and we were excited to have her! She was placed within the education work in Kibera which is just outside of Nairobi. Kibera is one of the world’s largest informal settlements where it is estimated that over a million people live.
Ivanna was at a local school called K.A.G Olympic where she taught classes in English or other studies. Ivanna prepared lessons, but also worked from the teacher’s lesson plans that were created for the term. There is still time in their activities in school for music education so when it came time to music and dance….. the kids taught Ivanna a few moves!
So many people always ask us what the volunteer’s favorite part of the experience was so we asked Ivanna! Check out what she says!
Ivanna says her “favorite part about volunteering at my placement was the amazing people I got to meet! The students (and staff there) made me feel right at home and so loved. Each student and staff member I met had an impact on me and I will always remember them for that.”
And that is something we hear quite a bit… the volunteer comes to Kenya to make the impact and they leave impacted! We got real with her and asked her how this experience impacted her……
“It was truly a life changing experience! It makes you appreciate the little things that much more in life, and not take things for granted. You learn about real and greater struggles in life that others experience.”
There is so much more to the experience other than the volunteering time so we asked her what else she did while in Kenya……
“During my free time, I explored the City of Nairobi and surrounding areas, enjoyed the night life with some of the new friends (other volunteers) that I met here volunteering just like me and I went on a weekend safari! There is plenty to do outside of the volunteering day here in Kenya. There are so many great thing to see here such as the Giraffe Center, David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park, the animal orphanage… you can always find something to do and have some fun!”
Ivanna, sometimes people want to travel but are scared to. What would you say to this?
“I would say leave your fears behind and just do it! You will not regret it! Just go with a positive attitude and no expectations and you will have an amazing experience! It might even be one of the best experiences of your life, leaving you to want to do it all over again! You will learn more about other cultures and have a chance to discover more things about yourself in that process. You will fall in love with Kenya and the people just like I did and want to come back!”
Thanks for sharing this with us Ivanna and you are always KARIBU (welcome) to Kenya! We look forward to having you back again and so do the students at your placement!