Bethany Simpson is from Seal Beach, California and going into her third year at UC Davis where she studies Sociology and Business Management. She came to volunteer in Kenya for several weeks to serve the vulnerable communities in the areas of Women’s Empowerment and Education and child care. She made a huge impact on the local community!
So Bethany, what made you want to come to Kenya and volunteer?
“I have always wanted to go to Africa and get involved in making a difference. I was always waiting for the right opportunity to go, not to mention that a safari was a dream of mine. I was nervous about traveling by myself and needed a push of some sort. When I was browsing the internet and looking at IVHQ, I took a quiz about personality and travel, Africa was the outcome and I selected Kenya. I wanted to get away from California, work with new people, and make a positive impact.
Preparing to travel abroad is no one hour job… so Bethany what did you do to prepare for your trip around the world to Kenya?
“To prepare for my trip, I did research about Kenya, looked into places I wanted to see along the way in free time away from volunteering. I raised money with friends and family to purchase things in Kenya to serve various project needs.”
How did your friends and family react to learn you were hopping a plane to Kenya Africa?
“I was certainly excited and I continued to share my excitement so they would have less worries. I was nervous though and my family was worried about my safety, their worries made me feel loved”
One of the great things about coming to Kenya with NVS on the ground is that our staff is there at the airport to pick up volunteers upon their arrival and take them to their accommodation arranged at the volunteer house or at another home stay that is part of the program. We also have staff available to support and monitor the volunteers while they are here and involved in projects! Our staff was excited to have Bethany come to volunteer and we hope she will come back again in the future!
What were your initial thoughts when you went to your first day of volunteering?
“During the beginning of the trip, I did not realize I was making such an impact that I later saw. The pace of things was moving slow, but I quickly realized that I was so used to a fast paced life in California everyday. It took me awhile to realize I was not in the fast pace environment that I was used to. The little things I did for families (or so she thought it was little but it was actually big!) was truly impacting them. I also learned to trust my host family and the people at my placement that I was in the right place as I explored. I needed to keep an open mind and it truly paid off!”
We certainly understand that Bethany! A new place, a foreign place and it is important to make sure you don’t get lost. One of the great things we are proud of here at NVS is the homestay families we partner with. We spend a great deal of time inspecting and vetting them to ensure they are prepared for having visitors from around the world. We are so glad you enjoyed that experience! We know they miss having you there!
Let’s talk more about your specific work here in Kenya! Tell us where you were placed and what you did……
“ I was placed at Mlolongo at Positive Life Kenya. I loved everything about my placement, so picking one thing I like most is challenging. The people I was with everyday that are in the program made my experience so memorable. I taught at Class 2 and Class 3 at Tumaini Primary School and my experience with the children was unforgettable. The kids do come from a challenging background and were very happy about school. They always had a big smile on their face and happy to play games with me or even grab hold of my hand! Working with the women at the Living Positive Program was also amazing. I was able to teach lessons in economics and business which I am studying at UC Davis while they shared life lesson stories.
How has all of this impacted you in life?
“I learned to focus less on the material things and have greater appreciation in life for the people I have in my life. It also showed me that the simple problems I face in my everyday life are so simple and small. Perspective changed!”
So, this next question is an important one since every volunteer will experience it… as your experience came to an end… to say goodbye, how did you work through having to say goodbye? (We ask because so many ask us so we thought to get the volunteers to share)
“This was by far the hardest part of my time in Kenya. Within my first week, I was already looking into extending my trip to stay longer. During my last week I was looking for any possible option to prolong having to say goodbye. On my last day of school at Tumaini Primary, the kids sang a farewell song to me and gave me big hugs. Saying bye was difficult, no doubt. Same with the Women’s Empowerment ladies. When saying goodbye to them, they also sang me a traditional song, wrapped me in Kenyan materials and said goodbye. I gained something through the tears…. New family! I know I have family here in Kenya now! I gained experiences to carry with me that made me stronger. I am not sure when I will be able to come back but I pray I can return again soon.”
If there is someone out there thinking about coming to Kenya to volunteer with us but is still not sure for one reason or another what would you say to them?
“DO IT. Do not hesitate, I absolutely recommend going! It might seem scary and difficult to leave your friends or family, but I can assure you won’t regret it. It will be the best experience of your life. The country has so many beautiful sights to offer and the people are truly happy! You will finish this project a bigger and better person, and you make friends from all over the world!”
There are other volunteers from all over the world volunteering here too and you share the experience and make new lifelong friends! Contact us for more information on registering to volunteer in Kenya with us in Women’s Empowerment Projects, Education (teaching general studies, music, sports or special needs), or child care/rescue center work. We serve individuals, church groups, student-university groups and corporate organizations who want to do some team building and service work!