Volunteering in Kenya is a way to make a big difference to the lives of the people who live there. Kenya is a beautiful country, rich in biodiversity and natural wonders. However, there is also vast inequality in wealth and a large proportion of the population lives in poverty.
With many people lacking access to opportunities and education and the high prevalence of diseases like HIV in the country, Kenya needs volunteers.
Many volunteers in Kenya take advantage of their trip to experience the wonders the country has to offer, such as going on safari and seeing the native wildlife.
Discover everything you need to know to volunteer in Kenya and which visa you need with this guide.
Volunteer Opportunities in Kenya
Volunteer work in Kenya can take a number of different forms. Many volunteers choose to work with children, often in a teaching capacity. Others may prefer to help in the country’s efforts towards wildlife conservation in one of Kenya’s national parks.
Medical students frequently volunteer in health-related projects.
Kenyan volunteer opportunities include:
- Working at an orphanage
- Teaching English
- Medical volunteer projects
- HIV/AIDS volunteer projects
- Agricultural conservation
- Wildlife conservation
Kenya has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and around 1.6 million people (6% of the population) live with the disease. There are volunteer programs that help HIV and AIDS patients in both medical and support capacities.
Diseases such as AIDS have left many children without parents and orphanages are another common place to volunteer. Working with these children in need helps to teach them life skills and how to speak English. Engaging the children with dance, art, music, and other physical activities are also part of a volunteer’s work.
Many people also travel to Kenya to volunteer with wildlife. This may involve monitoring animals, collecting data, and educating locals on the importance of conservation.
What Visa Do I Need for Volunteering in Kenya?
There is currently no specific volunteer visa for Kenya. A Kenyan tourist visa is usually sufficient for volunteering purposes.
The online Visa for the Republic of Kenya is the most convenient option for volunteers from eligible countries. This allows access to the country for a maximum period of 90 days (although it is possible to request a Kenya visa extension). The eVisa can be obtained by applying online, rather than making the journey to an embassy.
Check the requirements for the Kenya eVisa to see what is needed to obtain one.
Volunteers heading to Kenya should not require a work visa or work permit, as they are not being paid for their efforts (in fact, in many cases, volunteers have to pay for a placement). However, volunteering is something of a grey area as it involves working, if unpaid.
It is advisable not to mention that you will be working when you cross the Kenyan border, as border control agents may interpret this the wrong way and have been known to deny entry.
Each charity or volunteer organization will have its own policies and recommendations on which visa their volunteers should obtain. In some cases, these organizations will make the necessary arrangements for work permits or work visas.
Why Volunteer in Kenya?
Volunteer trips to Kenya can be a very rewarding experience. The hard work of volunteers has a huge positive impact on the lives of Kenyan people.
While visiting the country, there are other opportunities for the volunteer.
Kenya is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the “big 5” African game animals (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and cape buffalo). Safaris are an essential part of visiting Kenya. Volunteers staying between July and October will be able to see the great migration of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle.
In addition to the wildlife, Kenya has breathtaking scenery, from the plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve to the snowy peaks of Mount Kenya.
Kenya is also known for the friendliness and the warmness of its people. Volunteers are welcomed into local communities and are able to share their skills and passions with them.
People volunteering with the tribal communities of Kenya will have the opportunity to get to know their fascinating cultures and way of life.
Accommodation for a Kenya Volunteer
Volunteers usually travel to Kenya with a charity or volunteer agency, who will arrange accommodation for them. Depending on the organization and the part of Kenya the visitor will be working in, the type of accommodation can vary.
Many volunteers stay at the home of a host Kenyan family. The family often provides at least some meals for the volunteer while they stay (although, again, this may vary).
Volunteers staying with rural or nomadic tribes may have the experience of staying in a traditional mud hut. They will get to live as the people of Kenya do during their time in the country.
Volunteer houses tend to have basic modern amenities and ensure that volunteers are comfortable. They usually provide shared dormitories organized so that everyone shares with other volunteers of the same sex.
Advice for Volunteers in Kenya
All travelers, including volunteers, need to have the required vaccinations for Kenya. This includes the yellow fever certificate if the traveler has come from or recently visited a high-risk country. The yellow fever vaccination is generally recommended for all travelers.
It is advisable to read up on safety in Kenya for tourists and familiarize yourself with the risks present in the country.
For advice on what to bring with you, see our list of essentials items to pack for Kenya.