The good news is that CHI offer volunteers the opportunity to experience the projects they support in Kenya. These experience ‘camps’ comprise, community ‘pastoral’ camps, research camps and medical camps. Patrick Morgan, a practicing Osteopath who serves in a voluntary capacity on CHI’s Executive Board describes how the camps work.
“The experiences on offer can be as short as 1 week or for longer periods. The pastoral camp is set up to provide a range of activities for the children sponsored by CHI's donors including the children's home residents. This could be anything from organizing and accompanying the children on educational or leisure trips, arts and crafts such as mural painting, model making etc., and physical education such as games, dance, martial arts etc. music and English Language support."
I asked Patrick about how those attending the camps involving children are vetted.
“All visitors to the projects come under Care Highway’s Safeguarding rules, our institutions also are governed by Kenyan Government regulations applicable to the governance of registered children’s charitable institutions. For example there always has to be a member of staff present wherever volunteers have contact with the children.
Whilst overseas they will also need to report to a senior Kenya staff member and a senior international board member. All applicants will need to provide a criminal records bureau check and sign and understand our volunteer’s charter agreement. In addition applicants to the pastoral camps which involve working with the children have to offer evidence that they have a suitable level of skill to provide a constructive experience. This is not necessarily the same as having specific qualifications – though these are always welcome as well. For those with good building D.I.Y skills or who are qualified trades-persons, pastoral camps include an element of work such as painting, plastering guttering etc…and for those with green fingers work is also needed in our horticultural project.
The research camp makes use of our facilities and community contacts to provide students – typically masters and PhD students – a chance to do field work research. Again there is a wide range of possible topics - sustainability, ecology, politics, child development, nursing and trade – and many more. These camps are open to a wide range of people who have the right skills or academic interests.
The medical camps can only be formed by experienced and registered health professionals."
It seems a long way to go for a volunteering experience. What kind of people attend the camps?
“Well Kenya is a long way from home for many of our volunteers but camp participants often combine it with a Kilimanjaro Trek or a game reserve tour – the projects are very close to the beautiful Rift Valley – and we are glad to be able to put participants in touch with reputable guides who can help them explore the region.”
Are there opportunities to volunteer in your offices?
“We don’t maintain expensive offices, but we operate as a network of volunteers who work together on fundraising events and publicity. If people want to get involved to build up their skills we’d be happy to talk to them. All volunteers to Kenya must be self-funding, there will also be donation and administrative fees to pay. And we advise volunteers to engage in fundraising activities for their trip at least one year before applying to visit our projects. Although volunteers can join existing camps, we may also be able to facilitate volunteers who wish to form their own research or pastoral camps, these will need a minimum of 4 or 5 participants. In all cases we just need a CV and short letter in the first instance."
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