History of the Peace Corps in Kenya

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The Peace Corps program in Kenya began soon after the country gained its independence in 1963, and it is one of the largest programs in Africa. The first group of 37 Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Kenya on December 31, 1964. Since early 1965, the Peace Corps has been assisting the government of Kenya in meeting its development needs by providing skilled Volunteers in the areas of economic development, education, and public health.

To contribute to Kenya’s economic development, the Peace Corps focuses on activities that support creation of employment and income-generating opportunities. The country’s focus on gender equality creates a need to expand girls’ access to and retention in secondary schools. Also, the government of Kenya stresses the importance of providing education to children with special needs so that they can be fully contributing members of society. Public health continues to face challenges in both water-borne and infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and environmental health hazards. The Peace Corps/Kenya program enjoys strong support from government officials at national and district levels.


History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Kenya

The Peace Corps’ support for Kenya’s development focuses on capacity building in the three priority areas mentioned above and supports Kenya’s goal of industrialization by 2020.

The country program addresses the reduction of poverty, educational needs of diverse populations, the impact of environmental degradation on health, and improvement of the life expectancy of Kenyans. Across all sectors, Peace Corps/Kenya targets women and youth as the most vulnerable in Kenyan society, and integrates HIV/AIDS education in all projects. Peace Corps/Kenya has redesigned the education project to focus on HIV/AIDS.


Peace Corps/Kenya’s education project places Volunteer teachers in both government and public secondary schools. Volunteers teach biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics and they work with their Kenyan colleagues to develop innovative teaching techniques in resource-poor environments.

In addition, the Peace Corps participates in Kenya’s deaf education program.

The Peace Corps’ Deaf Education Program now operates as a part of Kenya’s Special Education curricula that was kicked off in 1995 to cater to the people with disabilities in Kenya. The program remains the only Peace Corps program in that specifically focuses on the Deaf, however there are Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide who are working with hearing impaired populations.

The Program provides Volunteer teachers in schools for the Deaf to work with children to develop basic life skills and proficiency in Kenyan Sign Language. At the time of the program’s development, the educational use of sign language was very minimal and communication with the Deaf was limited. Since its inception, the Deaf Education Program has grown and Volunteers are earning respect for their significant contributions in improving education and raising community and parental awareness for the needs of Deaf children and adults alike.

One major contribution of the Peace Corps' work in Deaf education was their recognition of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL). Volunteers worked closely with Deaf Kenyan adults who were fluent users of KSL to create a digital dictionary of KSL. To learn more visit the Peace Corps’ interactive website on Kenyan Sign Language: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatlike.interactivefeatures.ksl.

Kenyan and Volunteer educators work together to help create a future where students, both hearing and deaf, have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to serve as productive members and future leaders of their communities, families, and workforce, and where communities are committed to accepting and taking care of all their members. Peace Corps/ Kenya’s education project’s goals reflect the multifaceted roles of Volunteers as teachers, colleagues, community members, and development workers.

Public Health

Peace Corps/Kenya’s public health project partners with the Ministry of Health, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations. Volunteers work at the grassroots level with front-line extensionists as counterparts.

The three-pronged public health project addresses water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and environmental education. Working with their Ministry of Health counterparts, Volunteers focus on facilitating communities’ efforts in these areas. These activities include hygiene education and home and community sanitation improvements to prevent waterborne diseases; HIV/AIDS education to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among youth and women; and environmental education awareness for natural resource conservation, prevention of environmental degradation, and improvement of health. Volunteer activities include strengthening preventive health through changing attitudes and behaviors in the communities where they live and work and by building the capacity of local agencies to continue this work.

Today, Kenya is on the brink of losing entire generations of trained workers and years of painstaking investment in human resource development to HIV/AIDS. As many as 700 Kenyans die every day from the pandemic. In response to the impact of HIV/AIDS, Peace Corps/Kenya launched a Crisis Corps program to provide shorter-term, targeted interventions that strengthen the government and NGOs’ capacity in prevention and care. The project also focuses on cross-sectoral interventions to assist communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.

Small-Enterprise Development/Information Communication Technology (SED/ICT)

Since launching the SED/ICT project in 1992, Volunteers in this sector have worked with their Kenyan counterparts to address opportunities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the small business sector. These problems include low levels of business skills (e.g., record-keeping, costing, pricing, etc.) and limited access to credit and markets. With increased challenges posed by slowed economic growth, Peace Corps Volunteers work closely with stakeholders to address broader national concerns like poverty alleviation, employment creation, and capacity-building. The technical skills provided by Volunteers include promoting income-generating activities, strengthening business management and marketing linkages, operating credit plans, enhancing basic computer literacy, and using information technology in various aspects of health and education.

Targeted groups served by small-enterprise development Volunteers include women’s groups, self-help and jua kali (artisan) groups, community-based organizations, selected NGOs, and technical institutes. As a result of Peace Corps intervention, many Kenyan, especially women and youth (who are the most vulnerable economically), have improved their skills, increased their income, and obtained employment. The demand for the services of small-enterprise development Volunteers continues to grow.

Assignment History

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Agriculture Ag Education 1980 1980
Ag Extension 1982 2000
Animal Husband 1980 1980
Animal Husband Lg 1980 1981
Crop Extension 1964 1991
Farm Mechanics 1983 1983
Soil Science 1973 1991
Business Accounting 1989 1992
Archictecture 1985 1986
Business Advising 1970 2007
Business Development 2003 2007
Computer Science 1992 2007
Cooperatives 1970 1998
Urban and Regional Planning 1981 2002
Crisis Corps Crisis Corps 1998 2006
Education English Teacher 1979 2002
English Teacher Trainer 1988 1991
Fisheries Fresh 1981 1988
Gen. Construction 1981 1991
Home Economics 1979 1979
Industrial Arts 1970 1988
Library Science 1986 1986
Literacy Ed. 1987 1987
Prim-Ed/Teach Trn 1966 1997
Science Ed/Gen. 1978 1987
Secondary-Ed Math 1965 2007
Secondary-Ed Sci. 1971 2007
Special Ed/Deaf 1993 1994
Special Ed/Gen. 1973 2007
Speech Therapy 1993 1993
Univ. English Teaching 1986 1990
Voc. Trainer 1983 1988
Environment Comm Forestry Ext 1986 1988
Environmental Ed. 1992 2002
Forestry 1978 2001
Protected Areas Management 1989 1999
Health Disease Control 1982 1989
Envir. and Water Resource 1969 2002
Health Degreed 2005 2007
Health Extension 1977 2007
Home Econ/Ext. 1981 1985
Hygiene Ed/Sanitation 1981 2007
Nursing 1978 1978
Master's International Masters Internationalist 1993 1993
Other Unique Skill 1981 2006
UNV United Nations Volunteer 1968 1990
Youth and Community Development Appropriate Tech. 1981 1988
Commun. Serv/Deg. 1981 2007
Mechanics 1982 1984
Road Const/Engin. 1986 1989
Rural Youth Dev. 1987 1990
Youth Development 2006 2006
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