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Since 1964, the Peace Corps has been assisting the government of Kenya in meeting its development needs by providing skilled Volunteers in a variety of disciplines. It is one of the largest Peace Corps programs in Africa.
Peace Corps Volunteers support development in three key areas: small business development and information technology, education, and public health.
Peace Corps in Kenya has responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis by training every Volunteer in Kenya to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS through education and awareness projects. Peace Corps.
Volunteers assist the Kenyan Ministry of Education to meet its goals by teaching mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics in secondary schools throughout rural Kenya. A strong foundation in applied sciences is a key part of Kenya's goal of industrialization by 2020. Volunteers also provide HIV/AIDS education through outreach programs in schools, youth groups and community organizations.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Kenya
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.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Kenya
As a Volunteer, you will most likely live in a rural community and not have access to indoor plumbing or electricity. Expect to use hurricane lamps and candles for lighting and to cook using charcoal, wood, or a single-burner kerosene stove. Peace Corps/Kenya, for both philosophical and budget considerations, requires host ministries to provide all Volunteers with housing. The standard and condition of Volunteer housing vary widely, from mud houses with thatched roofs to very modern cement houses with running water and electricity. The type of house you have will depend on your project, the area of the country in which you are posted, and the types of houses available in the community. You may also be required to share housing with other staff or to live in a room behind a shop at a market center. In short, you can expect to have, at the very least, a room to call your own. The decision as to whether housing standards are “acceptable” lies with the associate Peace Corps director and medical staff. When it comes to your housing, you should not lose sight of the guiding goal of the Peace Corps. Maintain your focus on service to the people of Kenya and not on the level of your accommodations.
Main article: Training in Kenya
The most important function of Peace Corps staff is to provide support for Volunteers. Support does not imply daily supervision of Volunteers’ work, nor does it imply assuming parental roles. Volunteer support implies an ongoing interaction between Volunteers and all Peace Corps staff regarding how you handle such matters as your overall adjustment to the Peace Corps, your job assignment, and your community. Your associate Peace Corps director is responsible for making regular visits to your site to assist you in any way possible in your orientation in-country. Additionally, the country director and the Peace Corps medical officer make periodic visits to Volunteer sites.
Training will be busy for everyone. Often you will work over eight hours a day, five days a week. Be prepared for a rigorous, full schedule. The principal objectives of training are to provide a learning environment that enables you to develop the language (Kiswahili for all, Kenyan Sign Language for deaf educators), technical, and cultural skills; knowledge; and attitude necessary to work and live in Kenya.
The community/school-based approach used as the main training method means that you will spend most of your time learning by doing in your communities or schools and then reflecting on your experiences during formal sessions. You will spend most days in the field, completing hands-on, practical tasks and participating in group discussions, lectures, and field trips. Each week you will spend one or two days at the training center, or in one of the schools for deaf educators, discussing the prior week’s learning, preparing for the next work week, and attending essential cross-cultural, health, safety, administrative, and integration sessions.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Kenya
The Peace Corps in Kenya maintains qualified staff to take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Kenya at local, and equivalent American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an equivalent of American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Kenya
In Kenya, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Kenya’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Kenya are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers: Please note: Homosexuality is technically illegal in Kenya, and while most white's never have to deal with this, if you have a homosexual partner who is a host national, that person could be in serious trouble if discovered. Anti-Gay slurs are common and accepted in Kenya, and the culture in general views it extremely negatively. Discretion is advised, since there is no real above-ground Gay culture in Nairobi, and being outed could hurt your reputation and your project.
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers: Kenya is a largely Christian country with a more Muslim population on the coast. Most Kenyans will proudly identify themselves as Christian and church attendance is important. For those who don't identify as Christian, you may be asked about your religion and may find yourself in uncomfortable situations regarding religious views. Prayer, even during public events, is not uncommon in rural areas. It is important to be polite and when possible, seek to adapt to the religious ways of your host family and counterparts while still being comfortable enough to not violate your own feelings around religion. You may find that even if you are not religious, churches may be one of the main gathering areas and an "in" to getting to know your community. Attending services, even at least once, is a good route to connecting with rural populations.
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Kenya
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Kenya?
- What is the electric current in Kenya?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Kenya friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Kenya?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Kenya
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Kenya and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Kenya.
- General Clothing
- Reusable water bottles
- Solar shower
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Good Books on your speciality
- Tri-band unlocked GSM mobile phone (buy service/SIM when you get to Kenya)
- USB flash drive
- Make sure anything electric you bring is dual powered (110/220) and buy US to UK plug converters
Peace Corps News
- Exhibit features peace - The Clackamas Print (Apr 16)
- Peace Corps Creating Visual Record of Kenyan Sign Language - AllAfrica.com (Apr 02)
PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Thursday April 24, 2014 )
Contributions to the Kenya Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Kenya. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Kenya
- List of resources for Kenya
- Friends of Kenya
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports