Volunteering FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will I get sick?

Getting sick on your placement will be common. Hygiene and sanitation practices are quite poor in the rural setting. All necessary precautions must be taken to ensure appropriate hygiene practices.

Diarrhoea and vomiting (amoeba, gastro) are to be expected and can be a common occurrence due to poor hygiene and poor food preparation. Please be aware of not eating ‘street food’ or poorly prepared food. Please use your own judgment when eating.

Malaria is a risk for you whilst on your placement. Please take necessary precautions with Malaria prevention medication. Kisumu is on Lake Victoria and also on the equator and the risk for Malaria is high. Treatment for Malaria is readily available and very affordable but please use preventative measures.

It is advised that you visit a Travel Medical Centre prior to your departure for necessary vaccinations and medical advice for your placement. Please visit with at least three months prior to your departure as many vaccinations require a course of injections.

What vaccinations do I need?

It is recommended that you visit a Travel Medical Centre prior to your departure.

If you wish to travel outside of Kenya to another African country, you will require a ‘Yellow Fever’ injection for re-entry into Kenya.

Recommended Vaccinations for your Placement:

  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Yellow Fever
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Diptheria
  • Meningitis

Please be aware that these are only recommended by SEP, they are not a requirement.

SEP recommend that you contact your own doctor, local Department of Community Health or Travel Medical Vaccination Centre for information/advice regarding vaccinations.  SEP is aware that recommendations and prices regarding vaccinations can vary greatly depending on who you are talking to, so it is well worth shopping around.  

Remember there are also natural remedy vaccinations available through your local naturopath.

It is entirely your decision as a volunteer/intern on how you decide you protect yourself from diseases and illnesses. But it is highly recommended that you do protect yourself.

What medication do I bring?

For the most part, sensible precautions, attention to personal hygiene and a positive attitude will contribute to your well-being. But some medications will be good to carry with you.

A small personal first aid kit is recommended.  It should include regular medication, if you need it.  Diarrhoea is common place and the best medication is Norfloxican or Immodium.  Stemetil is recommended in case of vomiting.  A good supply of ‘Rid’ insect repellent and high factor sun block is also recommended.  

Most illnesses can be treated with medication bought in Kisumu, but again please take sensible precautions to avoid getting sick in the first place. 

Getting sick in Kenya, is not the same as getting sick ‘back home’ and health care is not of the same standard as many International/Western Hospitals. If you have any major health issues, please declare them to the Organization ahead of time (all information will be kept confidential) as your volunteer placement is classified as a ‘Hard-ship Post’ and serious medical attention may not be accessible.

Is there a hospital nearby?

The SEP team have local doctors that they recommend you visit when Medical Attention is required. There is one Hospital in Kisumu called ‘Aga Khan’ that is the best standard of hospital available in Kisumu. In the Community of East, there is a Health Centre, but it is not of International Standards. In East Kano, health care is generally of a poor standard and anyone with serious health conditions will find this placement tough as access to good health care is limited.

Contact details of recommended Health Facilities will be given to you upon arrival.

Should you need to seek medical attention, your expenses should be covered as per your insurance policy.  There is usually an excess on your policy and receipts are required should you need to make a claim.  Your insurance details will need to be submitted to the Volunteer Coordinator and Program Manager in case of emergency.

We suggest that, wherever possible, you visit a western clinic should the need arise. 

What kind of attention will I receive? 

In some parts of Kenya, the local men may seem quite disrespectful of the local women as well as foreign women. Be careful what you say and do as what is a friendly gesture in other cultures may be taken the wrong way and you may find yourself in an awkward situation.  Never place yourself in dangerous environments or compromise your safety! 

If you are unsure of what the customs are please ask a SEP team member or a local that you trust about what is acceptable behaviour. Many of these concerns will be covered in your Volunteer Handbook. 

Many women will find this challenging, but please remember that sometimes you need to bite your tongue and keep quiet, you are in a foreign country and will be a minority. It is not worth getting yourself into a potentially dangerous situation.

Westerners are referred to as Mzungu’s which means ‘white person’. A common expression in the street is ‘Mzungu! How are you?!’ and you will hear this hundreds of times of your placement.

The local men can be quite forthcoming with their feelings towards Mzungu women which can make you feel uncomfortable at times. Local women are typically shy and will not act in the same manner towards mzungu men. It is very rare that you will actually be at risk, but please be wary of potentially risky situations especially when you are alone.

The majority of the attention you will receive will be fascination at the colour of your skin and is not threatening. Kenyan’s are generally very respectful of Mzungu’s but just remember to always keep a cool temper and do not react badly to local’s commenting on the colour of your skin. 

What accommodation is available?

The Volunteer Coordinator and Program Manager can assist with accommodation. If your projects are in East Kano, you will be able to stay in the Volunteer House in the community that is besides the SEP office. This accommodation will be a weekly fee that will include water, power, internet and food. This can be paid prior to or upon your arrival.

The volunteer house is basic accommodation and is ‘Community Living’. The Volunteer House is entirely environmentally friendly.

You will also be able to travel back into Kisumu on the weekend for some ‘city life’. There are relatively cheap hotels available that have running hot water and good food available.

What food can I eat?

Kisumu has numerous restaurants and places to eat.  However, it is wise to only eat in established places or ones that have been recommended by a reliable source.  Still, when you have a craving for some ‘Western’ food you will be able to find places that serve pizza, pasta, hot dogs, pies and there is even Chinese food.

Be aware of hygiene in restaurants and buying food off the side of the road.  Avoid eating raw green salads/vegetables/fruit unless you are certain they have been washed in purified water.  Peel all fruit as a precaution and eat foods that are piping hot! Prevention is always better than the cure. 

Fruit and Vegetable are easily available and cheap, just always remember to wash thoroughly before eating.

What public transport is available?

  • Mutatus – is a mini bus that is legally allowed to seat 14 people (however there are sometimes many more people on board than that). It is fairly inexpensive to ride on one. You can catch a mutate into town and also out into the rural areas.
  • Boda Bodas – are a bicycle with a large padded seat on the back. They are fairly safe as long as your driver is intoxicated (which can often be the case). Most of the Boda Boda drivers are from the slum areas and can be a little shady at times. It is a common form of transport along with Mutatus and it is fairly inexpensive.
  • Piki Piki’s – are motor bikes that can fit up to 3 people on the back (although it is not recommended). They are speedy, however they are deemed fairly unsafe and drivers are commonly intoxicated. It is not advised to use these often as they are not regulated on the streets and often drivers do not possess a licence.
  • Tuk Tuk’s – are almost like an oversized go-cart and they are probably the most safe to travel on. They can be a bit more expensive than other forms of transport but you can also take the numbers that have been recommended to you to ensure safety.

When you arrive you will be given phone numbers for recommended and trusted taxi, Boda Boda’s, Piki Piki’s and Tuk Tuk drivers as to ensure your safety. It is advised that you do not use taxi drivers that have not been recommended. If you are out at night it is advised against getting unknown taxi drivers to take you home. SEP also strongly recommends against catching Mutatus, Boda Bodas and Tuk Tuks at night or when you are alone.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes, Travel Insurance is ESSENTIAL. We require a copy of your insurance approval number once organised to ensure that you have obtained adequate insurance.  Whichever policy you choose, please read the brochure carefully, particularly the small print and make sure you understand it before you leave home.  Ensure that the policy is adequate for Kenya and for the duration of your stay. Also ensure that the policy covers any adventure activities you may undertake - these are sometimes excluded in the general policy of some companies. 

Generally speaking, in an event of emergency medical treatment, a phone call must be made to the Insurance Agency in your home country at the earliest convenience to authorise payment of your medical bills.  For small claims it is more convenient to handle it when you get back to home.  You will need to keep all receipts if you require reimbursement.  In the event of theft, you are required to get a police report to submit with your claim.

What do I wear?

Carefully consider the clothes you are taking with you as most of the countries we go to have a ‘conservative’ view of dress sense. Tank tops, exposed midriffs, tight and/or revealing items, mini skirts and very short shorts are not recommended attire. You may insult the local community and there may be a personal risk as you may attract ‘unwanted’ attention. 

There will be times for dressing up and going out as a group, so take a couple of nice pieces, but on the whole, think about the climate and the work you will be doing and pack appropriately. Many of your clothes will not come home in any condition to be worn again, so don’t go all out on buying new clothes especially for your experience either – unless there is a specific purpose for them.

Any outward signs of wealth can pose a serious risk to the bearer also, as developing countries are full of people trying to make ends meet any way they can. Wearing excess jewellery made of gold and glittering with stones will make you an instant target to thieves and worse. A couple of pieces will not attract too much attention but walking around wearing ‘bling’ will put you at risk! 

This also goes for your valuable camera, iPod or mobile phone – carry them discreetly when using them and hide them away when you are not, as they are pure thief bait!

What do I bring?

Bring comfortable clothing for working in plus some normal ‘going out’ clothes for Kisumu/Nairobi.

Clothes are cheap in Kenya but mostly second hand and not always the nicest. The SEP Team also have recommended Tailors where you can get clothes made for reasonable prices.

Any shoes are fine as long as they are comfortable and durable for work. 

Here is a brief outline is what SEP recommend you bring:

  • Underwear/bras/socks/jocks etc (can be bought here but not really desireable)
  • T-shirts - 3 or 4 is probably enough
  • Singlets -  not too revealing
  • Shorts/skirts - below knee, no mini skirts, no booty shorts!
  • Long pants – cargos are good and comfortable as you won’t get too hot
  • Shoes for work (sneakers, boots, skate shoes etc.)
  • Flip Flops (Flip Flops are fantastic and can be bought cheaply in Kenya - about USD$1.50)
  • Going out shoes as many places do not allow Flip Flops (basic flats are fine), high heels are not really worn too often
  • ‘Going out’ clothes (YES, you will have opportunities to go out to hotels/restaurants/clubs, community functions etc.)
  • Warm Jacket – It doesn’t often get too cold and a thin jumper is fine, though you may like to bring a warmer jacket as well for colder areas such as Masai Mara
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Bathers (optional but good for R&R in Kisumu....)
  • Pyjamas (preferably cotton or something light)
  • Light track pants (the Mosquitoes are relentless at night and long/light sweat pants are perfect)
  • Towel (Travel towels are excellent)
  • Mosquito repellent 
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Music/Ipod
  • Mirror
  • Photos from home
  • Pack of cards
  • Small flashlight and batteries  
  • Diary/Journal
  • Face washer
  • Camera
  • Phone charger
  • Adaptor to convert to Kenyan power sockets

Can I bring Donations?

We do encourage you to think carefully about any extra resources, gifts and/or materials you want to take to Kenya that will enhance your ability to assist the community. However, many donations can be easily bought in Kenya and are very cheap. Kenya has a booming printing industry, so it is preferred that you purchase books here to encourage the industry and boost the economy. Clothes and stationary can be readily purchased here as well. It is encouraged that you purchase resources in Kenya that you may want to use so as to boost the local businesses. 

If it can’t be found in Kenya then by all means bring it with you. But if it can be found here, it is important to try and boost the local economy.

What airfares are the best?

The main airlines that fly into Kenya are Air Mauritius, Emirates and South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, British Airways. If you are a student, be sure to research airlines that give student discounts. The travel website www.expedia.com is also good for cheap flights.

If you wish to fly from Nairobi to Kisumu, SEP recommends Jetlink, Fly540 or Kenya Airways. This ticket can usually cost around $60 which SEP can book for you. The other alternative is catching the cross-country bus, ‘Easy Coach’, which takes around 7 hours which gives you a great view of the Kenyan countryside. It is quite safe but it is not recommended that you travel alone at night if it is your first time travelling.

Are the full-time employees part of SEP or do they work for another organization? 

SEP has full-time employees, but you may also be working with employees from other organizations. SEP has partnerships with several organizations in the community. If your project is involved with one of these, you will be supervised by both organizations.

During a typical day, how often will the volunteer be with a staff member of our organization?  

You will be with a SEP Team member almost every day for the first two weeks whilst you settle in to Kenyan life. Once you have begun your placement out in the community you will meet with your immediate supervisor every two days whilst you design and plan your project. You will be expected to work independently on your project and fulfill what has been laid out for you.

During the first few weeks of your placement you will have a lot of supervision to ensure you are working in line with the organization’s objectives.

After SEP feels you can work more independently you will meet with your supervisor officially once a week, but you will be working alongside your supervisor in the field almost daily. You will always have a SEP team member to talk to and seek advice but SEP expect you to be able to work independently.

Will the volunteer have a bilingual staff member on-site and available to the volunteer in person at all times? 

The majority of the time this will be the case. 

All local SEP team members and board members are multi-lingual speaking English, Luo and Kiswahili. However, you will be expected to learn some local phrases to assist with your integration into the community (some basic greetings are laid out in the Volunteer Handbook).

Many Community members in East Kano are fluent in English and many other can speak enough English to communicate with you.

The community members will very much enjoy teaching you the local language and they appreciate your attempt at this. The community members often speak a mixture of Luo and English and sometimes Kiswahili.

How long has the organization been conducting programs? 

SEP has been hosting volunteers since 2010. SEP places a very high appreciation and respect for all volunteers and offers as much support as possible. Volunteers are often at the heart of any organizational operations and SEP encourages a constant flow of volunteers to the community. 

How many Volunteers does SEP host each year?

There will be a maximum of 16 volunteers per year on the Short and Long Term Programs. There will only be four volunteers per quarterly intake

The Voluntourism Program will have a maximum of 16 Volunteers per year. 

How are the Program fees spent? 

All Program Fees are classified as ‘Unrestricted Funds’. SEP will honor its accountable and transparent payment system of 90% of funds are donated directly to project funds and remaining 10% will be donated to Administration. 

SEP ensures accountability and transparency of expenditure and the 90% of Project funds will contribute directly to the resources and materials required for your individual project.

The 10% Administration Fee contributes to your transport, office resources, auditing of financial accounts, internet, electricity and communications allowance.

All financial accounts are available on the website and at any time during your volunteer placement, you can request to view the accounts to view allocation/expenditure of your Program Fee.

Does SEP hold current and adequate domestic and foreign liability insurance? 

Yes, SEP currently holds Domestic Liability Insurance for Local employees and local volunteers. Insurance for International Volunteers and International Interns will be covered under individual travel insurance policies.

Does SEP have a Policy and Procedure Manual and Universal Crisis Management Plan that is available to all staff, volunteer, interns and board members?

 Yes, SEP has an up-to-date Policy and Procedure Manual that outlines all rules and regulations to be followed. The Crisis Management Manual is currently being developed. The Volunteer Coordinator and Program manager have guidelines for crisis management to be followed until the Plan is officially completed.

What will be the Program Inclusions? 

Program Inclusions are all work related expenses and Project materials and resources.

What will be the Program Exclusions?

Program Exclusions are accommodation, food, personal transport and individual travel, training, cooking lessons, language lessons. These can be paid in addition to your Program Fee.

Who will the International Volunteer Program seek to recruit?

This Program will seek to recruit volunteers and interns that are compassionate, hard-working, dedicated, experienced and development focused. 

This includes: 

  • High School Graduates
  • University Students
  • Working Professionals
  • Retirees 
  • All individuals passionate about development

Can I Fundraise for my Volunteer Placement?
Yes, absolutely!
However, all fundraising needs to be approved by SEP in your home country. Contact admin@strategicempowermentprogram.org for more information

You can only raise funds for your Program Fee not for individual and personal use. 

You are not allowed, under SEP Fundraising Policy, to raise funds for your own personal use including food, accommodation, personal travel, visas and any other personal funds. 

Several Countries have Fundraising Authorities that need to be gained in order to fundraise legally.

Fundraising from other countries can be conducted upon approval from Friends of Rang'I in Kenya.

All fundraising using the SEP Name and Logo will require prior permission for the relevant board in your home country. 

If there is not a board operating in your home country, all permission will be granted from SEP Kenya.