are very excited and encouraged that you are interested in volunteering with
Maisha Mema (Better Life) Child Sponsorship Program.
purpose of this information is to tell you about Maisha Mema and our programs,
our children, our needs and how you can best fit in with Maisha Mema [please
read the Job Behaviour
carefully!]. We hope that you find the information here helpful as you plan to embark
on an adventure that will teach you about yourself, the world, different
cultures, God, and the children He has called us to serve.
Kenya is a multitude of people from close to 60 tribes, whereof the majority
have Nilotic or Bantu origin. The biggest tribes are
Kikuyu 22%, Luyia 14%, Kamba
11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 5% - all of them Bantu, Luo 14% and
Kalenjin 11% - Nilotic (figures vary slightly according
to which source you check...).
English is the official language, while
Kiswahili is the national language.
As so many countries in Africa, also
Kenya is a so called 'development country', where the income per head
is 1.550 US$ a year - against USA's 31'500 US$ a year (These are 1998 estimates,
but according to the US Department of State the Kenyan
income per head sank to only $455 in 2006.
Wikipedia operates with $1.200...). The infant
mortality rate 68.7 per 1.000 births against USA's
6.8... But then it has to be said that both income
and mortality is extremely 'unfairly' divided. A
small group on top is stinking rich, as they say here,
while maybe 80 per cent of the population of more than
35 million people are living on a pure basic minimum.
Kenya is also among the countries in the world with
the biggest population growth, and close to half the population are children
below the age of 15. Generally, it is correct to say that the lower income
people have, the higher infant mortality rate you will find. This means
that in the slums and most of the countryside quite a number of small
children die because of malnutrition and deceases. But if you ask the
many tourists visiting Kenya every year what they know best about Kenya,
chances are very high that they will mention safari tours in the national
parks, visiting Mombasa and the many swimming resorts and hotels at the
coast, and maybe climbing Mt Kenya (5.200 metres). But then you just touch
the fringes of the Kenyan society!
Religionwise, the Kenyan
population consists of nearly 80% Christians, 10 %
Muslims, 9 % belonging to traditional African religions
and 1 % Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i, Jewish and other fringe
groups. The concentration of different churches
can be extremely high just following one street!
The names of churches are also a study in imagination...
You can check out the
following links for more information about Kenya:
November 2006 (view from Mara Serena Safari Lodge)
poverty and 'the dream of a good life', a large number of people move
from the countryside and into the cities, especially Nairobi. That is
the reason around 60 per cent (or about 1.8 million people) live in slum
areas in Nairobi - but they only cover around 5 per cent of the land area....
Quite many, not to say most of these families, have problems even managing
one meal a day. In addition to this, you also find the biggest number
of children per family in the slum areas. It is no exaggeration to say
that slum mothers literally produce street kids (with good help from their
husbands or occasional 'uncles' who are moving in for shorter or longer
there is no clear line between a 'slum kid' and a 'street
kid', as many of the children in the slums just roam
around doing nothing. They then engage in criminal
activities, sniff glue and use other substances, and
practice free sex. This also often means that the
older ones abuse the younger children, regardless of
whether it is a boy or a girl.
When we know that about 13 per cent of the population in Kenya
are HIV-positive [the Government claims that by 2007 this figure is
reduced with more than a half] - and close to 25 per cent of sexual active people in
Nairobi, Kisumu and Thika (figures from November 2000) - the ability to
help this situation seems a hopeless one. That is when we have to concentrate
on the individual child. And this is also why it is so important to give
them positive activities to do!
division of Maisha Mema Ltd. - Inc. Kenya, was established in 2008, but
has operated under another license since 1999.
Jonny Mydland (born 1963) is a
Trustee. He is a theologian, and worked as a Pastor in the Blue Cross in
Stavanger, Norway for 6 years. During this period, he engaged in
international work, and was half a year in Kenya as a consultant for the
Norwegian organisation Stromme Foundation. From April 1997, he has lived
in Kenya, and Klepp Frikirke in Norway is the sending congregation. He is
1966). She has her education within sales- and business administration,
and worked in a store for some time. During the period January 1990 to
June 1995, she was working with Covenant Players, an international, Christian
drama ministry, and was in East Africa for 4 years. In April 1999, she
came to Kenya to work with Jonny, and in June 2000, they got married.
Evangelisches Gemeinschaftswerk in Ostermundigen, Bern in Switzerland,
is the sending congregation for her.
Maisha Mema gives the opportunity both for
local and international volunteers. Local volunteers - like
Joyline (left) - often comes from a College where they need practice as
part of their studies. Isabell (right) from Switzerland basically
came here to help after having a break in her studies. She's
attending nursing studies back home from October 2008. Joyline was soon
to wind up her studies at Kenya Institute of Social Work and
Community Development when this picture was taken. Nea from Germany (below) was also a
volunteer for some time in 2008.
The possibilities for volunteering are many,
but limited by the fact that we now live outside Nairobi (see also below).
You need to think
about what you might want to do, and which skills you have. The following are places/positions
where you might fit in:
Assist in teaching the kids. We have
a study room with a blackboard now.
Teach kids any artistic skills (music, drama, painting, dancing,
Share during the devotional times
Participate in and teaching the kids
different sports activities
Share your professional skills with our staff (i.e., seminars
on teaching, health care, counseling, etc.)
Take kids for recreational outings (camping, hiking, swimming,
etc- funds for this must be raised by you)
Be a part of the day to day activities in our
(cleaning, cooking, helping with homework, etc.)
Academic project pertaining to your studies
Please contact us with any other ideas you have.
What will it cost for you to
volunteer with Maisha Mema?
We guess you notice the way of asking? :-)
Since it is you offering your time to volunteer with Maisha Mema,
we are of course not paying you anything. At the same time, we do
not want this to be an economic burden for you. The only thing we
expect in terms of payment, is that you pay something for your
accommodation, the transportation from the airport and a few other small
things. Since we moved up to Tigoni, the volunteering possibility
in Clubhouse in Soweto has more or less been cancelled. We simply
cannot take the risk of you staying alone in Nairobi...
Volunteering therefore primarily happens at Tigoni, in our family (children's
home). The charges for
accommodation are as follows:
Euro 7 per day, or Euro 211 per month.
Swiss Francs 11 per day, or Swiss Francs 330
Norwegian Kroner 60 per day, or Norwegian Kroner
1.800 per month.
We don't think this should scare anybody... :-)
For those with a good memory; yes, we have adjusted the prices
upwards, but prices in Kenya have increased quite a bit during the last
year.What you also have to
cater for yourself, is transport when you want to go somewhere on your
own, lunch if you eat outside, and pocket money. You will also normally be
eating supper with the children and us in the evening. In addition
to tasting both local and international food, you then also have the
opportunity to interact with the resident children :-) And the
interaction stretches to whatever skills you may have, be it hand craft,
painting, sewing, sports and singing. Plus helping with home work
Concerning what you otherwise will actually
do when in Tigoni, you must remember that this is a family /
children's home. This means that all the children are in school
during day, and only come home from 16:00 onwards. How do you
spend the hours from morning then? Well, there is food to be
prepared and made, floors to be washed, clothes for the small children
to be washed; in short: household work. For a handy man or
woman there is maintenance work to be done. The shamba (kitchen
garden) needs attention, the rabbits need food, the cows need to be
a dead or fallen tree has to be cut to fire wood... If you are
prepared to come and work, we'll be good friends, if you are
looking for a cheap vacation you'll be disappointed...
We normally don't accept more than one
volunteer at a time, although exeptions may happen. It is also an advantage if you ask us well in advance so that we can
plan when people are coming and for how long. We also normally don't
encourage you to come for more than three months at a time, of various reasons. You easily get a three months tourist visa, but after that
it becomes a bit unpractical. You would either have to leave the
country and then apply for a new visa, or you would have to apply for an
alien pass (that also costs!). Since we want many people to have
the opportunity to be volunteers, staying more than three months is also
not very practical :-) This means we have to say no to some of
the people who want to come, simply because too many people want to
volunteer. And even though this can surely be characterised as a
positive problem, is it nevertheless dissapointing for those we have to
say no to... We
hope you understand this.
And one more thing: There are
differences between where you come from and Kenya. By the way you
are dressing and behaving, you are sending signals to people about
respect and your level of willingness to adapt to another culture.
What is perfectly acceptable back home might offend people here.
It is therefore good to listen to advices before you make a fool out of
these terms and conditions we are heartily welcoming you to Tigoni to
volunteer with us. We are sure that it will shape your life in a
positive way – just as it has done with many before you. Welcome
in the Maisha Mema family!
are interested in volunteering with us, please let us know via e-mail!
Indicate what time you would like to be here, and we will see if this
time is ok with us. If so, we send you an application scheme and a
reference scheme via e-mail that you and your referee will have to fill
out. After having received the application form and the reference
scheme, we will let you know if you have gotten a place here.
in fact a very important issue that can make or break a relationship. We do want to have an open an honest
relationship with you, but then you should also observe
the following rules!
·No alcoholic drinks and drugs including smoking are allowed, while you
are a volunteer with Maisha Mema. These may act as a reminder of the children's
past and may most likely encourage a regression. In Kenya, these habits
are also looked upon as being completely opposing Christianity. [We
are sorry to say that we have had volunteers trying to
go around this rule; please be honest with us!]
· No flirting or dating between our youths and the volunteers are
allowed. There are other customs concerning physical contact in
Kenya than in Europe / USA. Doing the wrong thing
here might cause much more harm than you intended, and
it is therefore important that you respect the local
customs. You go safely back to your country, but the
child's / youth's life might be ruined if you don't
· We also
don't encourage flirting or dating between our staff and the volunteers.
· Volunteers are expected to communicate and cooperate with the
Maisha Mema staff and other volunteers.
· No punishment can be administered by volunteers to children
within the program. If punishment is needed, please contact one of the
· No donations
are allowed to be given directly to the children or to
their parents if you visit their homes in the slums. Please
seek guidance from us about how to go about distributing gifts.
Westerners are by many
Africans considered money bags and as having a soft
touch for money. That doesn't mean you should stop
being generous, but you should be generous intelligently.
We can help you with that :-)
We expect volunteers to be
polite with the children, staff and other people.
Remember: If you "claim your rights" to abuse people in
the neighbour shop, you might also ruin our
relationship with them...
Application Scheme mentioned above, you will have to sign a
statement where you state that you have read
and understood these rules.
Remember also, that
recruitment of volunteers is led by the
demands of the project, NOT by the demands of people who
want to come and volunteer with us...
Just one final thing: It is always
good to ask yourselfwhy you want to come
and volunteer in such a project. To be a bit blunt:
You must be willing to come as a servant, not as a
master. Therefore, think through your values and
come, seek advice from people who have been here before
(if possible), come prepared to learn
rather than dictate, and try having an open mind.
It is much better to ask too many questions than not
asking at all!
ere's an article from
Washington Post called "Churches
Retool Mission Trips
Abroad Criticized for High Cost and Lack of Value"
that says a lot about servant / master roles and
attitudes. This not only goes for volunteers
from churches, but for all people who come
to the so called third world!
get an insight in another culture requires an insight in
your self. That journey should never end!
The requirements for immunizations change regularly, so
it is important to check with the government health
agency of your home country, a qualified physician or a
travel agency for what is required and recommended for
living in Kenya.
The following are either recommended or required:
- Yellow Fever - Hepatitis A
- Tetanus-Diphtheria - Hepatitis B (serum)
- Typhoid - Polio
- Also let your doctor advise you if you should take
Malaria Prophylaxis. If you are only going to stay in
Nairobi during your visit in Kenya, there is no need to
take malaria Prophylaxis.
Short-term volunteers (3 months or less) planning on volunteering with Maisha
Mema, only need an entry permit visa. Typical issuance is a single-entry
Tourist visa for the duration of 3 months, costing $51.
If you want to stay longer than 3 months you will need to extend the
visa and get an Alien pass. However, this possibility was
suspended some time back and
don't know if this is a permanent rule. As for
now, make sure you don't plan to come
for more than 89 days!
Things to Bring Along
· Clothes, which you aren't worried about damaging,
for example when you are playing football with the
will be hand washed and get worn out).
Girls/ Ladies: While working in the slum we advise you not to wear
shorts or tops (spaghetti straps) that reveal too much (see article How to
dress for Africa).
· Sport shoes / tennis shoes (when it rains- it's MUDDY!!)
· Rain coat / wind breaker
· Sweatshirt / fleece
- it gets cold at night in Tigoni!
· More socks than you think you need
· Sunscreen / hat
· Flashlight / torch
· Photos of friends and family to share with the kids (and for
your own memories)
· A book about Kenya (a tourist guide)
· Don't wear expensive jewellery or an expensive watch.
might also combine your time of volunteering with a holiday in
Kenya. Let us know of your plans and we might even be able to give you
some tips on what to do or visit.