NB!  New Visa Application Procedures in Kenya! Info under Immigration Documents

We are very excited and encouraged that you are interested in volunteering with Maisha Mema (Better Life) Child Sponsorship Program.  The 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.

Volunteer Information:

Kenya - a land full of contrasts



Volunteering Opportunities

Job Behaviour

Immunization Requirements

Immigration Documents



We are happy when people are joining hands to ease the burden of an often harsh life in Kenya!


Kenya - a land full of contrasts

Flag of Kenya

Coat of Arms of Kenya

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:

US Department of State: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2962.htm

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya

Encyclopædia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/nations/Kenya

Lonely Planet (travel guide): http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/destinations/africa/kenya

On these pages you can also find further links!

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Masai Mara, November 2006 (view from Mara Serena Safari Lodge)


Slums:: Due to 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 times…). 

Often 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!

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Background of Maisha Mema

Child Sponsorship Program

A 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 married to...

Marianne Haldimann Mydland (born 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.

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Volunteering Possibilities

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, etc.)
· 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 Tigoni family (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 per month.

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 attended to, 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 yourself... :-)  Here's a humorous article about dress code, for example: How to dress for Africa.  And don't forget to check out When to use a Camera!

So with 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!  

If you 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.

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  On and Off Job Behaviour

This is 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 tread carefully...

· 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 staff.
· 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...


On the 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 yourself why 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 attitudes before you 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!


Be sure to read How to dress for Africa so that you don't behave as a tourist... :-)  And check out When to use a Camera so that you don't inadvertently offend people!  Here's an article from Washington Post called "Churches Retool Mission Trips - Work 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!


To get an insight in another culture requires an insight in your self.  That journey should never end!

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  Immunization Requirements
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)
- Measles/Mumps
- 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.

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  Immigration Documents
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 we 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!

The visa can be obtained by entering this web page: https://immigration.ecitizen.go.ke/index.php?id=5. Even though it says it only takes 2 working days to process it, make sure to apply in good time.  

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  Some Things to Bring Along
· Clothes, which you aren't worried about damaging, for example when you are playing football with the children (clothes 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.

You 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.

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We have a phone where we can be contacted through. 

From within Kenya: 0722 80 65 73
From outside Kenya: (+254) 722 80 65 73

We have wireless Internet access in Tigoni :-)

Mail can be received through:
Maisha Mema
P.O. Box 2258
00621 Nairobi V/Mkt

Please don't hesitate to e-mail us if you have further questions at

info@maishamema.org, jonny-m@maishamema.org, or marianne-h-m@maishamema.org


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