Do I need a visa? You need a visa to enter Kenya. You can either get a visa on arrival at the airport, or before you travel. At the airport you will need to pay £40 ($50) for your visa. Kenyan shillings are not accepted as a form of payment. To minimise time spent queuing at the airport, it is advised you obtain a visa before you travel. For more information on different types of visas see the website of the Kenya High Commission. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival. Carry a pen to complete the arrivals form at Nairobi airport.
Flight Nairobi Kenyatta International Airport’ – NBO will be your destination. Please avoid arriving into Nairobi late on a Friday or Saturday night as this is when most road accidents happen.
Extra Baggage Sometimes volunteers like to bring resources such as second hand books, toys and other educational items for the school. It is possible to get permission to take extra luggage by contacting the airline that you have booked with. All you have to do is phone the airline and say that you are going to the School to do volunteer work and that you need extra luggage to donate children’s clothing, shoes, school supplies etc and then get written permission from them (not all airlines co-operate). Make sure you keep the letter with your passport and airline ticket so you have proof of permission. Please feel free to email for a list of useful items.
How do I get to Roko 20 Academy from the Airport? 1. Bus - Buses from Kenyatta Airport to Nairobi City Centre run up to 6pm and take approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic. The fare is approx 50 Kes. From the Nairobi City Centre you will need to make your way to the far end of River Road where you can pick up a bus to Murang'a Town. The fare is between 200 and 250 shillings and the journey takes approximately 1 and a half hours.
2. Taxi -We can arrange for a local taxi to pick you up from the airport and bring you to the school. The cost is 5,000 shillings and takes approximately 2 hours.
Where is Roko 20 Academy located? What facilities are there? Roko 20 is located in the Central Highlands of Kenya in a small village called Kambirwa which is 6kms from the main town of Murang'a. Murang’a Town has a population of around 11,000. It is a busy town with two supermarkets, a number of internet 'cafes', small shops, banks, a post office, a public hospital, and twice weekly, a bustling market. There are many hotels and small restaurants/cafes. In particular there are two good hotels with small pools and each has a decent enough restaurant where you might buy a cold beer.
Accommodation Whilst we do not charge a fee for the time you are staying with us we request that you make a donation of 6,000 shillings per month to help us cover costs for food, board and electricity etc. As we mainly rely on donations and sponsorship to run the school, your donations are also a critical means of support to help us carry out our work. Your donation includes accommodation at the school, breakfast, breaktime snack and lunch (Kenyan style). Eating out is at an extra cost to you. Alternatively you can rent a room or small apartment near the school or in the town of Murang'a. Expect to pay a minimum of 6,000 shillings per month in Murang'a plus utility bills.
How much money do you suggest I bring? In what form? You will need to bring enough funds for your own food in the evenings and at weekends. Money for transportation and any additional costs such as souvenirs, accommodation and travel expenses on days off, activities, etc. If you eat like the locals cooking dishes made from beans, rice, maize, fruit and vegetables and a little meat and you can eat well on less than 200 shillings per day. Western style food is available in supermarkets but more expensive.
Withdrawing money ATMs are accessible at banks in many cities and towns including Nairobi and Murang’a. Withdrawing money on your ATM or credit card at one of the banks in Murang’a seems to be the easiest and quickest way to get money. Check with your bank at home to see whether your card can be used for international withdrawals. For security, please do not carry a lot of cash. Before you leave, photocopy all personal identification (bank cards, passport, immunization records, etc) keep one copy with you and one copy with someone at home. It is also a good idea to inform your Credit Card Company of your travel plans so that charges made to your card will not be questioned or assumed fraudulent. The local currency is the Kenyan Shilling (Kes).
Will I have Internet access? Internet is accessed through your mobile phone's sim card. Internet bundles can be bought and added to your sim card. The sim is then inserted into a modem and then to your laptop. Connection can sometimes be slow, particularly at the school. If you are staying at the school it is advisable to take the trip to Murang'a for downloading and quicker internet connection. We can provide you with a sim and modem for a deposit of 2,500 KES to cover the cost of replacement, if lost. Another option would be to have a phone with tethering or portable wifi. If you have 3G on your phone you will be able to connect to internet if you buy a Safaricom SIM card.
What will my daily schedule look like? Each volunteer is responsible for their own time management, and the completion of all projects assigned to them. Your daily schedule will depend upon your volunteer placement and the needs of Roko 20 Academy. The school day starts at 7.20am and finishes at 3.10pm. The school bus starts its pick up from Murang'a at 6.30am and returns at around 4.30 pm. Breakfast is available at the school at 8.00am. At 10.30 we stop for a break-time cup of local porridge. Lunch is served at 12.30. Lessons resume at 2.00pm until 3.10pm when school finishes. The Library is open after school until 4.00pm.
Will I get the weekends off? Yes. There is always the option to attend a special program such as the Elderly Ladies Group Meeting which is held on a Saturday afternoon, once a month.
How will I get around in Kenya? There are several forms of transportation in Kenya. Moving from city to city, you can take a matatu (available to most all destinations). Matatus are minibuses that fit anywhere from 15 to 20 people. Keep in mind that there is not much room for large luggage on matatus, and you will need to get used to sharing your ‘personal space’. It is not advisable to travel late at night. People usually use motorbikes (boda-boda) to move for short distances. Prices for boda-bodas must be negotiated before the journey while matatus and buses have set prices. Transport to and from the school, early morning and late afternoon, is provided with the School bus. Boda-bodas cost 50 Kes between the school and Murang'a town.
Sightseeing There is a lot to see in Kenya and travelling around is easy by matatu. However should you require an organised trip then you will need to use one of the travel companies which are mainly concentrated in Nairobi. Roko 20 does not have the resources to organise trips however we can provide you with the number for a travel agent or a driver but please bear in mind that bookings may not be as quick or simple as it is back home. If you are considering a safari then please check out the website http://www.kws.go.ke/national-parks for an idea on prices. Travelling around Kenya by matatu is inexpensive and a journey of 90 kilometres costs just 200 shillings.
What will I be eating? Will I get enough to eat? The Kenyan diet is heavy, with cooked meals for lunch and dinner. School lunches will include Ugali (ground cooked maize flour boiled with water) and a cabbage and meat stew, rice and beans with kale, and Githeri (beans and maize stew). Breakfast always involves tea and either boiled sweet potato or bread. Breakfast, break-time porridge and lunch is provided at school free of charge.
Will I get the proper nutrition if I am a vegetarian, vegan, or have food allergies? Generally, Kenyan food is vegetarian-friendly. Beans, vegetables, and greens are common.
Is there anything I need that I cannot get in Murang’a? You can find almost everything that you need in Murang'a. If you are particular about your hygiene products such as shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetics we suggest you bring enough for the duration of your stay.
How long can I volunteer for? Longer placements are preferred as we’ve found short-term volunteers do not have the capacity within their short time to make valuable and sustainable contributions. Volunteers who are able to make a minimum commitment of three months will be given priority.
Is it safe in Kenya? Murang’a? Present day in Kenya is reasonably safe. That being said, like any other country crime does occur and is more common in larger cities. Be smart and take the proper precautions. Generally, people look after one another and in Kambirwa and Murang'a, since you will be a new face, people will be making sure you are comfortable and safe.
What is the weather like? The wettest months, known as the 'long rains,' are in late-March until May. There is also another second rainy season called the 'short rains' for a few weeks mid-November and early December. Although prolonged rainfall isn’t that uncommon, the typical pattern is for rain to fall as a torrential downpour, lasting perhaps half an hour to an hour, with the sun then coming out and drying the wet ground in minutes. The cool season is from late-June to early August and gets much less rain. The dry seasons in Kenya are generally from late-June to October and from December to late March with the hottest months being September and December through to February.
Immunization Immunization is entirely up to the individual. Most doctors will recommend Malaria, Yellow Fever and a few others. Contact your GP regarding the current Health Department recommendations. These should include: Hepatitis A – Recommended for all travelers. Typhoid – Recommended for all travelers. Yellow fever – Recommended for all travelers greater than nine months of age. Polio – One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but has not had a polio vaccine as an adult. Hepatitis B – For travelers who may have intimate contact with local residents, especially if visiting for more than 6 months. Rabies – For travelers who may have direct contact with animals and may not have access to medical care. Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) – Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given. Tetanus-diphtheria – Re-vaccination recommended every 10 years. If you are coming from a country that has Yellow Fever you may be asked at the airport to produce your yellow fever vaccination form.
How can I stay healthy while in Kenya? The key to staying healthy abroad is taking care of yourself and listening to your body. We strongly recommend you consult your local travel clinic prior to arrival in relation to vaccinations and medications required. Malaria is a serious health concern (but not common in this area) and most people choose to take anti-malarial medication. Some helpful tips to avoid those pesky parasitic infections:
Be sure to drink only boiled water and wash fruits and vegetables well.
Though it may be tempting to play football with the children barefeet, don’t take the risk! Always wear shoes or sandals and wash your feet well at the end of the day.
Always wash your hands well and carry sanitizer for when water and soap are not available
Always use a mosquito net.
Make sure your diet includes plenty of probiotics (ie yogurt) and vitamins to help boost your immune system.
Where is the nearest hospital or clinic? If you do fall ill while in Kenya, there are plenty of local clinics in and around Murang’a. Murang'a has one public hospital and many private, smaller hospitals. Consultations, lab tests and even prescriptions in Kenya are all very cheap.
Do I need health insurance? Yes, it is advisable. Before you depart, please check with your health insurance provider to make sure it will cover you (and what it will cover) while you are abroad. If not, purchase a travel insurance package for the duration of your trip. There is no need to pack too many clothes as you end up wearing the same thing most of the time. You will need a waterproof jacket during the short and long rainy seasons and perhaps a pair of wellies. We are near the Equator and approximately 4,000 ft altitude. Early mornings and after sunset can be a bit chilly depending on the season. You do not need to bring bedding.
Kenyan hospitality Generally Kenyans love visitors from overseas and most are friendly, polite and hospitable. You may be welcomed into their home for lunch or dinner. It is traditional in Kenya to take something small with you such as a bag of flour, sugar, rice, bread, margarine, juice or fruit.
How will I communicate with the local people? English is the official language and is spoken widely in Kenya. Most students begin learning English early in primary school. Swahili is spoken all over the country but Kenya boasts over 40 local languages. Swahili is spoken in Murang’a but the local language, called Kikuyu, is the most used in Murang’a. We encourage you to learn some Kikuyu or Swahili words but you won’t have difficulties to communicate in English here.
Can I bring donations or gifts for the local people and the children? As a volunteer, your donation and gifts to the local community is at your discretion. Please do not give out money or handouts while you are here. We work very hard to maintain a relationship based on participation and empowerment with the communities we support and do not give handouts. If you would like to bring certain donations with you, please confirm these with the Roko 20 team before you leave. We have a “wish-list” of items that the school is always in need of. We would encourage volunteers to ask family / friends if they have any second hand or unwanted items from the wish list. We request that donations of school resources be handed in to the office for recording before being taken into class.
Finally … Living and working at Roko 20 Academy is incredibly rewarding, but it will also challenge you in ways you never expected. We work with vulnerable populations, and life in Kenya can be demanding, thus this is not a place for those looking for respite. The culture may be very different from your own and you will suffer from frequent frustrations so it will help to have bundles of patience!
If any additional questions arise, please feel free to contact Tracey or Job at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or alternatively if you wish to hear about former volunteers’ experience you may request to be put in touch with a past volunteer.