After completing my grad program at UC – Berkeley, I took a gap year to pause, unplug and rediscover myself. I wanted to put my business and engineering skills to a good use while I travelled around the world. Teaching, staying at orphanages and working with different NGOs has helped me develop a broader perspective in many areas of life.
If you are planning to go on a volunteer program abroad, you have to keep in mind that spending a few weeks at an orphanage or an NGO will not make a permanent impact or a sustainable difference. However, it will definitely transform you from within and give you an idea of the real situation at the grass root level. To me, this experience helped me gain valuable experience in terms of practical implication of different policies before starting an NGO, United World Foundation, in India.
In Kenya, the first chore of the day at the orphanage was helping the nannies with preparing porridge for the kids. Once the porridge was served we had to help clean and take care of the dishes. While one of volunteers would help in the kitchen, the others helped the kids with their daily Math, English or Art lessons.
There was one teacher who came to teach all the kids at the orphanage. The kids were divided into two separate classes. The younger kids were taught basic Math, English and Art skills while the older kids were taught advanced subjects that would be required to pass the test for high school admission. After morning study sessions, the volunteers would help in the kitchen to prepare lunch. The daily menu included mainly Ugali, a dish of maize flour cooked with water, rice and beans.
Staying at the orphanage helped me develop a broader perspective on many areas of life. It was fascinating to see that the definition of a normal family to the kids was an orphanage with 19 kids and 3 nannies that took care of them. All the kids played, were schooled and grew up inside the orphanage. I absolutely can’t wait to go back and see all the kids.