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Sep 6, 2016 4 Min Read

Kijani Volunteering Experience, Part 1

About one year ago I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer with an organization involved in reforestation, agroforestry and sustainable forest management in between my Bachelor’s and Master’s Studies. I found Kijani online, met up with Tobias (one of the cofounders) and was deeply impressed by the work Kijani had been doing throughout the past years. Particularly had I been excited about the ideas Kijani had come up with, combining environmental restoration with youth empowerment and the economic development of rural Kenya. These approaches seemed to be equally innovative and holistic, so I happily accepted the offer to work with the motivated Kijani team for three months.

Kijani staff /Volunteers, David far left, Erick, Johanna, Victor and grace Amboka
Kijani staff /Volunteers, David far left, Erick, Johanna, Victor and grace Amboka

Arriving in Kenya was very easy, thanks to David and Erick (Kijani community engagement and forestation officers) who both warmly welcomed me in the Kijani family. They took me to Marmanet at the end of my first week in Kenya, and made this trip an unforgettable event by taking me on my first motorbike ride and teaching me how to brush my teeth with a tree branch and to peel sugar cane with my teeth. My fellow volunteer, Grace, has not only become a very dear friend but also my Kenyan sister. She took me around Nairobi, enabling me to explore places that I would never had found on my own, taught me how to cook Kenyan food and introduced me to her friends and family. Grace’s family treated me as if I was their own child whenever I visited them. They invited me to various family events in Nairobi and rural Kakamega, allowing me to immerse as deeply in Kenyan cultures and lifestyles as possible within a few months. Even in the Kijani office I could embrace life in Kenya by learning how to cook Ugali (maize porridge) and Skuma Wiki (kale) during lunch breaks.

Happy moments are captured shared the Dog not left out
Happy moments are captured shared the Dog not left out

Working with Kijani has been very valuable to me since I could see and participate in the whole process of developing project ideas, applying for grants, implementing projects, following up with community members and evaluating the projects. I particularly enjoyed brainstorming on project ideas and discussing them with my colleagues because every team member is taken seriously and given equal opportunity to bring fourth his or her own ideology Consequently, everyone can contribute with his or her expertise, leading to an environment of mutual learning and growing. Kijani gave me the space to develop and confirmed me in the desire to focus my continuing studies on tropical forestry and sustainable forest management. I c highly recommend anyone to come and volunteer with the Kijani team. You will not regret it!

Johanna Kukces — Volunteer from Germany

Read Part 2 about Grace’s experience here.

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