Archive for the Category ◊ Volunteer ◊

27 Jun 2009 Nairobi, Kenya
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | 3 Comments

We were so excited to arrive in Kenya and meet the children at the Galilee Primary School and Lorna Waddington High School, who had received the first distribution of mosquito nets. The schools are located in the Kayole-Soweto slum area of Nairobi, Kenya. Over 1700 students attend school on the campus. Many of these children are orphans, all live in poverty.

Upon arriving we were greeted by the school’s director, Fanuel Okwaro. He took us around to every classroom where we were introduced to the teachers and welcomed by the students (classes start at “Baby Class” level pre-K3, moving into Nursery School, then Pre-Unit, like our kindergarten in the US, and then grades one, two, and so forth through 8th grade. Students then take the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam to determine if they are eligible to attend high school, which goes from Form 1 through Form 4) . Each class had a poem or song that they performed, it was awesome! While touring the school we also got to see the kitchen which is located where the Galilee Primary school started in 1997, in a simple building with two small rooms and dirt floors. At lunchtime we went to the library, which also doubles as the teachers lounge, where we met the principal & several more teachers. Thanks to the organization Feed The Children, a hot lunch is provided to students every day school is in session (Monday thru Saturday). Lunch consists of beans & rice or beans & maize…for many children this may be the only meal they get that day.

We spent the afternoon typing exams on 2 of the schools 3 computers. They only had hard copies of most of the exams which makes it very difficult to update and/or make changes…with the exams saved into the computers teachers can modify the tests as they see fit. At the end of the day we got to play with the children and then Fanuel gave us a ride back to the Rusam Guesthouse, where we had dinner & passed out early.

On our 2nd day we headed to downtown Nairobi with Duncan (Fanuel’s assistant) to do some shopping for the school. In addition to the mosquito nets we purchased (thanks to the donations from our friends and families) we also bought school supplies. Notebooks, pencils, pens, paper, crayons for the little ones and many other necessary supplies…we even got a few fun items! Two new soccer balls and a table tennis set. Back at the school we spent the rest of the day inputing more exam data into the computers. In the late afternoon when the children were out of class we went out into the dirt courtyard in the center of the school to teach the kids how to play ping pong. We borrowed 2 square tables from the classrooms and as we were setting up the net, a crowd of children quickly gathered around. Sherri & I demonstrated (as best we could) how to rally the ball back and forth. The kids were gathered so tightly around us that someone always caught the ball if we happened to miss it. We took turns rallying with the children trying to give each of them a turn. Once they had the basic concept down we stepped aside…even some of the teachers got involved and the older kids tried to explain the rules to the younger ones, who were much more interested in just hitting the ball back and forth.  It was so much fun…by the end of the day our cheeks hurt from smiling!

That evening we were invited to one of the classrooms to watch the choir practice. They put on a full performance including song, poetry and dance. They really have some talented students and they will be competing against other schools later this year.

We really enjoyed our time at the school! We especially loved the time we got to spend with the children playing games and taking pictures! The kids loved seeing themselves on our digital cameras…we’d snap a couple pictures and then show it to them and they would just laugh and laugh!

We also taught some of the children to play Bocce Ball thanks to Jeff Kelley and our friends at Sanuk who gave us a soft bocce ball set to take with us on our trip…we left it at the school for the kids!

The children in the orphanage had already received nets from a shipment sent earlier in the year. From wear and tear, some of the nets had small holes in them which could allow the mosquitos to get in, so we spent one afternoon sewing these holes so that the children would still be protected.

Thanks to our friends, family and Netting Nations that helped make this part of our world trip one of the most amazing experiences!!!

26 Jun 2009 Watoto Centre School – Nairobi, Kenya
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | One Comment

Watoto Centre School was the 5th school we went to and was located next door to the Galilee school.  This was the largest school we visited, with over 1,200 students and 120 orphans at their 3 orphanages.  The orphanages were actually quite nice with cheerful drawings painted on the walls.  The last one we went to even had a garden and a cute kitchen.  We helped the children put the nets on their beds, which was a lot of fun and kind of reminded me of how we used to build forts with sheets and blankets when we were little.

It was such an awesome day!  We felt like we had seen thousands of children (which we had).  We are so thankful that we were able to have this wonderful experience and help all of these children.  We’ll definitely never forget it!  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who helped make this possible.  For anyone who is looking to help, there are still many children who need nets! Visit the Netting Nations website to find out what you can do to help!

26 Jun 2009 Candle Light School – Nairobi, Kenya
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | 2 Comments

The 4th school we went to was the Candle Light school, which was run by Pastor Afwai and had about 300 students and 42 orphans.  When we arrived at the school we met Afwai in his office, which is also the sewing room.  A little boy was working diligently on a sewing machine making a beautiful hand bag.  The school teaches the children how to sew, so that they acquire a useful skill and then they also sell the items the children make to raise funds for the school.  Rana bought an apron and I bought the hand bag that the little boy had just finished making.  This school was the smallest one we went to and was located in the heart of the slums.  Since we still had to make it to the 5th school, we took a quick tour of the campus, met some of the students and then gave Pastor Afwai 42 nets for all of the orphans.

26 Jun 2009 Boston School – Nairobi, Kenya
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | One Comment

The 3rd school we went to was the Boston School, where Fanuel’s brother was the director.  There are 323 students from preschool to eighth grade.  Those who finished the eighth grade then moved on to Fanuel’s school.  After visiting the classrooms, we handed out nets to some of the students and then got together for a big group photo.

26 Jun 2009 Humble Hearts School – Nairobi, Kenya
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | One Comment

The second school we went to was the Humble Hearts school.  The school was started in 2004 and there are 350 students total, of which 40 are deaf.  This is one of the only schools in Nairobi that teach the deaf and they teach all their students sign language.  They also teach the parents sign language once a month and on Thursdays the entire school uses sign language to communicate.  This was one of our favorite schools as the children gave us a very warm welcome.  As our car pulled up to the school, we were rushed by a sea of adorable children wearing purple uniforms.  When we got out of the car they swarmed around us laughing and smiling and reaching out to hold our hand and give us high fives.  The were so cute and happy, we loved it!

After touring the school, Beatrice, the Director of the school, took us to her parents house where there was temporary housing behind their house, where 35 deaf students who were orphans lived.  We gave her nets for the 20 beds, as most of the children had to share a bed.

26 Jun 2009 Brightstar School – Nairobi, Africa
 |  Category: Kenya, Our Trip, Volunteer  | Leave a Comment

The first school we went to and distributed the mosquito nets was the Brightstar school.  We were so excited to meet the children. The Director of the school, Andrah, and his wife, Jacqueline, were very welcoming and appreciative that we were bringing them nets. They explained to us that having malaria nets was a luxury that they could not afford but really needed.

At the school there was approximately 500 students with about 90 orphans living on campus.  Andrah and Jacqueline showed us around the school and introduced us to each classroom. When we entered each classroom the students would stand up and greet us and recite a poem or song for us. They were all so adorable and incredibly sweet that it made me wish we could do more for them.

After the tour of the school we went to both the boys and the girls dorm rooms and handed out the malaria nets.  The children were so excited and immediately tore open the bags and began to put the nets over their beds.  The boys even made up a song on the spot, which went something like this “we are so happy, we are so happy, we are so happy today.  No more mosquito bites, no more mosquito bites, no more mosquito bites today”.  It was so cute and we were very touched!  Unfortunately, we were only able to give out nets to all of the orphans who lived at the school, but the other 400 students still need nets. It was hard to realize that we were only making a small dent in the problem, but every bit does help! If you would like to purchase malaria nets for these adorable children, please go to Netting Nations

10 May 2009 A Day at the Dump
 |  Category: Cambodia, Our Trip, Volunteer  | One Comment

We heard about a volunteer opportunity in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from our friend Trevor.  There are approximately 1,400 children who live at the dump and on each trip to the dump, volunteers feed about 450 children. 

We invited our new friend Julianna, who we had met on the night train from Hanoi to Da Nang, to join us.  She brought another girl from Vancouver, Leslie, who she had met while traveling.  We all met up in the morning and were briefed on what to expect and what the rules were….such as we had to make sure everyone waited in line to get food and we had to watch out to make sure that the older kids didn’t push the younger ones out of the way.  Then we all loaded up on the back of a big truck.  There was even a young baby girl on board who’s parents are missionaries from Lake Tahoe, California (which is near where I grew up in Grass Valley).  One of their friends who was with them that day was also from the Grass Valley area.  We got to talking and found out that we had a mutual friend who I’ve known since junior high.  It’s amazing what a small world it is!  Even while traveling we have met people and then bumped into them randomly weeks later in a different city or country.  In Phuket we met some girls from England who we ran into again on Kho Phangan Island.  In Nha Trang, Vietnam, we met a girl from Poland and bumped into her again at the killing fields in Cambodia.  In Phnom Penh at the orphanage where we taught English classes we met 2 girls from Sweden and then saw them again at the border crossing on our way from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok.  Traveling is so much fun!  It’s also an eye opening experience, especially when doing volunteer work. 

The experience at the dump was shocking!  When we drove into the dump hundreds of people came running from all directions, some little kids were running right behind the truck and were trying to jump in the back while it was still moving.  As we drove up the hill of waste the smell was so horrible that I had to cover my nose and mouth with my t-shirt and I soon gave up on swatting the flies away as they were all over my body.  When we stopped the truck at the top of the hill the people that had been running after us formed two huge lines.  Two of the volunteers were first aid trained and set up an area to the side to help anyone with injuries, since a lot of the children had cuts on their feet since they didn’t have any shoes.  We made the mistake of wearing flip flops and had to be very careful where we stepped.   One of the volunteers fell into waste deep dark dirty trash water up to her waste and lost her flip flops and cut the bottom of her foot in the process…scary!  We were amazed that all of these people actually lived in these horrible conditions, but a lot of them have never known anything else.  Several of the women in line were holding little babies in their arms, but the majority of people were young children, who surprisingly had big beautiful smiles on their dirty faces.  Some of them even gave me hugs and high fives…it was so heart warming!

After half of the line had been given food, rain started pouring down.  Rana and I had both brought our umbrella’s but it really only kept our heads dry and our legs were completely drenched since the rain was blowing sideways.  Several little ones squeezed in underneath our umbrellas with us.  Once all of the food was given away we handed out a few bags of clothes and shoes to some of the children who didn’t have any.  It was definitely a very rewarding experience and made us realize how fortunate we really are and how people who have hardly anything can still be happy and have big smiles on their faces…it will surely make us think twice before complaining about anything in the future.

09 May 2009 SCAO – Save Children in Asia
 |  Category: Cambodia, Our Trip, Volunteer  | One Comment

Our second night in Phnom Penh we ate dinner at Happy Herbs Pizza (which became one of our favorite restaurants thanks to the great food and cheap drinks). In the back of the menus we saw a write up on an orphanage located in the nearby village of Boeng Chhouk. It said visitors and volunteers welcome so we decided to check it out the next day.

We found a tuk-tuk driver that knew where the village was (or at least claimed to) and headed that way. First stop was the outdoor market to buy some fruit to take to the orphanage. That was an interesting bargaining experience. No one at any of the stalls spoke English and everyone was trying to charge us outrageous prices. Finally I showed a man & his son the amount of money we were willing to pay while Sherri acted out a large bag of fruit (Sherri is an expert at charades after all the games of Guesstures we’ve played at home). We ended up with a large beautiful basket of fruit that they even decorated with tinsel for us…it was really cute! After a couple wrong turns down some dirt roads and stopping to ask for directions a few times we found the SCAO orphanage. It is run by a nice Cambodian couple, Mr. & Mrs. Samith. They showed us around the home and we got to see photos of all the kids and some of the projects previous volunteers had worked on. Currently the orphanage is home to 17 children. Another great thing about SCAO is they also offer free English classes to the community. About 90-100 children and young adults from the village attend 4 English teaching groups per day (taught mostly by volunteers) Monday through Saturday. Class was in session when we arrived, so we sat in. Two Swedish girls were teaching…they had been volunteering & living at SCAO for about a week. This class had 16 students, ages 6-12, of which about 1/2 lived at the orphanage. The kids were really cute & very bright! After class we spent some time talking with Mr. & Mrs. Samith and the Swedish girls. As it turned out the Swedish girls were leaving that afternoon and they had no volunteers to teach the 5:30pm and 6:30pm classes. Sherri & I happily volunteered.

SCAO is well organized…they have a lesson planning book that each teacher/volunteer makes notes in on what was last studied (workbook pages, topics, etc.)  This makes it easy for volunteers to pick up where the last person left off. If there are no volunteers, one of the older children that live at the orphanage will teach class.

Our 5:30pm class had about 20 younger kids, ages 6-12…some of them had been in the daytime class as well. We started the class off by introducing ourselves and telling them where we were from and a little bit about us. They had all sorts of questions…how old are you? What is your favorite color? And so on…after a bit of conversation we went over past & present tense, which they had started to review in their last class. We led the kids through the lesson in the workbook. They were quick learners and most of them spoke and understood English pretty well. The hour flew by and soon it was time for our 6:30 class. The evening class was packed!!! There were about 50-60 students, from teenagers to young adults. Instead of following along in a workbook we used the whole hour to practice conversation where students would take turns standing up and having a conversation with Sherri or me. The young adults class didn’t quite pick things up as quickly as the younger kids did, but it was also more difficult because there were a lot more students.

It was such a great experience!!! I only wish we had more time in Phnom Penh, as we would have loved to stay and volunteer for a week or two teaching English classes and getting to know the kids. SCAO is always looking for volunteers, short term and long term, so if you are planning on being in the Phnom Penh area definitely check it out. Mr. & Mrs. Samith are very sweet and space permitting they will often put the volunteers up at the orphanage. Either check out the website or email them directly at

30 Apr 2009 Hoi An, Vietnam
 |  Category: Our Trip, Vietnam, Volunteer  | Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment

We took a night train from Hanoi to Da Nang…it was really nice and super comfortable! We shared a cabin with two cool people from England, Julianna & Paul. Sherri & I have done a lot of train travel through Europe so we came prepared for the long journey with enough snacks, drinks and cocktails to share with our new friends! We were having such a great time that even the girl in the cabin next to us joined in the fun, as she was traveling with her sister, sister’s husband and their little baby. The views from the train the next morning as we traveled along the coast were beautiful! We arrived in Da Nang by midday and Julianna & Paul were super sweet and had their driver give us a ride to Hoi An, which was about a 45 minute drive from Da Nang.

We checked into a small hotel on the river and set out to explore. Hoi An is a super quaint town with beautiful old colonial buildings and is a well preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port. The street that runs along the river floods when the tide is high but people just go about their day riding motorbikes, bicycles and walking through the water. Hoi An is famous for their custom tailor shops. It’s overwhelming walking the streets because everyone is trying to get you to buy something and there are too many tailor shops to choose from. Our friend Richard (who lives in Bangkok) recommended a tailor shop so we went to meet the owner, Lan. She was so sweet, her shop is beautiful and before we knew it we were picking out fabrics for some custom made clothes! Hoi An is a shopper’s paradise. You can get custom made clothing and shoes for great prices! Plus they can turn the goods around in 1-2 days. You can have them copy your favorite pieces & remake into new colors, bring in a photo from a magazine, choose from the many samples they have in their shops or make up something unique…the possibilities are endless! We had so much fun picking out fabrics, colors, trims, lining, buttons…you can customize every detail and get exactly what you want. The stuff we had made at Lan’s turned out amazing. If you are ever in Hoi An definitely stop by her shop B’Lan. It located at 23 Tran Phu Str. or check out her website

We met back up with Paul & Julianna for a hilarious night of karaoke. You get your own private karaoke rooms so we had a lot of fun dancing and singing. It was pouring down rain on our walk home and I woke up the next morning not feeling so well. Sherri & I both ended up coming down with the flu…high fevers, coughs and congestion…no fun.

On our last night in Hoi An we were both feeling sick so we chose at restaurant close to our hotel. Dao Tien Restaurant ended up being so much more than we expected! Located in a charming two storey French colonial building you can sit inside or outside. The food and service were great & the meals were well priced with a nice mix of Vietnamese, Thai and Western dishes. After our meal we met one of the owners/investors, he was from Australia. We got to talking and found out that this restaurant was dedicated to helping underprivileged children and young adults in the community by training them in the hospitality and service industry and giving them jobs. We also got to meet Tien who runs the restaurant, alongside contributing to her many volunteer projects (helping to support local orphanages, centres for the physically and mentally disabled children, schools and homeless centres) that are funded by the restaurant profits. Currently she is trying to open another restaurant that will have an English language training school above it. She will be looking for volunteers to teach English once the restaurant is up and running so if you plan on spending time in the Hoi An area & would like to do some volunteer work please contact Tien at or visit the restaurant website Tien’s husband is the head chef at Dao Tien Restaurant. He trains the cooks and teaches cooking classes to visiting tourists. Sherri & I wish we would’ve met these wonderful people at the begining of our stay in Hoi An, so we could’ve spent some time doing volunteer work with them, but we were already booked on a flight to leave the next morning.

27 Apr 2009 Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the world’s poorest nations with 30% of the population classified by the United Nations as living in extreme poverty.  Over 40% of children suffer from malnutrition, 25% of the population is unemployed and the average daily wage for an adult is $1 USD.  Families struggle on a daily basis to put food on their tables, send their children to school and access medical treatment.  Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam (HSCV) provides relief to the children in Vietnam by assisting them in a number of ways including food, clothing, shelter, schooling and medical attention.  For as little as $1 USD will feed a child for three days and $50 USD will send them to school for a year. 

We found out about this wonderful organization through a friend of Rana’s that she worked with. While in Hanoi we spent a morning visiting a poor family in need with Charles De Vet, the president and founder of HSCV. The family is living in poverty…but yet they were still so sweet and smiling while we visited with them. We got to meet the mother, father, and the two youngest children. The three older ones were in school.
Family’s situation: They are extremely poor. Their house is going to collapse soon so they won’t have a place to live. Last year the father broke his leg while working construction and couldn’t work for 7 months.   There are five children, three are in school and the fourth son will start school this September.  Rana and I are sponsoring the four children to go to school for a year, but they are still in dire need of help as they soon will find themselves without a roof over their heads.  For anyone who would like to help this family out please go to their website and choose option 10 and add a note that you would like to help the family that Sherri Vann and Rana Townend are sponsoring.