Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ottawa woman excited for Kenya volunteering opportunity

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 4/18/2014

While the thought of traveling halfway around the world to a country that’s recently been the victim of terrorist attacks might make some people shy away from traveling, it hasn’t hindered Sara Kendall’s excitement from building.

In just a few short days, Kendall, Ottawa, will be on her way to Kenya, Africa, for a volunteer trip, she said — a trip that is long overdue.

While the thought of traveling halfway around the world to a country that’s recently been the victim of terrorist attacks might make some people shy away from traveling, it hasn’t hindered Sara Kendall’s excitement from building.

In just a few short days, Kendall, Ottawa, will be on her way to Kenya, Africa, for a volunteer trip, she said — a trip that is long overdue.

“I have always volunteered,” the 27-year-old said. “When I was in high school I volunteered over 100 hours a year, I think. It was just something I was really involved in and then when I went to college I didn’t really have the time because of school and work, so this is something I’ve wanted to do since my sophomore year of college.”

Kendall will be volunteering through International Volunteer Headquarters, she said. The organization provides safe, responsible and affordable volunteer programs in developing countries around the world, according to its website.

“I did my research, made a lot of phone calls and wrote a lot of emails and at the end of the day decided to go with IVHQ,” she said. “They just seemed like they were truest to their program and prices were much more affordable than a lot of the other programs because it can be very expensive to go and volunteer internationally.”

International Volunteers has many different volunteer opportunities throughout the world, Kendall said, but Kenya took precedence.

“IVHQ has different places throughout the world and I’ve just always wanted to go to Africa,” Kendall said. “That’s been my No. 1 place I really wanted to visit. I chose Kenya because I just really felt like that was where my heart took me and where I really wanted to go.”

Where a volunteer is headed determines what kind of work they’ll be doing, Kendall said. While in Kenya, Kendall will be working specifically with children, she said.

“Within that program you can do orphan work, volunteer in schools, you can do medical placement if you have the correct credentials,” she said. “There are several things you can do and they partner with a lot of different organizations throughout the country.”

Kendall plans to assist with teaching while in Kenya, but she won’t know exactly where or in what capacity until she gets there. While in Kenya, she will be staying with a host family along with three to four other volunteers.

“A lot of their schools are understaffed and underfunded so they’re always in need of volunteers,” she said. “I won’t know exactly where I’ll be until I get there. It could be at a private school, an orphanage, public school — I don’t know. They kind of put you where they need you most based on your experience or credentials.”

Her trip will last three weeks, with her departure set for April 29 and a return date of May 22, she said. Because Kendall will be gone an extended amount of time, she had to do something dramatic to be able to volunteer, she said.

“I’m actually quitting my job to go,” she said. “It’s just — this is a really big deal.”

The trip itself is not inexpensive, she said, and she’s paid most of it on her own.

“It’s going to cost about $3,000 for me to go just for personal expenses,” Kendall said. “Most of it so far has come out my own pocket. We’ve done a couple things, though. I set up a GoFundMe page which has attracted a little attention and I’ve gotten $425 I think, and I’ve had family and friends donate things for a yard sale we had that accrued $325 and personal donations. I’ve raised about $800 so far and the rest is coming out of my pocket.”

A GoFundMe page is an online donation page where people set up a personal page to accept donations from people online for a charity or event.

To get her finances in line before leaving, Kendall said she will be closing the GoFundMe page April 27.

“I still have a little ways to go on my GoFundMe page,” she said. “The biggest thing is I really want to raise additional money for the school. That’s something that’s really important to me. ... I think it’s important for people to realize that a little and a little becomes a lot. And if people can grasp that concept they can really make a change when they don’t really think that they can.”

This volunteer trip may be her first, but it definitely won’t be her last, Kendall said.

“This is not the last trip I wanna take at all,” she said. “Next summer I hope to do something similar, maybe not for as long because I can’t keep quitting a job to go volunteer. But that’s one other great thing about IVHQ because they have placements that range from like one week to several months so there’s a different range if you don’t have the time or as much money.”

Knowing the difference she will be making through her volunteer efforts is what makes it hard for her to contain her excitement, she said.

“I’m just ready to do something new that I’ve never done before,” she said. “I’ve never traveled internationally before, I’ve never done anything quite to this extent where I’m going across the world, with people I don’t know, to do something I have never really done before. The whole thing is really exciting.”

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