Most of my volunteer travel has revolved around my passion for animals, but last year, I volunteered at an orphanage for the first time. I had contemplated volunteering at an orphanage for years, but I was hesitant, because I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I was afraid I would want to scoop all the kids up and just bring them home with me!

I am so glad I finally took the plunge. My adventure began when a girlfriend, who was thinking of adopting, asked me to volunteer with her at an orphanage in Kenya. We researched various programs and settled on Nakuru Hope in Nakuru, Kenya.

Nakuru Hope is an orphanage and school in the slums of Nakuru. I could not have been more impressed by the organization and their operations. The orphanage consists of approximately 40 children who live at the facility, but they also open their doors to another 160 children in the local community who receive scholarships to attend school during the week.

We stayed on site in volunteer quarters, which were wonderful. I was a bit concerned when we were told we would be staying in the slums, but their facilities were perfect. (Tip: Always set your expectations low concerning volunteer accommodations so you can be pleasantly surprised!)

It was a shared accommodation with other volunteers, but it was a clean, bright, and enjoyable environment. There was a common area with the kitchen and living room, and a local woman named Lucy took care of the facilities and cooked dinner for us. She was such a joy; I will never forget the stories she told us about growing up during the civil uprisings in Kenya.

The orphanage school had a daily schedule, and volunteers were welcome to participate in as much or as little as we wished. Activities included tasks such as helping in the kitchen, assisting in the classrooms, or just playing with the children. One of my favorite activities was helping them in the evening with homework.

The children were amazing, but their stories were hard to imagine. I met children who had been put on the street by their families to sell drugs, a girl who was sold into marriage to an older man when she was eight, and a two-year-old who had been abandoned in a field. Their toys were sticks, rocks, and tires, and they played soccer in bare feet. They had so little, and had experienced such hardship, yet they were so happy. I will never forget their spirit, and the look of appreciation and love in their eyes.

Every day I was reminded of how fortunate I am, and to never take what I have for granted. It is a feeling I wish I could bottle and give as a medicine to people who complain about not having enough in a house full of “things” they don’t need.

If you are looking for an amazing and touching experience that will change your life forever, Nakuru Hope is the place.