Kenya’s national youth volunteering programme, G-United is now recruiting its fifth cohort of volunteers to join the ranks of over 2,000 youthful Kenyan graduates that have been deployed before them.

G-United is looking for youth between the ages of 21 and 30, who have completed University education in any field, and are willing to volunteer as part of the programme for 9 months beginning January 2019. Presumably, youth fitting that description, and ready to make such a commitment, are either passionate about community service (as they figure the next step in their career), actively or passively looking for employment, or have fairly flexible employment arrangements that could allow for such a sabbatical.

In any case, the G-United programme provides a unique and potentially “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for youth to kill several birds with one stone:

First, G-United offers prospective participants a chance to travel to a completely new part of Kenya and broaden their social, cultural, and overall experiential horizons. Unlike many conventional youth service programs, G-United recruits aren’t deployed to a central, sterile location that’s relatively detached from the real world – Instead, youth are deployed to a ‘foreign’ county (not the one they live in, come from, or grew up in) and they live with vetted members of the community in areas where they are deployed, referred to as ‘host’ families.

This dynamic, cultural immersion exercise seems like an interesting way for Kenyan youth to be exposed to diverse perspectives, unimagined challenges, new ideas, and different cultural practices, which may not only catalyze their creativity, but may enhance their innovation potential, cultural appreciation, and personal growth. For example, one volunteer deployed to Busia county, Thadeus Arap Chesoli, posted on Facebook saying, “It’s an experience indeed, eating cassava and ugali, learning Luhya, bathing in the river. It’s an experience I’ve never had. I’m adjusting and now I know what to do”*. Another volunteer, Dan Odero, shared how his experiences in a new county and culture were the starting point for a business venture he is now pursuing, saying “during my volunteer service in Kirinyaga, I was introduced to macadamia and Hass avocado which are bringing me business. G-United changed me from a job seeker to job creator”*.

For youth who are looking for mind-broadening travel and adventure on a budget, G-United seems like a good option. Granted, it requires some work, intentionality, and effort on the part of volunteers, but the rewards may surpass those of a traditional holiday and the free nature of the experience certainly does. Currently, the programme deploys young people to twenty counties in Kenya: Kisumu, Busia, West Pokot, Samburu, Nyeri, Machakos, Kilifi, Kisii, Kajiado, Marsabit, Meru, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Migori, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma and Kakamega.  For its fifth cohort, two more counties have been added: Baringo and Kitui.

On top of an opportunity to satisfy some wanderlust and stretch one’s personal limits and knowledge, the program also allows young people to learn transferable skills that are useful for the workplace. The ability to navigate a multicultural setting, and manage inter-cultural communication, are obvious examples of work-relevant skills. But there are others too, including problem-solving, leadership, patience, and commitment.

Since G-United volunteers are trained to administer reading sessions with primary school children, and spend 9 months helping children learn to read, they also learn how to manage children, learning time-management, work planning and reporting — all skills that can be applied in life and work after the program. Prior volunteers can attest to the skills benefit they’ve accrued from the programme. One Duncan Wambugu, who graduated from the programme in October last year, later found a job as a college tutor posted to Turkana. He gave credit to G-United for helping him find and adapt to the job saying: “my employer recommended and selected me just because I had volunteered as indicated in my CV (and) the skills I learned while [in] Nyeri county helped me fit in yet another community, far away, and different, from home”.

Perhaps one of the least obvious benefits of participating in the programme is the opportunity it gives to youth to be part of a large network and community, and to develop life-long relationships, connections, and friendships. Thousands of youth apply, and thousands have and will be deployed. From the programme’s Alumni Connect network, it’s clear that youth create bonds that live on once the program is done. Through this platform, volunteers and program administrators actively share work opportunities and professional development resources with one another.

While it may not look like it now, volunteers never know when those relationships will come in handy, and what doors they will one day open for each other. But even if they were to walk away with just one good friend, that’s priceless.

G-United is recruiting for a fifth cohort of volunteers. The application deadline is THIS FRIDAY 19th October 2018. Hurry and apply here >>