THE RESTART VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME
Volunteering at Restart will show you the authentic Kenya, in all its vibrancy and energy, as well as the often gritty realities of Kenyan life. During your stay with us, you will learn a great deal about the country – and perhaps also about yourself. Our volunteers tend to come for one- or two-month stays (although shorter and longer visits are possible), and spend most of their time with the children and helping the staff.
Like all children, ours are lively and energetic, with a variety of enthusiasms, and need to be occupied. They love sport, music, singing and dancing; there are many keen artists among them, and others eager to improve their English. Whatever your own interests or area of expertise, you will surely find a child who wants to learn about them from you.
Our children respond to kindness, care and attention – all of which have been almost completely missing from their lives before coming to Restart. They particularly enjoy our volunteers, who come from the UK, the US and all over the world, and they enthusiastically welcome new ones. Many volunteers keep strong links with the charity and return again and again. Perhaps we should warn you that, once visited, it’s hard to stay away.
We aim to have four volunteers at a time (although this can vary), living in two apartments in a secure compound within the Restart Centre. Each apartment has two beds, a kitchenette, a bathroom and a sitting room. You will eat all meals with the children at the Restart Centre. Finally, there is a cleaner who also does the laundry.
WHAT YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE
Restart offers you the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of activities which benefit the children and (for our younger volunteers of student age) could also benefit you in your future lives and careers. If you are thinking of teaching or working with children, or indeed already do, Restart is a great place for you – but if your interests and talents lie elsewhere, we have plenty of other activities, projects and work you can get involved in.
You will be based mainly at the Restart Centre by day, where we hope you will take part enthusiastically in our daily life. The staff will appreciate your help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, repairs and caring for the babies and toddlers in the nursery. You can also help out in the nursery classes, in our IT department, on our farm and herbal projects, in the library and in maintaining our lively Facebook page with a daily entry. Damacline, our volunteer coordinator, will talk to you about your skills and interests before you arrive, so that we can plan your time with us.
Whatever you do, we hope you will throw yourself into the charity, learn from the experience and – of course – thoroughly enjoy it.
With over 100 children at Restart, all with plenty of energy to burn, sport is hugely important. It not only keeps the children fit, but also teaches them about teamwork and fair play – two vital lessons which may have eluded them when living on the streets. Many of the children are natural athletes, and we organise regular tournaments for them, giving plenty of opportunity for volunteers to coach, motivate and participate.
Arts and Crafts
As part of its aim to benefit the wider community as well as its children, Restart runs a workshop employing local women with beading and sewing skills. They produce beautiful beaded and printed bags and accessories, and stunning jewellery, much of which is sold around Kenya and worldwide. We warmly welcome creative volunteers to help support our workshop in their designs, work and marketing.
Music is a big part of Restart life. The Sanata Choir is our choral group for keen singers of all ages – these children perform at nearby events and often sing welcome songs for visitors. Even our tiniest learn songs and participate in musical events. We have a well-equipped music room – our latest and very popular acquisition is a donated drum kit. Any volunteer who can sing or play an instrument would be a huge asset to the Centre, so please come and make music with us.
Psychology and counselling
Our children come to us from backgrounds of horrific abuse – many have become accustomed to violence, drugs, prostitution and rape, and at the very least they have had to cope with abandonment and a hard life on the streets, where they were begging in order to survive.
It’s not surprising that some have problems in adjusting to life in a safe and loving environment, and in learning to trust others. For volunteers with training in counselling and therapy, Restart can offer an extraordinary opportunity to help our permanent counselling staff make a real difference to a child’s future.
Farming and agriculture
Our organic farm produces delicious and healthy vegetables for the children, with any surplus sold locally to benefit the Centre. Then there’s our beautiful herb garden, where we grow indigenous plants for therapeutic use both locally and beyond. Both projects would welcome any green-fingered skill and expertise.
Finally…. We really want you to enjoy yourself too! There will be plenty of opportunity for you simply to be with the children and give them love. Every day there is downtime between classes and lunch, when you can play with the toddlers and nursery children. When the older children come home from school, there are two hours to fill before supper when you will be in huge demand for games and sports, or simply chatting and enjoying each other’s company.
If you decide you would like to volunteer at Restart Africa, you can download our Volunteer information pack which gives lots of useful information.
WHAT OUR VOLUNTEERS SAY
HEBE WESTCOTT came from the UK to spend two months at Restart in early 2014 in her Gap year, and returned a few months later. Now at university, she is an active fund-raiser for Restart and a great help to the UK Trustees with her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the charity.
‘The two months I spent in Gilgil volunteering at Restart made me happier than I have ever been. The programme gave me a reason to get up (early!) every morning, and I went to sleep dreaming about it every night. I left my heart in Kenya, and am coming back to get it soon! I can’t stay away.
The Restart children are incredible, and their strength and faith and love of life is astounding, considering their histories. The staff who work at Restart and behind the scenes in the office are saints, and the place could not run without each and every one of them. Restart is a team, and a team that pulls together to save children, one at a time.
I encourage anyone, however old or young, however scared or hesitant, to volunteer at Restart. There is nothing that I would rather have done, and I will have a relationship with the charity until the day I die. I got more out of it than I could possibly have imagined, and it changed me so much, but at the same time I really felt that I made a difference, however tiny, to a few of the children’s lives, and surely, surely, that is worth doing…’
HARRY BARKER keeps returning to Restart – he came to us from the UK after leaving school, and has visited three times, for several months at a time. During his stint with us, he climbed Mount Kenya and even shaved his head to raise money for Restart. He also formed strong and lasting relationships with the children.
‘My experience at Restart was second to none. I had the most incredible time, and have never experienced anything like it. It was the most rewarding and gratifying experience I had ever had in my 18 years! I was so happy that I came, even though it was for a short time. It has changed my outlook on everything, and it is stuck deep in my heart. I will be back..’
SUSIE DOWDALL came to us as a mature volunteer, on a short break from her job in London. She is now a Trustee of the charity, and visits at least once a year.
‘I had always wanted to volunteer in Africa – but life sped by, I had a full-time job, too much to do, too little time. So I put it to one side – until, in 2014, after 20 years in journalism, I was lucky enough to be given a sabbatical for three months. I asked around, heard about a place called Restart, took a deep breath, signed up and flew to Kenya.
Within days at this extraordinary charity, I knew I would have a lifelong connection to the place. I was quickly swept up by the children, guided by the dedicated staff, and immersed in Restart life. On a typical morning, when I wasn’t helping out in the office, I would sit under a tree covered in several toddlers, wipe noses, apply sticking plasters, draw aeroplanes, read stories and give Scrabble lessons.
I experienced moments of pure joy in my three months, and returned to my old life with renewed energy and perspective. I would recommend this experience to anyone in need of a challenge and a fresh way of looking at the world.
The Restart children are an inspiration to us all, with their resilience, joy and huge appetite for life. Anything you can do to help them rise above their painful beginnings and realise their full potential will be hugely appreciated and have a lifelong effect. The real possibility that you can change lives is a powerful and compelling reason to come. Bring your experience, knowledge and love to Restart – you will never regret it.’
CULLEN McHALE a college student aged 21, joined us from the US in 2016 and stayed for three months.
‘Volunteering at Restart Africa has been the most beneficial experience of my life so far. I am grateful for the opportunity it gave me to put aside my own concerns and provide genuine affection for children who need it more than anyone. Interacting with the children every day was such a rewarding experience, and I could never have imagined how close I would become to them all.
The charity encourages you to put serious time and effort in to helping the children, and I really believe you get out what you put in. So I took my personal passion of running and created a daily running club. After just a few weeks, I had over sixty keen members, from the age of six upwards. It was incredibly rewarding.
The volunteering experience has also really changed my perspective on the world. Living in rural Kenya allows you to see a completely different way of life, and you become immersed in a culture that can teach you so much if you’re open to it.
I learned so much from working alongside the amazing staff, who are very welcoming and hard-working people, dedicated to improving the lives of the charity’s many children. I also came across people from a variety of backgrounds and places I would never have met had I not come to Restart.
I appreciated every single one of my days there, and will never forget the experience. It was incredibly difficult to leave the place and the children, but I’m confident I will come back again and again.’
HARRY ROBERTS came to us in October 2015 for a brief stay – and quickly extended it to six months:
‘I’m really glad I extended my time at Restart. Learning about life in Africa takes time, as does getting to know 100 or more children. The children soon became my life and leaving them was so hard.
Every child has a tragic story, and it was always wonderful to watch them arrive at the safe environment of Restart, where they experience love and care often for the first time. It’s striking how quickly they change from being shy and suspicious of everyone, to trusting other children and – most amazingly – adults. In spite of all that’s happened to them, they are still capable of smiling and finding happiness.
The staff at Restart are also absolutely wonderful: hard-working and totally dedicated to the welfare of the children. It was a great privilege to be part of their team.
Restart has really changed me. I arrived with a very narrow view of life but it has both brought me out of myself and made me recognise how lucky I am – I have learned more here than I ever did in school. I would recommend it to anyone.’
IF WE’VE CONVINCED YOU…
Please contact our volunteer coordinator Bramwel (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register your interest, and he will tell you what happens next.
If you would like to talk to someone with first-hand experience of volunteering at Restart, Bramwel will gladly put you in touch with one of our previous volunteers.