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Voluntary work on a gap year in Kenya

Describe your Overall Experience

Jack Nottage surveys the Kenyan landscapeAll I can really say is that the 6 weeks was without doubt the best experience of my life. It definitely takes a few days to recover once you get back home and come to terms with the realisation that it's all over. I knew when I was signing up that the trip would be an amazing experience totally different to anything I'd done before and I can honestly say it exceeded my expectations in every single way. Friends back home keep asking about the trip but whatever I say will never really do the experience justice. Looking back I only regret not signing up for longer!

What surprised you?

Firstly how easy it is for eight total strangers to bond almost instantly. We all knew we were taking part in a fantastic experience but by the end we really were like a family. I now have seven new friends that throughout my life I will be able to meet up with and reminisce about the 6 amazing weeks we spent volunteering in Kenya. I recently visited some of my fellow leapers (only a couple of weeks after getting back home) and we literally spent the whole time talking about the trip. I was also surprised by how quickly you get use to the whole Kenyan way of life. Almost instantly you forget about any possible home sickness and start to love the African be honest it probably isn't that surprising when you wake up to amazing weather everyday living within an elephant sanctuary!

What did you think of your living conditions?

The living conditions were not as basic as I thought they would be, in Jack Nottage and fellow volunteer Leapers in Kenyafact they were pretty good. The tents were clean, spacious and most importantly comfy resulting in me always sleeping like a baby after a hard day's work. The staff at both camps were awesome (Steve, Big D and Combo will always be legends in my eyes!), and honestly we couldn't have been looked after any better. The food was always great and I personally know I had a healthier diet whilst out there than I did as a student!

Did you feel safe in Kenya?

There was never a moment I felt unsafe whilst out in Kenya. When working in the elephant sanctuary we always had a local ranger and both camps had security on guard throughout the night. Also it was comforting knowing that the team leaders were locals with the knowledge and experience to always make the right decision if there was at any point a dangerous situation.

Do you feel your volunteer work made a difference?

It was really satisfying throughout the trip working on different projects to see how the local people were benefiting from our efforts. The Kenyan people always seemed pleased to have an extra pair of hands. We were regularly told how much they appreciated our hard work and the benefits it would have on the local people.

Why did you choose to travel with The Leap?

Jack Nottage and friends join the local football team in KenyaAfter researching different gap year companies I found The Leap to offer the most interesting and exciting opportunities. I also liked how it was a fairly small organisation and thus had a much more family like approach. They were in regular contact before, during and after the trip making you feel as though you had become part of the organisation. The training day was a really good chance to meet people and gain further information about the trip...and I know it put to rest any of my mum's doubts about me taking part in the trip!

What was the highlight(s) of your experience?

Personal highlights for me include the week spent at the orphanage which was a great experience. We helped to build a new kitchen at the school, along with regular breaks from the hard work to play with the kids...I'll never forget their smiling faces and how they seemed to be Jack Nottage makes a new friend at an orphange in Kenyaconstantly happy even when I know they've had incredibly sad experiences earlier in life! The week spent painting  a community hospital was actually really satisfying (its surprising how much fun eight people can have when all you really seem to be doing is painting a building white!). The local contractors had done a really poor job and basically left the locals with no foreseeable way of getting the hospital finished in time, so we really were helping the local community. Also I have to admit I quite enjoyed the days spent on road maintenance working in the elephant sanctuary. Even though it was very hard work my fitness levels are probably now higher than they have been for quite a while...which is an added bonus!

What (if anything) have you learnt from the experience?

I can't honestly say that I'm a completely different person since I've been to Kenya, but I have learnt to be more open minded and willing to take on new challenges. What you get out of an experience really does depend on the amount you're prepared to put in. I had an insight into a totally different culture and way of life gaining many great memories and friends along the way. I've definitely realised I need to go out and travel some more!

Would you recommend The Leap to others?

I would highly recommend The Leap to anyone planning on taking part in voluntary work. The whole organisation from start to finish and the way we were looked after in Kenya was excellent! I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity I will hopefully one day have the chance to return again!

Jack Nottage's placement was arranged with The Leap.