We are glad that you are interested in learning more about Volunteer Kenya / ICODEI and our work in the Western Province of Kenya. We have discovered that if we invest a sufficient amount of time and energy and work hand-in-hand with the local people of Western Kenya, we can facilitate improvements in health, education and the local economy.
We are a grassroots volunteer organization that has been active since 1998. One unique feature of our organization is that we operate through a partnership between overseas volunteers and a staff of local Kenyans. All of our international coordination, fundraising, and marketing is done through a staff of unpaid volunteers from outside of Kenya. Our on-the-ground operations are all run by local Kenyans who are trained in development, education, HIV/AIDS counseling and home-based care.
From our first-hand experiences in Kenya, we have witnessed certain situations in development work that can inhibit progress. Unfortunately, development and education projects offered by some organizations often reach a limited number of individuals. Most often, only those living in easily accessible locations benefit from knowledge and treatment offered by these organizations. We believe that it is important to reach those that are often overlooked and to teach from within and not from above. Working with and educating those living in the rural villages, we hope to have an impact in areas not often touched by international aid.
Through our HIV/AIDS Education program, we equip rural community members of the Western Province with the tools and knowledge that are necessary for preventing the disease, which is a major obstacle to sustained growth and development. We also provide Kenyans with the skills they need to teach each other, which facilitates knowledge transfer following our visits.
Through the provision of affordable healthcare at the Bill Selke Memorial Clinic and our mobile clinics, we are decreasing the number of serious illnesses and deaths due to manageable diseases. We provide general health care to rural community members who would otherwise never have access to such care.
Through our Microenterprise Development Program, we are helping rural women’s self-help groups start small income-generating projects, such as sewing/tailoring shops, bee-keeping projects to harvest honey, fisheries, and horticulture projects on group land.
Through our Primary School, we are building a strong culture of education for the future leaders of Kenya. Our Public Library provides opportunity for increased literacy for adults and children in the Kabula area.
History of the Organization:
Our programs in Kenya, which now impact and improve thousands of lives each year, were all started back in the late 1990’s by the unplanned meeting of a young undergraduate student from the U.S. and a innovative community development worker in Kabula, Kenya. Hank Selke, an adventurous college student, arrived in Kenya during the summer of 1998 to begin volunteer work with an international organization that was supposedly doing humanitarian aid work in Africa . As he arrived in the Nairobi airport, Hank was picked up by two young women from California who told him that everyone from the organization he had come to work with had quit. At that point, Hank was in Kenya to volunteer but did not know anyone, had no information on any other volunteer groups, didn’t speak a word of the local language, and had barely any money.
Luckily, the two women offered to drop him off at a farm in Western Kenya where they had heard about two locals doing some very grassroots education and development work. Alternatively, they offered him the opportunity to go travel throughout East Africa with them. Being the adventurous young college student that he was, Hank chose to visit this farm and see what he could make of the situation.
This was the first time Hank met Rev. Reuben Lubanga, a local Kenyan. Reuben shared with him stories of his early adult life in Kenya and how he had developed his vision for educating people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Before becoming an Episcopal minister, Reuben had been a boxer, worked as a DJ on the Kenyan coast, drove a sugar cane tractor, and had other random jobs. Reuben’s journey through life was truly intriguing.
Beginning in the late 1990’s Reuben began to put his vision into action. With nothing more than a wheelbarrow and a donated TV & VCR, he had been traveling with his brother Richard to local schools, women’s groups, community groups, and village centers to educate the locals about the transmission and prevention of “ukimwi”, the Swahili word for AIDS. Motivated by Reuben and Richard, Hank spent the rest of his summer working alongside them on AIDS education programs in the very rural areas.
That summer changed Hank’s life. After witnessing such a need for these community development programs, he returned back to Indiana University in the fall to recruit other volunteers for the next summer. After several years of running a student volunteer organization at Indiana University (IU), Hank began to get many inquiries from people outside of IU wanting to get involved in the Kenyan work. It was at this point in 2002 that he decided to establish a formal international organization and website that would allow anyone from any part of the world the opportunity to travel to Kenya and volunteer with this unique and one of a kind grassroots organization.
What started out in 1998 as a friendship between two unlikely individuals has blossomed into a network of students and professionals across the world working hand in hand to fight HIV/AIDS and poverty while improving education and healthcare in Western Kenya . Over 1000 volunteers from 24 countries have volunteered in Kenya. The wheel barrel and VCR has now turned into a Primary school, a health and mobile clinic program, a network of over 100 microenterpise groups, and an AIDS education program that hits right at the heart of Africa’s people most in need…the rural population..
Note: The name Volunteer Kenya is used as the international name for our organization, but we are known as ICODEI (Inter-Community Development Involvement) within Kenya.