FAQ on volunteering at Melon and what to expect:
  • Who can volunteer at Melon ?

    Anyone who cares about children and wants to make a difference.

  • How long can I volunteer for ?

    For as long as you can or wish.

  • When can I volunteer ?

    Anytime we have space.  The summer months, especially July, fill up fast.  We could really use volunteers in slower months like September, October, November, December, January, and February.

  • Can we volunteer as a group ?

    Yes. Simply indicate it on the application form, as well as the size of your group. (Keep in mind that it will depend on space availability & there may be extra transportation fees).

  • How do I sign up to volunteer ?

    Simply complete and send in the application form (located under the “Volunteer” tab) and a member from our on the ground team will get back to you shortly.

  • How much does it cost ?

    AIRFARE: The cost of airfare varies depending on the country you are departing from, how early you book your tickets, what days you fly, and the airline you choose, etc. The cost is different for all of our international volunteers (it usually varies from $700 to $2,200 USD) so in order to find out what the airfare will cost you, we recommend that you type in your travel dates on an airfare comparison website (such as KayakExpediaOrbitzTravelocitySkyscanner, and ITA) and see what prices are listed, or visit your local travel agent.

    TRANSPORTATION COSTS: If we pick you up from the Nairobi airport and take you to Melon Mission in Nakuru (3 hours northwest of Nairobi) then there is a transportation cost of $80 USD or 6,500 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for picking up a volunteer whose flight arrives during the day, between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m. (when no overnight stay is necessary.) The transportation cost for picking up a volunteer whose flight arrives during the evening/night time, between 3 p.m. and 4 a.m. will be $115 USD or 9,500 KES.  An additional transportations charge of $6.50 USD/500 KES for any additional person up to 3 people, regardless of time of arrival. For groups larger than 3 people, please contact us and we will inform you of the cost.

    These rates are applicable as of January 2014. (Note that the transportation fees doe not include overnight accommodation, should it be required. Those rates could vary between $25 USD/2,000 KES and $50 USD/4000 KES depending on the type of hotel you choose.)

    LODGING: You will stay at the school director’s home unless your group is too large.  The cost for room and board is $25 USD per day, which covers your lodging, breakfast, and dinner.  (See MEALS below) This fee also covers limited internet access and laundry which is done once a week. The full accommodation cost is payable upon arrival in Euros, US dollars, or Kenyan Shillings.

    OTHER: You may also want to plan to spend some money for safaris, shopping, transportation around the city, gifts for the Melon Mission children, or eating out.

  • Do I need vaccinations and medical insurance ?

    You do need vaccinations, and medical insurance is highly recommended. It’s a good idea to inform your travel doctor of your plans and get his opinion regarding which immunizations you need.  Depending on your travel plans, you may not need all of the following vaccines:

    • Routine shots are recommended if you are not up-to-date with the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.
    • Hepatitis A and B
    • Typhoid
    • Polio
    • Yellow Fever – this is required by the government
    • Meningococcal (meningitis)
    • Rabies

    These vaccines need to be given a few weeks before you plan to leave because it takes a while for your immune system to respond to them and build up your immunity.  If you do not already have some of these, you will need at least three months to receive all the injections and obtain the highest possible immunity, so please get organized early. Do not underestimate the cost of vaccinations and anti-malarial drugs – plan this into your budget.
    Medications you might want to bring:

    • Oral anti-malarial drugs
    • Medicine for diarrhea
    • Pepto-Bismol (to take after eating any food you are uncertain about)

    This website will inform you what vaccines are appropriate for traveling to Kenya: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/kenya.htm>

    In order to reduce the chance of catching sickness: be careful where you swim, eat in reputable restaurants, and never drink or brush your teeth with tap water. You need to use bottled water which is cheap and easy to find (a grocery store just a 5 minute walk from our homes has some you can buy).

    Medical Insurance is advised to cover accidents or illnesses that may occur. If you plan to stay here a while, you might want to have a medical and dental check-up before you come (although we do have dentists and doctors here if you need them).  We recommend that if you need to see a doctor while in Nakuru, you visit Evans Hospital, a 15 minute walk from town – you can ask a taxi to take you there.  Some medication (but probably not prescription drugs) can be bought over the counter at chemists/pharmacies in Nakuru.  If you have any on-going or serious medical conditions, we ask that you to inform us of this before you come because some ailments cannot be treated here and we may advise you to not travel until you fully recover.  Hospitals are used in Kenya in a similar way to GPs in the UK

    A note about HIV/AIDS: Some of our children may be HIV positive since HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Kenya.  Such information is confidential and we will not inform volunteers of the medical status of our children.

  • What should I pack in my suitcase ?

    The easiest luggage to use is a front loading backpack like the “Osprey Porter 46”.  A backpack makes it easy to carry your luggage.
    The front loading panel makes everything inside easily accessible.  It holds 42 liters which is quite a lot of space. Of course there are other Osprey Porter models and hundreds of different backpacks to choose from – the choice is yours !

    Sample Packing List

    Clothes (adjust for season)
    • 1 pair of walking shoes
    • 1 pair of waterproof sandals
    • 3-5 pairs of socks
    •  7 pairs of underwear
    • 1 hoodie/fleece
    • 1 water & wind resistant jacket
    • 1 lightweight rain poncho
    • 2 pairs of pants or shorts
    • 1 skirt
    • 2 t-shirts (or short sleeve shirts)
    • 1 long-sleeve shirt
    • 1 swimsuit
    • 1 hat or scarf (for sun)

    Medicine & Toiletries
    • Prescription medicines (if necessary)
    • Pills: anti-diarrhea, TUMS (to calm stomach),  fever and ache reducer
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
    • Soap/shampoo
    • Comb or brush
    • Deodorant
    • Basic first aid kit
    • Feminine Products
    • Shaving cream/razor
    • Sunscreen & mosquito repellant
    • Contact lens solution (if necessary)
    • Small mirror
    • Spare contact lenses/glasses
    • Ear plugs/eye shade

    • Moneybelt (if desired)
    • Passport and Visa (a Visa can be purchased at the border or at the airport upon arrival)
    • Combination luggage locks (if desired)
    • Camera, battery charger, & extra SD memory card
    • Small flashlight/LED keychain light (torch)
    • Mobile phone (purchasing a SIM card & Kenyan phone number is cheap here)
    • Watch
    • Travel alarm
    • Travel journal/small notebook
    • Book
    • DVDs or SD memory card/thumb drive with movies
    • Playing cards
    • Sunglasses
    • Water bottle
    • All-purpose soap

    What you do NOT need to bring:

    • Bedding

    Packing Tips

    • When packing, don’t think, “Will I use this?” Think, “Will I use this enough to justify lugging it around?”
    • Don’t take anything you can’t afford to lose.
    • Veteran backpacker Rick Steves offers the following rule of thumb: When packing, lay out everything you think you need. Then take half the stuff and twice the cash.
    • Travel isn’t all glamour. Sometimes it can be quite dull, so bring a deck of cards, something to read, or something else to kill time.
    • Bring clothing that is multi-purpose and can be mixed and matched and used over and over again.
    • Be prepared to dress appropriately. The Kenyan culture is not used to short shorts/skirts, low cut or see through shirts.
    • Select quick drying, drip-dry materials (e.g., not jeans) and remember that dark clothes hide dirt better.
    • You can’t plan for everything, and you can usually borrow or buy what you might have forgotten.

  • What can I bring for the children ?

    Books in English or Swahili: Reference books from 1990 to the present: encyclopedias and dictionaries.  Textbooks from 2000 to the present: primarily for math, science, and English, but also world history, geography, health, and social studies.

    Solar calculators, notebooks, rulers, graph paper, pencils, chalk, crayons, English alphabet flash cards, pocket dictionaries, pencil sharpeners, protractors, compasses, laptops, and backpacks.  Wall charts: current world maps, math charts, science charts, etc.

    Clothing for children ages 4 to 18.  Boys’ clothing: summer shirts, cold weather fleeces, shorts, pants, socks, shoes, and underwear.  Girls’ clothing: modest summer shirts, cold weather fleeces, skirts, dresses, bras, socks, shoes, and underwear.

    Football/Soccer balls, pumps, cones, shin guards, socks, athletic shorts, cleats, and equipment bags. Note: deflated balls during travel take up less space.  Jump ropes.

    Bandages (bandage strips and rolls of elastic wrap).  Pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-itch cream, and antibiotic ointment.  Menstrual pads (preferably reusable cloth pads).  Bars of soap.  Children’s multivitamins.

  • What happens when I arrive at Nairobi airport ?

    Arriving in Kenya is an exciting experience. If you are flying into Kenya, you will need to fly to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (airport code NBO).  We will arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the airport and take you to a bus station where you can catch a mini bus (matatu) to Nakuru.  It is about a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport to the bus station and a 3 hour mini bus ride from the Nairobi bus station to the Nakuru bus station. We will meet you at the Nakuru bus station and escort you to your lodging.  Alternatively, if you would like to be met at the airport in Nairobi this can be arranged in advance and you will be escorted through the process mentioned above for transportation cost of $80 USD or 6,500 Kenyan Shillings (KES)  for picking up a volunteer whose flight arrives during the day, between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m. (when no overnight stay is necessary.) The transportation cost for picking up a volunteer whose flight arrives during the evening/night time, between 3 p.m. and 4 a.m. will be $115 USD or 9,500 KES.  An additional transportations charge of $6.50 USD/500 KES for any additional person up to 3 people, regardless of time of arrival. For groups larger than 3 people, please contact us and we will inform you of the cost.

    We will email you a photo of the person who will be picking you up so you will recognize them when you arrive. Regardless of which way you choose to travel to Nakuru (on your own or escorted by one of us), once you arrive there we will show you around the town of Nakuru. Melon Mission is unable to pay the travel costs of volunteers.

    We don’t expect you to work for the first couple of days that you are in Nakuru.  Feel free to take time to rest from your journey here and get to know the community and your surroundings.  You can go grocery shopping, visit the post office and stores, and scope out restaurants… however, if you do want to immediately begin working at the school, you certainly may!

  • What will my accommodations and meals be like ?

    HOUSING: Volunteers in groups of 8 or fewer will stay in the home of the directors. There are rooms for volunteers, and each room has two bunk beds. You will have access to a shared bathroom, where there is a shower with warm water!

    MEALS: Each day we provide a basic breakfast (usually bread, jam and tea) and dinner (traditional African cuisine!) You are responsible for your lunch and can buy groceries at a local grocery store. (You may also eat what the children are eating, depending on the meal: rice and beans; ugali or porridge. Though it might not sit well in your stomach or be very filling since the portions we can afford are small).

    LAUNDRY: We provide laundry once per week.

    ELECTRICITY: The electricity usually works. However, there are periodic blackouts that may last several hours but we have battery powered lanterns.

    INTERNET: There is a laptop with limited internet access for volunteers. There are also internet cafés nearby. (They can also save your digital camera pictures onto CD’s).  If you bring your own laptop, you can buy a Safari USB Modem here which provides you with internet access. For more information on how to have internet access, check out this website: http://www.safaricom.co.ke/

  • What do volunteers do, and what will my daily schedule look like ?

    There are many projects volunteers can help work on.  What you do will depend on your skills, interests, and the projects we are working on when you come.  Let us know if there is a particular activity you would like to do or a special skill you possess.  Here are some options:

    • Assist a classroom teacher (help a small group of children with their schoolwork or teach an entire class)
    • Help children write letters and draw pictures for their child sponsors
    • Kitchen duty (filling plates with food, passing them out to children, and washing dishes)
    • Organizing sports activities (football/soccer)
    • Building maintenance (general repairs, painting)
    • Photography (for our Facebook page, website, and sponsors/donors)
    • Videography (create a video about Melon Mission)

    Daily schedules are flexible.  You don’t have to be available all day, every day, but of course the more time you can commit the better. Please inform us when you arrive what hours you are going to work. If hours need to be altered, please consult with the management and we will do our best to accommodate your wishes.

    The typical schedule is…

    Monday – Friday
    Work at Melon.  For volunteers who stay with us, we meet for breakfast around 8:00 am.  Then we walk 15 minutes to the school.  Around 3:00, we walk back from the school.  The rest of the day is yours to do whatever you would like.

    Saturday – Sunday
    Free time.  You are welcome to schedule a safari trip with Joyce to some nearby attractions (more information is listed below).  Or you can venture out on your own.  No work is done at Melon Mission on the weekends.  You’re also welcome to accompany Beatrice (mama) to Melon Sunday Service or you can join James or Joyce to a different Sunday morning church worship.

  • Will I have free time while volunteering at Melon ?

    YES!  In your spare time you might want to visit the markets or restaurants in Nakuru, hike down the Menengai Crater, or go on a safari at the Lake Nakuru National Park.  If you want Joyce to make the arrangements and accompany you to any of these places, she will ask the taxi driver how much it costs to take you there.  The cost depends on the number of people going.  Bring some Kenyan shillings for park entry fees. Traveler’s checks can be changed at the Barclays bank in town but you must bring the receipt with you. There are banks in Nakuru and some cash machines/ATMs where you can withdraw money (there is a small transaction fee).

  • What is Nakuru town like ?

    Nakuru is the fourth largest city in Kenya. Here’s a quick guide to help you find your way around.

    Public transportation can be found almost everywhere. Here are the options.

    Matatu – mini bus for public transport, cheapest option (KSh20) from Melon or your home stay to town, but on going back from town its (KSH30) circulates every few minutes, a good way to go into town.

    Boda boda – bicycle taxi, KSh30 from Melon or your home stay to town, good for when not in a hurry, good for going from town to Melon Mission, good for traveling from one place to another on Kenyatta Avenue (main high street).

    Piki piki – motorcycle taxi, the fastest transportation option because they are on most street corners, good for short trips, KSh50 takes you to town from Melon or your home stay to town, you can ask the driver to slow down (“pole pole”), some drivers have umbrellas for you to use when it rains,their cost increases at night to KSh100 for a ride home to the house.

    Tuk tuk – three wheeler taxi, a more expensive option, safer, shelters you from rain, in shorter supply, costs r KSh150 to take you to town from Melon or your Home stay to town, but make sure you get a driver recommendation from Joyce. In town you can find a tuk tuk quite easily and only have to pay KSh150 to get home.

    Taxi – regular car taxi, costs can be up to KSh500 to go into town from Melon or your Home stay to town.Safest but most expensive option. Less expensive to use a trusted piki piki or tuk tuk driver.


    Barclays Bank – in the centre of town, has one guard during the day and two guards at night for safety.
    Chase Bank – located on Kenyetta Avenue.
    Equity Bank – located on Kenyetta Avenue.
    KCB, Imperial Bank and I & M Bank – local banks on Kenyetta Avenue.


    Nakuru can be dangerous if you do not know what to expect and how to act. Don’t walk around town after dark and instead by piki piki or tuk tuk for safety, especially with a driver you know personally. Drivers have been known to take passengers to areas where a group of people are waiting to rob them, therefore, if you need a taxi we highly recommend that you call a driver who we have used frequently and trust.Only carry the money you plan to spend and don’t carry debit/credit cards.Do not hand out money on the streets because you may become a target for thieves or a large group of street children may accost you. Avoid telling locals where you are staying. Don’t wear expensive jewelry.

    Don’t use personal electronics (camera, phone, etc.) on the street. Carry electronics in a bag that can’t be pickpocketed. Avoid group photos while in town unless you are with a trusted guide or are in a hotel or restaurant. Taking photographs of the locals may offend them because they may feel that you are gawking at their poverty. Try to grant them privacy and keep the image of what you see in your heart, rather than in your camera. If you politely ask to take someone’s picture, they may appreciate having their picture taken if you promise to send them a copy. Sometimes they will ask you to pay them in order to take their picture.


    Gilanis Supermarket – grocery, near Barclays Bank, use cash.
    Nakumatt – grocery, Westside mall, permits debit/credit cards with passport for ID.
    Woolmart – grocery, main high street/Kenyetta Avenue, use cash.
    Tuskys – grocery, main high street/Kenyetta Avenue, use cash.
    Westside Mall – to purchase non-grocery items visit the small shops along Kenyetta Ave (high street).

    Shops are generally ‘fixed-price’ but many Kenyans will see a “mzungu” (white person) and see how much they can get out of you! Bargain aggressively for a good price and don’t be surprised if you pay half the price of what was originally asked (this does not apply to grocery stores). If you want, you may talk to other volunteers or the Melon staff to get a good idea of what something should cost.


    Fun Fact: In Kenya, a “hotel” can be the name for a restaurant or a place to sleep. Main courses generally cost 2-3 GBP, a coke 25 pence, and a beer about 70 pence.

    Merica Hotel – popular with volunteers, restaurant, free wifi, swimming pool (once = KSh300, monthly = KSh3,500-4,500), gym and massage parlor. Be careful not to abuse the free wifi otherwise you will be asked to leave. Gym and pool access = KSh6,000 for 1 month, or KSh5,000 to KSh10,000 for 2 months.

    Waterbuck Hotel – a luxury hotel located near Westside Mall, good for eating out with friends.

    Sisima Café – at the spike centre, free wifi, western style food, good for socializing and drinks, next to an internet café with fast internet. The internet costs KSh120 per hour.

    Taidys – good for socializing & drinks on second floor.

    Gilanis Bar and Restaurant – fastest service, friendly, best prices, pool table, next to Gilanis supermarket, good for watching football/soccer, good for socializing and drinks.

    Guavas – across from Merica hotel on 4th floor, good food, cheap pizzas.

    Java – Westside Mall, western style menu, fast service, friendly, good value, delicious cake.

  • Are there any tourist adventures I can embark on during my visit ?

    Visiting National Parks is an enjoyable way to spend your weekend.


    NAKURU NATIONAL PARK is the closest national park and is a bird watchers paradise.

    HELLS GATE NATIONAL PARK is located between Nairobi and Nakuru.

    NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK is located, guess where?  Nairobi!

    MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE is one of the best and is where the Masai tribe lives.

    THE MENENGAI CRATER is about a 30 minute taxi ride from our homes and provides a 3-4 hour steep hike down into a cool crater.


    Visiting Nairobi is easy to do if you are flying to or from the Nairobi National Airport.  Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and has several places to explore.

    As Time Magazine wrote, “Millions go to Kenya for a safari, but you barely need to leave the capital to take one. Nairobi National Park is perhaps the only wildlife park in the world that you can visit by taxi or bus. Inside are lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffaloes, hippos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles and more.”  Details are here: http://www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/NANP.html

    You can visit and watch the orphaned baby elephants drink milk from bottles held by their keepers.  You will see the elephants play in a mud bath and the trainers will tell you the elephants’ stories.  This demonstration is open to the public from 11am to 12pm.  The cost is a mere KSh 500. Go here for more information: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

    We highly recommend this experience.  As a Time Magazine wrote, “A visit to the world’s biggest slum might not sound like a good time, but a few hours in Kibera is always educational and its residents’ resilience can be inspiring. Unescorted visits are not advised, but several agencies run tours of this million-strong township, which might include a visit to an orphanage, a bead factory or even a solar-power project.” You can tour with either of these two groups: http://explorekibera.com/ or http://kiberatours.com

    Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili.  At the Kazuri Bead Factory over 400 women (mostly single mothers) hand make ceramic beads and pottery.  They produce over 5 million beads a year and export to over 30 countries worldwide.  The company is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization. Tours are given throughout the day and are free.  You may tip your tour guide if you wish.  A tour lasts about 15-20 minutes and afterwards you may shop in the beautiful bead and pottery store to buy some of the products you just witnessed hundreds of women creating. Here is their website: http://www.kazuri.com/pc

    As Time Magazine wrote, “Nyama choma,” meaning “barbecued meat” in Kiswahili, is Kenya’s unofficial national dish. The aptly named, open-air Carnivore is one of the better places in town and serves up such exotica as crocodile, ostrich and camel. A set meal costs about $20 and the waiters keep serving more until you tip over the little white flag on your table.”

    In Tanzania (about a 4 hour bus ride south of Nairobi to Arusha) you can hike Mt. Kilimanjaro or go on a safari through the Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, and/or the Ngorongoro Crater.

  • Do the locals speak English or should I learn some Kiswahili before going to Melon ?

    Most of the locals do speak some English.  It is helpful to learn a few words of Kiswahili before you visit.  This helps you to immerse yourself in Kenyan life and get the most out of your time here. Kenyans are very friendly and will always greet you so knowing a few words of Swahili so you can respond to them is helpful:

    Karibu – Welcome!
    Asante sana – Thank you very much
    Habari? – How are you?
    Mzuri – Fine
    Mambo / Jambo – How are you? / Are you ok?
    Safi / Poa – Fine /cool / ok
    Jambo – Yes, I’m okay

  • Is there anything else I should be aware of during my visit to Melon ?

    We are subject to the rules of the Nakuru District Children’s Services who may conduct an inspection at any time. Since the children in our care are vulnerable and impressionable, volunteers are expected to follow these basic guidelines:

    • Use appropriate language and behavior
    • Do not possess, serve, or consume alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs at the school
    • Respect the beliefs and culture of others
    • No visitors are allowed into the grounds without the permission of the school staff (and no overnight visitors are allowed if you are staying in our homes)
    • You are never to be alone with a child behind a closed door
    • You are never to physically or severely discipline a child; if severe discipline is needed please bring it to the attention of the school staff
    • Please abide by the school’s policies and procedures. Keep the management up-to-date on how your volunteering experience is progressing. Let us know if you are unhappy for any reason or wish to switch to a different project. Please inform your project teammates if you are switching projects. We welcome constructive criticism and suggestions about how to improve our school.

    When staying at our homes, please ensure that you return home by 9 p.m. This is for your safety since it is not safe for you to be out at night. It is also for the safety of the host family.

    Female volunteers should wear appropriate undergarments (including bras and slips). Tank tops, see-through blouses, or extremely low-cut shirts are not appropriate attire. Volunteers should respect the cultural and religious norms of the community by wearing what is socially acceptable here.

    Kenya is a highly religious society, mostly Christian. Prayers at public gatherings are common and religion is integrated throughout community activities. People may ask you what denomination you are part of and might try to convert you to their religious views. Churches are wonderful places to visit and you will observe participants dancing, praying aloud, and raising hands. The services may be longer than you are used to and may not have specific beginning and ending service times. The most common denominations are Anglican, Catholic, and Pentecostal. Please be respectful of our religious culture.

    Please do not take photographs of the locals because it may offend them if they think you are gawking at their poverty. Try to grant them privacy and keep the image of what you see in your heart rather than in your camera. If you politely ask to take a local’s picture and they agree, they may ask you to mail a copy of the photo to them. Feel free to take as many pictures of the children at our school as you would like. The children become very excited when you pull out your camera and will give you big smiles and thumbs up! Sometimes you will have 20 faces pushing to get into the picture! However, some adults at the school may not like having their picture taken so please ask for permission before taking their picture.  You are not permitted to photograph any Kenyan governmental building, official, worker etc. This includes the Nairobi Airport, Post Offices, Police Stations, Police Officers, Travel Checkpoints. Be very careful as doing this could result in the police confiscating of your camera or video equipment.

    If you would like to give gifts to the children or the school please discuss it with the school’s administration beforehand. Please do not give gifts to children on the street as it can encourage begging and become problematic.

    For the sake of our children and yourselves, please wash your hands before and after dealing with any bodily fluids. If any child is injured and bleeding, please wear gloves to deal with the incident. Please do not touch the children if you are bleeding. This is to prevent the spread of any diseases.


    Returning Home can be emotionally stressful.  You may find it hard to leave our children because you have grown to love and care for them. Many volunteers feel guilty returning home to a life of ease and comfort when leaving behind impoverished and malnourished children. Many people deal with these feelings by donating to Melon monthly, sponsoring a child, planning a return visit, or organizing fundraising activities for Melon in their home country. Take time for yourself, relax, and be patient transitioning back into your normal routine. You might want to discuss your experiences with sympathetic friends and family.

    Go to the doctor if you feel ill soon after returning home. Malaria can still manifest after you have been home for a few days.

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