Kenya

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Kenya. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. After the 90-day grace period, the customs office may begin assessing duty charges, which must be paid before a package is released. Your address during training will be: Your Name/PCT, PO Box 30518-00100, Nairobi, Kenya. It is your responsibility to forward the postal address at your site to the Peace Corps office in Nairobi so mail can be routed directly to you. 

Telephones

Cellular telephones and service are widely available in Kenya. Peace Corps/Kenya does not require Volunteers to purchase a phone, but most Volunteers choose to buy a phone and service once they reach their sites and have a clear idea of network coverage in the area. Only GSM compatible phones will work in Kenya. Large cities provide overseas telephone services or international calling via the Internet. 

Internet

Because Internet use appears to be primarily for personal reasons, you are expected to use your living and telecommunications allowances to cover your Internet costs. Designated computers in the resource center at the Nairobi office do have Internet access. Internet access is available at some post offices and cybercafés in towns and cities.

Housing and Site Location

As a Volunteer, you will most likely live in a rural community and not have access to plumbing or electricity. Expect to use lanterns and candles for lighting. To cook, you will likely use charcoal, wood, or a single-burner kerosene stove. Peace Corps Kenya, for both philosophical and budget considerations, requires sponsoring organizations to provide all Volunteers with housing. Volunteer housing must conform to the general standards of the community. That is, the housing should not be of substantially higher or lower standards than typical houses within the community. The standard and condition of Volunteer housing vary widely, from mud houses with thatched roofs to very modern cement houses with running water and electricity. Volunteer homes with electricity run 220-240 volts/50 cycles of current. The type of house you have will depend on your project, the area of the country in which you are posted, and the types of houses available in the community. In short, you can expect to have, at the very least, a room to call your own. The decision as to whether housing standards are “acceptable” lies with the associate Peace Corps directors and medical staff. When it comes to your housing, you should not lose sight of the guiding principles of the Peace Corps.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and Diet

In most parts of Kenya, there is a wide choice of foods, ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to meats. With a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal. Vegetarian Volunteers will have little difficulty in continuing their diets after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation.

Transportation

All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Kenya using local transportation (i.e., foot, bicycle, public buses, or matatu van). This includes getting from your training center to your site both during and at the end of pre-service training. Volunteers may not own or operate motorized vehicles (including motorcycles), but they are allowed to rent vehicles during approved vacation periods. Trainees and Volunteers are not allowed to drive any vehicle during training or at their sites, Volunteers are not allowed to operate or ride on the back of a motorcycle. If a Volunteer rides on the back of a “bicycle taxi,” he/she must wear a bicycle helmet. Refusal of these policies will result in administrative separation from Peace Corps Kenya. We strongly recommend that you purchase a bicycle helmet in the U.S. It is a Peace Corps requirement that helmets have the approval of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC). You will be reimbursed up to $30 for a helmet upon presentation of a receipt. (Helmets approved by the USCPSC are very difficult to find in Kenya!) All Volunteers are given the option to purchase a bicycle. Peace Corps allocates money in your moving-in allowance to purchase a bicycle, helmet, and tools. If you choose to purchase a bicycle, it can be used with your extension work, in conjunction with the use of public transport.

Social Activities

The most common form of entertainment in rural communities is socializing with friends and family. Volunteers will take part in the various festivities, parties, and storytelling sessions within their communities. Many Volunteers bring or buy a shortwave radio to listen to international broadcasts (e.g., BBC and Voice of America). Satellite radio receivers and service can be bought in Nairobi.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Volunteers should always wear clean and neat clothes. Buttoned shirts for men and blouses and skirts or dresses for women are appropriate wear during business hours. Tank tops, see-through blouses, or extremely low-cut blouses are not appropriate attire. Jeans should not be worn during business hours unless the conditions of the job assignment or training activity allow it, and never when visiting government offices or the training center. Women may not wear casual slacks or jeans during business hours unless the conditions of the training activity or job assignment require it, and never when visiting government offices or the training center. Dresses and skirts to or below the knees are appropriate attire for women. Shorts may be worn at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Kenyan counterparts are also wearing shorts. Your hair should be clean and combed. For men, beards should be neatly trimmed. Male Volunteers should not wear earrings as body piercing in general for both sexes may be a source of suspicion and criticism. We encourage Volunteers with tattoos to keep them covered and out of sight as much as possible. Visible tattoos are not permissible during training or your first six months at site.