Volunteering internship with AIESEC: read Simone’s story.
Simone Coppola is a university student living in Milan and is also a member of AIESEC, the world’s largest student driven organization. He went on an AIESEC volunteering internship to Nairobi, Kenya.
-What are you studying? Which university are you attending?
I’m finishing my 2 years Masters in Management at the Cattolica University of Milan.
-What kind of internship did you choose and why?
I’ve chosen a MOVE Impact internship because it was the only experience that I was missing in AIESEC since I’ve been part of this organization for 4 years. In addition, I have always dreamed to do a volunteering experience abroad and to make a positive impact in a different country.
-Which country and which city did you go to?
I went to Kenya, and I worked in a small rural village called Ruai, in Nairobi city.
- How long did your internship last?
My internship lasted 6 weeks, that is the minimum duration of AIESEC’s MOVE Impact internships.
-What was your internship about exactly?
My project was called Maisha, and I worked in a Children’s Home as a volunteer.
Maisha is a locally registered orphanage located about 45 minutes East of Nairobi in the semi-rural village of Ruai. Maisha supports 22 children. Five staff workers care for the Maisha children and maintain the home.
Maisha was founded in 2007 by Beatrice, a Kenyan woman who once had lived in the slums of Nairobi, and her Swiss husband, Florian. Wanting to find a way to help less fortunate children, they started with community-based projects in the slums, and since 2009, they have been rescuing orphaned children from the streets and slums and giving them a safe home, education, nutritious food and clean water, and most of all, a loving home.
The Maisha children are orphans and many are brothers and sisters. Most of the children’s parents have passed away from AIDS while others were victims of 2007 post-election violence. Several children were living alone on the streets before coming to Maisha.
The Maisha home was originally built as a private, single house for Beatrice’s mother, Susan Wangari, also known as Mama Maisha. The house has since been converted to a children’s home. Today, there are nearly 30 people living in this space, sharing 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
Generous support has allowed Maisha to purchase the land on which the existing house is sitting. A vegetable garden and a small farm have been established, which teach the children about gardening, nutrition, and caring for animals.
My work was really flexible and everyday there was something different to do. As an AIESEC volunteer, I worked with the children and the young adults of Maisha home mainly as an educational tutor and a mentor. I also helped the staff of Maisha with daily house and garden work. But it was not only work; every day I could not wait to play football and hide and seek with kids.
-Five things you learnt during the internship:
1)Travelling is the best experience that a human being can live. Each square meter of this incredible world is a unique gift and you can never get tired of exploring, discovering and knowing. Sometime it’s a shame not to have an hard disk connected to our eyes and to register every single second of a journey.
2)African children’s will to study and learn is incredible. But they also have fun with simple things, especially using fantasy.
3)During a rainy evening, if you don’t have wifi and electricity in Italy, you start to get crazy because you don’t know how to pass the time. In Kenya, during an evening like this, I had one of my best evening there dancing, singing and laughing with children.
4)A fast way to learn and grow is to talk and discuss with as many people as possible, especially if they are from totally different countries and cultures than yours.
5)Your volunteer experience is not what the world expects to solve its trouble, but the story is made person to person and the only thing you can do is to make your experience and your journey as awesome as possible, putting all of yourself as if the world was just waiting for it.
-Why did you choose to go to Africa in particular?
I’ve always dreamed to go to Africa for my first intercontinental trip. Then my thesis will be about the agri-food sector in Kenya so I’ve seized the opportunity to go there and to also do researches for my studies. In addition, the particular history and culture of Kenya convinced me to choose to go there.
-What was the best moment of your experience?
The best moment of my experience was also one of the saddest, and was when I left the home. I didn’t expect to tie up with the kids and all the people there. So when I saw all of them jumping on me and hugging me to greet me with unforgettable smiles, I realized that I was leaving my second family. They will all always be in my heart.
-Would you change your experience in any way?
I wouldn’t change it because when you want to change something it often means that you have regrets and I have tried to fully live every single minute of my experience. If I need to say something, I would cook more times Italian food for them, but unfortunately cooking is not one of my strengths.
-Any suggestions for students who are about to leave on an AIESEC internship?
I strongly believe that our passport is the most powerful weapon that we have to make this world a better place to live in. So I would say to leave with a completely open mind and heart. You are not going to have an experience only for your curriculum vitae, but for your whole life. Then you just need to smile and to bring your ideas, dreams and culture in as many places as possible in the world, and exchange them with new ones. It’s free and they don’t make your luggage heavier, so don’t worry at the airport.