Interview: Giulia in Kenya – A Solo Female Volunteer

A Volunteer's story - A solo female traveler in Kenya

Lay back and take a moment to get into the inspiring journey of Giulia, a fearless solo female volunteer making a difference in Kenya. Discover her story of compassion, courage and connection as she lends a helping hand to those in need. Discover Giulia’s remarkable adventure that showcases the power of one individual’s heartwarming impact.

Who are you?
Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hi! I’m Giulia, a 26-year-old from Italy, originally from Verona. I love traveling around the world and I already lived in many different places like Milan, Sydney, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Dubai, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Lagos and now Malindi is part of my travel stories too. After spending more than a month in Kenya, I can honestly call this place my new home.

My journey led me to join Volunteer World in July and August of 2023, where I found myself in the heartwarming role of a teacher at Eco Green School, supported by the remarkable Mafanikio Organization. This wonderful school is right in Mbogolo village, which is in the beautiful area of Malindi, Kilifi, Kenya. This whole experience has been really special and has changed me in a big way. I hope my words help you see the amazing spirit of Mama Africa and how this experience has touched my heart and changed me in the best way possible.

What personal experiences and challenges have you had as a Solo Female Traveler in Africa?

Africa became my home last year when I moved to Nigeria. Despite skeptics, I knew this was the right place for me. Every country presents challenges when adapting to a new continent and culture. As a solo female traveler, I’ve learned to face difficulties with humor and a giving spirit, carrying money for donations. These tactics have turned tough moments into heartwarming connections with locals.

Safety and hygiene pose their challenges. My brother and father thought me a lot of the secrets of Black Africa, but they were not solo female travelers, so how can they fully understand what that means. Paride and Renzo’s encouragement pushed me to Lagos and cheered my volunteering plans in Kenya. Moreover, my family always told me that my grandfather Gastone, who recently passed away at the age of 97, would have been proud of me. This is why I decided I want to bring more help and funds to Africanโ€™s education through Modenese Gastone Foundation.

I’m eager to share more about my journey. In Africa, education’s significance contrasts with Europe. African children often teach parents after grasping the value of learning, unlike the European model of parents prioritizing education.
My experience as a solo female traveler in Africa is a profound learning curve. Through the Modenese Gastone Foundation, I aim to make a positive educational impact. Join me in exploring this transformative journey, as challenges lead to growth and fresh perspectives.

What preparations did you make before your trip as a solo female traveler to ensure your safety and well-being?

Ever since I set off on my first adventure alone at 13, heading to England to learn English, my family has given me four important rules for traveling. They’ve become like a guide for me:

First, always have a phone sim card with lots of data right from when you arrive at the airport.
Second, change some of your money into the local currency as soon as you can.
Third, keep a strong credit card with you in case you need it.
And fourth, make sure you’ve got good travel insurance โ€“ you never know what might happen.

We learned these rules through tough experiences. Even though there are lots more travel tips out there, I believe these four are the most important. I even joke that my dad or brother might give you a little lecture if you don’t follow them โ€“ they take these rules seriously!

How did you manage to build connections with locals and overcome cultural barriers? Are there tips you could give to other women?

Overcoming cultural differences is a wonderful experience, especially when you’re open to learning from locals. Kids are quite simple to connect with, no matter the language or where they’re from. They talk with their eyes and innocence and you’ll understand what they mean. This is because of their pure hearts and love.

Dealing with grown-ups is a bit trickier. Some might not like taking money directly or having their pictures taken, as they might feel it takes away their dignity. And using medicine for their kids might not always be accepted. Some parents might prefer their children to learn in a traditional way. If you find yourself in these situations, it’s smart to ask someone local for advice. In Malindi, Diana was a big help for me. Our conversations helped me grow.

When giving donations, it’s important not to give too much. If you do, others might think that’s what all volunteers should do and that’s not fair if the next volunteer can’t afford it. Also, we shouldn’t give when it’s not really needed, or just to show off.

Another thing to think about is how different cultures and religions believe that fathers are in charge of families. But this isn’t always true, especially when some kids don’t have fathers. Moms are important too. This idea is important everywhere, not just in Kenya or Italy.
We should teach kids that families are equal and parents don’t have fixed roles. This matters in Kenya and Italy, and all over the world. By talking about these things, we can make things better and more equal for everyone.

Could you tell us about a special encounter or inspiring event that shaped your journey as a Solo Female Volunteer?

Honestly, I met amazing people in Africa whom I will never forget. First, I must mention the 8 guys who came from the UK to build the new classroom for Eco Green School. They worked incredibly hard for 2 weeks, constructing and carrying heavy water, cement, and rocks from the village to the hill. Among them, I had a special connection with Adam, a half English, half Jamaican guy living in Bristol. Some moments with the kids at school felt so beautiful, like a big real family playing โ€œAdam & Eveโ€ โ€“ we love our babies. Neema Charles, the smart and pure kiddo; Neema 2, the fast one; Kelvin, the math whiz; Haluwa, the sassy one; Pendo, the shy and gorgeous girl; Silivia, the curious one; Bryan, the always active kid โ€“ all of them, from Grade 1 to 4, were special.

Many of them shared their personal stories with us, writing letters about their deceased parents or difficulties working with their siblings. There’s so much I’d love to say and do, but sometimes all you can do is give a hug, some love, and maybe a chapati (pancake) to help them feel better.

Another significant event was when I asked the kids to fill a bag with letters, drawings, toys and cards for kids in Europe. I proposed to distribute these gifts randomly in Lagos, Milan, London or in a school. They were so excited to give back that they couldnโ€™t stop clapping and shouting. My heart was full. Many occasions left my heart full and emotional.

Now, I want to express my gratitude to all the children’s families, volunteers, teachers and donors โ€“ you are making this world a better, more educated place. You are all special encounters in my journey. Thanks also for the final ceremony, where you danced and sang for us and with us. I cried so much!

What advice or encouraging words would you give to other women who are considering traveling alone to Africa and participating in a volunteer project?

For a bit of a structure keep a lovely journal of your daily activities and jot down what a typical day is like at the school. Make to-do lists and chat with teachers and parents to find out what materials are needed. This could be school books, clothes, or even food depending on where you’re headed.
Be cautious about sharing pictures of kids online โ€“ it’s important to protect them. If you do share, maybe avoid showing their faces and eyes directly.

In case you’re at the school, come with ideas. Let the kids get creative with mud art, have auctions with them to raise funds, teach them photography, or let them colorfully “tattoo” themselves. You can teach them about geography, global warming and how to be more eco-friendly. Get them involved in cleaning their village and making a big art piece with plastic โ€“ let your imagination flow!

I’d like to extend my gratitude to Volunteer World for giving me the chance to share my story. My hope is to inspire many and I’m excited to hear your stories in return. If you want to connect, drop me an E-Mail or join me on my travel adventures on Instagram on the links below!

Lastly, Iโ€™ve started aย GoFundMe campaignย to support those wonderful kids in Malindi, Kenya. Feel free to check it out, share it with your family and friends and help out in any way you can. Weโ€™ll always remember your kindness! ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช

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    When reading this article, I feel much more excited and relaxed. You have done something that very few people can do and you should be proud of that.

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  4. says: Hayes Spencer

    Giulia’s story about volunteering in Kenya is amazing! I work in estimating homes, and I noticed how Giulia’s experience relates to my job. She shows how important it is to plan well and be ready for anything. Her hard work and never-give-up attitude are inspiringResidential Estimating. Thanks for sharing your story, Giulia! It reminds us that if we’re passionate and determined, we can achieve anything.

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