International travel is a fun and exciting way to learn about the world around us, but volunteering overseas is an once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a new country while giving back to the community. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, an organization that focuses on environmental initiatives to build communities and support women, provides volunteers with a unique opportunity to learn about climate change, Kenyan history and the role local efforts play in building a strong nation.
Founded by Professor Wangari Maathai in 1977, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) originally used the planting of trees to empower women in rural communities. Trees provided food, water purification and firewood. In return for planting trees, the women received a small monetary payment from the GBM and the National Council of Women of Kenya. But the mission quickly expanded to include women’s rights and education, as well as democratic reform and government accountability. In 2004, Professor Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her tireless efforts to empower women and address the issues facing Kenya.
Today, the organization is an internationally recognized force in food security, environmentalism and political action. The Green Belt Movement partners with communities to plant trees throughout the country to strengthen the local ecosystem and provide clean water. The organization also assists in building backyard gardens and business to support the local economy. Seminars to teach communities about tree planting and conservation empower individuals to find agency through environmental efforts. The organization is also active in climate change advocacy.
Volunteer opportunities exist in Kenya, as well as in the United States and Europe. Green Belt Safaris provide visitors to Kenya with the chance to learn about the Green Belt Movement and Kenyan culture through home stays, assisting in nurseries and visits to national landmarks. Trips can be planned around particular needs, and accommodation and food is included. Based out of the organization’s Nairobi headquarters, it’s a unique chance to take in a large part of Kenya in a short amount of time. Most trips last 10 to 14 days.
To learn more about the Green Belt Movement and volunteer opportunities, visit the organization’s website here.
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