It has taken me more time than I’d like to admit to sit down and compose a review of my experience with Destination Teach (now Destination Impact) for a couple of reasons: One: I had to jump back into life making this post pretty low on my content list. Two: I wanted to be intentional about describing my experience in the most honest way possible.
I first discovered Destination Teach through an Instagram ad. The organization was marketed as catering to education and service based international travel. What really caught my attention was how affordable the trips were. I was also interested in the company being owned by a black woman. These are both important positives as a budget traveler and well, black person (I love supporting the people). Looking through the numbers over a year ago, you could go on one of their two, week-long excursions in either Kenya or Morocco, for about $1000. This included: Airport transfer, cultural activities, service activity, lodging, and many of the meals. Destination Teach also provided payment plans so that you did not have to pay up at once making the trips even more feasible. A good deal right? They also offered periodic coupons for $50-$75 off of the registration price.
I kept an eye on the packages for months while also being in contact with the founder, Chandell Stone. After a lot of prayer and consideration, I took advantage of one of the coupon codes and registered to go to Kenya which came out two $1075 (the package prices had increased to about $1200 which was still not that bad in my opinion). As time passed my travel companions and I were put into a group chat and itineraries were sent out.
The itinerary changed once about a month before we left, but it had apparently changed again in the days before we arrived in Nairobi. Initially, there were supposed to be four of us attending, but one person dropped out (another detail we found out after getting to Nairobi). Throughout the trip, itinerary changes and undisclosed details were frequent which, if you are not a seasoned traveler, might cause some consternation and panic. At each of our accommodations, we had no idea whose name the reservations were under and were often left waiting for our guide who sometimes did not know what was going on either.
My companions and I were all really chill and rolled with the punches but this definitely left us giving the side eye.
While in Nairobi we did a lot as far as sightseeing going to the City Park, Sheldrick Trust Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Center, and the Culture museum. They were all amazing and allowed us to get a feel for Nairobi as a city. We also got a healthy amount of afrobeats during our dinners in Nairobi.
Our service project at Arise ’N’ Shine turned out more productive than it started. Arise ’N’ Shine is a local private school that caters particularly to low income children that cannot attend the state private schools or would fall between the cracks at the public schools because of the inability to pay mounting fees that come with their “free education”. Two of the three of us were educators and were under the impression that we would be assisting in the classroom. When we arrived it seemed as if the teachers were not properly prepared for our arrival. We toured all of the classrooms (Pre-K 2- 3rd grade) and it felt as though we were disrupting the learning day as the teacher stopped for the kids to welcome us and sing songs. It was quite awkward. We did have the chance to go to recess with the children, giving us more of an opportunity to interact with the teachers and student. We even got in on a game of duck-duck-goose
We were told while there that we were supposed to host a party for the children and they would dance and such. We were expected to buy food and other snacks to feed them the next day, another detail that was not clearly communicated prior to our arriving. This did not sit well with any of us because, honestly, feeding kids a meal does not leave a lasting impact on the community. Being a service-oriented kind of person, I was uncomfortable. The three of us spoke with the teachers and head of school and asked what the school needed more of. The next day we went into town and bought more supplies and curriculum books, as well as a few snacks for the students.
The next day we gave our items to the school, which was a bigger spectacle than we would have liked.
We asked if we could read with the children since Destination Teach had recently finished constructing and stocking an onsite library, which the children were eager to have access to. I read a few stories to the Kinder and 1st-grade classes and then some of the children shared the performance that they were doing for a regional dance competition that they were competing in. It was amazing.
We were promised a last day turn up, which I was very much looking forward to (I was ready for afrobeats and sweating into the morning). Unfortunately, because our accommodation was out in the sticks, off a side road and poorly lit, we did not go anywhere. We were also told to get a flight back to Nairobi from Kisumu, which left our guide driving back to Nairobi alone. Honestly, I would have preferred to save that money and ride back. That would have been a nice option.
Overall. My experience was not without its snafus and there is plenty of room to grow. I think a lot of what made my trip a great experience was the people that I traveled with and our amazing guide. Here’s my quick and dirty review.
The Good: It was a budget-friendly way to travel to Kenya and have some service-oriented impact (if that’s what you’re into), everything is planned for you so there is no pressure on you to get to places. The accommodations were very nice and the activities were awesome. Also, our guides were the bomb. Total MVPs (keep them).
The Bad: The days were incredibly long. If at all possible you should plan a couple of days for rest. The organization for the trip left a lot be desired and there are plenty of areas for growth. If you are a novice traveler, or easily stressed out, this would not be a good way to see Kenya. There were way too many unknowns and unexpressed details to be able to really enjoy the trip if you’re not a seasoned traveler with the right disposition. I ended up sleeping in two different tents during the glamping/safari. It was really inconvenient, but because I do my best to be flexible (and I pack super light) I was not as bothered. I think another person would have been extremely put out. The service component was admittedly sketchy. It was less service, more Feed the Children-esque. For us to make the kind of impact that we wanted to make, we had to assert our desires for wanting to help. The school was also not super prepared for guests that wanted to do more than observe which is cool, again, if that’s what you’re into. However, if you are wanting to really get involved, I do not think the structure is in place for that.
Verdict: I do not think I would do Destination Teach (Impact) again because it functions like mission-tourism to me. That’s not my jam. I think that Destination Teach has the capacity to do really good work but there are a lot of kinks to be worked out.