This blog is mostly about my personal experiences while volunteering, yet, I have realised that many of my friends want to embark on similar experiences but do not know where to start. So, I’ve decided to start a mini-series called “A Guide to Volunteering” in which I will be sharing my tips on the organisation of a trip, how to plan for it, what to bring, what to expect, and so on.
Without further ado, here is a to-do list that you may want to take a look at before you depart:
First, where are you going? Here are things to research:
- What is the weather like?
- What are the cultural customs regarding the dress code? This will most likely change depending on your gender.
- Will you require a visa, and if yes, what are the processing times?
- What vaccines will you need?
- Go on your government’s website and search for the travel advisory section. I suggest the Canadian website. Take a look at the health support, the threats, what to be aware of before going, etc.
- Will you need special meds, for example, for malaria? Will you need a mosquito net?
- Where is your country’s embassy located?
- A copy of your passport, health insurance info (such as photocopies of your card),
- A copy of your flight information
- A copy of your visa, if you already received it. If not, a copy of your application for a visa.
- Pictures of your debit and credit cards. (Pro-tip: only use a credit card while abroad, and make sure to use online banking if you can, to avoid fraud.)
- A backpack that isn’t flashy; I suggest a sporty one, black/grey/olive, etc.
- A reusable water bottle for the travelling part (yes, we want to be eco-friendly, but in many countries the water isn’t drinkable for non-locals as our bodies aren’t used to the new bacteria, thus you will probably need to buy bottled water anyways.)
- All your chargers
- A small, cheap phone that is unlocked to use in emergencies
- Stuff to write with and to write on (you might want to journal at some point)
- A camera if you have one, otherwise your phone is just fine
- This will depend on a) your gender and b) where you are going. Girls might need to be a little bit more conservative in certain places.
- Bring appropriate clothes for the work you will do. If you are working in an office, bring normal, casual clothes (but maybe a few more business-type of clothes in case), and if you are always on the field bring clothes that you can get dirty.
- Shoes; one pair of shoes that you can wear to work, one to wear on excursions, and one you can wear on the nights out with fellow volunteers.
- A rain jacket
- A sweater or two, depending on how long you are staying. It gets cold at night, even in countries where it gets over 30 degrees during the day!
- Sports clothes (for spontaneous football sessions with fellow volunteers).
- Too many socks and underwear; in case any gets wet or lost in the wash, again, depending on where you are.
- Body Wash
- Dry shampoo (!!!)
- Face wipes/Baby wipes
- Razors (remember to keep it in your checked luggage)
- Products for your period (it can be costly and tricky to find in certain countries)
- I suggest a cup, it’s easier to use in places where trashcans are hard to find, or where you want to avoid going to the bathroom every 4 hours.
- Condoms (yes, I know, you’re not going there for love or whatever, but better be safe than sorry!)
- Medication for headaches, sunburns, anti-mosquito, diarrhoea stoppers, dewormers, anti-nausea medication, medication for the flue, antihistamines (for the incessant mosquito bites!)
- Whatever other products you need
I try to bring enough for the entire duration of my trip to avoid having to buy it there.
Once you’ve done your research, found out about the visa, vaccines, clothing, and all other vital information regarding your trip, I would say you are ready to go! If you want to read more about planning accordingly, such as planning your travel details or accommodation, read this!