Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The holiday season is upon us yet again. It’s the season to be merry and jolly. The only time in the year where festive lights are put all over home. The season for drinking eggnog, hanging mistletoes and playing Santa Claus. Christmas is the biggest holiday celebrated in most parts of the world. Christmas means family gathering together, singing and listening to Christmas carols and gift giving. Giving and receiving gifts is the best part of Christmas. Giving gifts to family members is easy. The tricky part is giving gifts to those who are going abroad to volunteer, backpack, work and study. This is because they will need something that is small enough to fit in their bags, and useful to use while they are abroad. Here are a couple of gift ideas to give someone who is going to volunteer abroad;
Every long term traveler needs a backpack. Volunteers who are abroad will require a good backpack for their journey to the country and to the project location. A backpack should be comfy, stylish enough, and very sturdy. Other backpack qualities are roomy, ergonomic, air conditioned, well padded, water resistant, should have laptop ports, sound ports, and a waist strap. The well known backpack brands are Eagle Creek, Karrimor, Macpac, The North Face, Osprey, and White Mountain. Cheap backpacks are normally faulty and won’t do any good. The average price of a backpack goes for between $ 150 and $ 200.
Travel Shoes and socks
The volunteers will need a good pair of shoes and socks during their work abroad. The right pair of shoes will carry the volunteer further, faster and safer. The pair of shoes should have the following qualities: they should be comfy, durable, waterproof, not too heavy, good treads, lace hooks and soft soles. Apart from shoes the volunteer should have a pair of flip flops for going to the shower, bathrooms and hot days. A long with a good pair of shoes, they need good quality pairs of socks. The socks should be warm, cushy, cool and comfy. Popular shoe brands are Asolo, Danner, Garmont, and Merrel. The price of shoes varies greatly depending on various attributes and brands.
Hand Held devices
These are great for travelling, especially during long flights, layovers and idle moments. These are also great for those hours doing nothing. There are many devices that are available to buy for example iPod, iPad, gaming devices (PSP, Nintendo DS), mp3 players, and kindles. When choosing the best device to buy consider: the battery life; the storage space, practicality and price. The price of the device depends on brand, memory storage space, quality and popularity.
Books are perfect gifts for travelers. The best books will be the ones that deal with travel for example guidebooks, language books or fictional novels that will inspire the volunteer during their work. Apart from inspiration and education they could also be for entertainment. When choosing a book to buy, get a book that the volunteer loves to read. Example of books that could be bought are: Lonely planet guidebooks, the gap year book, the complete guide to the gap year, How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Abroad, and Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation. These books can be easily gotten from Amazon and EBay.
Every volunteer wants to document their journey and their adventure through photographs and videos. Getting a good camera that would last the period of their work and is of high quality. Good cameras should have: a good megapixel count, image quality, shutter speed, great LCD screens, ergonomic and style. The most common brands are cannons, Sony, Samsung, Nikkon and Kodak. The price varies with the brand and a number of other factors.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Home sickness is defined as distress caused by separation from a specific home environment. Students who join universities and colleges or those who go abroad are affected by homesickness. As they are exposed to different environments and new people they are sometimes overcome by homesickness. Some students don’t get homesick, but there are others who are overwhelmed by the new experience. The main signs and symptoms of homesickness are: Nostalgia, grief, depression, anxiety, topophilia, adjustment disorders, withdrawal, sadness, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia. Homesickness is felt more by the people who are furthest from home for example international volunteers, international students, international workers and expats. Homesickness can strike at any moment, one week into the volunteer abroad work or a month later. It’s natural for volunteers to become homesick as they are many miles away from home and they can’t go back as soon as they want. Here are a couple of remedies to homesickness:
Keep in touch
Keeping in touch with family and old friends who are at home, is one of way of keeping homesickness at bay. The volunteers can use the following to keep in touch: emails, Skype, Facebook, Tweeter, calling and texting. Most of these resources are available in many parts of the world unless the volunteer is in remote areas. The quality of the resources varies depending on the location of the volunteer for example the speed and availability of internet. When feeling lonely and homesick the volunteer could try and communicate with those who are back at home. Talking to them will lift up the spirits of the volunteers. Finding out things that are going on at home will help the volunteer feel connected to their families. Although talking to family and friends is great it should be done to a minimum as too much communication with them will lead the volunteer to feel more homesick. Keeping in touch should be done less and less until the volunteer is used to the new place.
Carry something from home
Carrying something from home could help the volunteer overcome homesickness. Carry things that have some sentimental value and could remind the volunteer of home. The volunteer can carry developed photos, a pillow from home, perfume or cologne of a loved one, favorite movies, music, stuffed animals and an old scrapbook. Having these familiar things will make the place where the volunteer is staying more comfortable. These small mementos remind the volunteers about home and make him or her happy.
Making new friends is a great way to get over homesickness. While the volunteer is abroad, s/he should make friends with the local people and other volunteers. As there will be other volunteers working with them, they will help to adjust to the new environment. The other volunteers will help to form a support network whereby they will help solve common problems. The volunteer will be able to talk about his or her feelings about missing home and the others will help them. The other volunteers will cheer up the homesick volunteer. Constantly meeting new people will take the volunteers mind away from home and help to embrace the new environment. Meeting new people will help to fit into the new culture. Spending time with other people cures homesickness.
Volunteers feel homesick the most when they are idle. When they feel homesick the volunteer should look for activities to keep their minds engaged. The volunteers should focus on the volunteer abroad work and look for ways to be more productive. They could stick to a schedule that keeps their minds occupied. When the volunteers are not working, they look for other interests and hobbies that will keep them busy. They should try to keep up with their hobbies while they are abroad. They should take this opportunity to make the most of their stay by visiting new places and finding out new experiences. The busier the volunteer is the less time s/he will be feel homesick.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Volunteers who are planning to go abroad have a lot to plan for. In their planning they will also plan for how they will be using their money. There are various ways of using money while the international volunteers are abroad. The various methods are through cash, travelers cheque, credit card, prepaid cards and local debit cards. Deciding on which form of money to use depends on a number of factors. These factors are length of stay, security, exchange rate and replacement in case they are lost or stolen. They should inform their banks that they are going abroad and that they shouldn’t cancel their credit cards while they are gone unless told otherwise. As a volunteer abroad, s/he should carry the different forms of money for safety. Here are the various forms of money that are available to volunteers:
The volunteers will need the local currency when they arrive in the country. They will need money to pay for small things as taxi fare, buses fare, trolley fares and many others. As the volunteer will be in the local country for a period of time, s/he will need to have local currency. The advantages of carry local currency are: it is easy to exchange; easy to use; available everywhere; and fluctuations in the exchange rate won’t make it more expensive. The major disadvantages of carry cash are: the volunteers can’t carry large sums of money; during conversion they can lose money due to the exchange rate; and it’s not replaceable when it’s lost. When dealing with cash, the volunteer should have money bag or an inside pocket where to hide their money. To be safe they should also not carry all their money at the same place and should have large and small denominations.
These are the most commonly used by travelers worldwide. Credit cards are available and are used in most countries. Cards that have Visa, MasterCard, American express and Access are accepted everywhere. There are many advantages of using Credit Cards for example: they are easy to carry; easily replaceable when stolen; accepted in most parts of the world; the volunteer can get cash advances from ATMs at a fee. The main disadvantages are: credit card fraud; sometimes they are not accepted in some hotels and institutions; there are added service fees by banks when they are used; there are interest fees included and you have notify banks when traveling abroad. The volunteer has to be careful when using credit cards, in that they should be used as few times as possible. Credit cards have hidden costs attached to them and when the volunteer goes back home, s/he will be surprised by the huge fees.
These cards are new to the market and are gaining popularity. Prepaid cards are specifically targeted for travelers. They work the same way as travelers cheques and debit cards. Prepaid cards are preloaded with money from the volunteer’s home country. They use the standard Visa system, and can be used anywhere there is a Visa symbol. They are much safer to use than Credit cards and Debit cards. With a fixed amount in them, there is no risk in overspending and if the funds run out you can re load the funds through other credit cards. The disadvantages of these cards are: once they are lost they are hard to replace; the commissions are higher than travelers cheques and credit cards; topping up is expensive.
Travelers cheques used to be very common but nowadays they are becoming less and less common. They are still one of the safest ways to carry money as they are not stolen and are easily replaceable. To use a travelers cheque, the volunteer’s signature is needed. Most of them are issued by American express and can be used in most banks and post banks. They can be replaced anywhere if they are stolen or lost as long as the serial number is produced. They only take 24 hours to replace them. The main disadvantages are: most foreign retailers are not accepting them anymore, in some places they can only be used for changing local currency; and the range of currencies is limited.
Local debit cards and bank accounts
If the volunteer will be staying for a lengthy period of time, they could open a bank account and deposit money there. Using local debit cards is good especially if the volunteer doesn’t want to be charged by their home banks when transacting. This method saves money as transactions are only done once and there is no worry of foreign exchange rates.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
There many perceived myths that keep potential volunteers from going abroad. The main myths that keep people from volunteering abroad are its too expensive; the volunteers are either too old or too young; the volunteer programs are too long; is it safe and they are making a mistake. Most of the volunteer abroad myths come about because the volunteers are afraid of going alone; they have a limited budget; they are not well informed; a bad experience in the past and a prejudiced opinion. Even though these myths are easily dispelled many people still don’t volunteer abroad. The best way to tackle myths is to get proper information about volunteering abroad. With the information the volunteer will be able to answer any question s/he has about volunteering abroad. Here are some of the volunteering abroad myths that keep volunteers from going abroad and how to dispel them:
It’s too expensive to volunteer abroad
One myth potential volunteers have is that volunteering abroad is for the rich. They assume the cost of travelling and volunteering abroad is too high for them to afford. Although some volunteer service organizations ask volunteers to pay hefty fees that prohibit volunteering abroad. There are also more affordable volunteer service organizations that volunteers can use. Another thing that keeps volunteering from going abroad is the air fare. To bust this myth, the international volunteers should look for cheaper options. With regards to Volunteer Service Organizations, there are expensive and cheap organizations, the volunteer should research and find the organizations that can fit their budgets. Volunteers should take advantage of budget deals and try to buy air line tickets in advance, and be on the lookout for great deals. Also the travelers who will volunteer independently off volunteer service organizations, have to research the affordable ways of volunteering abroad for example they will have to stay in budget hostels, and keep their expenditure to a minimum. Bearing in mind that costs that the volunteer will incur are the same as the costs they will incur as though they are at home, as in they will still have to pay for rent, food and other expensive items. Most of international volunteers who go abroad are not rich but are average.
It’s not safe to volunteer abroad
Many volunteers fear for their safety while they are abroad. The volunteers fears that they will stand out and will be victims of crime. They also assume that the countries they could go to are dangerous and unsafe. Volunteering in a foreign country is relatively safe as volunteering at home. When the volunteer is abroad, they will safe because many of the local people will go out of their way to help them. Also while the volunteer will be abroad they will be other volunteers who will teach them how to be safe. An individual will never be a hundred percent safe even if they are at home and there are places that are safer than the others. While they are abroad, volunteers should try not to expose themselves to risky situations that would comprise their safety.
Are the volunteers too young or too old?
Another myth that is there is that the volunteers fear that they are too young or too old. Volunteering abroad has no age limits. Both the old and the young can be involved in volunteering abroad. For the younger volunteers, there are some companies that deal with only adults and some that include teenagers and adults. The younger volunteers should look for organizations that accommodate them and avoid the others. For older volunteers, the boomers, they should be involved in volunteer work that they are capable of doing. There are volunteers who are as old as 75 who take part in volunteer work. The boomers should choose volunteer work that will suit them to give back to the society more.
The volunteers will be too lonely
The volunteers fear that they won’t know anyone and might have problems making friends. Volunteers who are planning to go abroad are afraid that they will get home sick and miss their family and friends. It is normal for volunteers to miss home at some point. On the other hand volunteers will meet other volunteers and travelers who are abroad. As such the volunteers will not be lonely, they will also be working closely and in some occasions they will be living with the locals. There will be sometimes where they will be working alone but the volunteers will generally be with other people. To overcome loneliness the volunteers can be in constant communication with their families and they could travel with a friend or a family member.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
There are various awards given to international volunteers to recognize their contribution. These awards are given to volunteers who have done work that has the hugest impact in the organization they are working in. Also these awards recognize the various projects that give back the most to the society. The rewards are from private and public organizations, learning institutions, and some volunteer service companies. The awards are in the form of trophies, scholarships, financial grants and certificates. Most volunteer organizations issue out certificate of participation as well as recommendation letters. Not all international volunteers are eligible for these awards. The awards criteria depend on the organization that issue them. Most of them also have an application procedure to the organization to make them aware of the work that the volunteer is doing. The rewards are not for financial gain or personal benefit but to acknowledge the work the international volunteer has been doing and to encourage others to do so.
Photos and blog posts
Photo and blog posts are the most common awards that are given to international volunteers. Volunteers who are abroad could take very good photos and send them to various companies and websites. The photos and blog posts are sent to magazines, websites and online publications. The rewards for this kind of competitions are: being featured in their magazine, financial compensation, certificates and recognition. Some volunteer service companies have these kinds of competitions whereby they promote the best photos or blog posts. They financial rewards could go as high up to $ 500 to $ 1000 for the best photos.
University and college awards
There are some colleges and universities who offer awards to their students who have volunteered abroad. Universities like James Madison University, Concordia University and University of Calgary recognize students who go abroad and help communities. Universities and colleges are proud of the students who involve themselves in community service or extracurricular activities apart from books and academic participation. Such institutions fosters an all round individual who have more to give back to the society. The awards are in the form of scholarships, individual recognition, funding of programs in which the students are participating in, certificates and trophies. The rewards are for the undergraduate students and postgraduate. The people who are eligible for such awards are the ones who are enrolled and alumna of the colleges and universities.
There are charities that also recognize individuals who go abroad to help the needy. The charities could be religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, for profit organizations and companies who invest in corporate social responsibility. These charities could also fund the volunteer work and the stay in the project location. There are various charities which reward guys who volunteer abroad for example Charity awards, African Impact, Volunteer Capital Centre and Volunteer Service Overseas . To be eligible for these awards you have to enroll with the charity, and be an active member. The awards are in the form of scholarships, certificates, recognition and funding of projects.
Local organization awards
Apart from rewards from charities and societies, the volunteer who are abroad could win awards in the nonprofit in which they are working for. The nonprofit or not for profit organizations are at the grass root level and they are the ones who work directly with the local people. They are the ones who come up with programs and projects for the volunteers to work in. since most of the local nonprofit organization have little resources the awards are not in the form of financial rewards, but they are certificates, trophies and public recognition of the work they did. Every organization has different rewards to give to the volunteers who work with them.