Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Volunteer Abroad Code of conduct

Codes of conduct or acceptable behavior are rules and regulations outlining the responsibilities of or proper practices for an individual or organization. Everywhere we go we are imposed on a certain code of conduct, it could be in school where we are told no running in the corridors, at work where we are told to be punctual. Codes of conduct not only represent the individual but the organization in which he or she is working for. At times it could represent a country whereby a foreigner goes to live in another country and their behavior is used to judge the country. When volunteering abroad, the code of conduct becomes stricter in that you represent your country. If you are volunteering abroad through an organization, then you will be representing your country and your organizations. There are many rules that govern behaviors of international volunteers in host countries; here are a few of them:


Clothing varies from place to place, in liberal countries girls are allowed to wear short and tight clothes, but in some the rules are stricter. In that the girls should cover all their body parts like in Muslim nations. For men, in some countries they are allowed to walk bare-chested and shave their beards, although in other countries they find these habits to be rude and inconsiderate. Before you leave for your volunteer abroad program it is best to find out how the culture views clothing. As a volunteer, you could be working with kids in an orphanage, or as a teacher. Many of these programs require you to dress officially or smart casual. In order not to influence the kids in a negative way.


Unlike clothing, the way we talk is less obvious. We could think we are being appropriate by the way we talk to other people but we might be seen as offensive. Some cultures are not comfortable if you talk to them using obscene words. In other case we could be misunderstood by using the wrong idiom for example if you say “holy cow” in India they find this to being insulting because some cultures worship cows. Unfortunately it is not easy to know how to speak properly, so as not to offend anyone. The thing to do is try to watch your language as much as you can, and apologize if you think you have offended anyone.

Drugs and alcohol

There are very strict rules regarding the use of drugs and alcohol. Some drugs are illegal when you are caught in possession of these you will be arrested and if you are lucky you will be deported. Drugs like cocaine and heroine are regarded as class A drugs and are illegal. There are some drugs that are could be viewed as illegal in some countries but in others they are legal as long as they are in the right amount. Drugs like Khat, marijuana and tobacco could be legal in one place but illegal in others. Before indulging with such drugs, check whether they are legal to use in the country. There are countries which have strict smoking policies. If you smoke, try and smoke in designated areas so as to avoid any problems. Regarding drinking alcohol, this depends on the person you are staying with. Some people are tolerant to excessive alcohol usage while others aren’t.

Overnight visits

This refers to whether you are staying in a hostel or in a home stay. Most of these have strict rules about overnight visitors. They prefer visitors to leave before 10:00 pm and arrive after 9:00 am. They don’t allow your visitors to sleep with you in their accommodation. This is mainly due to them trying to maintain a certain reputation for their business. This also applies to coming back late in the night, you could go to a night club and party late in to the night. Most of the hostels and home stays don’t allow you to come back at 3:00 or 4:00 am in the morning. To avoid problems ask the person in charge with what they are comfortable with.

Guide lines

Before you engage you volunteer abroad program rules and regulations are normally issued. When you have these rules try and follow all of them to avoid any problem and a peaceful stay. The rules are there to protect you. They are made by experts and are not there to prevent you from having fun.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Volunteer Abroad expenses

Travelling abroad is one of those things that you can’t do once and be satisfied. Travelling abroad whether it is for you holiday, career break, volunteer abroad or intern abroad is fun. When you are budgeting for you volunteer, intern gap year and tourist holiday here are things you should include in your budget. Many organizations and agencies out there try to give you as much information as they can about the cost. Although, they only tell you about the cost you pay them. They don’t tell you about your personal expenses and other things that you will have to pay for when you are in the host country.

General expenses

There are general expenses that you are expected to pay for. Expenses like air flight fees, travel insurance, Visa fees, and vaccinations. There are companies out there that include travel insurance and air flight fees in their price. However most of the organizations out there don’t offer these. Travel insurance does not change with the season so as to get a cheaper option, but if you shop around you are bound to get something that is comfortable with you. Flight fees can be made cheaper by paying in advance so that you can target the budget deals. Depending on the country you wish to visit, the Visa fees and requirement are different. There are many sites that give you information on the country you are about to visit and the requirements.

If you are going to stay in the host country for a month or longer, it is advisable to get a mobile phone that will enable you to communicate with your friends and family. Most countries use SIM cards for their cell phones. There are many and easy payment options for air time for the mobile phone. In some countries you can buy a contract phone. The price of using your mobile phone is not high but it should be budgeted for. There are many cyber cafes all over the world, making the internet available to wherever you are. The normal rates are about $ 1 for two hours. In some countries if your phone is WAP enabled or has GPRS, and EDGE you can use your phone to browse the internet. Keeping you in contact with your family.

There are organizations that take care of your travelling to and fro where you will be living. If you are a volunteer the organization provides transport for you. If you plan for your travel by yourself, you should consider transportation in the host. You should try and live as close as possible to where you will be working in order to avoid excessive transportation costs. Using public transportation is best since it is the cheapest way to travel in the host country. Renting a car or using taxi will become expensive at some time. If you are visiting a country for a short period of time, using taxis and rented cars is better. There are many companies that are online that you can find out about the cost of renting the car and taxis.

Fun and entertainment
Many times when we budget for a trip, we forget to budget for entertainment. After your volunteer abroad program during the evenings or at night you are normally tired or bored. To unwind you could go to night club or to dinner in a restaurant. There are normally expensive, average and affordable restaurants, depending on your taste. To manage your expenses visit places that aren’t too expensive and don’t go too often.

There will be small things that you will have to buy for yourself while you are abroad. Examples of the things that you would buy are drinking water, toiletries and other personal effects. You will also have to budget for gifts and souvenirs for your friends at home when you leave the host country to go back home.

Zablon Mukuba is the director of Volunteer Capital Centre the leading provider of quality and affordable volunteer abroad programs and opportunities in third world countries. Leave a finger print on a life. For more information visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org and http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Volunteer/ Intern abroad Problems and solutions

There are problems or challenges that we face in our everyday life. Some problems can be solved by being careful and prudent. While some can’t be avoided but we still have to deal with them either way. Volunteering is one of the best gifts you can give to someone and at the same time give yourself. There are several advantages and benefits of volunteering whether at home or abroad. Volunteering abroad has many exciting opportunities but it comes challenges as well. We can’t avoid all the problems that come with volunteering abroad but through these methods we can solve some of them. These solutions will help you navigate through your volunteer/ intern and travel program without too many hitches.

Many volunteer abroad programs require that the volunteer to speak English, French and Spanish fluently. The languages are international and are spoken in almost all parts of the world. In Africa, the two most common languages are English and French. While in the Americas they speak English and Spanish. Although the languages are common everywhere, in every place the local people speak their own version of the language. Also the locals add a few words from their native tongue which makes it difficult to understand each other. You could speak the language fluently but the locals might not understand you well because of your accent. The accents make it difficult for people from different places to understand each other. Solving this is by both of you talking slowly and by giving the other person time to speak. If the need arises you can both write down what you are trying to say.

When working in an organization there are times when we get into some conflicts with the fellow workmates. The paid staff could be giving you a hard time while you are working with them. In some instances the person offending you is doing it unconsciously and the problems are solved by politely informing the person. The person will listen to you and apologize. On the other hand, the problem is not easily solved, after talking to the person offending you he does not change. In such cases go to your supervisor or volunteer coordinator to help solve the issue. The supervisor should be able to resolve the issue between the two of you. In the worst case you could be reassigned to another department.

Some volunteer coordinators and program supervisor assign too much work to the volunteer. Improperly trained supervisors give out too much responsibility and confuse volunteers with the paid staff. Also they could give you too much work and short deadlines. Depending on the work that you had agreed to do for the organizations, you should tell your coordinator about your work and you are there helping. In some organizations they don’t march your skills and ability well. They may give work that you will not enjoy. When you start volunteering for them and you find your skills could be better placed somewhere else, inform the supervisor of your interests and desires. In the end you could apply yourself more and be more effective in your volunteer work.

When you are in your volunteer abroad program, you could be placed to work with people who are in dire needs. The people you might be assigned to help are normally desperate. As a foreigner, the local people assume you have money and might want to take advantage of you. For any small piece of advice the locals could charge you or try to extort you. When you try to buy something the, the local sellers will try to take advantage of you by charging exorbitantly. For this, try to get as much information before you buy something. Or if you have local friends ask them to buy for you things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saving money tips while abroad

Spending money wisely is one of the biggest things we all worry about. We are told not to spend more money than we earn. If you earn $ 2,000 a month you shouldn’t be spending $ 2,500 during that month. But it is easier said than done, we might pass by a shop and start buying things on impulse e.g. shoes (for ladies) and other clothing. Spending money is tricky especially if you want to make every dollar or pound or Euro to work for you. Using money is even harder if you are in another country during your holiday, volunteer/ intern abroad trip, gap year. During this period you won’t be getting extra income and the one you get won’t be able to meet your needs. To avoid calling home to ask for money to be sent to you or using too much of your credit card, money should be spent wisely. Spending money wisely will reduce the credit card debt you will incur when you are abroad. It’s harder saving money while abroad because you don’t know where to get the best deals and the locals see you as a cash cow to be taken advantage of. Here are tips that will help you to save money and make the most of your volunteer/ intern abroad and gap years:

Before you leave

Make the most of your money before you leave, book in advance in order to get the best flight ticket. Buying your airline ticket early allows you to get the best deals to your volunteer/ intern destination. Paying for the ticket in advance allows you to save a few hundred dollars or Euros. Booking for hotels and hostel in advance helps in saving money. As in some you might be able to take advantage of the low rates during the off season. Research for the best deals that are available from the internet. Travel insurance is very important and should be taken seriously. If you are to buy it from a travel agent they will sell you policies which are expensive. Or they will send you to firms which are not at cost. Shop around and look for the most cost effective plan for yourself. That is if you will be travelling once or you will travelling in many times during the year. With different options you will be able to choose wisely which the best is for you.

Bank accounts

Using credit cards overseas is very useful and effective. But there are many hidden costs and charges that they don’t tell you when you are applying for them. First of is the transaction fees they charge are different than what they charge you while you are at home. Then secondly there are currency conversion rates which in some banks are about 2 or 3 %. Use debit cards as opposed to credit cards while you are abroad. This is because credit cards start charging you interest from the time you have withdrawn cash. Due to these costs, when you use the ATMs, withdraw large amounts and do it once in a while. If you are going to stay in the host country for a period of 6 to 12 months it’s advisable to open a local bank account. Opening a local bank account is better as you won’t have to worry about ATM fees, Currency conversion and huge interest rates. After your volunteer / intern abroad program is over, you can withdraw all your cash and change it back to your currency at the banks.

Communication Costs

When you arrive at your host country, buy a cheap local phone which will help you communicate with your friends and family. Due to the advent of the internet we can cut down our communication costs drastically. Facebook makes it easy to send messages either through wall profiles or directly at their inboxes. With this you can save money rather than sending direct text messages or sms. Skype has an extensive network all over the world. With Skype you can make free online calls from Skype to Skype. Using other companies like Yahoo, MSN messenger also provides free calls on their services. These services drastically reduce your communication costs when you want to communicate with friends and family.

Group travelling

You will be able to get group discounts if you travel as a group. You can start saving money as soon as you leave your home country. Some airlines offer group discounts and you will get better rates rather than travelling alone. Also hotels and hostels offer group discounts. Going with a group of friends enables all of you to get more value for your money. Apart from it being more fun it will also be cheaper.


The natives of the country are a huge resource of information. Although some might use your for cash, there are those who are good and will advice you on the best places where you will get value for your money. They will take you to the cheaper shops, restaurants and hotels. In some case you will be able to save money if you stay with them. The local people as your friends will help you navigate the cities and give you the best budget deals. Use public transport to move around, like buses and trains as opposed to using taxis and chattered cars.

Tourist areas

Tourist areas are known to be the most expensive areas. You should avoid such areas as they will reduce your budget drastically. The prices for everything in these areas are normally inflated. Buying goods and services in these areas is not a good idea as you won’t be able to sustain your stay. Exchanging money at the airports is a bad idea as the exchange rates there are unfavorable to you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to fit into a new culture

When many of us go to a different place we sometimes find it difficult to fit in. A different place can be another part of town with your relatives. It could also be going to college, University, summer camp or a different work place. There are some of us who are lucky and have great personalities like extroverts who can mix in any crowd. On the other hand there some of us who can’t but want to be like extroverts and have outgoing personalities. To make it easier for us to mix with the others and to change our status from the outsider to the insider. Mixing with people who are from a different culture is not as hard as we make it out to be. I will focus on how to mix with people who are totally different from you. In that you have left home and in you are in a different country whether you are volunteering/ interning abroad and gap year. You can be from Europe or America and move to America or Africa, Asia and Australia to find how people are different. The best part is our difference is what makes all our cultures special. Here are tips to make you be better at socializing with other individuals of a different society:

Give yourself time to adjust to the new environment. Don’t give yourself unusually high expectations. If you need time to adjust to the people its ok take your time. You don’t have to be the loudest or give your opinion on every subject. If you prefer, when in a new crowd keep quiet first, read and learn the new people who you are going to be with. After sometime when you have learnt the people’s personality you will be able to join the conversations. Also people who you are with will give you time to adjust to them. They won’t expect you to be yourself at the first meeting. Be patient with yourself and with the new people you are with.

Facebook, twitter, and MySpace are one of the greatest social mediums. Knowing what your friends are doing , the photos, and comments being posted is good. But, however good those companies are they are bad for socializing. If you are on your phone all the time commenting on your friends updates and photos you won’t have the time to be mix with the people around you. People find it hard to talk with you if you are on your phone all the time. When you are in a crowd put your phone aside, and talk to your friends who are with you. It doesn’t have to be facebook or twitter; it also applies to playing games on your phone, and listening to music. These are regarded as anti social behaviors. The social mediums are cool but shouldn’t be used when with other guys. They should be used when you are alone.

Since you are in a new environment, you are meant to adapt to it. With the new people you are with seek first to understand rather than being understood. This will be the fastest way to make friends and to fit in. if you find them doing something you are not used to or never thought it was possible. Try to understand the meaning of the acts and the habits. After you understand their behaviors you will be able to appreciate it more. The locals will try to make you comfortable and try to make it easy for you to adapt to their culture. If you both make allowances for each other then it will be easier for both of you.

This must be the best way to mix with other people. It’s also the easiest thing to do. When you are with new people there is always something you can complement people about. It can be there outward appearance or their habits that you could complement. There are things where we all like to pay extra attention to like for example if a lady emphasizes on her hair that should be the thing we should complement. It’s in our nature to be more responsive when we are complemented. The thing is to find what the people who you are with emphasize on.

Background information
Getting information from past volunteers helps you to find out what you will experience. There are many people who have been where you are going. Research previous volunteers, contact them and ask them for advice and opinions. This will help you prepare well. If you can’t contact an ex-volunteer abroad member, there are various blogs on the internet that could help you. You could learn how to dress appropriately in the country you are going to.

It is always easier to talk to a cheerful person as opposed to a person who isn’t. Smiling to people makes it easier for people to approach you. It’s something we normally over look but smiling to people goes a long way. People will respond better towards you if you are smile more. Having a cheerful attitude helps the time and work more fun. Being cheerful is contagious, and you will have a more profound effect on your stay there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

5 Must Haves for your volunteer/Intern and gap year trip

When you are off to your long and exciting trip abroad, there are some important things you should carry with you. These things are essential to make you be able to enjoy your vacation. These things are useful for international volunteer s, gap years, international interns and tourists. They are important for the experienced travelers and for the first time travelers. They are practical equipment that everyone who travels should have. There is much more to get for your adventure abroad but I think these are things that you must have when you leave your home country:

1. Cell Phone

Mobile phones are very important in this day and age. You will need to be in communication with the people who are around you and family and friends who are at home. . Some mobile companies from your country allow you to use your number in which ever country you are in. Although it might be expensive to some it’s advisable to use the local mobile carriers. Most countries, including third world countries, have a suitable infrastructure for communication. There are many mobile or cell phone carriers. Many of the networks in Africa are GSM, GPRS, EDGE enabled. When traveling there carry a phone that is SIM enabled. Before travelling find out which mobile carriers are available, and what technology they use. Also inquire on the payment plans, like pay as you go etc. If you can’t get a mobile phone that you will be able to use in your destination country, there should be low cost mobile phones that you can buy there

2. Laptops

If you are planning to go for a long vacation, like a volunteer vacation or intern work placement and gap years. Laptops come in handy especially when you want to communicate with your family at home and the people who are with you. Laptops come in handy when you want to keep your work private. There are many internet devices that are low cost which one can purchase in the host country. Although the internet speeds won’t be as fast as what you are used to, it’s available in most countries at low cost. As you will be taking many photos having a laptop is handy as saving them will be easy. You will not run out of space. During those long hours where you have nothing to do, you can watch a movie or listen to songs. While you carry your laptop don’t forget to carry a multi plug that is appropriate for that region. Sometimes an adaptor is needed so that you don’t burn your laptop with too much electricity.

3. Mp3 player, hand held devices

Thanks to Steve Jobs we have iPods, ipads and many mp3 players. Some of these devices come with large storage (some go up to 80 Gb), and some are able to play videos or movies on them. These come in handy when you are on transit. When you are waiting in the airport for your next flight, or during those long flights. Books are good to carry but during turbulence and bumpy rides it’s hard to read. And with audio books you will not need to carry the book itself. Whether you travel by road, air or by sea the Mp3 players will help the time move along faster. Also they are good in some instances you might be in a place where there are electricity interruptions. Other devices you can carry along with you are portable devices like PSPs, and Nintendo DS. If you are into video games carrying handheld devices help a lot to pass time.

4. Medicine

If you have a medical condition, whether it is serious or mild, it’s advisable to carry your own medication. When you are in a third world country the medication that you might need might not be available. Or the one that is there might have negative side effects. Make sure you also carry double the medication that is prescribed, in case something happens and you lose the first prescription. If you are a female traveler, there things you will not find available in third world country, like make up and things that are essential to you. When travelling make sure you carry enough medication to get you through the vacation.

5. Glasses

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, carry an extra pair. During your trip you might accidental loose them, or break them. Replacing glasses takes too long and even though you could be the most careful person something could happen and you lose them. Having an extra pair helps in such situations.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Benefits of volunteering abroad

Volunteering in the dictionary is defined as the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and service. To some this may seem as work or hard labor and many people tend to avoid volunteering. There are many benefits to volunteering or giving your time to others. Whether you are going to volunteer in your neighborhood, local volunteer centre, school or work place it is usually a fulfilling process. It’s known to be fun and engaging. Rather than talking about the benefits of volunteering locally I will focus on volunteering abroad. There are many good organizations found on the internet that offer great volunteer services like Volunteer Capital Centre. If you decide to leave home and go abroad here are some of the benefits you get volunteering abroad:

Career benefits

Volunteering abroad adds to your résumé and to differentiate you from the rest. It shows your character, interests and motivation. Your hands-on experience in the fields of health, social services, or education is invaluable, and you can leverage your volunteer abroad experience as a stepping stone to international development work. But there are countless additional ways to apply this experience to your professional development, such as communicating with people from different cultures, teambuilding, adapting to dynamic environments, critical thinking, and more.

Cultural experience

After arrival in the host country, the volunteers are immersed immediately in to the culture from the first day. In the case where the volunteer stays with a family in a home stay, they get firsthand experience of the culture. In that they will live, and eat like the local people. In some occasions they may be asked to participate in some activities like weddings. There are many tribes and each one has a unique culture and unique traditions. In the home stay you will learn about the culture of the home. If you are living in a group home with other volunteers or in a hostel you will still get to experience the culture. You will experience it when you are working together with the locals. You will be able to feel their work ethic and standards

Make a difference

There is a social effect felt on the lives of the volunteers as well as the people they are serving. The fulfillment of helping others is twice as felt rather than helping out people around you. Most of the people the volunteers help are in desperate situations .The lives of the people you touch are forever changed. There are people who are in dire need of help and are grateful to anyone who try to help. As the volunteer you will help people who are in the local communities. Their gratitude will overwhelm you.


Through the stay in the host country, the volunteer will get to know people from the host family to the people who they will work with in the programs. Other volunteers will be working there with you in the host country. You will able to form lifelong friendships with the other volunteers, the host family and the ones who you are working within the programs. You will be able to increase your social skills and the number of friends you have.

Travelling and fun

After the rigors of volunteering you are given the chance to visit the attractive sites. Also during the weekends we can organize safaris and tours to for the full country and cultural experience. For example the Masai Mara game reserve is home to the biggest animal spectacle on earth, the annual wildebeest migration. There will also be other volunteers where you will be able to mix with them and have fun with them. This is an opportunity to meet other people, to learn other cultures and also to have fun after a hard day’s work.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to effectively volunteer abroad

Volunteering is a fun, fulfilling and engaging. It’s not meant to long, tedious boring and tiring. The work that volunteers do is important. The volunteers are not meant to take over the work of the paid staff. The volunteers are only there to help and they are given work that is not meant to be tedious. Volunteers work for free, give out there precious time and skills. Although the work is meant to be fun it should also be effective and meaningful. Things to do to be an effective volunteer work:

1. Be mindful of others

During your volunteer period you will be working with other workers. You might work with the paid staff and other volunteers. Some of the people you are going to work with are from diverse backgrounds. In some cases you might be volunteering in Africa where the people are totally different from you. You are meant to be open minded and mindful of others. Everyone in the organizations is important and everyone has a part to play.

2. Work with the program

The organizations come up with the programs which you as the volunteer will work in. The organizations are the experts and they are the ones who know the solutions to the problems that are affecting them. Some volunteers come and work in programs and after sometime they want to impose their own ideas to the programs. The ideas might be good but the organizations might not be able to add your programs. They don’t have resources to be able to include your ideas. The organizations’ programs are locally made and they are suitable for the local situation. As the volunteer you are meant to make work in the programs. When you change the programs you offend the people who came with the program and who have been on it.

3. Friendship

Being a friend to the guys you work with. Trust is important and once you earn it, it will be a lot easier to work with the people. Being friendly also helps you to relate with the people you are working with. The work will be more fun, enjoyable and exciting if you are friendly. The work won’t feel like work anymore if you are having fun with your friends. When you are all friends they will treat each other with love and respect.

4. Understand each other differences

We are all different and have varying opinions and ideas on how things you should be done. The diversity is what makes everyone’s opinion to be important. Also diversity comes by through a person’s attitude and position on life. Understanding all these makes working easier for everyone. You should learn to accept people for who and what they are. We should always have an open policy on people and their ideas.

5. Be responsible

Lastly being responsible is important for you to be effective in your volunteer work. Being responsible to yourself helps people not to worry about you. Be responsible in your work means somebody doesn’t have to come and do the work all over again. Being responsible is like keeping time, handing over your assignments in time, and working hard or working smartly. Being responsible affects your work in a multitude of ways.