Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

Welcome to the Volunteer Capital Centre

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Volunteering abroad and Universities

Many students want to volunteer or intern and travel abroad. They would like to take up their sense of adventure and visit different parts of the world. The main problem is that most students are either in college, university, high school or are about to join the said institutions. Being in the higher learning institutions means they don’t have much time left to leave the country. Also during their holidays they don’t have the money to travel the world. Most students opt to take a gap year so that they have time to travel and see the world. Unfortunately not everyone has that luxury to take a year off school for adventure seeking. They are normally limited by time and if they are to take a year off this would have negative effects on their academic studies.

There are many higher learning institutions that encourage their students to travel abroad. The institutions know that learning is not only done on campus grounds and more realistic life skills are gotten outside class rooms and lecture theatres. They have setup their own abroad programs where their students have the opportunities to study with their partner universities for a semester or two. They have partnered with various institutions in different parts of the world that have the same course work with theirs to allow students to participate in study abroad programs. Although, there are some institutions that don’t have any study abroad programs and in this case students are allowed to look for abroad opportunities by themselves. One way students do this is by being a volunteer abroad and they could earn an academic credit for it. As such they can do their volunteer work, travel and continue with their education.

As stated earlier not all schools have a study abroad, or an elective abroad program and the students who are interested in doing this should contact their faculty heads to know how to go about it. If the faculty advisers are agreeable, they would want to know which organization the student is planning to volunteer with. The faculty would require to know the history, mission and objectives of the organization. More importantly they would need to know about the program the student is involving themselves in. The program should be relevant to the course requirements and it should be a service learning project that will help achieve academic and career goals. The students should also emphasize the benefits of studying abroad to ensure they are allowed to do so. When the faculty advisor agrees the student should work with him/ her to come up with learning objectives, and a course proposal; how to keep contact with the student throughout the project in order to guide and evaluate progress; finally, how to award the grade and credit for the project.

Medical students benefit tremendously from volunteer medical programs. Although there is much to be studied in books, there are some diseases that do not occur in that particular area and as such the students are better placed in learning abroad. For example medical students in temperate areas, will learn a lot if they go and volunteer in tropical areas as they will get first had experience in tropical diseases. Lastly, research students are also likely to benefit from volunteer abroad programs. As this will give them the opportunity to collect data first hand and see the results of their research. They should also confer with their faculty advisors to make sure everything is above board. Care should be taken when engaging organizations to organize volunteer work, interning abroad and research as some of them are not legitimate.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Volunteer abroad testimonials

Jeanette Weisflog USA, - Kenya

"Although my time in Nairobi was short lived in that I was only there for one week, VCC made it possible for me to have one of the most amazing, challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.
The VCC team was absolutely reliable and I was able to volunteer at a local orphanage during my week of stay. The logistics and planning was taken care of to the fullest extent and the Nairobi director Zaby and I spoke on a daily basis about how my days at the orphanage had went! I would definitely recommend this organization to others who may be searching for a volunteer experience in Kenya, but are unsure about which NGO to go through to organize it! Thank you VCC.- Jeanette"

Kelly Scottland – Kenya

"I had an absolutely fantastic time in Nairobi. It is some "unlife like" place i dream about virtually every day. It has shaped my values and beliefs and turned me into a more assertive person. I have developed stronger views on trivial everyday things that I didn’t give much thought before the trip. I also feel that, because Kenya is the furthest I’ve been on a plane, the world has opened up for me, and anywhere seems accessible in the future. "

Mike UK – Kenya

There are many things that I can take back from my experience in Kenya. I have never had a job where I felt more appreciated than while I worked. Kenyans themselves are fiercely proud of their culture and history, with their own unique language, food, calendar, time, and holidays. The people also show a great deal of respect and camaraderie with one another. It has been a pleasure immersing myself in Ethiopian culture, (especially over round after round of delicious coffee!) and I am looking forward to seeing all my new friends very soon.

Mrs Jones, Kevin Jones' mother (Kenya Volunteer)

“Many thanks for your assistance in making this a smooth process. It is always a worry …more so for us as parents than for Kevin himself!! And you have always answered our queries quickly and efficiently”.

Laura Buck (USA) Nairobi, Kenya
Laura is back from Nairobi. She had a fantastic time. This trip turned out better than I had ever hoped for. We can't thank you enough for all your help. What a great organization Volunteer Capital Centre is! The orphanage wrote a beautiful letter to Laura at the end of her stay thanking her for her contributions. We were really touched by his gratitude and sincerity. Laura plans on staying in touch with him and trying to help the kids. She belongs to a club at her high school that exists solely to raise money for charitable organizations. Laura can't wait to show them pictures of the orphanage and the awesome kids she got a chance to work with.

Sandra Rzeszutko (USA) Kenya

I thoroughly enjoyed the program and was received and taken care of with open arms and prompt contact when needed. Kenya is a wonderful country, I enjoyed the weather immensely and was impressed with the beautiful scenery and wonderful people. My host family was perfect; I grew to care for them all very deeply and hope to see them again someday. Culturally, I found the small town I lived in to be lacking in modern technology such as running water (we used a well) and that few people had refrigerators. I must confess I had doubts about being able to cope, but within 24 hours I was totally comfortable, due mostly to my host family and the town residents. Everyone was friendly and I was greeted by all. Despite originally visiting Kenya for wildlife, I must say I was most impressed with the people of Langata. They are extremely hard working, very proud and considerate of others. I was humbled by how few amenities they had yet they live contented in what I considered to be hardship. I learned to love seeing simple things like women hand washing clothes, carrying babies on their back and old men gathered for a game of checkers. My next visit will be people oriented (women’s issues, orphaned)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wild life conservation projects in Kenya

The Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization situated in Kenya’s Laikipia district adjacent to Nanyuki town. The Conservancy is East Africa’s Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary, the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees and holds some of the highest predator densities in Kenya. It is a mosaic of grass plains, wooded grassland, Acacia woodland and evergreen thicket extending for over 350 square kilometers. It boasts an astounding variety of animals including the endangered black and white rhino, leopard, elephant, buffalo & lion. The combination of amazing wildlife and stunning views across the open plains guarantees an unforgettable volunteer experience.

Your volunteer work will include:

1. Working with Rhinos

The population of black rhino in Africa plummeted from an estimated 65,000 to around 10,000 in the early 1980s. By 2001, the total African population was estimated at 3,100. In Kenya alone, the population dropped from 20,000 to less than 300 due to illegal killing for rhino horns. At present, there are an estimated 620 black rhino in Kenya, and more than 85 of them live on the Conservancy as the flagship species. In response to the drastic reduction in rhino numbers through poaching, Kenya decided to set up specially protected and fenced sanctuaries for rhino conservation.

2. Work with Chimpanzees

The Conservancy has rescued chimpanzees from Burundi, during the civil war in the country, as well as other parts of west and central Africa, and the Middle East. During your stay on the Conservancy you will be given the opportunity to learn about chimpanzees, as well as viewing them in their vast natural enclosures. Chimpanzees living in the Sanctuary are carefully nursed back to health so they can enjoy the rest of their days in peace. The animals live in two large groups separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River.

3. Working with lions

A number of lions on The Conservancy are fitted with lion-tracking collars, which enable the researchers to keep track of their whereabouts. Visitors are given the opportunity to accompany our research teams to radio track our lion prides across the Conservancy.

4. Working with The Ecological Monitoring Department (EMD)

EMD aims to identify and monitor the key variables necessary to maintain healthy trends in both habitat and animal species. Consequently, the EMD sets appropriate threshold levels for key animal and habitat variables, changes in which act as early warning systems. Whenever threshold levels are exceeded, either management intervention is recommended or third party researchers are engaged to study the underlying reason for change.

For more information go to http://volunteercapitalcentre.org

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saving money while volunteering abroad

"If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting."- Benjamin Franklin. Many volunteers do not go abroad with an aim of over spending their hard earned cash, for many it is a chance to give back to society and many a case to those less fortunate than themselves. As much as one would like to enjoy their experience while in a foreign country, a situation may arise where you may need to save and budgeted as such. A number of tips are provided here to help you curb your spending to a minimum, during your volunteer tour.

First place where you can make some savings is on accommodation. You do not have to stay in a hotel or an expensive resort when volunteering abroad. One sure way to make some savings is to get in touch with volunteer organisations that will help you to get cheaper accommodation from local families living in the area where you are carrying out your volunteer work. Alternatively you can make friends with the locals in the area and ask them to accommodate you for a small fee, either way it beats most hotel rates, and you might get to learn about the cultures of the people you are working with better.

Another tip to avoid over spending is to avoid eating out in hotels and restaurants, though one may get homesick and crave some of their home countries cuisine. It may work to your benefit if you try and get used to some of the local foods which are cheaper than imported foods. Once you are used to the local meals, then you can have your meals with the local family you are living with. This guarantees you homemade meals and in general may work to your favour in terms of health.

When in a country that is not very well developed most foreigners tend to feel like they have to use taxis to get around, most of these countries do not have very good public transport industries, they may not have subways or good bus systems. But it will be to an advantage to you if you get to learn how to use the public transport in such countries, because they tend to be much cheaper, and are not likely to over charge you just because you are a tourist, which is common with a number of taxi drivers in such regions.

Lastly when in a volunteer tour in a foreign country, try to reduce your spending by limiting your shopping sprees. A souvenir here and there may not be out of place but going on an all-out shopping spree on artistic memorabilia of the country or countries you are visiting, may cause a permanent dent in your pocket. As is the case with everything when you are abroad these items are more likely to be expensive to foreigners, so one should spend on a limited number of artefacts, to keep within your budget.

Therefore mentioned areas can act as a start to you, aiding you in making some savings when you are abroad doing volunteer work. You never know if at the end of your visit you have made some good savings then you may be able to treat yourself before you depart for home, knowing that you still have some savings that will assist you back home

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Volunteer in Africa

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Mark Twain. Most volunteers who go abroad, like to volunteer in places where they feel they can make a difference. This is what makes volunteering abroad a noble choice for many. Apart from volunteer work, there are also a number of other things that one can do in these countries. Here we will look at a number of countries in Africa and what one can do while volunteering in these countries.

First off we look into volunteering in Kenya. Kenya has a lot to offer a volunteer not just in terms of volunteer work but also as a tourist destination. First off on your arrival to the capital city Nairobi you will be eager to visit the Nairobi national park, only a few kilometers away from the Nairobi town center. While in Kenya you can trek the snow heights of mount Kenya, visit Fort Jesus in Mombasa, a Portuguese fort, built in The 1593,visit the ancient Gedi ruins, a historical town founded in the 13th century, do some water rafting and enjoy the sandy beaches, all within your volunteer visit.

Next up we move to West Africa, where we have Ghana. Ghana being one of the faster growing democracies in Africa at the moment has a lot to of tour sites available to anyone who travels there. All from your arrival at the capital in Accra, you can head to visit the Nkuruma mausoleum. In addition to the mausoleum you can go to any number of these famous attractions; Elmina Castle which was a slave trading, shipping center for the slave trade to America ,the West-African museum at Cape Coast Castle , Kakum National Park with its canopy walk, the oldest mosque in West-Africa at Larabanga, the waterfall at Kintampo , sail with the ferry from Akosombo all the way up north on the Volta lake, visit the lagoons in the Volta estuary ,take a visit to Navrongo with its Roman Catholic Cathedral made out of clay and spend some time on their lovely beaches from Half Assini till Aflao .

South Africa has many beautiful places that a volunteer can visit. Doing volunteer work in Africa’s leading economy comes with a number of attraction’s that can help take your mind off of any stress you may have as a result of your volunteer work. South Africa has within it numerous sites such as the Kruger national park, which has more species of wildlife than any other one in Africa, taking in the view along the Garden Route, which runs along the beautiful coastline in south-western Cape. The narrow coastal plain is also well forested, and mostly bordered by extensive lagoons. You can also make a visit to the cape wine yards, or drive down to the Kwa Zulu natal coast for scuba diving and snorkeling, among other numerous tourist attractions in the country.

Lastly we take a look at Morocco in the northern end of the continent. While in Morocco then one of the best places you can visit during your volunteer work are the imperial cities of Marrakech, Fes and Meknes. Other than these famous attractions, one can take Sahara desert tours, trek through the atlas mountains, or if you enjoy beaches and the ocean just make shore excursions from Casablanca, Tangier and Agadir ports.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Choosing a Volunteer Abroad Program

“It’s easy to make a buck; it’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” – Tom Brokaw. There are many volunteer opportunities out there for anyone interested in doing volunteer work, more so abroad. Where as some people go into the volunteer world for just the simple experience, some go towards it as a vocational calling, or as a stepping stone for their future careers. It is best to choose a volunteering program that will be most beneficial to you and to those that you intend to help. Here is a look into some programs you can look into while trying to make your decision.

We will kick off by looking at volunteering as a teacher. This is one of the most fulfilling paths one can take as a volunteer. Volunteering as a teacher has a long term outcome in the community you are volunteering in. if you can help educate just a few people from a community that has suffered less fortune than yourself then this few individuals will in turn uplift the whole community with time. If you have qualifications as a teacher the better but you do not have to teach strictly in the class room, teaching can be in many forms including just showing a community how they build a latrine to ensure that their water is not contaminated. In the end it is all worthwhile.

Let’s look at those who may be interested in volunteering in healthcare. You can therefore help in this regard all over the world. Those interested in healthcare can have a choice in working in places where disaster has struck or picking one specific location along the globe where you would like to help out. How you help does not have to be strictly in a medical sense, you can do your part by simply distributing mosquito nets to area where malaria is highly occurring, or start a campaign to make sure every household in an area where there have been cholera outbreaks has a means to boil or purify their water. The end result of all these efforts is that you have helped keep a community healthier.

The saying goes that children are our future, so let’s look at those of us who would like to volunteer in children homes or with orphans. In this field you get to mold a person who will go off into the world someday, and make something of themselves because you had the courtesy to be involved in their lives. In an orphanage you can provide healthcare, teach, work in the kitchen as a cook, build a dormitory, clean up the compound or even do some missionary work while there. And the beauty of all this is you can commit yourself to one or more of the causes above all at the same time; you therefore get to touch a life on several fronts.

If you like animals and the environment around you, the one program you can look into is volunteering in wildlife conservation. Here you get to work with all sorts of wildlife from those that live in the savannah to marine animals, in the process you also get to interact with the environment as you spend a lot of time in the field, sometimes even spending nights outdoors camping, depending on how adventurous you are. Here is a clear instance where you can have some fun while doing your volunteer work.

There are many other potential programs for volunteers out there, including community development, construction work or even missionary work. Once you have made a clear choice on what you want to work in then the next step is to get your hands dirty and join in the volunteer community around the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Volunteer Abroad and Vaccination

“Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism.” - Samuel Butler. No one likes to fall ill when travelling, be it for volunteer work, but more so if you are taking a trip as a tourist. The risk for catching disease is increased when travelling to another continent. It is therefore advisable when you are travelling to any country for you to make sure you have all your immunization shots. Immunization schedules are usual personalized according to an individual immunization history, the countries to be visited, the duration of travel and the amount of time available before departure. Here is a brief overview.

First of all for those travelling with infants then the primary vaccination series with diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) and pneumococcal conjugate can be started as young as 6 weeks of age.

The most common disease that requires vaccination from most countries, especially as a regulation from the world health organization is yellow fever. Yellow fever is a virus infection, which cause a serious hepatitis. Getting a vaccine will provide protection for 10 years after a single injection. Countries where yellow fever is present are entitled to request a valid certificate documenting a vaccination against yellow fever at least 10 days before entry. The certificate is a stamp in the WHO yellow book. If travelling to Africa, it is mandatory for you to get vaccination in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, and Togo. There are some countries within Africa where yellow fever is not very much a threat, however in such countries you are required to have a certificate of vaccination if you are coming from countries where yellow fever is endemic. These countries include Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Typhoid vaccine is recommended for travellers who will have prolonged exposure i.e. more than four weeks, to potentially contaminated food and water. However, getting a vaccination against typhoid is recommended in all countries in Africa, as much as it is not a requirement for entry to most. The same goes for tetanus and polio.

Diphtheria is a serious throat infection, which infects from person-to-person through the air. The vaccination should be less than 10 years old otherwise a booster is needed. The diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all African countries, especially for people planning to stay for a long period of time, that being three months or more.

Lastly we take a look at hepatitis. Infectious hepatitis infects through contaminated food and water. Vaccination consists of two injections about 12 months apart, which protects for up to 25 years. The hepatitis A vaccine can be combined with hepatitis B. Travelers, who will be residing in areas with high levels of endemic hepatitis B or working in health care facilities, are most recommended to take this vaccine. Hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for all countries in Africa, where a person plans to stay for three months or more. Also note that since hepatitis B carrier rates are much higher in developing countries, every effort should be made to arrange full hepatitis B immunization for children of any age.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Volunteer Abroad Crimes

“Fear follows crime and is its punishment.” Voltaire. Choosing to be a volunteer is a noble choice for many. There is a lot of good that comes from volunteer work, but sometimes we have a few volunteers who for lack of a better term find themselves falling through the cracks and committing serious crimes while in the course of their volunteer work abroad.

To get a clear perspective on this we will take an example from a recent crime committed by a former American Peace Corp volunteer in South Africa. According to media reports, Jesse Osmun, 31, worked at an AIDS center in Greytown, South Africa, that provided education, food and other services to children between the ages of 3 and 15. Osmun, while volunteering at the center's preschool facility, allegedly sexually molested at least five girls under the age of 6. He is also alleged to have engaged in illicit sexual conduct with one of the girls, approximately 5 years old, twice a week for five months.

A pre school teacher, walked into a room where Jesse was playing with three girls, and on realizing, he was no longer alone, jerry shot up and pulled up his zipper. The pre school teacher reported this incident, and Jesse was confronted by the AIDS center program manager in May 2011.

According to the official complaint on Jesse, he initially denied any illicit activity but, subsequently admitted that he had touched one of the children under her clothes. One child also came forward and said that Jesse had given her candy in exchange for oral sex. Shortly afterwards, Jesse resigned from the Peace Corps and went back to the USA on June 2nd 2011.

An investigation was launched into the sexual allegations, and Jesse was arrested at his home in Milford, Connecticut. Where, the complaint states, Jesse began to admit that he molested children (at the preschool) and provide details about the molestation. “He appeared before a federal judge in Bridgeport and was detained.

This horrific crime is only one of the more recent cases that happen to have been reported, and hopefully a conviction will be made. Many other crimes go unnoticed, many of them involving drug abuse and trafficking, all the way to prostitution and fraud.

For many volunteers abroad, involvement in prostitution may not be a chosen way of life; some may find themselves in unusual circumstances. Like being the victim of a robbery, where they are forced to engage in prostitution in order to find their way back home. But in such situations you need to remember that prostitution is illegal in most countries, and more so in Arab speaking nations, it may therefore land in you a fatal sentence like getting stoned to death. Always try and look for a way out through contacting your embassy or even fellow volunteers.

Asian countries do not tolerate drug abuse and trafficking. In these countries such crimes carry very steep sentences, where one may not even be allowed legal representation before sentencing, or contact with their families. So think long and hard about it, when you go to do your volunteer work abroad is it really worth the risk to involve yourself in criminal activities. That may mean you never seeing your family or friends again and jail time in a foreign prison. Jesse can consider himself lucky not to have been arrested and prosecuted in a South African prison.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Volunteer Abroad Online Fundraising

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”- Winston Churchill. Fundraising is a concept that is not strange to many of us; it’s basically a form of raising money towards a given cause. There are newer more popular ways coming up which a volunteer can use to fundraise; one of them is online fundraising. Fundraising through online websites is a way for you as a volunteer to get more money, and people involved. It also helps you to build a network of well wishers and donors to your cause. There are a number of websites that can help you to do your fundraising online. A brief description is provided below.

The first website we will look at is Crowdrise empowers online fundraisers to reach out to their friends, family, classmates, co-workers and other members of the Crowdrise community. Crowdrise’s online fundraising tools allow you to tell your story using compelling photos and videos to connect with your supporters. You can also share your projects with everyone you know by sending them a link to your project page via email, Facebook and Twitter. All you need to do is create your own personalized Profile Page. Your profile is meant to showcase everything you're doing as an online fundraiser and volunteer.

Another website you can look out for is Give2gether was founded in 2007, and to date it has enabled various Non Profit organizations to successfully raise funds for various purposes. The process here is quite simple; the first step for you on this website is to customize your web page. Through clicking on the icons provided, you can upload your organization’s logo, and then add a text of what you want to go with your main image. The next step is for you to upload your donors’ details, and then set up your introductory email announcing the campaign to existing donors. This will enable you to get the word out there of your cause, as your donors will start to reach out to their own networks. Once this is done then you only need to give your donors a thank you note, and get your fundraising on the way. Don’t forget to put a link to your website on your fundraising page. So that donors have proper access to you.

We also have FirstGiving was founded in 2003. It is founded by JustGiving, the UK-based pioneer of online fundraising. Together, FirstGiving and JustGiving form The Giving Group. This group is dedicated to one purpose: empowering passionate nonprofit supporters to raise more money than they ever thought possible for the causes they care about. They partner with nonprofit organizations to allow them to plan, execute, and measure successful online fundraising campaigns and charity fundraising events with. For individual fundraisers, they aim to make it easy, effective, and even fun to raise money online
Lastly we have Ukvirginmomneygiving, this idea came as a result of Virgin Money’s sponsorship of the London Marathon. Having taken a look at how runners raised money, it became clear to them that there was a better way of doing things. One that would help people involved in all sorts of fundraising activities and leaves everyone better off in the long run. It works through you linking up your cause with their website and spreading the word to your friends who get to more donors for you, just like the other sites we have looked at.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Volunteer Abroad Insurance Tips

“Its success lies in the fact that it's an insurance plan, not an investment plan or a welfare plan.” -James Roosevelt. As any volunteer abroad would attest, travelling just like everything else comes with its risks, some are foreseeable therefore avoidable but a good number are not. To make sure you are not very highly affected by such risks, it is beneficial to most volunteer to purchase some travel insurance when they leave their countries. This is just in case anything goes wrong shortly before they leave; on their way to their volunteer destination; during their volunteer work and on their way back home.

A basic description of travel insurance is that it provides coverage for unsuspected risk and financial loss that can occur before a trip starts. This includes cancellation, baggage loss or delay, and medical emergencies. Remember that coverage and limitations depends on the insurance company issuing the policy. There are up to four general types of travel insurance, they range from trip cancellation; we also have trip delay, accident/sickness medical expenses; medical evacuation/ emergency transportation; and supplier default and baggage/ personal effects, loss or delay.

As a volunteer you are probably going to spend quite some time at your destination. Your medical cover may be limited to your country of residence. It will also not be able to cover any medical evacuation you may need in case of an emergency.

Travel insurance covers a number of things, but the fine print in the policy is usually very strenuous to get through or understand. You need to know that travel insurance does not cover a number of scenarios: any pre existing medical conditions; medical tourism, that is a situation where you are travelling to another country to get medical attention there; failure of a travel planner to deliver the travel arrangements you had previously agreed on; any losses due to war that has been declared or not, military action, civil disorder or riots. The policies also never cover losses due to psychological disorders like depression; any losses incurred while the insured volunteer is participating in an unlawful act, and losses incurred while the insured is legally drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Buying travel insurance is as easy making any other purchases, you can either do it from your travel agent or you can do it online. The travel agent is already trained to make this sale and will steer the conversation towards what direction he/ she wants you to take, remember, they also get a commission from this. It is therefore cheaper for you to shop for a policy on line, the argument here is that by passing the middle man, the policy becomes cheaper by up to 50% less, buying from a travel agent will cost you 5-8% of your travel cost.

The best time for you to purchase a policy is immediately after you have made your payments for your deposits, this way you get maximum coverage. Before you buy any policy you need to ask an expert, and make sure you compare prices and levels of cover for different policies from different companies. Make sure you declare any medical conditions that you may have before purchase, read the small print carefully and check the excesses. One more tip that may come in handy is that it is cheaper to buy your travel insurance in numbers, possibly with any fellow volunteers you may be travelling with, but be careful to make sure that the policy you get does not always limit you to travel together, and if making your purchase online, try and make sure to correctly fill in the form, so that you do not have a hard time when you are trying to make a claim. So get yourself some travel insurance for your volunteer work, it will come in handy in case worst comes to worst.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Volunteer Abroad Packing Tips

“I'm very strict with my packing and have everything in its right place. I never change a rule. I hardly use anything in the hotel room. I wheel my own wardrobe in and that's it.” - Charlie Watts. How you pack when you leave home for volunteer work, will determine how you get off to work on your project. Many volunteers, especially first time travelers, have a problem in knowing what to carry with them abroad, and how best to do their packing. Add to that the hustles of the airport and being in foreign land where you may not have someone to help you get started. Then, you may end up very confused, during the first few days of your volunteer work. Here is a brief overview off what to pack and how best to do so.

The golden rule is to pack light. The best advice is to bring out everything you would like to bring along with you on your trip, and then divide it in half. Once this is done then you need to pick the lightest suitcase you can find. When packing your suitcase, make sure to put the heavier things on the bottom while the lighter ones go on top, however if you are using a bag pack then you need to put the lighter things at the bottom and the heavier on top, this will aid you in making your luggage lighter to carry around with you, especially soon after arrival.

When packing, put plastic bags at the bottom as well as using them as layers, this will help you to reduce wrinkling, another way to make your packing convenient is to put different clothing in different clear bags with a zip lock, this way it’s easier to identify different bags with different clothing when unpacking, it may also come in handy at customs if you need to open up your luggage.

Roll your cloths tightly when packing them into a bag pack; it often carries more this way. Make sure you have any necessary medication and essential documents with you on your carryon bag. Along with these, carry a change of clothes with you on your carryon luggage, just in case you need to freshen up after your flight. If you are travelling with a group then you can split up your clothes with other people. This way if any of you lose their luggage while travelling, then you will have a change of clothes for the first few days while efforts are being made to locate your luggage.

When doing your actual packing, remember you are packing for comfort, not glamour. The less jewelry you carry with you the better, it will make you less of a target for opportunistic criminals. When it comes to footwear, its best to choose waterproof or oiled footwear. It is not a bad idea to carry sandals or open shoes they may come in handy especially in households where shoes are not allowed. It is better for you to carry clothes that you can hand wash and carry with you some dark or neutral colored clothing.

Use small colorless bottles to carry toiletries around, it is better to refill than carry big bottles with you, put socks inside shoes and put the shoes in a plastic bag to avoid any messes. Make sure you carry a hat with you, woolen hats for cold weather and a baseball cap for sunny weather. For the ladies, expect to bring along at least one dress or skirt for going out to restaurants or other occasions, pants may not be commonly allowed in some communities, especially at certain events.

Some other things that you may need to carry with you are a small first aid kit, an electrical converter if you plan to carry a laptop or any electronics, raincoat or umbrella for the rain, a flash light with batteries. Also carry with you a money belt or a neck wallet to keep with you at all times, where you may keep your important travel documents, including your passport, money and credit cards.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Documenting Your Volunteer Abroad Experience

“I never kept a diary, but I wrote detailed notes of my travels.”- David Rockefeller. Your volunteer experience abroad, makes up part of your life as an individual; it basically shapes who you are at the present. Most volunteers change their outlook towards life after spending some time working with people who are often less fortunate than they are. It is therefore a good idea to keep a record what the experience brought to you. Once you have documented your experience you can keep what you came across to yourself or share what you have gone through with other people who are interested.

One way to document your volunteering experience is to take some time at the end of your day and write down activities in a diary or journal. This can be your own personal account of your time in the country you are volunteering in. The decision lies with you whether to share these experiences with others or just keep it as a reminder to yourself of the time you had abroad.

For those who are willing to share their experiences then there are a number of avenues available for you. There are various blog platforms available for you to blog about your volunteer work; there are blogger, wordpress and many others. The blogs would be published online and many of your friends, family and future volunteers will read what you post. Most blogs are personal views on life and as you write people will get to understand what you are going through. Whenever you update your blog, your followers will be sent an email about new activity about your blog. Blogs are free to open and maintain all they need is your input.

In addition to blogging there are online forums where you could talk about your life. The forums are truetravellers, travelblogexchange, boomersabroad and traveldudes. These forums are a great support network and give you ideas on how to live your life abroad. If you are feeling a bit down or like you are alone you can join in a forum for other volunteers, and where you share in your experiences while still volunteering. You can also use the forum to keep in touch with people who you find you are like minded with, this way you keep your experiences alive through each other.

If you are not a camera shy individual, then carry along your camera with you to work, and record a video blog that you can share online. You can share your experience through Video Podcasts, Youtube and Vimeo. This will let other people see what you are doing or meet the local people you are working with. This is also an avenue share with the people the sites you may have visited during your stay in the foreign country.

Along with videos you can also document your experience through photographs. Pictures will always tell a story of their own, and sometimes you can pick up things through photographs that you may not have seen with your bare eyes, and they are easy to share with family and friends while catching up during holidays. Pictures can be shared through Picasa, Flikr and facebook.

Another way of recording your experience while volunteering abroad is through using social networks like twitter and facebook. These networks keep you in touch with friends and family and in some cases people that are interested in volunteer work. If you can find some time in your day you can just update your activities on these networks and start communicating with people around the world. You can use the networks to post your photos, and in some cases you can make use of some of the applications on the networks that tell the people looking at your updates exactly where you are while making the updates, this brings them closer to you and you closer to the outside world.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Volunteering Abroad in The Movies

“Everybody's a filmmaker today.” -John Milius. Many willing volunteers for any project often lack the complete picture of what exactly is in store for them when they leave and what they are going do. Well if you are in any of these categories then volunteer movies and documentaries are just what you need. Movies about volunteering have a revealing quality to new volunteer, memories for those who were once volunteers and that basic information for those not in the know. Here is a look into some volunteer movies:

Jimi Sir: An American peace core volunteer in Nepal

This award winning documentary, by Claude Von Roesgen, will take you through the lives of Nepal nationals living in the town of Melung, and the experience of Jimi sir during his two year stay while in his tour with the peace corps. It gives you a firsthand overview of the day to day running’s of Jimi sir, while carrying out his duties as the English and science teacher in the local high school, where he is also building a science laboratory and a working on a latrine, before he has to go back to his life in the states, where he thinks of life as totally different and easier. Jimi lives at the health post, because he prefers to have a space away from everyone else, but he makes sure to have a meal with Tapas family; one of his local friends. This is how he gets to interact with the locals, and learn their culture. Jimi is however already fluent in the local language and has an easy time speaking with his local friends and fellow teachers while he is in Melung.

Living in emergency, stories of doctors without borders

This yet to be released documentary, directed by Mark Hopkins, takes you through the lives of some of the doctors working with the not for profit organisation, doctors without borders. While watching what promises to be a very riveting and dramatic narration from some of the doctors working in these regions filled with conflict and disease. You will get to see the fear in them as they start off working in these regions, and get to view and experience their frustrations in the operating room. The movie shows how they sometimes lose confidence in being doctors, see the anguish on the relatives of the sick an injured, and learn how these experiences change most of the doctors forever. Finally their different reasons for choosing to be there and finally the countless limitations they run into to provide this much needed service.

Imagine Africa

This is a film suited to those people who are drawn towards learning the cultures of different people around the world, specifically Africa. It is a well timed production that puts you in contact with the people and their diversity in different countries of Africa. You get to see the great landscape and scenery that Africa has to offer, from the rainforests in Uganda and Rwanda, to the Deserts of Kenya, Botswana, and Namibia. You will get to see the several cities that are developing within Africa, each with their own unique urban lifestyle. Along with that travel to the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti to watch what is now one of the wonders of the world, the spectacular wilder beast migration. You will get all this just while sitting in front of your screen. Don’t wait to hear about it from friends, it’s a great film for you to watch.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tips For Your First Volunteer Abroad Trip

There is a first time for everything, most people are nervous the first time they leave their home towns or cities for a different country. You have to leave your support system behind, which includes your family and friends. Instead you are headed to a destination that shares possibly a totally different culture than you are used to, and maybe just a few people that you are familiar with. In addition you are not a very well travelled person then you start to be more nervous as your date of departure draws closer. Here are some tips on how you can make your first travel experience easier on yourself, and consequently more memorable and enjoyable.

To begin with, let’s start with what you need to be aware of while at the airport. The golden rule here is always arriving at the airport early for check in, and make sure you have all your travel documents in order and with you. You also need to ensure that all your volunteer paper work is in order, so that when you land there are no surprises waiting to meet you, especially with the authorities. There are a number of new security procedures nowadays at most airports, and it will be harder for you as a first time traveler as you may not be really aware of some of them. The golden rule here is to try and get to the airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time. This way you will have time to relax before your flight leaves.

To help you on your journey, try and eat before you get to the airport. The home meal will be healthier and at the same time cheaper than whatever food you may find at airport restaurants. Also remember to take plenty of fluids and if possible avoid alcoholic beverages, this will help you to avoid jetlag, sleep is also your friend in this regard, so if necessary take some sleeping pills, especially if it’s a long international flight.

The first time you are travelling to a foreign country it is important to you to pack light and only what you need in your trip. A small bag will be less hectic to check out when you arrive and will also be of less hustle when you are making your way around once you reach your destination. A good approach is to carry with you only what you need while travelling and buying new things you feel you need at your destination country.

Once you arrive get yourself enough of the local currency to cover your time in the country, if you plan to volunteer for a long while, then make sure before you leave that you credit card is accepted in the country you are headed to, if not then ensure you carry enough cash with you for the duration of your volunteer work.

Remember you are in a foreign country, so you need to respect the cultures of the locals, try and learn them. Also try not to draw too much attention to yourself through fancy clothing and jewelry; this is how people become victims of criminals. Make sure you check in to wherever you are going to be staying during your visit, as soon as you leave the airport, and once there keep your documents in a safe place, but have copies of them with you, to walk around with.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reasons To Love Volunteering Abroad

“I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.” ~Tracy Chapman. For many people the drive to volunteer either in their home country or abroad is usually from a personal view point. It most likely stems from personal experiences which move the individual to want to give back or just help out those they see as less fortunate than themselves. Sometimes, just too help out in a community of people who are not necessarily worse off than you are. We also have some individuals who are driven to volunteer for professional gains or just to make your resume more attractive to potential employers. In addition, there is a group of volunteers who just love to travel and live among people from different cultures and back grounds. While some just want to see the world and all its different sites.

For the career oriented person a stint of volunteer works abroad will help your potential or current employer see you as an employee who takes corporate responsibility seriously. You will therefore be seen as an employee who will get along well with the clients and also people from more diverse backgrounds. It will come in handy during overseas appointments, due to your vast travelling experience.

Volunteers who love travelling and getting to see the world will benefit in a way that they get to live abroad in other countries for longer periods. This is due to their volunteer visa and also for cheaper accommodation rates. As a volunteer you do not have to stay in fancy hotels, you can get many locals to host you, through using your volunteer organization. In a number of countries your volunteer visa, along with other documents, you will be able to visit cultural and tourist sites at cheaper rates.

From a personal viewpoint, an individual may gain a lot, first of all you get to experience different cultures, and meet new people all over the world. If you are a lover of different languages or dialect, then there is no place better for you to get firsthand experience and lessons in the host countries. Many people do not know that you can use your volunteer destination as a honeymoon venue; you can begin your marriage by giving back to a community rather than the common self centered honeymoon traditions.

Business enterprises and institutions also benefit from volunteer abroad programs. They get to show their share holders, employees and clients that they have a sense of social responsibility, as it will help build the overall image of the organization. Organizations can also use these volunteer experiences for publicity. These are a good number of benefits for an organization to work with, and they may keep everyone happy.
Finally you have to consider the benefits that will arise for the community abroad where you will carry out your volunteer work. It may be a small contribution from you like building a well in a remote area, or helping to put up a classroom in a village that has no proper school, but this small gesture will remain with the community for generations to come. So go out there and volunteer today, you never know how many lives you will touch, and that in itself is the ultimate benefit.

Gestures To Be Aware Of While Volunteering Abroad

“Words represent your intellect. The sound, gesture and movement represent your feelings.” – Patricia Fripp. Many people consider the spoken word as the main mode of communication around the world. We forget that non verbal communication also forms a large part of what we are saying to the person we are communicating with. Different gestures mean different things across the world, what is acceptable in your home country like for instance handing someone an item using your left hand, may be considered a gesture showing disrespect in some parts of Africa. You therefore need to know how different symbols and gestures affect people.

There a great number of gestures widely used all around the world, all with their different meanings. We start off with the thumbs up thumbs down sign. This is accepted around the world as a positive sign if the thumb is facing up, and a negative sign if the thumb is facing down. The thumbs up sign in Iraq is a great insult, especially if the hand is thrust forward toward whoever the gesture is intended. The thumbs down sign may also mean execution in some parts of the world.

Another popular hand gesture around the world is the two fingers V sign. It’s most common uses are to indicate two; it may be used as the sign for peace, or even to mean victory. However in many parts of the world this sign may have some negative connotations. For instance if the palm is facing the person making the sign then it can be an insult in some parts around the world like Ireland, the united kingdom, new Zealand and south Africa, it basically means mind your own business. So be careful especially not to use it when asking for service for example to mean two of whatever you are ordering, in these countries.

People commonly use the A -ok sign, mostly made popular by divers, it is done by making a circular sign with your thumb and index finger while the other three fingers stay stretched out. The sign is used mainly to say that everything is fine especially during a meal or in restaurants. In some parts of Europe however, this symbol may mean that the person they are talking to is zero. In some parts of South America, the symbol might mean that you are calling the person an anus. In some countries including Germany the symbol might mean that you are calling someone a homosexual.

Some signs that people may carry out sub consciously are like the “Moutza”, this is basically stretching out your fingers to emphasize a point during conversation. It may look harmless especially to westerners. But in Greece, doing so with your fingers stretched out may be interpreted as an insult and basically just leave you alone.

Finally we will look at the subconscious gesture mostly used as a sign of seduction in western countries, this is where a person uses their index finger to indicate ‘come here’, and this is done with the rest of the fingers folded into the palm as the index finger folds inwards. In Philippines it is considered a dog call, and is used for strictly that, calling dogs. Using this gesture to call someone towards you there, may mean that you are calling them a dog. So wherever you are planning to do your volunteer work, make sure you understand the hand gestures, to ensure you do not insult anyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fundraising and Volunteering Abroad

“Donors don't give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.”
- G.T. Smith. Volunteering abroad can be expensive to the individual; most people use their own money to cover expenses while they volunteer in a foreign country. Especially, if you want to volunteer and you are either in high school or college, with no source of income. To decrease financial burdens on yourself, you can carry out some fundraising campaigns maybe from organizations or even from other individuals. Fundraising is not necessarily an expensive process, it’s simply a process to solicit and gather money, by requesting for donations from organizations or individuals.

As an individual you may need some key principles as to how you may approach potential donors. The first thing is that; you need to ask clearly for what you want or expect. In this regard you also need to have some knowledge towards the donors’ ability and willingness to give. With this information it’s easier for the donor to spend money on you.

As a fundraiser you have to make use of the personal approach. Remember that the more personal your approach is, then the more effective it will be, asking a person for funds face to face will be better than even giving a presentation to a group of people. Using the phone or letters to ask for funds are not effective way to go about getting funding. You are always the best person to do the asking.

Whenever you approach a new or potential donor, try and understand the donors view point. A donor being an organization or an individual does not mean that they lack personal inclinations toward some causes. Donors might have personal reasons for wanting to give or build on whatever you are interested in doing while volunteering abroad. In such a case then you need to remember that in supporting your cause then they are supporting their own causes as well. The situation may also work against you, if the cause you are working towards is one that the donor does not particularly care for. In this case then you need to be careful how you approach the donor, and avoid any mention of what may a affect the donor negatively, which may lead to the donor turning you down.

Keep in mind that fundraising is a peoples business. You need to show the donor how you are helping people with your volunteer work, show them how you are going to change peoples’ lives. You can illustrate this through photos or even some statistics, but always try and focus on a specific project where you are planning to do the most good. It will be easier to excite the donor with one particular project than other several achievements that you would like to accomplish while volunteering abroad

When fundraising remember that as much as you are asking for money, you are also selling an idea to the donor. You need to convince them to contribute to your volunteer work. Remember that you are trying to persuade people and organizations to help you, so you have to give them reasons as to why their donations to you are important, and how in some way they will also be doing some good. It will help you much if you guide the donors on your expectations, you do this through asking the donor for a specific amount for a specific item or for a specific expenditure you will have during your volunteer work.

After all this is done, thank your donors for their contributions and try and tell them how you plan to use their money. You can do this through sharing correspondence with them on how your volunteer work is coming along, and if it’s possible you can report back to them specifically how you have used the money they gave to you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Volunteering Abroad: Corporate Social Responsibility

More and more corporations are starting to engage in international volunteer programs, they are doing this as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. Corporate responsibility helps to align organizations business operations with social values. Volunteering abroad as a part of your corporate social responsibility will help your organization address expectations of some of your other stake holders, including your investors and employees. It therefore does not only help you to relate to the local people, who are your potential customers and clients but it also helps you to get more in touch with and retain your employees. While at the same time making sure you are meeting your social responsibility responsibilities, keeping your investors and shareholders happy.

Corporate social responsibility helps to strengthen your corporate reputation; it helps your organization show that you care for the community at large. This not only being the members of the community in your home town but with others from different places around the world. It shows that you can exercise accountable business practices, and in the process help your corporate identity grow as a contributor to global well being, not just your own.

With regard to your share holders and investors, corporate social responsibility helps them to see that your organization has good ethics and governance. They will be at ease that the company they hold a stake in has a good management team, who encourage and have good policies that they implement in the running of the organization. They will also see that the company is responsive to the needs and values of all its stake holders. In addition, they will see that your company has a good human resource practices, committed toward employment equity, retention and attraction of new and competent workers.

The community you choose to carry out your corporate responsibility obligations will also benefit from your actions. A good example is a company that is in the business of manufacturing and distributing sanitary pads. It gives some of its employees some days off and takes them to a developing country, where a good number of girls miss half their school days as a result of their periods. Such a community will benefit by ensuring that all members of the community are educated and in the future create a loyal market base for their product that will probably last for generations within the community.

Your employees will feel like they are part of a fully functional family, rather than corporate machinery that does not have social values. Having your employees travel abroad and work together to help a needy community, will help them to develop stronger bonds with each other and therefore work well if not better with each other. A sense of teamwork and appreciation for their jobs will develop between them; it will also help to demolish some barriers between employer and employees.
Your organization can take a number of approaches to social responsibility abroad; it can be as simple as an investment in a society like offering a scholarship to bright members of the society. You can also help to develop a community in terms of infrastructure, like building a school or hospital. An organization can also go with the more common method of making charitable donations towards a certain community towards a worthy cause. All these methods can in turn work in favor of your organization by generating good publicity, and visibility, they can therefore work as a marketing exercise for the organization.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Volunteer Visa in Ecuador

Obtaining a volunteer visa is one of the sure ways to avoid getting fined or deported for not having the proper paper work to be in a country. For instance in Ecuador if you over stay say with a tourist visa, even for one day then you stand a chance of paying an outright $ 200 in fines, and if you stay longer then you may pay up to $ 2000. So to be on the safe side for a volunteer you need to make sure you apply for the proper volunteer visa, to avoid these problems.

When planning to go for volunteer work in Ecuador, have in mind that each embassy or consulate around the world has its own set of requirements for procuring a visa. Check with the embassy or consulate closest to you for accurate information applicable to your situation. Anyone can come into Ecuador by acquiring a tourist visa, but once you have obtained this visa you cannot apply for any other kind of visa while in the country, you will have to go back to your home country and apply for the volunteer visa there. However, you can apply for a volunteer visa in the country, if you did not enter the country with a tourist visa already in place, you can do this with the help of the organization you are working with.

The proper visa for a volunteer in Ecuador is called the religious and volunteer visa. To apply for this visa it will cost you application fees of $ 30 and Visa fees of 150$. To obtain this visa you will require the following; "AplicaciĆ³n de Visa", that is a Visa Application completed and signed, a "Certificado de VisaciĆ³n" completed and signed, your Passport, valid for at least six months, Two photos passport size with a white background, a doctor's certificate and HIV test, indicating that the person does not have any communicable diseases, you will need a Police certificate indicating that there is no criminal record on you, a letter from Legal Representatives of the organization requesting that the volunteer/missionary be admitted to Ecuador, a Copy of the Decree issued by the Ecuadorian government authorizing the organization to operate in Ecuador, a Copy of the appointment of the Legal representative of the entity duly registered and authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ecuador, a Copy of the bylaws of the host organization in Ecuador , an Affidavit from the host organization or person, assuming the responsibility for expenses incurred by the volunteer/missionary as result of abandoning the country or deportation, duly legalized, an Affidavit from the foreigner certifying to render services at no charge and finally a Guarantee from the sponsoring entity to support financially the foreigner during his/her stay in Ecuador.

Once you get your visa then you may need to register in the country and obtain a volunteer identity card known as a Censo. If you got your volunteer visa at your home country then you will need to register it at the immigration office at Quito. A censo is mandatory for anyone staying in the country for more than 6 months.
Once you have all the above requirements in place then you will be free to enjoy your volunteer experience in Ecuador, without any hitches

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Volunteer Visa in India

India has many new visa regulations, the most recent having been released in 2010. Most countries are not strict when it comes to volunteer visas, and in some cases you may be allowed to use a tourist or entry visa to do your volunteer work for a short period of time as you make preparations to get the right documents for your volunteer work.

For an Indian visa it is required that you apply for one from your home country only, it is not allowed to apply for one after your arrival in India, or even from an Indian high commission office in a country that is not your home country. All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India. The only exceptions are nationals of Nepal and Bhutan who can enter India without a visa.

It is mandatory for application for a visa to India be completed online. Once the application has been completed online you must download & print all form/s, read and complete Checklist. Visa fees once deposited cannot be refunded even if requested service is modified or not granted. Validity of the visa begins from the date of issue. One more thing to note is that you may not apply for an Indian visa directly from the Indian high commission office, especially if in the UK or USA. You have to use VFS global if in the UK as they handle all their visa applications. Similar to this is Travis Outsourcing in the US.

For a volunteer in India you will need to apply for an employment visa, which covers both employment and volunteer work. However first you must ensure that you are going to work with a registered NGO in India. The charge for a 6 month employment visa in the U.K is £285, while it costs £310 for a one year visa. It is much cheaper for U.S nationals as it will cost them £85 for a 6 month visa or £110 for a one year employment visa.

To get an employment visa to India then you need to ensure that you have a Passport valid for a minimum of 190 days, with at least 2 blank pages, the Visa Fee, two recent identical passport-sized photographs (45 mm x 35 mm in size), a Printed copy of the completed online Application Form, an Invitation letters from the nonprofit organization you are going to be working with, and a Copy of a recent bank statement showing you can support yourself while in India. Also remember to carry with you your vaccination certificates if you are coming from a yellow fever high risk country, or have been to one in the recent past. Also ensure that all the other requirements you need to volunteer are in place, these include a Police Check, deposit, CV and Passport Style Photo, so that you can start volunteering as soon as you arrive.

Most working visas have a requirement that you register once you have arrived in India. To find out if your visa is one of those, then you need to check your visa carefully and try to identify a green stamp on the bottom left side, which will inform you that you need to register. To register you have to go to the local FRO Office (Foreigners Registration Office). You have to do this within 14 days of arrival in India.

When heading to the registration office you will need to bring along three standard passport photos, a Lease Agreement f or a letter and Xerox copy of an electricity bill from the house owners that you will be staying with, the letter should state that you are living at the address on the electricity bill. You will also need a color photo copy of your visa and arrival stamp, a color photo copy of the Picture page in your passport, a copy of the invitation letters from the organization you plan to work with, along with a copy of the license of the organization, and a letter from the organization that states that you have started volunteering, and finally 100 Rs registration fee.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Volunteer Visa in Ghana

Going abroad to another country to do volunteer work is a humble undertaking for the individual. Your volunteer work in another country needs to be legal in order to avoid any complications that may lead to your stay during your volunteer experience getting cut short by the government. There are incidents of volunteers being caught without the proper paper work; being deported and even prosecuted to face jail time. These incidents are becoming more and more prominent. You therefore need to ensure that all your documents while in a foreign country are in order while you volunteer there. Let us look at getting the volunteer visa in Ghana.

Where as in some African countries it is possible to purchase a tourist visa upon your arrival at the airport, this is not the case in Ghana. Ghanaian officials require volunteers to have applied for a visa in their home countries, before they depart, this can be done at any Ghanaian embassy or consular office in your country of origin, but, where Ghana has no consular office, then you may apply for a visa at the nearest consular office to your country, that has been authorized by the government of Ghana.

For your volunteer work to be totally legal then you should have a volunteer visa, but most Ghana officials will advice you that you only need a tourist visa, to be a foreign volunteer in Ghana. There is an exception here for the reason that technically, you are not permitted to work on tourist visas, but because you are not undertaking paid work, it is tolerated.

Other than purchasing your visa before arrival in Ghana, you also need to make sure that your passport is valid for more than six months, before you depart to Ghana. Also remember that your tourist visa is only valid for three months in Ghana, once applied for. You should therefore try and make your application at an appropriate time, that being at least one month before your date of departure to Ghana. Of course this will mean that you will only have two months left on your visa, upon your arrival at the airport, but this should not worry or frustrate you; because your visa can be extended every 2 months for as long as you like for a cost of about $5 US per month.

When applying for your volunteer visa to Ghana, then under the section Purpose of Journey, tick the box that states voluntary work. If the visa application form you download does not have volunteering as an option under the Purpose of Journey section, then you should select holiday/tourism and make a note where possible that you are volunteering. When you have formally applied to the organization you are planning to volunteer with, then you will get a letter of invitation from the organization, which will form part of your visa application. It is also a requirement of the visa application that you have a return ticket, so you need to have all this in mind before departure to Ghana.

In conclusion therefore, when applying for a visa to volunteer in Ghana you need to have downloaded and completely filled a visa application form with two or four passport size photographs (UK requires two and US requires four), have a valid passport with more than six months too expiry before departure, have a letter of invitation from the organization you are planning to work for or with, and a yellow fever vaccination, which must be shown at the Ghanaian airport upon arrival. However you need to remember that the yellow fever vaccine takes effect ten days after vaccination has taken place, but it may last for up to ten years after vaccination. Your tourism visa fee which starts from 50$.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Volunteer abroad work permit in Kenya

When planning to do volunteer work anywhere around the world you need to ensure that whatever you are doing is legal. For it to be legal then you need to obtain the required visa and work permit. The requirement here is confirming the reason and duration of your visit and in some cases where required, gives proof of your financial means in the country, for that duration. We will look at permit and visa requirements within different parts of the world, looking at a single country at a time.

We start off with Kenya in Africa. A volunteer here will first need to obtain a tourist visa, for 50$ upon arrival at the airport, unless you may have attained visa previously before arrival. An application for a Kenyan tourist visa requires that the applicant submit a valid passport, as well as a completed visa application form, a recent passport-sized photo and their travel itinerary.

There are two ways of getting the volunteer work permits. You can apply for the volunteer permit directly to immigration department which is quite costly or getting the work permit via an NGO that you are planning to work with or already work for; this is the cheaper and easier option for a volunteer to take. Appropriate authorization can be obtained by the NGO you are working with through liaising with the Director of Immigration Services prior to engagement in your volunteer work.

To get the work permit or a volunteer visa, then one needs to have; an original passport valid for at least six months, signed in designated place with at least 2 blank pages, an online registration form, a recent passport sized photo, not scanned, which should be 35mm x 45mm with a white or light colored background, neutral expression with mouth closed and no hats or sunglasses. You further need a copy of your travel itinerary with the letter head of a travel company, an invite letter from the volunteer organization in Kenya, with their letter head on it, and a service order form obtained from the embassy.

You can obtain a work permit in Kenya for one to three years; it will take you at least two months to obtain a confirmation of either acceptance or denial of your application. After application, a letter will be sent to the organization you are working with for informing you on how to finalize the arrangements for your permit, if your application has been accepted. When you are going to do this you need to bring with you, your approval letter, your passport, and 2000 KES per year fee for the permit. Your permit will then be issued to you within two weeks, from the immigration office; you will need to bring your receipt with you to pick it up. Along with this you will also be required to obtain an alien registration card; this will cost you 1000 ksh per year, and will be ready for you to pick up within 4 to 6 weeks

Seeing as the above might be a bit of a long process, volunteers who wish not stay longer than three months in Kenya, may just make use of their tourist visa, which is automatically stamped for 30 days, but can be extended to up to 90 days if requested, with no extra cost to the volunteer. However if you plan to stay longer then you must apply for an extended visa. At this point you may have to apply for your alien registration card at the same time, this will cost you 2200, for both the documents, and will extend your stay for another 90 days. If at the end off six months you have not come to the end of your stay in the country then you may need to leave and start the process all over again, by coming back into the country. You can do this by simply exiting to Uganda or Tanzania, and coming back.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Volunteering abroad in a Hindu community

"The sun and the moon, the Lord created like the suns and the moons of previous cycles." Religion is the driving force behind many communities; it is common practice for people to have a prayer meeting before they begin any meaning full project in their lives. In some cases we find people who say a word of prayer before they embark on a journey, in these prayers many people simply ask for blessings from the God they believe in, they believe that without Gods’ blessings their project may be doomed to failure. With this beliefs come a strong feeling that if anything happens that acts as a bad omen, or that is contrary to religious practices, then the work that these people have put their time and energy into will fail. A volunteer needs to remember this, wherever they choose to carry out their volunteer work. Understanding the locals’ religion and respecting it may be the line that separates success or failure of their volunteer work in the community.

The origins of Hinduism can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization. The basis of Hinduism is the belief in the unity of everything. This totality is called Brahman. They believe that the purpose of life is to realize that we are part of God and by doing so we can leave this plane of existence and rejoin with God. This enlightenment can only be achieved by going through cycles of birth, life and death known as Samsara. One's progress towards enlightenment is measured by his karma. This is the accumulation of all one's good and bad deeds and this determines the person's next reincarnation. Selfless acts and thoughts as well as devotion to God help one to be reborn at a higher level. Bad acts and thoughts will cause one to be born at a lower level, as a person or even an animal.

Hindus follow a strict caste system which determines the standing of each person. The caste one is born into is the result of the karma from their previous life. Only members of the highest caste, the Brahmins, may perform the Hindu religious rituals and hold positions of authority within the temples. They also believe that members of different castes cannot inter marry, or hold the same positions socially and economically. As a volunteer you need to remember that members of the Hindu community to not take lightly also to intermarriage between themselves and members form outside the community, you therefore should tread carefully in social circles with members of the opposite sex.

With regards to dieting in a Hindu community, a volunteer needs to remember that In general, Hindus avoid all foods which are thought to inhibit physical and spiritual development. Although eating meat is not explicitly prohibited, many Hindus are vegetarian because they adhere to the concept of Ahimsa, non-violence as applied to foods. Beef is, which never eaten because the cow is considered sacred, and pork is often avoided. Some foods are prohibited depending on what regions the locals come from.

The concept is that some foods promote purity of the body, mind, and spirit also influences Hindu dietary practices. Some foods are considered innately pure, such as the products from cows (especially milk, yogurt, and ghee), thus foods which aren't as pure can be improved by preparation with these pure foods, such as frying in ghee. Other foods are considered inherently polluted (such as alcohol and beef) and can never be made pure.

Your best weapon as a foreign volunteer would be observation and where you are at a loss, get a local who you can ask for advice on any issues you may find confusing or that you feel may be causing any tension between you and the locals

Monday, May 30, 2011

Volunteering abroad in a Muslim community

“All people hope Islam helps everything in life. Islam will make jobs. Islam will make freedom. Islam will make everything”- Ahmed Ali. Islam, it is the second largest religion in the world at the moment, boasting around 1.5 billion followers. Muslims are known to be very strict followers of their doctrines, so it is important for any volunteer to know what acceptable or unacceptable behavior is.

Islam was founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet, in Makkah (also spelled Mecca). Though it is one the youngest of the world's great religions, Muslims do not view it as a new religion. They believe that it is the same faith taught by the prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. The role of Muhammad as the last prophet was to formalize and clarify the faith and purify it by removing ideas which they believe were added in error. The two sacred texts of Islam are the Qur'an, which are the words of Allah as given to Muhammad, and the Hadith, which is a collection of Muhammad's sayings.

Muslims follow a strict monotheism with one Creator who is just, omnipotent and merciful. They also believe in Satan who drives people to sin, and that all unbelievers and sinners will spend eternity in Hell. Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God will return to a state of sinless and go to Paradise after death. Alcohol, drugs, and gambling should be avoided and they reject racism. They respect the earlier prophets, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but regard the concept of the divinity of Jesus as blasphemous and do not believe that he was executed on the cross.

First thing and most simple but closely watched is the dressing and relationship between men and women. For men dressing is a bit more flexible, one can put on a kanzu (full dressing gown) or just any plain male clothing. For the women it’s a bit more complicated. Female volunteers need to remember not to wear their hair out in the open, it is advisable therefore to cover your hair with a piece of cloth. You can be free though, in front of other women. Also remember that men and women are not permitted to eat in the same room, especially if they are not married. They are also not allowed to worship in the same room, so they go to different mosques or they use different entrances to a mosque, and worship in different rooms. They also consider the menstrual days of a woman as unclean, therefore they are not allowed to fast during such days.

Eating is a matter of faith in Islam. Muslims eat for good health and overindulgence is discouraged. Fasting is considered an opportunity to earn the approval of Allah, to wipe out previous sins, and to understand the suffering of the poor.

The Islamic dietary laws are called halal. This is also the term for all permitted foods. Prohibited foods as described in the Koran are called haram; those in question are mashbooh. Pork and birds of prey are haram; meats must be slaughtered properly, which means that it has to have been slaughtered by a Muslim man. The dates of feast days vary according to the lunar calendar; they include Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Azha, Shah-i-Barat, Nau-Roz, and Maulud n'Nabi. Fasting includes abstaining from all food and drink from dawn to sunset. Muslims are required to fast during the entire month of Ramadan, and are encouraged to fast 6 days during the month of Shawwal, on the 10th day of Muhurram, and on the 9th day of Zul Hijjah.

Volunteering abroad in a Christian community

Volunteering in a place where you share the religious beliefs of the locals can make your volunteer experience that much more fulfilling and easier, for both to you and the locals. Here you will rarely find yourself in a situation where you may act in a way that is offensive to the religious beliefs of the locals. However, once in a while you may find yourself in a country whose beliefs do not go hand in hand with your own, this makes your day to day volunteer work a bit complicated, as you may not want to disrespect the locals religious beliefs. The worst outcome of a volunteers work is having whatever they put their time and energy into, not be appreciated by those it is supposed to help.

Christianity is believed to have started out as a breakaway sect of Judaism. Christians believe that Jesus, was bothered by some of the practices within his native Jewish faith and began preaching a different message of God and religion. During his travels he was joined by twelve disciples who followed him and learned from him. He performed many miracles during this time and related many of his teachings in the form of parables. Jesus revealed that he was the Son of God, sent to Earth to save humanity from our sins.

Christians believe in the original sin and that Jesus died in our place to save us from that sin. They also believe in the Holy Trinity, i.e. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All Christians believe in heaven and that those who sincerely repent their sins before God will be saved and join Him in heaven. They also believe in hell and Satan.

There are a multitude of forms of Christianity which have developed mainly because of disagreements on dogma and adaptation to different cultures. For this reason there can be a great difference between the various forms of Christianity.

The Roman Catholic is one of the branches of Christianity; it is considered the most traditional form of Christianity. Catholics subscribe to the pope for guidance on spiritual issues. Here females are not allowed to hold priest positions; they may however help out in religious matters in the church, and carry out administrative duties.
Catholics believe in taking the holy communion during mass, and adhere to certain practices when it comes to food. Devout Catholics observe several fast days during the year. Feast days include Christmas, Easter, the Annunciation (March 25th), Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the Ascension (40 days after Easter), and Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter.) Fasting may be practiced during Lent, on the Fridays of Advent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

We also have the Orthodox Church, which differ from Catholicism in their interpretation of the Biblical theology, including the use of leavened and unleavened wafers in communion. Here Meat and all animal products are prohibited on fast days; fish is avoided, but shellfish is permitted. Fast days include every Wednesday and Friday (except for three fast-free weeks each year), the Eve of Theophany, the Beheading of John the Baptist, and Elevation of the Holy Cross. Fast periods include Advent, Lent, the Fast of the Apostles, and Fast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos.

Finally we have Protestantism, who as the name suggests protest the teachings of the traditional Roman Catholic Church. Marriage is also permitted within the priest ranks. For Protestants the only feast days common are Christmas and Easter, few practice fasting. The only denominations with dietary laws fundamental to their faith are Mormons, and Seventh-Day Adventists. Mormons avoid strong drink (alcoholic beverages) and hot drinks (coffee and tea). Many Mormons also avoid caffeine-containing drinks. Most seven day Adventists avoid pork, Tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Volunteer in Uganda

Popularly referred to as the pearl of Africa, Uganda is a landlocked country with its capital city in Kampala. The country is located in East Africa, and borders Kenya to the east, Sudan to the north, the democratic republic of conge to the west, Rwanda to the south west and Tanzania to the south. On the southern part of the country, Uganda shares the world’s second largest lake; Lake Victoria, with Kenya and Tanzania.

Though Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, the official languages of the country are English and Baganda, we still have multiple languages spoken in the country, including: The Lusoga and Runyankore-Rukiga languages which are spoken predominantly in the southeastern and southwestern parts of Uganda respectively. Uganda has an estimated population of 31,000,000 people, and the most spoken language servicing the urban areas including the countries capital Kampala.

Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962, maintaining its Commonwealth membership, it now practices a democratic system of government, after implementation of a new constitution in 1967, which abolished the afore practiced system of ceremonial president who was the Buganda Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II, and ceremonial vice president, William Wilberforce Nadiope, the Kyabazinga (paramount chief) of Busoga, . The current president of the republic is Yoweri Museveni, who was re elected to serve a fourth term as president in February of 2011. The country is also a member of the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, Organization and the East African Community.

Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude in different areas modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km from the Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year. The northeastern Karamoja region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Ruwenzori in the southwest on the border with Congo (DRC) receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall in the region.

Christianity makes up the better part of the religious practices in Uganda; the Roman Catholic Church has a larger share, followed by the Anglican Church, with the minority being the Muslim community. When it comes to cultural issues, Uganda has a number of diverse cultural practices due to the large number of cultural communities. for a volunteer one has to be weary of their surroundings in order to know what best cultural practices to adhere to while in the country, and if you are a soccer lover then you are in luck because soccer remains the number one sport In the country, so one can let down their stress form volunteer work by joining the locals In a friendly game of evening soccer, this will help you gain fond memories of your time while volunteering in Uganda.