Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrities who volunteer abroad

"Americans, Irish people, are good at charity. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it. But justice is a higher standard." Bono Quotes. All human beings feel the urge to act in a humanitarian capacity at least once in their lives; many people feel the noble urge to give back to society, especially if life has given so much to you already. People decide to volunteer and give back for many different reasons; we have those who do it for personal reasons like experiencing a loss of someone special in their lives, while we also have those who do it just to get ahead in terms of their resume. Many people believe that celebrities belong to the latter category, while some may do it just to gain a good public image, we have those who are truly inspired to do humanitarian work, not only at home but also abroad, where their ventures may not really hit the tabloids, here is a brief overview of some of this celebrities who share what they have with the world.

When it comes to humanitarian acts one of the celebrities that stands out is Angelina Jolie. Many celebrities give back mainly through charity work, it is quite rare to find them getting into the thick of things with locals from a different country, this is not the case with Angelina, she occasionally gets her hands dirty and helps out in a number of ways, for instance, Jolie has been on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 20 countries, including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Cambodia, Pakistan, Thailand, Ecuador, Kosovo, Kenya, Namibia, Sri Lanka, North Caucasus, Jordan, Egypt, New Delhi, Costa Rica, Chad, Syria, and Iraq, to name a few, and most recently she visited earthquake victims in Haiti on her latest trip to help rescue workers and survivors of conflict and natural disaster in the country.

Angelina Jolie is not the only one who is not afraid to do the gritty work, we have Some, like actor Seth Green, who travels to remote places to help those who are struggling. He has worked for such organizations as Habitat for Humanity and Doctors without Borders, an organization that gives medical care to people who need but cannot get it around the world, especially in war torn and conflicts regions. The American Red Cross has also recruited athletes like Peyton and Eli Manning to help deliver emergency supplies to areas that need it after a natural disaster.

Let us not forget to give credit to those celebrities that give back through volunteering their time and talent for worthy causes, we have celebrities who use their celebrity status to act as spokes persons for charities and humanitarian organization, for instance UNICEF has a number of goodwill ambassadors including the entire Barcelona football team, they use these ambassadors to raise awareness on issues affecting children all over the world. I this category we also have Eva Longoria who serves as the national spokes person for PADRES Contra El Cancer (Parents Against Cancer), a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for Latino children with cancer and their families.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Volunteering abroad: fitness first

A major concern for many volunteers abroad is that they may fail to keep fit while they are in a foreign country; a lot of concerns come into focus in a different environment, top of the list being climate change. Once a person is used to exercising and keeping fit in a new climate, it takes a while for a person to get acclimatized in a new place that has different weather patterns that they have gotten used to. With regard to the climate change, your best weapon is timing, coupled with starting your exercise routine in small/ shorter bits, this means if you come from a place where the weather is a bit cold, then the best time for you to exercise in a tropical area would be early in the morning, similarly the best time for someone from a tropical country to exercise would be in the late afternoon. With this in mind here are a couple of ideas that can help you keep fit while volunteering abroad.

The first and simplest way to keep fit is to take a short run or walk around your area of residence while you are volunteering, this can be a simple short 15 to 20 minute run or walk. Be sure to talk to your host or any locals you are familiar with to help you with directions or a map if possible, also try and find out if there is a good and safe area around your residence where you can have your run without any risks.

Swimming regularly is another good way to keep fit. This helps in building endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness. You can also use swimming simply as a warm up session before you get into your more rigorous exercises, this is one way but another good use of swimming can come After a land workout a few laps in the pool can help you cool-down, and it moves blood through your muscles to help them recover.

Research is your best tool when travelling abroad, if you like running, find out the best trails to do so, along the same line if you are used to keeping fit through aerobics, then you need to find out where the best fitness gyms are located in the area where you are residing during your volunteer experience, bear in mind that you may not necessarily find an aerobics routine that is the same as that you are used to at home, so it will help you to speak to the locals and any aerobics instructors you come into contact with to find an aerobics class that is most similar to what you are used to, doing what your body is already familiar with is much easier than starting up with a whole new workout routine.

One thing you need to remember when going abroad for a period of time to be spent volunteering, is not to be afraid of carrying your workout gear, it may add a few pounds to your luggage but it is worth it, your body produces endorphins from a good work out, this will help you keep your stress levels down while at the same time making sure you are not worse off in fitness by the time you get back home

Finally, try and have fun as well with your work out, the point is to keep fit and stress free, so you can invite your friends and some of the locals to join you, this will help keep you motivated and act as a way of staying with your work out to the end

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Free travel apps for the international volunteer

Many travelers are used to a number of applications that come with their cell phones; however there are a good number of volunteers and travelers who have taken to using the Iphone and android phones on their trips. These phones have the advantage of coming with a number of new travel applications that can come in handy to a volunteer abroad, and most of them are free.

Wikitude World Browser

It is an android app, this uses Google maps, Wikipedia and GPS to offer a huge range of information about destinations you visit or plan to work in as a volunteer. It will tell you where public transportation, restaurants as well as sites of interest are located and display the information on a map or on your phone’s camera display.

Talk to me

If you are traveling or volunteering abroad and don’t feel like spending much time and money studying the language, this is the best application for you. This is a real-time speech translator. Simply say something in English and the translator will speak out the words back to you in your language of choice, helping you to break down cultural barriers and work more at ease with the locals and fellow volunteers who may be from different places around the globe.

Where apps

This is an application which tracks your position by means of GPS and gives you information like the local weather forecast, gas prices, coupons, news, movie show times. This even has a Starbucks locator for all you Java heads. It’s the perfect application for a volunteer who feels the need for a personal day just to relax while in a foreign country.

iNap app

When in a foreign place one may not be very comfortable when travelling to a new destination in the region, it therefore becomes a problem to take a nap while travelling, maybe to a new volunteer destination. This application takes care of any fears that you may have that you won’t wake up when you reach your destination. The iNap application eradicates those fears by means of GPS and an alarm system to wake you up when you arrive at your stop.

Where and around me

These two apps are free. These two applications may help a volunteer abroad know of whatever is around him/her wherever they are. These applications help you know if there is a police station around the corner, a pharmacy, hospital or even the nearest cultural site or landmark that may be of interest to the volunteer.

Packing Iphone app

It is not free and costs the traveler or volunteer 0.99$. This application is best for a busy volunteer who is always on the move. While one is constantly on the move or busy, they may not have enough time t o pack adequately for their trip, sometimes packing may be left till the last minute, this application helps you with a checklist for what you need while travelling abroad. It will also help you with a list of things you need to do before you leave for your trip

Google earth app

This application displays images and Wikipedia information of an area if available. Along with that this app also displays longitude and latitude information and altitudes. Google Earth is used to search for areas or cities and it will give you a choice of results, but one should beware that this application depends on your internet connection wherever you are, but it will be always handy for a traveler or volunteer abroad.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Honeymooning while volunteering abroad

Research has it that this is a growing trend among newlywed couples in this day. Newlyweds do not want their honeymoon to be a simple self centered holiday, as it was during the older more traditional days. More and more couples are carrying out their marriage ceremonies abroad; this scenario leads to a situation where most of these couples are in the most opportune destination for their honeymoon. Couples therefore see this as an opportunity to use the beginning of their matrimonial life to give back, and use this opportunity abroad to volunteer.

For a volunteer experience to fully be appreciated by both the locals and the newlywed couple, then it is recommended that the couple take at least a period of a full month volunteering while enjoying their honeymoon. You can do this in two ways, either use part of your day volunteering and an equal amount of the rest of the day relaxing and just plain old honeymooning activities or you can use the beginning of your honeymoon, say the first two weeks to volunteer then the last two weeks as a full honeymoon period

You may notice that wedding traditions have changed, whereas it was common place for most newlywed couples to start living together after the wedding, today, most couples have already been living together for a while even years by the time they finally get married, some even have children together, and have the wedding ceremony mainly to formalize their relationship and to affirm their love for each other. One plus that comes with volunteering during your honeymoon is that the couple gets to further solidify their unity by working together on something that they both feel passionate about, in many situations the experience that he couple has while volunteering will form part of their most memorable time spent during their honeymoon, and they will also to get to learn more about their culture and the culture of others, not to mention getting to appreciate themselves and all they have in each other so much more.

Many have a misconception that if volunteering while honeymooning you will have to spend your nights in a locals home, this does not have to be the case many volunteer organizations can make arrangements for a honeymooning couple to stay in a hotel or just organize for suitable quarters for the couple.

The honey moon does not have to lose its original purpose; a self centered time dedicated to knowing and exploring your partner further, some would prefer it to stay this way, after all many more holidays may come up and you can use these holidays to give back. But why not make your honeymoon experience mean much more by sharing not only with yourself but with others. The act of your wedding does not have to change just your life; it may also change the life of an eight year old orphan. Times have changed, it’s a new day, why not change with the times. Volunteering during your honeymoon otherwise known as ‘honeyteering’, or the honeymonth, is the trend of the future, so get with the times

There are some volunteering programs that prepare the newlyweds about life. The married couple can work with kids and this will help them to understand how having kids will change their lives. It also prepares them for having kids. Community development programs which involve women help the couple to understand the value of both husband and wife. These programs show the power of unity and how much that can be achieved if both parties are there.