Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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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.