|Life Abroad as a Volunteer
The main focus of international, cross-cultural and abroad volunteering should be long-term investment of time and effort to local communities, environment and its resources while transforming our own life and world outlook. Baobab Volunteering Services sees Abroad volunteerism as a two way traffic or double edge sword, with effects both to the donor and also the recipient of initiative. Volunteers need to take full responsibility of every hour, effort, monetary and in kind donation that is given and also the skills that are passed on in order to facilitate the long term and sustainable development for today and way in the future with lasting effects. Voluntourism (Volunteering & Tourism) is one of the greatest and noble call our the 21st century; showing that we care for others and we are not self absorbed. As it is said “We will stop crying for shoes only when we see others crying they do not have legs”__ Author Unknown
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Medical and Travel Insurance is highly recommended to all our volunteers and interns including participants that would prefer to only tour without doing any volunteer work in African countries. It is advised strongly that before traveling arrange for medical insurance that provides full coverage of any medical requirements that may arise during your travel and also it should include coverage for full air evacuation in the unlikely event that if that becomes a necessity. Make sure that the medical coverage includes repatriation to your country of residence. We recommend World Nomads or International Volunteer Card to those without overseas coverage for both Medical and Travel Insurance coverage. World Nomads are could include coverage for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and activities, make sure to familiarize yourself well with the package or plan include all necessary coverage especially in the country that your will be visiting. Ask your doctor for preventive pills for malaria and immunization for other tropical related conditions.
A successful volunteering abroad experience is a safe abroad experience as long as you act responsibly and exercise caution, we trust that you will have a safe and enjoyable time abroad. Before going overseas, we strongly encourage you to consider the following safety tips:
- When traveling, research the safest modes of transport. For a list of internationally recognized airports, please see the Federal Aviation Administration site.
- Keep all valuables on your person while traveling. If possible, carry minimal cash and separate your cash from your credit or debit cards. Do not flash money or documents in public places. Be discrete about displaying your passport.
- Always have sufficient funds on hand to purchase emergency items.
- Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, and never accept packages from strangers. Pick-pocketing is a widespread problem, and Westerners are often a prime target. Stay constantly aware of your surroundings.
- In general, do not bring extremely valuable possessions with you. If you have an irreplaceable item, it might be best to leave it safely at home.
- When using local transportation, avoid traveling in old, poorly maintained vehicles. Look into the safety records of individual transportation companies. When taking a taxi, always ride in the back seat if possible.
- Driving overseas is always a challenge and we recommend that unless you have driven before, never to attempt driving even if you have your drivers license with you. Rules might be different and orientation might also be a challenge.
- Make two copies of your passport. Keep one copy in a safe place and leave one copy at home. Once you arrive in country, leave your passport in a secure location except when traveling. Do not carry it around at all times.
- Review the consular page of your host country on the Department of State website.
- While volunteering abroad, remember that you are representatives of your country, company, church, university or group at large.
- If you drink then do so responsibly! Stay with other people at all times, and exercise good judgment.
- Do not become involved with illegal things like drugs etc, the punishment for drug use in some countries is extremely severe.
- Before you leave, research the social norms surrounding gender relations. Determine which signals can be misconstrued, and avoid using them whenever possible.
- In some countries, women may feel particularly vulnerable. If this is the case where you are volunteering or interning, avoid walking alone late at night or dressing in culturally inappropriate attire. As always, be sure to discuss any specific concerns with your country representative for more insight.
- Be caution when you meet new people, and never give out your address or phone number. Be careful with information about other people or group events. Be alert to anybody who might appear to be following you and report any unusual persons or activities to your representative immediately.
Other Safety Concerns
- Road accidents are the number one cause of injury abroad. Become familiar with safe modes of public transportation and avoid driving in unfamiliar areas. When crossing roads, check few times and orient with yourself well since other commonwealth countries drive on the left. Some countries drives have different cautionary level to pedestrians and bikers, make good note of that.
- In general, it is safest to keep a low profile when out in public, keep your political view to yourself and the more you can blend in, the safer you will be.
- Avoid potentially volatile situations, such as protests, rallies etc
- Most importantly, if something does happen while you are overseas, stay calm and find your way to a safe location as soon as possible.
Most of the community development based projects, internships and technical skill based work need competence and preparation to avoid embarrassment once the project has started. We recommend that you review and research on issues, technical skills and all intellectually related philosophy that you do not make fool of yourself.
Make realistic goals and objectives are set for the duration of time you will be working of the project. Remember, you are not there to save the world! Make sure that goals are reachable and realistic enough for you to attain and enjoy the experience. Unrealistic and unattainable goals result into dissatisfaction and frustration which defeats the whole purpose of volunteering, which is helping and getting a great experience while doing so.
Be flexible; African style of doing things differ from the western culture. Adjustment to the working schedule, time management and use of language is different. Many countries English is learned except for few groups that its their first language. Take it easy, be firm on what you want accomplished but use courtesy that you do not come across as rude and self absorbed. Make use of every hint given during orientation, that will be very useful in the long run.
All volunteers need a passport valid for at least 90 days following departure date from any African country, it is recommended that you travel with 6 months validity on your passport at all times to avoid any unnecessary problems that may affect your stay.
We recommend that you have at least two free pages in the Visas section of your passport before any international travel.
Check with your travel agent or airline in case you have connecting flights overseas as part of your journey to Africa. Sometimes you may require transit visa for connecting through certain countries. Tp work as volunteer, some countries require a work permit to be issued on entry. Arrangements will be done to provide you with all documentation required to make sure that your visa is stamped appropriately to be able to work as an intern or volunteer in the country of your preference.
All nationals of foreign countries, except those from countries which have reached visa abolition agreements with Botswana, require a visa for entering Botswana. Nationals not requiring visas: Members of all Commonwealth countries (except the nationals of Ghana, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, German Federal Republic, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Samoa (Western), San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, USA and Yugoslavia. Any visitor – whether visa exempted or not that wishes to stay more than 90 days should apply for prior permission for the extended period to the Chief Immigration Office in Gabarone.
On arrival you will need to pay USD 25 (single entry) or USD50 (multiple entry) and will be issued a 3 month visitors visa at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. For volunteers staying longer than 3 months, you can apply for a visa extension once in the country. Note: Customs Officials will only accept USD notes printed from the year 2000 – 2009, they will not accept any notes from 1999 or older.
Holders of the following passports do not require visas for Lesotho: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland, United Kingdom. Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Canada, Israel and Japan. Others such as Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., Belgium and Austria do need visas, which will be granted free of charge and valid for 30 days.
For entry into Malawi you will require a tourist visa. UK passport holders will receive a free 30-day tourist visa stamp on entry into Malawi. For those staying longer, you will be required to pay approximately £25 extra per 30 days for staying in the country. You can extend your visa locally each month. All other nationalities should consult the relevant embassy.
Most travelers from the EU and North America do not need a visa (but check with your local embassy or travel agent for the most recent information). Nationals of the following countries do NOT require visas, since they will be stamped into your passport on arrival; Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA. (These countries can change, so please check with the Namibian embassy in your home country to be sure). Citizens of other countries should check with their local embassy, or travel agent for visa entry requirements.
Tourist visas are issued free on arrival to visitors on holiday from most Commonwealth and most EU countries, as well as the United States. Passport holders that are not entitled to entry permits will need to get a visa before they arrive.
You will be able to obtain a 3 month visitors’ visa at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, or at the Zanzibar International Airport in Stone Town. US and Irish Citizens USD100 / Other Citizens USD50. Please specify ‘holiday’ visa (number 6) on all entry forms that you fill in at immigration on arrival at the airport.
US, UK, Canadian, Australian, South African, New Zealander nationals all require visa obtainable upon arrival. Irish nationals do not require a visa if staying for up to 6 months.
On arrival in Zambia, you need to get a 30-day business visa. It is possible to obtain a visa prior to departing for Zambia from your local Zambian embassy (this can take at least 6 weeks); “Multi-entry” visas are usually available if you arrange your visa through an embassy and these are recommended to those wanting to travel to neighboring countries. Obtaining your visa at the airport upon arrival in Zambia itself is very simple but “Multiple Entry” is not obtainable.
It is vital that you apply for a holiday visa at immigration. It is possible to obtain a visa prior to departing for Zimbabwe from your local Zimbabwean embassy; however it is usually easier to obtain the necessary visa at the airport on arrival in Zimbabwe itself. It is possible to get a visa for up to 3 months at the port of entry, which can be extended after arrival in Zimbabwe up to a maximum of 6 months. You will not automatically be given the maximum 3 months. There is a cost to obtain a visa, payable in cash (US, Pound Sterling, Euro or Rand) at immigration.