For Christians or non-Christians alike thinking of doing volunteer work I thought I would put together some ideas if you are thinking of getting out of the conventional work rat race and do something worth while for a bit, whether it be for weeks, months or even years. For a single person like me its good to get into doing something new and worthwhile, especially as I am in my 30s and all my friends are married, it keeps you positive and focused.
- Plan in advance to free yourself from any financial ties before you go. Ideally pay off loans, sell or store your car, get rid of mobile phone contract/DVD rental/gym membership, etc. Oh, and give enough time to quit renting your house before you go as well.
- Aim to put together as much money as you can before you go.
- Be able to promote yourself in what you are doing, speak at your church, get a web site or blog (You don’t have to have technical skills, you can get a template type job like WordPress or Blogger, so you can just do the writing and the site is all hosted for you) I found you have to do a LOT of selling yourself to show people you are serious about going overseas to do something like this. I find conventional emails of updates often get little response sometimes, mainly because everyone has a lot of email and things get skipped ‘to be read later’ physical printed material is a good plan as well. Don’t just aim to promote at just your own church, be prepared to speak anywhere and talk to as many people as you can at what you are planning.
- Get online banking and familiarise yourself with it before you go. As you know I am an IT sort of person, I would only trust my own or my workplace computer to do banking, and not one in an internet cafe or public computer. You will want the ability to check your account regularly whilst you are away, as its generally a bit impractical to have family forward your bank statements that could take an age to get to you. Some countries are more susceptible to fraud, or a legitimate transaction in another countries may be flagged up as suspicious which your bank might freeze your account if it thinks its unusual.
- Take great care when writing things online on emails etc, to give a positive impression of your particular charity’s aim.
- Credit cards, if used responsibly they come in handy for buying stuff without fees which you commonly get when using debt cards or ATM machines in other countries. Most credit cards have freebies or incentives for you to join up or earn credits towards a flight or something. Of course if ordered through cashback sites like topcashback, you can even get a nice bit of cash given to you as well which is nice. Don’t forget credit card applications insist you are in full time in employment, so this should be done before you quit your job. If you are a UK resident check out this article I wrote which explains how you could earn you some extra dosh. Travel insurance companies also can be found on these sorts of sites. Top cashback is also great for fans of ebay, lots of online music/DVD retailers like HMV and Play.com amongst hundreds of businesses are on there.
- Get Skype, best way to call long distance. Most laptops have a microphone hidden in the palm rest so you can just talk straight into it often without a headset.
- Having an extra language is not essential but can be very useful.
- Have a mobile phone that is unlocked to any network so you can get a SIM card put in it, again you may find a phone new cheaper before you go away, or just have a spare one not being used.
- If you bring your own laptop, aim to make back ups of photos and important things onto bank CDs or DVDs, they are cheap and easily mailed home. Or upload onto a free hosting site like Picasa or Microsoft’s Skydrive (all of these are free) These don’t use up valuable luggage space. A common type USB hard disk is ok, but hard disks can still break or get lost or stolen, so they shouldn’t be your sole source of important files.
- Take electrical adapters necessary for your required country. Laptops don’t need to have their voltage changed, the always work on anything between 110-240 volts. Everything else won’t though, so it might be best to leave that hairdryer at home and get one in your chose country 🙂 In general:- Europe/Middle East/Australia = 220 or 240 volts. US/Canada/Asia = 110 volts.
- If you do some research in where to ride safely, a bicycle is a fun way to get around, an investment with mostly tiny running costs and saves a lot of money in bus and taxi fares.
- Avoid wearing Tshirts with something political on them. I have a bright yellow Tel Aviv basketball club shirt although it still occasionally gets me funny looks as there’s is a little bit (very minor) of rivalry between Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites. 🙂
- Do bring Tshirts and other things that from your own country or favourite music etc, as these are good conversation pieces, especially when you make friends with people all over the world.
- Work out what parts of town are not safe and figure out how to get home by bus or taxi.
- When packing your case, you have to aim to be less than 20kg if you don’t want to pay nasty surprise charges to the airline, and its possible the security departments will want to look at absolutely everything in there of course. A decent solid case with wheels makes life a lot easier to get around of course.
- Get a new pair of trainers (Sneakers to Americans) before you go, if you like me you wear out your shoes a lot as you may pay more for new shoes than you would in your home country.
- Hot countries require you drink a lot of water, make sure you always carry some, half a day outside means you need at the very least 2 litres of water. You should certainly have some even when outside for half an hour.
- When you are planning to finish volunteering bear in mind that December and January can be pretty quiet when looking for jobs.
Hope this helpful, I would be happy to give personal help to anyone with questions.
I will add a part two to this with with some more things soon, more specific to Israel.