Guide to volunteering in doing overseas charity work. Part 1.

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 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.

Apostle Paul on twitter

Was thinking the other day, about Twitter the hugely popular way of making a commentary of life events, things in the media and often how celebrities get followed and current news events get shown.  I was perhaps a bit mean with my earlier writings thinking it was a bit naff, but lately I was thinking about someone who told me that maybe the Apostle Paul in the bible was the world’s first blogger, so imagine in Paul was on Twitter too, it would be interesting to see as one of the first followers of Jesus who brought Christianity to the gentiles, travelled around various corners of the Mediterranean and got put in prison a few times, how his tweets would of looked like….

SaulOfTarsius I’m outside the Sanhedrin with my fellow Pharisees.  Today we are stoning some guy called Stephen.  #MyBenjaminTribe #MyRomanHomies

Feel the urge that I need to do some writing for some reason.
sent via Papyrus

SaulOfTarsius Sorry not been online for a while, crazy week.  Only just got my eyesight back

SaulOfTarsius Had serious meeting with the boss.  Put me straight about some things.  #Salvation #FoundMoshiach

SaulOfTarsius Thanks everyone in coming to my baptism, it was a nice day

SaulOfTarsius PS YHWH told me to change my name from Saul to Paul.

SaulOfTarsius @Ananias, thanks for relaying what I needed to hear.

SaulOfTarsius Follow my new active account at @ApostlePaul

ApostlePaul Now in Damacsus.  Had some help to get there whilst my sight returned #Damasq #Asyria

ApostlePaul Praying with my new friends @SimonPeter and @James #Apostles

ApostlePaul Writing a book, I am going to call it Acts. Got a feeling, it will be one of many.

ApostlePaul Oyvavoy… Has it been ten years I have been speaking the good news in Damascus now?
via carrier pigeon

ApostlePaul @Barnabus thanks for the invite to Shabbat, look forward to helping your congregation in Tarsius.  #Tarsius #Nicetobehome

ApostlePaul Went and rebuked Elymas the sorcerer whilst staying Cyprus.  Also got a Roman soldier following Christ.  #Paphos #Κύπρος #Cyprus

ApostlePaul Leaving Cyprus to go on a mission trip to Asia Minor tomorrow, looking forward to it. #AsiaMinor

ApostlePaul Was a pleasure to stay with you #Lydia G-d bless.

ApostlePaul Myself and @Barnabus are off to Jerusalem meet new Christians #Judea #ישראל

ApostlePaul Spending 18 months working in Corinth with @Silas and @Timothy #Κόρινθος #Greece plan to see Ephesus some point soon.
via Greek post office AD52

ApostlePaul In Jerusalem in prison.  At least I escaped from being killed in the temple.   #depressed #WhatAboutRightsOfRomanCitizens #CaesareaJail

ApostlePaul said to the soldier today ‘is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?’ I’ll put that in Acts 22.

ApostlePaul Out of Jail.  Roman bureaucracy takes a long time, its only taken 18 months.. But Governor Felix has let me out today.

ApostlePaul Off to Malta.  The Lord told me this ship really isn’t safe and I dont like the look of those clouds, or how choppy the sea is. 😦

ApostlePaul Ship got wrecked.  Oh well, Maltese people offer unusual kindness though. #Malta

Please note, biblical extracts are very approximate and locations are probably not in chronological order.

“Never be silent” – the modern day Watchmen of Jerusalem

Last sunday morning I went on a prayer walk on the walls of the old city.

Bart and Joan Repko have been doing this walk 6 days a week (except Shabbat) for some years now, alternating between each half of the edges of the wall, as you can start from either side of the Jaffa gate and finish just behind the Al Asqa Mosque.  You can get a ticket for 16 Shekels and its valid for two days so you can do the other half the next day, just need to start just inside the Jaffa gate.

The aim is to pray over this city and for the frequently volatile atmosphere here.   Often when we are here we can hear the sound of the minarets (Islamic prayer towers) boom out loud voices from different parts of the city.

These steps are quite hard work especially with the fierce midday heat here and it is quite easy to slip as they have hundreds of years of wear…

My friend Marcel is often on this tour.   Check his blog here.

Stunning views into and out of the old city are guaranteed….

Its quite amazing doing this walk as you get to see over into yards, gardens and roofs of all kinds of places.  People in both Arab and Jewish cultures use their roofs as yards, and usually characterised with satellite dishes, old sofas, solar panels (used to run hot water tanks) and various junk.

Gardens are quite popular, whether its a handful of hanging baskets or something quite a bit ambitious, here this person has their own vineyard, think it belongs to an Arab Christian.  I often see orange and lemon trees too.

The group’s name ‘Never be silent’ is taken from Isaiah 62 : 1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.”

See more about the Never be silent old city prayer tour walks here:

ex-Hamas terrorist who finds Jesus stays in the US

Really pleased (some of our bible study group prayed this week)  that Mosab Hassan Yousef an ex-Hamas terrorist who turned to Jesus will be allowed to stay in the US, this is brilliant news, as it gets a chance for Arab people that have come out of the darkness of Islam to really tell the truth about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and example of the love of Jesus to touch both Jew and Arab.

June Gaza Flotilla incident and being a volunteer in a unpopular place

I know Christians working in numerous troubled parts of the world all over.  Pakistan, South Africa, Chile, Ukraine and many more.  Western nations as well.   For me, being in Israel has to be one of the most difficult, not so much just in the context of my actual role and living there, but more in case of being an ambassador and explaining to people in my home country both Christians and non-Christians alike why I am volunteering there.

“Christians supporting Israel? Oh so you are Zionist are you?”  is sometimes reactions I get.   This week has been particularly difficult as I try and explain to some people what I believe why the IDF had to board the ships by ‘freedom fighters’ trying to enter Gaza.

In a usual predictable fashion, there is worldwide condemnation of Israel being an aggressor on civilians yet again.   But hold on are these people really people providing humanitarian aid and support to the Palestinians?  Look on Youtube and you can see videos released by the IDF about these people came armed, ok mostly with relatively crude weapons, kitchen knives, iron bars and such, but still able to kill.   Fine if you wish to make a legitimate statement they could of just held up banners and could arrange a third party from the UN to arbitrate sending goods and assistance from their boat to the people in Gaza, instead they were there motives are not so well intentioned.  Even more so, one of the pro-Palestinian activists (I think from the UK or Europe) brought an 18 month old child, why?  Sounds familiar like Hamas terrorists deliberately attack Israel from amongst buildings knowingly containing women and children.  To the folks from Europe, just like some anarchic animal rights protest group, it probably seems jolly exciting to join a band of mercenaries against what they have read as an oppressive authority, and join a cause.  Its now been found that the supposed Turkish freedom fighters have links to Al Queda.

As I said earlier, I am not really a political sort of person.  In the UK I have voted on all three parties at different years, sometimes though when injustice and lies come from our familiar media channels you need to speak out, and when you are a Christian supporting Israel, your views are not always very popular.  All boycotts are a stupid and pointless thing and don’t achieve anything productive.  Instead we need pray and show love to people in all places of conflict.   Israel may get financial support from the US, but for me as a volunteer, the kind donations I have been given by people this year can be counted on one hand.   I am in great need of sponsorship and through asking through various channels, finding a regular sponsor has turned up very little so far.

My role as an IT administrator in the charity in Jerusalem means I have a relatively hidden backroom job but very necessary role of keeping a charity infrastructure running.  As usual with my blog I don’t like talking about politics and arguing, so I will get back to just more biblical places I have visited and seeing people in need lifted up and encouraged by the different Christian organisations I know of here.

Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part I – The Grotto

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Today (27th December)   I went to Bethlehem, I was planning on going Christmas day, but as I had no else to go with (travelling to the Palestinian territories on your own is not advised)  and that it would be hugely crowded I went with a family who are parents of one of the other volunteers here.   This family was partly here with a tour of some Filipino Christians who were here for a couple of weeks.   I got to Hillel Street at 8.30am and we all packed onto a coach.

The trip out of Jerusalem into Bethlehem is pretty short, getting through borders to the Palestinian territories is nothing that complex either.   Once through the gate in the concrete walls, this hotly contested area of the middle east isn’t at all that different from a regular part of Israel.   I can see olive, orange and lemon trees with fruit on, houses in the familiar style stone, none of the land is particular flat, you are forever going up and down and around curves, there are children playing, of course this is an Arab district and I see mosques and minarets more or less the same as Jerusalem.

Bits of Bethlehem do look quite untidy just like outer parts of Jerusalem, half finished houses (or should that be houses with extensions unfinished?)  broken cars rusting away, rubbish strewn around rocks, but at least where I could see, it doesn’t seem to be all full of poverty, there are large modern houses with swimming pools as well, and just like Jewish culture, the Arabs have plenty of small businesses of all kinds.   The cars look noticeably older (despite most cars in Jerusalem are old and knackered looking) mostly 1980s Peugeots, Renaults and Toyotas, and they have green licence plates and sign posts are in Arabic with no Hebrew to be seen.
The first stop on the coach was at this place called the The Shepherd’s place, which had a park which had an entrance with the words “Gloria in Excelcius Deo” (sounds like some words from a hymn?)  Here is a very pretty chapel and some really beautiful views of the Judean hills.

Here is the inside of this chapel, the pictures here tell some of the story in the Christmas carols…

Spent a good while here, this picture below shows me with the hills in the background, this location is where the Shepherds watched their flocks that came to visit Jesus.

aha, now I know where Santa got the idea of calling his workplace a ‘grotto’ 🙂

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Useful links

some interesting links I will update from time to time


Bridges for Peace, the Christian charity I will be working for

Pictures and blog of biblical locations

Online bible in multiple languages and different translation

Walid Shoebat, an ex-Palestinian Terrorist who found Jesus.