Volunteering in Africa is a great way to spread a positive influence on a part of the world that is rampant with poverty, disease, and political unrest. However, in order to provide the most effective service possible, it’s important to plan properly before you take off. Volunteering on another continent is very different from volunteering at your local soup kitchen, which is which is why planning ahead is crucial to maintaining security during your trip. This feeling of safety, security, and preparedness help you focus on service first and foremost, thus using your limited time as wisely and effectively as possible. To get prepared for your upcoming trip, consider the following list of must-have items before you go.
Missionary Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is your back-up plan in case anything goes wrong that you didn’t prepare for. Many insurance agencies offer specific types of insurance for missionaries to Africa, which take into consideration all of those needs you might face during your time spent in a less developed part of the world. For example, say you suddenly became ill or injured while serving in Africa and had to be specially transported to the nearest hospital for treatment. Without insurance, this incident would have you returning home to a hefty medical bill. Fortunately, missionary travel insurance comes at a relatively inexpensive price that prepares you for this potentially costly disaster.
Naturally, an official passport and driver’s license will be required before you can travel to Africa. However, some regions of the continent require even more documents before you can enter. Often, a visa is required for each person traveling. To acquire a visa, travelers must submit a visa application to the embassy for the country they intend to visit. In many instances, an official health certificate is also required to prove that each visitor has been properly vaccinated for diseases that you may be exposed to on your trip.
Africa is a very large continent, so this tip may vary depending on where you’re headed. If you’ll be serving in an area that’s closer to the equator, your skin can be exposed to severe sunlight that could even give you third-degree burns due to overexposure. Because of this risk, you should make sure to pack plenty of sunblock with a minimum SPF of 15 to keep your skin guarded from excessive sun rays. In addition to sun protection, you should also protect your skin from insects by packing a substantial amount of bug repellent. Be sure to leave scented products like perfume at home, since these tend to attract insects, which can even carry diseases.
Extra Hygiene Items
In addition to all of the basic toiletry items you would take with you on any vacation, many parts of Africa won’t have convenient access to other essential hygiene items that you’ll need throughout your trip. For example, toilet paper is considered a luxury in some parts of the continent—and you won’t be able to just run down to a local convenient store to pick some up if you forget it. You may also need to bring a bucket and scrub brush for bathing, since some regions might not even have access to a shower or bathing facility during your trip.
Volunteering in Africa may not be exactly the same as a tropical vacation in another part of the world, but it’s important to remember that the small sacrifice you might make for your comfort will make all of the difference to the people you’ll be helping. Knowing this will add greater security to your trip, and packing properly will further ensure that you’ll be prepared for whatever the missionary experience has in store. The four must-have items above will help you start your trip out on the right foot, so you can maintain a strong focus on service throughout the experience.