Reg Charity 1143560
Thought Piece

The Most Important Things Overseas Volunteers Do Not Need to Pack

By Mikey
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

Unless you have been before, or you know someone who has, then you might not know exactly what to take away with you when you’re volunteering abroad. That’s ok because you’ve been busy raising money, getting your jabs done, changing your currency and generally being super busy, haven’t you?  

Knowing what you should and shouldn’t have in your bag depends a lot on where you intend to go, the length of time you are volunteering for, and the type of programme you have signed up to, for example. With that said, there are some things you definitely do not need with you.  

We understand that you might be really keen to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality. However, in most cases, and from our experience, many of the things you think you need will be surplus to requirements.  

Over the years, we have seen some wild and wonderful things packed by volunteers, and this is why our handy list you’re about to read will help your packing sessions. 

When you are overseas volunteering, DO NOT pack… 

New Shoes

Those fresh new white trainers won’t last five minutes when you are volunteering! What’s more, you might get blisters from wearing shoes that haven’t been worn in yet, especially in the heat. In some places, we know that people who have done volunteer work in Kenya have had their footwear stained by the dust there, for example.  

Instead, you should pack one or two pair of comfy trainers that you aren’t too fussed about getting dirty. If you’re happy to wear them on a day-to-day basis, then this will obviously help too. A simple pair of flip flops can be really handy as well if you want to wear them.  

Items That Hold High Personal Value

Perhaps the days of volunteers heading off abroad with a tonne of photographs of their nearest and dearest is long gone, but taking too many comforting items from home aren’t required.  

Thanks to modern technology, you can stay in touch with friends and family; you might be surprised to know how much some of the locals are addicted to Facebook and Instagram too! You want to keep your bags as light as possible for ease, and also to lower the risk of forgetting belongings.  

Lastly, if something is of irreplaceable significance to you, just don’t take the risk and leave it at home. Look forward to seeing it when you get back instead. 

That being said, it’s a nice idea to pack something that brings a smile to your face. Whatever that may be; if it reminds you of good times and/or home, then slip it in the bag, but keep it simple and replaceable. 

Enough Toiletries for Everyone!

We fully get that you want to be able to stay clean and fresh (as much as possible, anyway), but there’s not really much need for bulk packing shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and other toiletries. You might be heading off to a village in a remote area, but you will more than likely have the opportunity to pick up some essentials either before or during your trip. When you’re around other volunteers they tend to be more than willing to share with you as well. 

A further point would be to make sure that any toiletries you do pack are well secured inside a plastic bag. We know of volunteers whose clothes have unfortunately been covered in shower gel after being moved around in the hold of the aeroplane!  

Aim to pack a small bag that contains only the absolutely essential, travel-sized toiletries. 

Excessive Pairs of Pants and Socks

Okay, this might sound shocking, but hear us out! Overpacking is easy, and it’s just so much less hassle for you to keep things minimal.  

So, to make life easy, you’ll only need four pairs of socks and undies: 

·     One to wear

·     One in the wash

·     One drying

·     One spare  

Single Use Resources for Projects

You might pack certain things with the best will in the world, such as sweets, pens toys etc., but, you have to remember that you are in deprived areas much of the time. Children in these areas can be encouraged to beg for your hand-outs if you have disposable items on you. 

Just give your donations a little bit of thought and consider more closely about the kind of work you’ll need to be doing while you are there, more specifically, each day. Are you working in an orphanage? Are you sports coaching? Will you be building? 

Take items that can remain being used long after you’ve left having made a positive impact. Simple items such as other outdoor play equipment; balls and skipping ropes, for example. If you’re going out to help on a building project, protective wear, such as gloves and goggles can be really useful.  

If you’re a volunteer reading this, have we missed anything that you think new volunteers definitely do not need to pack? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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