Make Volunteering in Africa the Best Experience
Travel is one of the most effective ways to enrich your life and broaden your mind. Travelling the world, with a bag on your back, opens up new experiences at every turn.
Regardless of whether you are on a budget backpacking tour, or enjoying more upmarket travel, with a larger budget, travel is something that should be enjoyed. And in this article, we take a look at how people who intend to spend some time volunteering in Africa; can make sure they have the best experience possible. Below you will find 7 tips for volunteering in Africa.
Africa has a lot to offer volunteers. Few other regions in the world can serve up such a stunning combination of natural scenery and exotic wildlife. Nobody who witnesses the great migration of wildebeest in the Serengeti will ever forget it. But of course, seeing such sites comes with a price tag attached. Volunteering helps you to keep the cost of your travel in Africa down. There are volunteer programs in Africa that allow you to see magnificent animals, such as mountain gorillas and cheetahs, for free or very little cost. So here are our tips to make sure you have a great time.
1. Learn Before You Go
The internet is a great research tool. One you should leverage if you are considering spending time as a volunteer in Africa. Once you have tracked down what you think is a good volunteer program that suits you, the you should perform some background checks.
If the volunteer program is operated by an NGO or even a profit-making company, you need to check that is reputable and trustworthy. Nothing could ruin your enjoyment of volunteering in Africa more than feeling you have been ripped off by an untrustworthy organizer.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that the actual work you will be doing as a volunteer is something you are comfortable with. There are many options here, from working with wildlife through to assisting a small local community as an English teacher. Research is the key here, read reviews, check out the experience of other volunteers, learn before you go.
2. Think About What You Pack
Pack wisely and lightly. Lugging an oversized backpack around in the in stifling heat is a fool’s game. Alongside all the usual paraphernalia we would take with us on an extended travel expedition, there are a few essential items that every volunteer in Africa will almost definitely need. These are:
Comfortable footwear and appropriate clothing - hard wearing shoes or boots which will protect your feet and keep them cool. Clothing will vary according to the nature of the volunteer program, local culture and the season.
Basic first aid kit and essential medication - including band-aids and painkillers.
Vitamins - a daily vitamin supplement will make up for any nutritional shortcomings in the local diet.
Toiletries - including a toothbrush and hygiene products.
Electrical goods - including flashlight and suitable adapter.
3. Try to Assimilate
Africa isn’t all about exotic wildlife and stunning natural scenery. It has a vibrant and unique culture. There are an estimated 1500-2000 different languages are spoken in Africa, and thousands of separate cultural groups and tribes.
Whilst you are volunteering in Africa, you have a wonderful chance to begin to learn about, and also get involved in these local cultures. Learn some local customs, and also how to travel Africa safely.
You will also learn about things useful to your daily life in Africa, such as what a proper dress code would be, and how to interact with local people without causing offence.
4. Get Your Tongue Around the Language
Learning a new language is one of the most rewarding experiences you can enjoy. Learning a new language with your boots on the ground, amongst a local community, is even more rewarding.
While you are volunteering in Africa, do try and learn a little of the language from the local people. They will appreciate you making the effort, and it will form bonds between you. And of course, it will also make your life as a volunteer so much easier if you can speak even a little of the language.
5. Don’t Rush Things
Volunteering in Africa is something best appreciated over a good amount of time. The longer you stay, the more you will see the impact you are having. Many people only choose to stay a couple of weeks. However, for a much better experience consider staying for significantly longer.
For example, if you are teaching English, then two weeks is not long enough for you and the students to get to know each other. Staying longer, lets you build a proper pupil/teacher bond.
6. Aim to Make a Difference
As a volunteer in Africa, you are a small cog in a large machine. However, don’t go into this experience thinking that you don’t matter. Everything you do will help. Think about the work you are doing, and how best you can ensure that it makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to come forward with new ideas, or ways to do things better. You are there to help.
You should also make an effort to live in a fashion that is synergistic with your time volunteering in Africa. For example, if you are working on a project that deals with wildlife preservation, or some other type of ecological project, this is a good time to ponder things like what impact your lifestyle has on other animals and the environment.
7. Enjoy Yourself!
In many ways, this should have been number one on the list. There is no point doing something if you are not having fun doing it right? Setting off for a trip volunteering in Africa for the first time is quite a challenge. You will no doubt be a little scared, or worried about what volunteering is actually like.
Once you have settled into your new temporary life, make sure to free up some time to enjoy Africa. Soak up the scenery, capture some of the incredible wildlife in pictures, and enjoy the vibrant local cultures.
Volunteering needs to be fun, but whether it is or not, is almost entirely up to you!