VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: LONG-TERM INTERNSHIPS
VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: SUMMARY
Our volunteer in Africa program is an internship program. What does this mean? It means we put volunteers to work as part of teams that are working full-time in orphan care and poverty alleviation. Each team is very dynamic and has great local staff with tremendous experience that use some of the best practices to care for orphans and poor people. As such, volunteers get to do many different things as part of the team. The duties of the volunteer may change frequently to enable the team to make the best use of the volunteers gifts and skills.
Here is a brief summary of the steps you need to take in order to volunteer in Africa. Everything listed below will be discussed in detail later.
- Apply to undergo training: All our volunteer positions require training. To fill out the application online, go to www.changevolunteers.org/apply .
- Please note the following things that you need to do before you travel :
Things you need to do before you travel.
Time to start activity.
Begin Fundraising. 1 year before travel date or as soon as possible. Prepare Passport. 6 months before travel date or as soon as possible. Start Training School. Check start dates. We will do a background check. We’ll do a background check before you travel. Get vaccinated. Start working on them 6 months before you travel. Talk to your doctor. Only yellow fever is required. (see below). Get Invitation Letter from us. We’ll give this when you are ready to apply for the visa. You’ll need this to apply for visa. Apply for a Visa About two months before travel date. Purchase Airline Tickets Start looking early. You will need the flight itinerary to apply for the visa. You can print the itinerary before actually buying the ticket later. Actually purchase it one to two months before you travel. Ask your travel agent when the best time to get a cheap rate will be. Register with U.S. Embassy About one or two months before travel date. Complete Week 1 of Training Prep About one month before travel date. Read our dress code in order to stay within the required limitations. Before you travel; when packing. Pack your luggage A week before you travel. Prepare your mind and spirit; be flexible… From the day you decide to go and serve. Travel The day of your flight. Don’t miss your flight.
1. Begin Fundraising
To volunteer in Africa or any place abroad can be quite expensive. Besides your tuition, you will need to pay your flight, get a visa, vaccinations etc, and that can easily go beyond two thousand dollars. So, once you have been accepted, one thing you want to get started on is fundraising for your trip. This is most important if you are unable to afford the cost of your airline ticket; the earlier you purchase your ticket the cheaper it is. The cost of your stay is already included in your living expenses. However, we encourage you to raise funds beyond the cost of your airline ticket and visa application if you desire to help make a donation to organization you will be volunteering with so that it can continue to meet the basic needs of the children. Read more on Fundraising in a separate section below.
2. Prepare Passport
Find your passport and make sure it is still valid. You need to have at least 6 months on it before you can get a visa with it. If you do not have a passport, apply for one.
3. Start Training School
By this point in time you should have started your training either online or on campus.
4. Background Check
Students will fill up a form for us to complete a background check.
5. Vaccinations & Medical Recommendations for people preparing to volunteer in Africa.
Before you travel to volunteer in Africa, it is important that you and everyone traveling with you are up to date on all routine immunizations. However, only the yellow fever vaccination is mandatory. Most people already have this vaccine. Talk to your primary care physician and also visit the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website for more information on how to complete your vaccinations prior to traveling to volunteer in Africa (Cameroon, in central Africa). We recommend that before leaving, be sure that you have talked with your physician and covered prophylaxis or vaccines for the following diseases:
- Hepatitis A&B
- Yellow Fever (requirement for visa application)
Remember to take prescription medications along if you are currently on any. *Visit http://www.cdc.gov/travel/cafrica.htm#vaccines for more information
6. Receive your Invitation Letter and Print Your Itinerary
The Cameroon embassy requires these two things: an invitation letter and your itinerary. We will provide you an invitation letter from our team in Africa that looks like this: Invitation Letter. You will need this invitation letter and a printed copy of your itinerary to apply for the visa. The itinerary is your flight schedule. You don’t actually need to buy the ticket yet at this point. Only check the flights, make sure they are available and follow through like you are going to buy it, then print the itinerary in the end without purchasing. Purchase when you have your visa in hand.*
- You may choose to use a travel agent to book your flight or shop for airline tickets on your own. In any case, please check with us before selecting an arrival time. See more under Purchasing Your Airline Ticket.
7. Applying for Your Visa (in the U.S.)
To volunteer in Africa, you would need a visa. The visa process is very straight forward.
*If you are outside of the United States, please contact the Cameroon Embassy in your country.
- Go to http://www.cameroonembassyusa.org/consular_fm.aspx and that should take you to the Consular Services page of the Cameroon Embassy.
- Click on Consular fees to view the fees, Requirements – Visa Applications to view their requirements and on Application Form- Visa to download the application. Read through the instructions carefully in order to complete your application correctly. If you are going to Cameroon solely to volunteer for Shaping Destiny then you are a visitor. They require that you pay your fees in certified checks or money orders only if mailing them in, and cash if paying in person.
- You are required to send in (with your visa application) a certified letter of accommodation from us, your inviting/receiving party. Call us to obtain that letter when you are working on applying for your visa.
- Here is the contact information for the Cameroon Embassy:
3400 International Drive, NW,
Washington, DC 20008
Note: This is not the address you send your application packet to! That address is listed under the “Requirements – Visa Application” link.
Fax: (202) 387-3826
8. Purchasing Your Airline Ticket
Here are a few things to note:
- Ticket prices vary depending on the season; summer and Christmas periods are high travel seasons, hence they are usually more expensive. You will usually get a better price if you purchase your ticket months in advance.
- We encourage you to shop around or use a travel agent to find cheaper tickets before settling.
- The most direct and common airline from the U.S. to Cameroon is Air France; regardless of the airline you choose, you will have at least one stop between the U.S. and Cameroon. Other airlines to check are Brussells, Delta, Air France, etc. You may also use websites like expedia.com.
- Your final destination should be the DOUALA AIPORT (DLA) only.
- If some of your donations are made out to us and some to you, we can work with you and the airline to purchase your ticket. Contact us for more details.
9. Register With U.S. Embassy in Cameroon
The Embassy urges all American citizens in Cameroon to register with the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon through the State Department’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov, or to register directly with the Embassy by e-mailing YaoundeACS@state.gov.
By registering with the Embassy, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of an emergency. Registering will also help the Embassy to put you in touch with your local American citizen warden, who can help keep you informed of developments.
10. Complete Week 1 of Training Prep
The site will ask you for a password to access; you will get this from your Trip Coordinator.
11. Read Our Dress Code
The dress code for our volunteers and staff in all our volunteer-in-Africa programs is fairly straightforward. Several thoughts and factors were considered when devising our dress code:
- It is our desire for our volunteers and our organization as a whole to be respected in the community. The people in the community in which our center is located value dress. They tend to give more respect to the person that is dressed up tidily than the one in casual, “sloppy” clothing. That being said, we do not expect you to put on formal wear or “church” clothing during your stay in Cameroon; in fact the nature of some of the activities you may be involved in will require you to be dressed casual or geared up for work. However with respect to the culture in which we find ourselves, we require that no sleeveless or strapless dresses/blouses, no spandex pants, no tank tops and no shorts above knee level be worn while volunteering. We realize that this is quite contrary to the U.S. culture in which casual clothing is perfectly normal in many given situations.
- We value the health and safety of our volunteers. As earlier mentioned, our children’s center is located in a very remote and rural area. Therefore there will be bugs, mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. Choosing long pants or capris will keep you safer and help you avoid bites and stings.
Volunteer in Africa Dress Code
Everything is permissible except the following:
- No Tank tops or “spaghetti” straps
- No Sleeveless or strapless clothing
- No Spandex-type pants or shorts above the knee
- No boxers out in the open
*For your comfort and your safety, we suggest that you avoid shoes with high-pointed heels, and lean more toward covered, work shoes such as tennis shoes.
12. Pack your luggage
Pack at least 5 days in advance (bear in mind the luggage size limit for your specific airline). Please read the section on What to Take for detailed information on what things to pack.
13. VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: PREPARING YOUR MIND & SPIRIT
This section is here to help you prepare for this great adventure you are about to embark on. We are confident that this journey will be a thrilling and exciting one. We know that you may already have expectations for this trip; however we also know that what you will experience as you volunteer in Africa may not be what you are anticipating. Therefore we would like to prepare you for what to expect during this trip. We have put together the following:
The first thing you need to bear in mind is that this is a work trip, not a vacation. Be prepared to have fun, to transform the lives of others and be transformed in the process, but also be prepared to get your hands dirty and work.
The most important thing you can do in preparation for this trip is to have a willing heart. Anyone with a heart for orphans can make a positive and lasting difference in these children’s lives and their workers’ lives as well.
For success, flexibility is vital in all our volunteer-in-Africa programs. Cameroon is a developing nation and life and living conditions are very different from the western world; most of the living facilities are very basic and simple (for more see the section on General Information about Cameroon). For example the lights may go out for a whole day, your bus or car may breakdown on the street, or activities may not start at the time they said they would. Just go with the flow and try not to get stressed about things like that you cannot change – it is part of the adventure. Work with the staff to improve things that can be improved on. For example you will find that the kids are sleeping four per bed and would like to change that (so would we). However at this time, that is impossible because that is all the space we have available. So instead if you find that the children’s bedtime routine can be improved on, you may focus on adjusting that after running it by the manager. You will get more out of the trip and be more fulfilled if you focus not on changing everything around where you volunteer but on helping, teach, share, mentor and enjoy life with the orphans.
Set your objectives and goals. You may choose to write them in a journal, so take a journal with you. Achieving those goals will make you feel even more accomplished by the end of the trip. The orphans will be happy to have you in their midst, just love them, spend time with them and share your talents with them.
14. Travel Medical Insurance. Please make sure you have purchased international medical insurance. This is mandatory. Do your research to find a plan and policy that works best for you. Suggested insurance providers include ImGlobal, Frontier MedEx, or Allianz. We highly recommend volunteers purchase policies that cover at least $250,000, if not more.
- Plan to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time
- Check with your chosen airline for the limit sizes on baggage and carry-on luggage.
- “Made-it-safe-phone-call”: Prior to leaving the U.S. coordinate with your family and friends and choose one person to be the “spokesperson”. Once you have been picked up from the airport in Cameroon, you will be able to use one of the staff’s phones to call that person to let them know you made it safely. Tell your family to allow a time frame of at least 18-24 hours to hear from you.
- Toll-Free Emergency Hotline: Any family wishing to contact you with emergency information may do so by calling the main number here in the U.S. and getting in contact with one of our Change Volunteers staff members. We will get the message to you as soon as possible, most likely through the in-country supervisor you will be working under.
- When filling out the personal information on your luggage, include our telephone number as well as yours.
VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: FUNDRAISING
Many people are very reluctant when it comes to fundraising. This can be so for a number of reasons; however all these reasons seem to arise from two main issues: fear and embarrassment. People give reasons such as: “I’m not bold of enough to speak in front of people”, “what will I say”, “I don’t want to sound like a debt collector or solicitor”, “what if no one responds”, “I just don’t have time”, etc. We all at some time or another have had to face these fears. Here are a few things to note that will hopefully change your mind about fundraising.
- You are not a solicitor neither are you debt collector. There are many people who would like to help an orphan or poor community in a developing nation. They may want to feed hungry children, Christians may want to spread the gospel, etc, but they cannot go for numerous reasons. They would love to make it possible for you to go so that through you they can become a part of changing the world. All you need to do is overcome the fear of asking them to support you. You are doing them a favor not a disservice. You would be surprised how appreciative many of the people you talk to will be at the fact that you are going to volunteer your time.
- Be Bold! Talk to your family, your friends, your coworkers, your church members, your neighbors, and even strangers you meet at a library or grocery store. We will gladly provide you with materials to hand out about our organization.
- Face-to-face appeals work the best. We found out over the years that face-to-face appeals produce the best results. People can easily throw away letters received in the mail, or forget your request after a phone call. However when face-to-face with a person you are more persuasive; you can show them pictures and videos, and they can see your earnest facial expression. It is harder to turn away someone sitting before you making a request for support. It is also much easier for the donor to write a check or pull out cash and give to you than to worry about going to some website or to the post office.
- Be specific. Know beforehand how much money you are trying to raise, and in what range you want the donors to give. Tell the person how much you are hoping they will give you; don’t let them try to guess how much you want.
- Be prepared to answer questions about the work of Change Volunteers when you ask people for financial support. So read our website, call us with questions before you talk to your potential supporters.
- Be creative. Do car washes, fashion events, bake sales, etc; before you invest time in those type of events, look at the big picture and be sure that it is a worthwhile investment of time i.e. ask yourself if it will it yield anything reasonable.
- Individuals may mail their checks or money orders to P.O. BOX 200700, Austin, TX 78720 or via PayPal. Donations for those traveling as a group should be mailed together in one envelope. Change Volunteers is a 501 (c) (3) organization (it is tax-exempt – only in the US); however, for donations to be tax-deductible, they must be addressed to Shaping Destiny(parent organization of Change Volunteers). All such donations are non-refundable. If a person is unable to travel, all donations sent in on their behalf can be reserved for a future trip within the next two years. You may also donate the funds to support the children. These funds are not transferable to other volunteers.
VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
Listed below are items you will need for your volunteer-in-Africa trip:
- Your Passport (make a copy)
- Your airline ticket
- Mosquito Repellant (purchase an extra one).
- A flash light with extra batteries
- Full size sheets, an airline size blanket/throw, 2 towels, and washcloths and/or bath sponge. You may choose to donate your sheets at the end of your stay if possible.
- Personal toiletry items, including body soap. Hand-sanitizer is helpful. Feminine towels for ladies.
- Camera (with extra battery and film). If using a camera with a rechargeable battery, be aware that the plug styles are different in Cameroon, so you will need a universal plug adapter. Take many pictures and share them with us upon return.
- A personal water bottle
- An extra pair of glasses (if you wear glasses).
- Just in case: medicines for stomach issues such as Pepto-Bismol, Gas-X, Imodium, etc.
- Any personal medications you need – prescriptions and the like.
- A plastic garbage bag or laundry bag to store your dirty clothes.
- A pair of work gloves
- Everyone needs to take clothing and underwear based on their length of stay. Do not forget sleepwear. Also include a sweater, pullover or comfortable jacket just in case you arrive during the colder season.
- Gentlemen – bring at least one pair of pants for working in the schools. If you plan to go to church, also bring a nice polo or dress shirt. You may take more depending on your length of stay.
- Women – Wear skirts or pants, capris or shorts, at or below the knee. No tank tops or sleeveless dresses. If you plan to go to church, bring long dresses or skirts (at or below the knee) and blouses. See the section on Dress Code for more.
- Bring comfortable work shoes such as tennis shoes. We suggest you do not bring high heels or flat shoes that look like the ballerina shoes. The orphanage is located in a rural area where 99% of the roads and areas you will tread on are not tarred, but are simply plain ground or gravel.
- Pocket money – such as for making phone calls, purchasing any necessary personal items, purchasing souvenirs, and for transportation to go sightseeing (if you choose to do so). We suggest that you bring $25-$35US (or its equivalent value in your currency) per week for spending allowance. This is more than enough, but ATMs may also be available in the city if you need to withdraw more cash.
**Be sure to notify your bank of your travel plans so there will be no financial issues when your credit/debit card is used out of country.**
- We suggest that you take one week’s worth of clothing and personal items in your carry-on just in case your luggage gets lost in transit. It may be another week before we return to the airport to check on your luggage. The village where the center is located is about 7-8 hours from the airport.
VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: ACTIVITIES & SCHEDULES
The ways in which our volunteers can serve our children and their communities are countless. Our volunteer in Africa programs understand that EVERY single person has something to offer based on their special interests, skills and or talents. Even if you feel like you do not know what those are, come on anyway, this adventure has a way of bringing out the wonderful gifts God has placed inside of you. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
- We request that you inform us of your preferences prior to your trip. Once in Cameroon, there will be some flexibility to make changes, though there is no guarantee that we will be able to accommodate every request.
- We are also open to new opportunities that a volunteer may propose. The only requirement is that you receive approval in advance for any activity outside of those listed below.
- If you need help making a schedule, we would be happy to create one for you. Please bear in mind that whether self-created or given by us, the schedule will still be considered tentative. Every effort will be made to maintain the schedule and to allow for any requested changes, to the best of our ability.
- By telling us in advance the kind of work you are willing to do, we can coordinate our volunteers in the most productive way. While many of the activities are performed year round, certain work will be limited to the season.
- This is a GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE! So just relax and go with an open-minded attitude, ready to share your skills and talents, and learn from the kids in the process.
Volunteer Activity Options
*You are not limited to the activities listed below, they are simply suggestions.
- Teach English, French, Spanish
- Mentor; work with infants, toddlers, school-age children & teens, and even our children’s workers
- Construction (paint, build, and repair infrastructure)
- Evangelize in the community (door-to-door or organize crusades)
- Provide healthcare (reserved medical professionals ONLY and certified medical persons). You will be required to provide proof of licensing.
- Care for vulnerable children
- Teaching the bible to groups of kids – in and out of the orphanage.
- Teach music: how to read music and play musical instruments of your choice.
- Organize and participate in summer youth camp, motivating, encouraging, teaching, and sharing with kids.
- Teach science
- Help the children with their schoolwork
- Teach and play indoor and outdoor games including team sports and other competitive sports
Sample Orphan Care and Management Volunteer Daily Schedule
Note that this is only a sample schedule. Schedules vary depending on which program you are involved in and which team you are placed on. However, all our team leaders are loving godly people who work hard to consider the preferences of team members. Many volunteers have no preference and request that we create a schedule for them. Below is a suggested schedule that can be used as is, or adapted as desired. Additional changes can be made as needed once in Cameroon. All schedules must be approved prior to leaving, and any changes made in Cameroon are also subject to approval. Again this is just a suggestion.
06:30-07:30: Wake up, personal bible study, quiet time, etc
8:30-9:30: Announcements/Prep Time
1:00-2:00: Prep Time
5:00-6:00: Free Time
7:00-9:00: Kid’s Movie time/Art/Games/Church
9:00-10:00: Free Time
10:00: Quiet Time/ Bed time
VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA: COUNTRY OVERVIEW
Location & Geographic: The Republic of Cameroon is located in the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. It shares boundaries with Nigeria to the west, Chad to the North, Central African Republic to the East, and Gabon, The Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea to the south. The southwestern portion of its borders stretches along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. It has an estimated population size of about 18million. It has a mixture tropical rainforests and grasslands in the south and east, deserts in the north, and hills and mountains in the central regions. There are two main seasons – the rainy and dry season. The average climate year round is 20-35degree Celsius (77 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Our children’s center is located in the village of Bengang, in the Northwest Province, 45mins from the town of Bamenda. Temperatures here tend to be slightly cooler than others so bring a sweater or pullover along with you just in case.
Language: The two national languages in Cameroon are English and French. There are about 279 endemic languages spoken by the different tribes in Cameroon. The main language spoken in Bengang where our children’s center is located is Moghamo.
Food: The Cameroonian culture is rich in its variety of local dishes. Those with a love for adventure will have fun sampling these different dishes. Many of the dishes originate from the carbohydrates and vegetable food classes. Meat is a luxury as many cannot afford it; for some families eating any kind of meat is a once a week occurrence and for some 2-3 times a week. In the Moghamo culture, hen is served to an honorary guest.
Money: The currency used in Cameroon is the Franc CFA. The value of the U.S. dollar is significantly higher than the franc CFA. $1 can be translated into 450-500frsCFA. We suggest that you do not change any money before you get to Cameroon. Our staff will provide help on how to do so in Cameroon.
Politics: The nation of Cameroon is a stable nation. There are and have been no political reports of uprisings in the past year.
Customs & Culture: Cameroonians are a very hospitable and welcoming people. Once you arrive you may find that various local people will come over to the center just to greet you. The kids will want to linger around you most of the time. Here are a few things to note:
- It is considered disrespectful when young people cross their legs in the presence of elderly people. Disrespect is highly intolerable.
- When shaking hands with an older person it is customary to hold the wrist of your right hand as you shake the person’s hand (they probably will not expect you to know this but will be impressed by you if you did so).
- Personal space is not really a notion that is known in Cameroon. In other words, if you are American you may find that people get into your personal space frequently.
- Cameroonians are mostly a loud and expressive people; it is part of their culture.
Enjoy tourism when you volunteer in Africa: Cameroon is popularly known as “Africa in miniature” due to its cultural and geographic diversities. There are several places to be seen: the Limbe Zoo and Botanic Garden, the Menchum Falls, the Fon’s palaces, and more. If you wish to go sightseeing while in Cameroon, let us know of this in advance (before leaving the country). We may be able assist you in areas close to the center or provide you with information as needed.
ADDITIONAL IMPORTANT INFORMATION
- Food is included in the living expenses. If you have any particular allergies, please notify us well in advance. Foods commonly served at the orphanage will be rice, beans, corn, coco yams (a type of root), vegetables and a flour-based mix. Vegetarians will find it easy to live in the area because meats are a luxury – even eggs.
- Tap water is not drinkable for those who are not native to the area and even for those Cameroonians who have been outside of the country for long periods – that includes all our volunteers and other visitors. The natives including the children and workers at the center are somewhat used to the water and some have developed a resistance to many of those diseases that are a problem for foreigners. We suggest that you look into getting a water purification bottle or system to travel with. There are many types of these systems that will work. Do some investigation and choose what works best for you. We suggest that you wash fruits thoroughly before eating them and that you drink bottled water or purified water only. All foods are properly cooked for your safety and that of the kids. We encourage our volunteers to raise general funds to support the ministry so that the children can continue to have food to eat every day.
- Living Conditions: The volunteer will be matched with one of our partners. Depending on the location, they will either live in the orphanage or in a house near the orphanage. Housing is included in the living expenses. For those who choose to stay at a hotel or other chosen location, they will be responsible for their transport to and from the orphanage, as well the cost of their stay at said location. The living conditions at the center and the community as a whole are very basic. We do our very best to keep the areas clean and sanitary on a daily basis. At the moment, we do not have any flush lavatory systems at the center. So for now all volunteers living at the center will have to use latrines or “pit” toilets. They are very safe and have been used by other volunteers in the past. You will get more orientation on that once you arrive at the center. The hotels have flush lavatory systems.
- Safety: The rural areas are safe, but we suggest that you follow the same precautions you would in a U.S city. Away from the children’s center, we suggest that you take extra precautions to watch out for theft, particularly at the airport. Hang on to your purse, camera and other personal items. At the airport, there will be many people asking to help with your luggage; we suggest that you do not use any of them. Do not bring any expensive jewelry or other item with high sentimental value. We will have people waiting to pick you up at the airport. It is our policy that in the first three months, volunteers may not travel anywhere without written permission and a local escort accompanying them. Even after that initial three months, volunteers must request and receive written permission prior to traveling out of the facility and must return before it is dark. We enforce this policy strictly because we care about the safety of our volunteers.