Saturday, April 30, 2005

What to Bring

What to bring in your...

1. A change of clothes
2. Necessary medicines, vitamins, ESPECIALLY MALARIA PILLS
3. Basic toiletries
4. Passport
5. Immunization card (They’ll give you this where you get your shots.)
6. Camera
7. ANYTHING valuable
8. Airline Tickets
9. A good book
10. Snacks
11. A bottle of water
12. Melatonin (to help with jet lag - separate blog posting to follow with specific instructions)
13. AIRBORNE (available at any drugstore - invaluable to avoid catching colds during flight)
14. Cash
15. An ATM card or credit card
16. Journal - Record as much of your trip as you can. I think it can very valuable to use writing as a tool to help you process what you're doing and how you're feeling.
17. Anything you need to make you more comfortable on a long flight. Travel pillow, eyeshades, etc. As long as I'm on this subject, drink LOTS of water on the plane and PLEASE either get up and walk around occasionally or do the exercises they show you in-flight. No leg clots allowed!
18. OPTIONAL BUT FUN - Small tape recorder and extra cassettes - to record your experience. It's also an amazing ice-breaker to ask people questions about their lives, let children listen to their voices, record your new friends singing their favorite songs, etc.
19. Tissues - important to have a small package with you when you're out and about. Don't count on paper in any public bathrooms.
20. Rather than a wallet or purse, bring either a money belt or a little travel wallet with a cord to go around your neck or waist so you can can tuck the wallet inside your clothes - EAGLE CREEK is a good line and fairly inexpensive.


1. Photocopy of your passport, including your visa (Leave a photocopy at home, too.)
2. Flashlight - Electricity may only be on occasionally and will definitely go out at inconvenient times. I always have a small but powerful mag light with me.
3. Hand sanitizer / handi-wipes / bath wipes - You can buy the really large "instant bath" sheets in the Adult Diaper section of your local drugstore. They really do make you feel a lot better if you can't get a proper shower before going to bed.
4. Toilet paper - Scott tissue offers the most compact roll with the most sheets. (Never thought you would need to know that, did you?)
5. Extra batteries for your camera and/or charger if you have digital. My opinion on this is that you should bring those disposable digital camera batteries. They run $8 - $10 and are better than having your re-chargable battery blow out because you were charging it in during a power surge.
6. Voltage transformers and plug adapters if you need them (If you do have anything to plug in, UNPLUG IT as soon as you are finished to help avoid getting blown out by the power surge/brown out problem.)
7. Extra film or extra storage cards for a digital camera (TAKE MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. Take LOTS of photos. I've heard others recommend this and I believe it, too - take more of people than of places. They'll be what you most want to remember. Just remember the general guideline to ask permission first if you don't know them.)
8. Towel - I recommend a lightweight travel towel - you can get them at camping stores. If you can't locate one or would rather save the money, just bring an old towel from home and leave it behind.
9. Scrubgloves or washcloth - I prefer shower gloves, since they dry so much faster than washcloths.
10. Soap, shampoo, conditioner - I recommend liquid soap sealed in a very secure bottle.
11. Ziploc bags - bring a box of the kind that seal really well. Bag anything that could leak in the airplane.
12. "Dressy" Clothes - bring one outfit that is not hot but can qualify as “nice”. Believe me, even in a refugee camp, Africans dress to impress.
13. Regular clothes - This is so individual, so I won't tell you how many pairs of what to bring. I will say take less than you want to. Bring lightweight items that dry quickly, because it's all line-dry. General guidelines - Ladies, I think you'll feel more comfortable if you bring at least one versatile skirt. Shorts are a bit questionable. Definitely no “short shorts.” The weather is hot. Now here's more information than you probably want to know: a great tip if you can find them - travel underwear - my favorite brand by Ex-Officio. Try a sporting goods store.
14. Mosquito net - I have a little pop-up one that doesn't need to be hung from a string. This one is important. You may have one on your bed in the hotel, but I always carry one anyway. (Again, REI or Adventure Sixteen or Sporting Goods stores.)
15. Shoes - Comfortable, broken-in, closed-toe shoes are preferred since there are lots of yucky, sharp things to step on. Sturdy sandals may be okay, too - just use judgement.
16. Sunblock
17. Mosquito repellent with DEET. Skin So Soft won't cut it. No aerosol cans, please. (Airline rules sometimes.)
18. OPTIONAL - A pair of walkie-talkies - the kind you use in snowboarding or ski trips - just if you have them.
19. Travel alarm
20. Photos of your family, home, pets - to share with your new friends
21. Postcards of your hometown to give away or show
22. Daypack or lightweight bag to use during the day (this can also be your carryon).
23. Snacks - important. Plastic jars of peanut butter, PowerBars, crackers, anything filling and tasty that you will want to supplement your rice and potatoes and goat stew. I always bring little bags of Folger’s coffee (like teabags) and packets of instant oatmeal. BRING MORE than you think you will need. I promise that at the end of a long day - or in the middle of a stressful day - you will be SOO glad that you have that Cliff Bar. (Warning - nothing too melty!)
24. Sense of humor
25. Desire to learn
26. Flexible spirit
27. Willing heart


1) No fancy jewelry, including gold or silver watches. Get a plastic or canvas-band sport watch. If you want to wear a wedding ring for symbolic purposes, I think it's best to get a cheap silver one and leave the real one at home. Basic silver earrings are okay or simple costume jewelry is fine.
2) No camoflauge clothing.
3) No really strong perfume or cologne - attracts mosquitos.
4) Nothing irreplaceable

Sample Fundraising Letter

Here's a sample fundraising letter, beautifully written by team member Kerri Bogda. (I added a few things to make it applicable as an email letter as well).

Dear All,

It is with much excitement that I write this letter, because I have just decided to participate in the kind of adventure that I never imagined going on before now.

In September, I will be flying to Ghana, West Africa for 10 days to assist in the creation of a school/resource center for 350 “unaccompanied children” who are currently housed in a refugee camp. These children, victims of civil war in Liberia, have been either separated from their parents while fleeing the war or orphaned. Some of them are as young as three and are considered “extremely vulnerable.” If you’ve seen the film HOTEL RWANDA or read articles on the plight of similar children in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, you may have an inkling of the hardships these children are undergoing as we speak.

The school and resource center will not only be a place for them to learn, but a haven as well. Unfortunately, even though the cost of preparing the building and establishing the school is extremely low by Western standards, the local capital necessary to make the school functional isn’t available.

I have been asked to raise $5,000 as part of my contribution to the effort. At first, the amount seemed overwhelming. After considering my circle of family and friends, however, I realized that if I just reached out, I could achieve my fundraising goal. And all donations for the trip are tax deductible!

I feel truly honored to be given such a worthwhile opportunity and I hope that you will share my enthusiasm. If you would like to donate to this mission, there are two ways to do so:

1) By check – made out to the non-profit organization “Creative Visions” and sent to me at ADDRESS. Please include your full address with the check.
2) Online at Click on “Make a donation.” If you do, please put my name in the “Note” area, so that I can keep track of my donations.

Thank you so much for your support! I’ll keep you all updated from the road!

Much love,

PS – One of the most valuable ways you can support me is to forward this email to as many people as possible with a note vouching for me. Thank you for your help!


It's time to talk about vaccines! You need to get them by about August 1, primarily because you need at least a month for your second Hepatitis B shot.

Here is what you'll need for Ghana:

Recommended: (unless you've already had them)
hep A (two shots needed total, six months apart - but will get some immunity with first shot)
hep B (three shots needed, one month later for the second one, six months later for the third – you’ll get pretty good immunity with the second shot I believe)

Needed: (unless you've had them recently)
Polio booster
Yellow Fever
Malaria pills

Where to go:

This may require some research on your part. I recommend Passport Health - it's a great travel clinic with locations across the US. Their main website is available here:
  • Passport Health

  • Rayann, who is going on our trip, owns a Passport Health Clinic in Los Angeles. We met when she donated vaccine for a mission to Nigeria a few years ago!

    You can also look up "travel medicine" in your local phonebook for other clinics or doctors that specialize in travel meds. Your insurance company may be able to recommend someone as well. I’ve heard that Kaiser has free travel meds included in its policy.

    Besides a reputable travel clinic, you may be able to get all your shots from the Health Department in your area - perhaps at a lower cost than a regular travel clinic. (I haven't pursued this information, but if any of you do research it will you let me know?) You can get your malaria med prescription from your regular doctor if you do go to the Health Department.

    There are three choices for the area we're going to:

    1) Malarone - Personally, I prefer this one, but it is pricier than the others. I have zero side-effects when I take it.

    2) Larium - Can cause weird dreams and has a more reported side-effects than the others. I'm not wild about anyone in the group taking this because it may be a bit unpredictable.

    3) Doxycycline - Low cost and very few side-effects. (But if you're at all prone to candida, this may set it off. In that case you should either go for Malarone or take along treatment for that as well.)

    I'm not a doctor, so the above is just my personal experience.

    As I said in the first volunteer email, you'll need to cover your own vaccine and visa expenses. The good news is that most of these vaccinations last for quite a while and you'll be covered to go almost anywhere with these!

    Prices will vary widely, but here’s a rough guide:

    hep A $70 (per shot, two shots needed, six months apart - but will get some
    immunity with first shot)
    hep B $ 70 (per shot, three shots needed, one month later for the second
    one, six months later for the third - will get pretty good immunity with the
    second shot I believe)
    tetanus $40
    Polio booster $45
    Yellow Fever $85
    Menningitis $85
    Typhoid $60

    Malaria meds range from $6 per pill (Malarone) to $16 for a bottle of 50 (Doxy). You need Malarone for a shorter period of time than Doxy, but still Doxy works out to be MUCH less expensive.

    Saturday, April 09, 2005

    Fundraising - suggestions

    “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
    - Ghandi

    Dear All,

    When I first started this kind of work, I was terrified of asking for money. However, I had a specific project (an orphanage caught behind rebel lines in Cote d'Ivoire) and a deadline (immediately). I procrastinated for WAY too long about sending out an appeal for money. When I finally did it, I was OVERWHELMED with the response. It was actually hard to take in that so many people could be so supportive. Fundraising got so much easier for me on the day it finally dawned on wasn't about me.

    You are an advocate for 350 children in a refugee camp. You are an opportunity for your friends, family, and colleagues to have an immediate impact on those kids. In fact, the money that they give you will most likely be spent by you - in Ghana at the market buying school supplies. They can't get much more direct than that - unless they come, too.

    The great thing about a trip like this is that you'll be able to keep in touch with your team back home - all of your donors - via email. You can send them updates from the road, telling them about everything you're seeing, doing, experiencing. It's an opportunity for them to connect with something larger. Not to get all goofy on you guys, but in many ways it's a sacred opportunity to help them see themselves as part of the larger web of life on this planet.

    Here are some tips to get you started.

    1) First - who to approach: ANYONE and EVERYONE. When I did my first mission, I almost didn't send my fundraising letter to one former co-worker because we really were never close and I didn't want it to seem like I was "begging". I decided to get over myself and to send it to her anyway. She responded with more kindness, encouragement, and money than almost anyone!! She still donates to everything I do!

    2) Remember - you are giving your donors an awesome opportunity to contribute to something that they can KNOW is worthwhile. I can't tell you how many people have written ME thank-you letters after they donated and then followed my trip via email. Not everyone can go on the trip - but anyone that donates benefits because they "get to give." The old adage that it’s "better to give than receive" is true. You are allowing your friends and family the opportunity to feel good about themselves and their contribution to the world.

    3) Here's a link to an AIDS RIDE fundraising tip website. Some of the things aren't applicable, but others are:

    4) Know that what you are doing will inspire other people - in ways you can't even imagine! Even if you don't think they'll donate, it's good to let as many people as possible know what you're up to. Who knows how you'll inspire them to move toward a dream they've had.

    5) Keep track of everyone who says they'll donate - and then follow up. Sometimes people just get busy and forget - or keep meaning to and then don't. (I'm so guilty of this sometimes, so I know.)
    It's good to do updates in a group email along the lines of "Just to note to update you all on my progress. I've gotten my shots and am anxiously awaiting my visa. I know some of you wanted a reminder to donate, so consider this it! :) Thanks to everyone for all your support...yadda yadda yadda." (Believe me, if they offer to donate and then forget, they'll be happier if you remind them than if they have to feel guilty everytime they see you when you get back.)

    6) I've personally been very inspired in my life by quotes, so I use them a lot in my writing and my life. Here are a few samples - any which could be an apropos way to begin (or end) a Ten Days fundraising email:

    "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Stephen Grellet

    “A man is not old until regrets start taking place of dreams.”
    - unknown

    "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do." - Edward Everett Hale

    “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
    - The Dalai Lama

    “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
    - Irish proverb