After you've completed your fundraising, you can move on to packing for your mission trip, which can also seem like a never-ending task. I recently spent a week on a corporate service trip where we helped build a school in Guatemala with School the World, a non-profit organization focused on providing quality education for children in rural areas of Central America.
Based on my trip, here are some of my top suggestions for what to pack for your volunteer trip:
Old T-Shirts and Pants – visit goodwill or garage sales before you leave. I ordered several moisture-wicking shirts, which kept me cool, but I also ruined them within the first wear. Our trip was very hands-on, so consider what you will be doing on your trip. We built a school with our bare hands, so I was covered in paint and cement for most of the trip. Also, pack an extra day of working clothes. We ended up having more work to finish than anticipated and most of us were out of clean clothes by the end of the week.
Water Bottle with Filter – Our trip was in a remote area of Guatemala, so we were advised to not drink the water for safety reasons. Prior to leaving for Guatemala, I bought a water bottle with a built-in filter and it was well worth the investment. I found mine online for under $10. Bottled water on-site was more expensive than sports drinks and sodas. If you're working in extreme heat, you'd most likely rather have the water anyways. Lucky for us, our group also provided jugs of filtered water, which was greatly appreciated.
First Aid Kit – Inevitably, someone in your group will need a band aid or medication. Dramamine went like hot cakes in our group. We were not prepared for the long commute through the mountains and bumpy roads. You can pick up tiny first aid kits usually in the toiletries section of your local grocery store before you head out for your trip.
Bandanna – We were in an extremely dusty and dry area, so when the dust kicked up, it was difficult to breathe. Our bandannas protected our faces from the dust, which was something I hadn't planned on when packing for the trip. If you want to take it a step further, pick up a box of masks from your local home construction store.
One-And-Done Baby Wipes – You will want these. The towns we traveled to did not allow toilet paper in the toilets.
Hat – Make sure to bring a hat or visor, even if you rarely wear them. There was not much shade as we built the school, and our hats protected our faces and helped to keep us cool. If I could do it again, I’d buy one of those hats with the flaps on the back to protect my neck as well. Even with sunscreen, I had a serious sunburn.
Snacks – You may not enjoy the food at your destination, and that’s OK! Bring non-perishable snacks such as crackers, cookies, chips, etc.
Gifts for the Kids – Check with your group coordinator before bringing any gifts. Our group was encouraged to bring toys and school supplies for the children at the school. Here are some ideas that were popular with the kids:
Gifts for the Community – Again, check with your group coordinator, but we were invited to see how the community members live. As a token of our appreciation, we were encouraged to bring a housewarming gift from the following list:
Comfortable Shoes – this is not the time to break in new hiking boots. Make sure you bring old, comfortable working shoes that you aren’t afraid to get dirty.
Antibacterial Soap – This was very handy especially around lunch and snack times.
Travel Medical Insurance – Check with your group coordinator to see if you have coverage before leaving for your trip. I purchase travel medical insurance anytime I travel internationally. It’s especially important to make sure your health is protected when traveling to remote areas of the world. IMG offers several plan options if you or your group needs travel medical insurance during your mission trip.
I hope this list helps you plan for your next mission or volunteer trip. My experience was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget.
If you are interested in learning more about School the World, check out their website for more information.
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