Five Items Every Overseas Volunteer Should Pack

New York, N.Y.  The U.S. leads the world in providing volunteers to work in other countries, according to the blog Moving Worlds. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but statistics from over several years indicate one million or more.


If you are one of these volunteers, you need to travel light because you will be living in tight quarters. Here are five items you should pack in your duffel:

Meds That Don’t Require Refrigeration

If you’re focusing on an area that has undergone a natural disaster, don’t expect to have access to refrigeration. Taking probiotics is a good idea, since an upset stomach may be unavoidable in many areas. Be sure to check the label, and get one that doesn’t require refrigeration. If you take medication regularly, remember to take a three-month supply with you.

You also should take a small first aid kit with you that has:

  • Antibiotic wipes
  • Bandages and Bandaids
  • Electrolyte sachets
  • Latex gloves
  • Pain reliever
  • Tweezers

Sunscreen and insect repellent are also highly recommended. Several manufacturers now combine the two.

Climate-Friendly Clothing

Even smaller countries have a variety of climates. For example, tiny Central American nations typically have cool and rainy seasons. The mountains can get downright chilly at night, so clothing that can be layered under a rain jacket is ideal. recommends clothing that dries quickly.

Two other clothing-related notes to keep in mind:

  • Clothing customs. Women volunteering in some areas may be asked to wear a scarf to cover their heads and skirts that reach their ankles. Even if it’s not required, volunteers are often invited to community events that require a little dressing up.
  • Sizes. Many Asian nations don’t carry large-sized shoes and undergarments. If your shoe size is larger than a U.S. 8, be sure the ones you pack are sturdy and will last through your assignment. The same applies to bras larger than a B-cup and underwear for most American men and women.

Reliable Smartphone in Water-Resistant Case

Give your family and friends peace of mind and bring a smartphone that lets you stay in touch. You want to be able to make and receive calls and texts, take photos and video, and post updates to a website or Facebook when an Internet connection is available.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is well-suited for overseas travel. It provides up to 36 hours of talk time and 14 standby when it’s fully charged. Stateside callers can text to about 30 nations through T-Mobile’s network at no charge to them and place calls to about 70 nations. Be sure to keep your phone in a water-resistant case attached to your clothing.

Basic Sports Equipment

Almost every list recommends bringing sports equipment such as a soccer ball and running shoes. Soccer (football in the rest of the world) is a universal sport that can engage young people and children in even the most dire situations. Frisbees, rugby balls and whiffle balls (just about any stick can serve as a bat) are also popular in many countries.

Sealable Plastic Bags

These protect everything from your passport and visa to toiletries. You may want to bring bags in several different sizes.

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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