Volunteer FAQs

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General

  • How long does a normal volunteer stay?

We don’t usually accept volunteers for less than a term. This is because it takes a while to acclimatise. If you feel you have a particular skillset to offer the project but cannot commit to that length of period, please do contact Mark to discuss this further.

 

  • When is it best for me to come?

During school terms is best usually. Sierra Leone has the same school terms as the UK more or less. If you have a particular skillset to offer and school terms are not workable for you, please do contact Mark to discuss further.

 

  • Who will I be working with, and am I qualified?

It is important to ask yourself, ‘What skills and knowledge do I have to offer?’ and to be clear that not everyone is suited to this sort of work, environment or even climate.

If you volunteer with EducAid in Sierra Leone, you will be working with staff and students. The students are aged from 3 – 30 and there will be opportunities for you to work directly with the children. If you have appropriate skills, there may be opportunities to work on capacity building among staff.

 

  • Will the pupils and staff understand me?

English is the language used in all the schools and is the medium for all teaching. It is important to use less colloquial English if you wish to communicate well but all students and staff are strongly encouraged to use English as much as possible even outside of the classroom.

 

Logistics

  • Where will I fly to?

You will fly to Lungi airport which is across the estuary from Freetown. If you are going to work in Freetown, you will need to get the water taxi or ferry across the river. If you are working in Port Loko, you will be able to travel by road direct from the airport.

 

  • How much will the trip cost?

With flight costs, visa, vaccinations and anti-malarials you need to budget for at least £1,000

Other costs are really any private costs. Basic food is available but if you wish to eat something other than what is on offer to the students you will need to finance it yourself. You will also have to fund your own beers. At approximately 50p a bottle it’s a bargain for those coming from UK pubs!

 

  • Do I have to apply for a Visa?

You do have to apply for a visa. You can download the application form from this link.

You will be required to present a visa on arrival in Lungi.

You may need a letter of invitation to support your application. Please contact Miriam to request the letter

 

  • Where will I stay?

If you are serving in one of the EducAid schools, everything will be done to give you accommodation within the school campus. We do not have luxury accommodation but what we have we will endeavour to share with you. The conditions are generally basic in that there is no running water or electricity. There are water wells on each site and electricity when the generator is put on for three hours or so each evening to permit the children to study. In Freetown, it is not always possible to provide accommodation so most volunteers will serve in schools outside of Freetown.

 

  • Will I need to drive, and should I bring my license?

It is unlikely that you will need to drive. The roads in Sierra Leone are chaotic and the EducAid vehicle is its most expensive asset. The only time you would ever drive is if there is an emergency and there is no other driver. Our vehicle policy states that all drivers must have a Sierra Leonean license and can only use the vehicle if approved by the Country Director or the Programme Support Team Coordinator.

 

Safety & Health

  • What injections do I need?

To get full advice on injections, it is the volunteer’s responsibility to check with a doctor or a travel clinic to ensure your injections are up to date.

Our advice relates only to the fact that you will be asked to produce a yellow fever certificate on arrival in Lungi airport. Please make sure that you have an up to date certificate with you as you will be made to have the injection on arrival if you haven’t. You will also have to pay for it.

You may be advised that you need a rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccination is expensive and painful and involves 3 injections. It will only delay by 48 hours the need for you to get treatment in the event that you are bitten by a dog, and you are never going to be more than 48 hours away from treatment so we would not advise you to prioritise the rabies vaccination.

 

  • What will I be eating?

You will be able to join the school and eat rice and spicy sauce or gari (a cassava based rice substitute) and spicy sauce. For foreigners this food can sometimes be quite repetitive and you may want to get alternatives. Bread, sardines, eggs etc. are easily available near or on the various sites. For some sites there are towns nearby where chicken and chips or other such basic western dishes available. You will be responsible for buying any food that is not supplied on site. For some people, having some basic supplies such as cup-a-soup or sweets and biscuits can help them manage with the lack of variety. Keeping things fresh is impossible as there is no electricity to power a fridge.

For those who like to drink tea or coffee, it is probably advisable to bring a flask. There is no fresh milk available.

 

  • What is the malaria situation, and will there be mosquito nets?

Sierra Leone is malarial. No volunteer should ever plan to come without taking suitable anti-malarials – your Doctor can advise which is best for you. The children do have mosquito nets in as many sites as possible but you are advised to bring your own net. If you are able to bring a box net for a double bed and leave it behind you when you return it will be greatly appreciated.

 

  • What will the water access be like?

In Freetown there is running water but for now every drop is fetched by the children and placed in a floor tank and then pumped up into the top floors of the school. It is therefore requested that people are very sensitive to not using excess water.

In all the other schools, water is available from water wells. Washing is done in outside wash yards with a bucket and cup. We all drink well water but if you are in anyway sensitive to changes in water, we would advise you to either buy bottled or packet water or to bring a filter water-bottle so you are not made unnecessarily unwell.

 

  • Is it safe in the schools?

The greatest source of insecurity in Sierra Leone is the lack of good health care. Yes – it is safe in the schools.

Because we have young people at every stage of the journey and some who have only just left living on the streets and are still struggling to manage temptations, we advise that you take care with expensive property.

No child should ever enter your room. This is in an endeavour to protect them from any predatory or inappropriate behaviour as well as you from any unfortunate accusations or loss of property.

 

  • Is it safe out of the schools?

Sierra Leone is not a dangerous country, in general. The reputation of Sierra Leone was gained during a very unfortunate period of war, from 1991 – 2001. We are no longer at war. The greatest dangers in Sierra Leone are the lack of good health care if you fall sick and road traffic accidents because the roads are bad. EducAid will take no volunteers who do not have full medical insurance which covers evacuation costs in the event of any emergency.

 

Life

  • What clothing should I bring?

Sierra Leone is a tropical country and is generally fairly hot and humid. There can be cooler moments in the evening or early morning particularly during harmattan which occurs in December / January and during the rainy season which occurs most severely in July and August.

Most of us wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops most of the time. You may want to bring long sleeved shirts and full-length trousers for evenings to protect against malaria and a raincoat and / or fleece or jumper for any cold moments. You may want to bring one smart outfit in case of any formal meetings or occasions.

 

  • What will the temperature be like?

Nearly all year the temperatures are in the 30s. There are cooler moments in the early mornings during harmattan (in December / January) and rainy season (May – September). Although the rainy season is from May to September there is not rain every day or all day and nor is it really cold all the time. There are periods of sun throughout the period.

 

  • Will I be able to buy toiletries in SL?

Basic toiletries such as soap and toothpaste can be bought easily in almost any location. If you have a particular shampoo, deodorant etc. that you like you would be advised to bring it with you.

 

  • Should I bring any electrical equipment?

There is no problem bringing electrical equipment. Because the electricity supply can be erratic, it is advised that volunteers bring power surge protectors. These can be purchases in any electrical goods shop and protect equipment well.

It is very useful if you are able to bring a laptop. There will almost certainly be occasions when you are able to help by typing materials up, teaching ICT skills etc.

 

Support

  • What materials should I bring for the schools?

There are many things that the schools can use. If you are travelling with BA, please send your e-ticket to Miriam as soon as you have it so that we can see if we can get additional free luggage allowance.

  • 2nd hand clothes and shoes
  • Girls’ knickers
  • Boys’ pants
  • Thought provoking DVDs and books
  • 2nd hand laptops
  • Blank DVDs and CDs
  • Reference books – children’s encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauruses

There are also some materials in storage near Heathrow. If you are able to bring some of them with you, this too would be greatly appreciated.

 

  • Is there any other way that I can help?

Our biggest constraint is lack of funds to carry out our work. If you can fundraise by organising an event, do an appeal in your nearby church or school, scout group or birdwatchers club etc. etc. – please go ahead!

If you can encourage friends and family to sign up for a regular donation, this is invaluable. E.g. £15 per month covers the costs of one student’s education, food and medication

 

  • How can I make sure my time there is best used?

The best way you can be sure that your time is well used is by preparing well. Think carefully about what skills you have to offer in the context that you are going into. Do you have the necessary emotional and physical resilience to cope with basic conditions and real poverty that you will be living in and dealing with and still have something to offer?

Talk to previous volunteers. We can put you in touch if you would like to talk to someone. Read their stories. Find out what the challenges are and make sure you are ready for them.

Most importantly, be clear that you will gain more than you will give. If you see your visit as a one way stream of information, knowledge and abilities, you will probably struggle to enjoy your trip or even have any really positive impact. The Sierra Leoneans we work with are financially poor. They are not stupid or lacking in their culture or understanding. There is an incredible warmth and openness to all volunteers. The EducAid family will make you welcome but if you realise you have a lot to gain as well as a lot to give, everyone benefits.