Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

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Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by JeeperCreeper » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:00 pm

So I may be headed to Central America (possibly Ecuador) for a volunteer work trip. Think of it like a mission/humanitarian trip where it will involve some manual labor and possibly some rehab interventions. I will be going through my university and it will be just over a week in country. Should be some time this spring.

So basically I want to start getting gear early, and I want some "good but cheap" replacements to my current stuff in case I lose it or it gets stolen.

Things I'll probably need and want suggestions for:

-New pack. Something that is tough and light, incognito (all my packs are bright colored or camo) and can keep a lot of stuff in. Probably no more than $100.

-Sunglasses. I like Oakleys, but I'm not bringing them overseas. Any good brands in the $30ish range?

-Pocket knife. I need something that looks more utility than tactical. Maybe around the $30 range at most. Especially if I can't get it through customs.

-Lightweight boots. All my boots are winter boots. I have a pair of vibram toe-shoes I might bring for water stuff. But I need a pair of nice hiking/tropical boots. As cheap as possible.

-Any other suggestions. I have a lot of stuff and a few things on my list, but I want to see if you guys spot something I'm going to be missing.
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by woodsghost » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:17 pm

Knife: I'd consider a SAK farmer or SAK spartan.
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by Stercutus » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:20 pm

Check the map for Yellow Fever recommendations:

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook ... ry/ecuador

Get a tetanus shot

Get two small but effective solar charger/ storage devices

For sunglasses go to Home Depot or Lowes and check out their safety glasses section for sunglasses that construction workers use. You will probably be surprised by what they have. You will find what you need in the $30ish dollar range and under. I kind of like the Dewalts myself. These glasses are really sturdy too, much more sturdy than regular or designer glasses. Most come with a hard case.

Go to the market and buy a knife when you get there.
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by gundogs » Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:09 am

I never understood why people travel to other countries to help.
I've always found there to be plenty of my fellow Americans in need of help.
One can do a lot of good in their own community or nearby & not have to buy special equipment.
Travel expenses alone to other countries are quite a "waste" of money---those hundreds
or thousands of dollars can buy a lot of food,medicines,etc locally.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by flybynight » Sun Oct 16, 2016 9:50 am

For a one week trip, I'd do all my outfitting at Walmart. It's not like anything you get is going to get an endurance test. Plus you can leave it all in country when you leave for some one else to use .
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by raptor » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:24 am

I agree with the Walmart logic. Plan on leaving them as a gift to your hosts.

A multitool with a blade packed into luggage will make it past most customs folks. That or a knife with the Swiss Army symbol generally passes muser as a tool vs. knife.

Check the need for immunizations and follow them. Also bring anti-diarhia and water purification tablet's and use them. Especially if you are going back country.

Get a mosquito head net and bring long sleeve shirts and a couple of pairs of gloves (lightweight and leather). Assume no PPE will be available so whatever type of work you are doing, bring your own PPE.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by fatty21 » Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:05 pm

I second walmart with extra otc medications. Esp immodium/pepto/tums.

Should be a hell of a trip. Bring some 2 dollar bills for tips during the nightlife. They love that crap lol.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by JeeperCreeper » Sun Oct 16, 2016 2:12 pm

gundogs wrote:I never understood why people travel to other countries to help.
I've always found there to be plenty of my fellow Americans in need of help.
One can do a lot of good in their own community or nearby & not have to buy special equipment.
Travel expenses alone to other countries are quite a "waste" of money---those hundreds
or thousands of dollars can buy a lot of food,medicines,etc locally.
I half agree with you. I think people do get the attitude that "my church sends money to Cuba" or "I went to the DR and built a well... I'm good for a decade of charity". Basically, a lot of people do it to feel good or treat it as a vacation.

However, my career is in public service. Every job I have ever had has been to the service of others and helping people. I'm working on my doctorate in Occupational Therapy, and this trip is part of my curriculum as a "global community" initiative. Another one of my options is Arizona on a Native Reservation. My whole career is to ensure people can have the best life possible. So yeah, I might be going away for a week, but I still have 51 other weeks to impact those around me at home.

And I might not be the biggest proponent of globalization and being the "white savior", but people need help and I have the option to help them. So I will, no matter what border they live behind.
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by doitnstyle1 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:11 pm

I would say first of all identify that Ecuador is actually part of South America not Central America. Columbia would be more considered Central rather than South America and it is definitely South America. It is difficult to immerse yourself into a culture for a week and gain not much more than an great experience that does make you feel good that you did something for some one. Kudos to you. I would prefer it to integrate for a much longer time and learn the culture.

But back to your questions about what you should bring.

First of all you would have to look at what is your weight limit for travel. Considering it is 1 week in country I wouldn't get too carried away. Bring what you need or what you plan to leave behind when you leave as I do when i did travel to other countries. Make space for any trinkets that you may want to bring back in exchange for what you have left behind. Think of it as a trade.

This question also hinges on where you will be staying. Lowland jungle can be quite different from highland jungle or high sierra ranges. More info would help the process. I will give you some jungle hints if you just plan on being there for a short time. if you were there much longer it would also be different.

Understand that it will be closer to Summer at that time of year down there. However local temperatures can still fluctuate depending on where you will be staying. If you are in mountainous terrain it still gets cool in the mountains. Mosquito repellent with DEET. I'm not sure that they would let anything with DEET into the country but you can try in the right quantities, 3.4 ounces or less sized bottles. Depending on your location a mosquito netted jungle hammock might come in handy as well for sleeping. The sell some of them that are small enough for backpacking and for travel that weigh next to nothing.

If you have space having your own Travel FAK would be beneficial and just boost it up with additional necessities from the local Dollar Tree or store(ymmv).

https://www.rei.com/product/784609/adve ... st-aid-kit

Water purification filter and tablets might also be recommended depending on your situation. You may consider trouser blousing to keep some of the creepies out of you pants legs and boots. A good pair mid shin boots maybe with a composite toe if you are doing some heavy work. Nylon stocking to place over your boots to allow them to air out at night and keep the creepy crawlies out. Don't stuff socks, they just don't allow the same amount of air flow. Make sure you shake everything out outside your tent or shelter before you get into it or roll it up. Sleeping bags and clothing should be turned inside out and then rolled up to allow to air out (if that is what you are using) to prevent creepy crawlies from getting you. Blankets get the same treatment just not the inside out thing. Just remember, one bad bite can ruin the trip for you.

I would read this article if you are going to Ecuador:

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/c ... rs/ecuador

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destination ... ne/ecuador

https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/ecuador

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/safe-ame ... -1539.html

My final advice to any country you are travelling to in either Central or South America, If you can't blend in looks and language both then make sure you sleep with one eye open and grow two eyes in the back of your head. Keep you head on a swivel and say as little as possible until you are in safe surroundings. Don't give anyone any reason to approach you any more than they want to already. If you can keep a safe distance and avoid contact until you are with people you can trust :awesome: do it! I am not trying to lessen your motivation to go or the experience you would have there. I just want you to be aware that there are those who will try to gain your trust and make you feel comfortable.

Everyone is sizing you up in Central and South America, to consider you a friend, foe or target. I don't mean a target as in a kidnapping or anything but that is still within the realms of possibility. They are sizing you up to see what they can get out of you as a tourist. Whether they are going to robs you by making you give them your money or to forcibly take your money. You are not considered a "friend" until much time passes. Even if they are telling you so.

If you have a bad gut feeling about something go with it. If you have a good feeling about someone think about it until it passes and if you wake up with the same feeling then go with it. Don't dismiss anything as trivial. There is a lot going on down there and even I would have a difficult time blending.

You can get a tan before you go. Sometimes if you look the part of an ex-patriot that has been there for a while and strut your confidence a little they will leave you alone. Don't get too cocky though. if you don't speak the language get yourself rosetta stone and practice with the chica down the street. Find Local Hispanic clubs and you may even get lucky finding some people that will give you better tips than I can.

Best of luck!
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by johnnyrover » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:32 pm

Don't buy new gear for a trip without testing it!

Locals love it when they see people coming to help with all new gear worth more than a years wages. Try to blend in a bit...I suggest you go to the thrift store of your choice and buy stuff you can leave behind.

DEET and a bug net will be your best friend, regardless of location.
2nd recommendation of safety glasses, more durable and not large $.

Keep your cash to spend in country <--- one of the best ways to help.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by raptor » Tue Oct 18, 2016 1:01 pm

doitnstyle1 wrote: Everyone is sizing you up in Central and South America, to consider you a friend, foe or target. I don't mean a target as in a kidnapping or anything but that is still within the realms of possibility. They are sizing you up to see what they can get out of you as a tourist. Whether they are going to robs you by making you give them your money or to forcibly take your money. You are not considered a "friend" until much time passes. Even if they are telling you so.

If you have a bad gut feeling about something go with it. If you have a good feeling about someone think about it until it passes and if you wake up with the same feeling then go with it. Don't dismiss anything as trivial. There is a lot going on down there and even I would have a difficult time blending.

You can get a tan before you go. Sometimes if you look the part of an ex-patriot that has been there for a while and strut your confidence a little they will leave you alone. Don't get too cocky though. if you don't speak the language get yourself rosetta stone and practice with the chica down the street. Find Local Hispanic clubs and you may even get lucky finding some people that will give you better tips than I can.

Best of luck!

Good advice!

You should assume (ok not 100% are like this but you should assume they are) that when you go to a 3rd world country you will be considered not a friend or even a visitor but rather a resource to be harvested in one way or another. People may actually resent the living hell out of you if give them gifts or assist them. They may view your possessions with envy and resent you simply for having them and get angry or embarrassed if you give them something as a result of envy.

Keep a low key attitude and smile. If you speak the language great but do not advertise it until you get to know the people. You will be amazed at what they will say about you if they think you do not understand their language.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by Boom40mm » Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:41 pm

Bug net, bug net, bug net... mosquitoes are annoying, but Chagas disease from assassin bugs can mess you up (and it isn't usually looked for by medical staff in the US) years later.

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by JackBauer » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:37 pm

What are the possible "rehab interventions" ? Something to do with addiction recovery?
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by JeeperCreeper » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:24 pm

JackBauer wrote:What are the possible "rehab interventions" ? Something to do with addiction recovery?
It's Occupational Therapy... so it's similar to physical therapy but deals with "activities of daily living". So we can do everything from making leg braces or crutches for kids who cant walk to helping with paralysis or stroke survivors, etc. Obviously that's grossly over-generalized. Ironically I used to do drug counseling but that job broke me down...


But I'm not sure exactly what we'll be doing yet or exactly which country I'll be in.


Thanks for all the advice everyone. I plan on being relatively paranoid as well as "grayman-esque". Only issue is, I'm a 6 foot 250 pound meathead, which might be an issue in a country that has people starving. But I plan on doing more endurance training so I might get down to 230 or 220 by spring... if that matters.

And getting a tan, that's a really good idea. Hopefully my Scandinavian complexion can handle that hahaha.

As far as vaccines, I'm up to date and the university's medical staff are heading the trip so we'll get the hook up on the good stuff.

As far as groups, there will probably be about 5 to 7 going with me. Chances are, most will be "academic" types and I'll be the only "grunt" (I wasn't infantry, but the comparison is accurate).

I'll definitely try to get the stuff soon and try it out on a camping trip before winter breaks.

Anyone have recommendations on boot brands or a type of trouser? I'm not very up to date on the latest and greatest.
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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by Sun Yeti » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:33 pm

I've done a decent amount of traveling in the third world; both Central American and SE Asia. I think what you are doing has value, not just in whatever help you may provide in your time there, but also in expanding your own horizons. I think a lot of people would view the world very differently if they had spent much time outside their own country.

I have to second what other people has written; when you travel in the third world, a lot of people look at you and see a dollar sign with legs. Not all of them, but it's not immediately obvious who is going to try to rip you off, rob you etc. Don't be so paranoid you don't do anything while you're there, but you need to use more caution than you would in interacting with people in a familiar environment. You also have to re-calibrate your thinking. No one in the US is going to waste their time scamming your for a few bucks, so you don't expect it. Not so in a place where that's a day's wages.

I highly recommend buying some stuff in a bazaar, or someplace without fixed prices. The sellers will OWN you at haggling, and you will overpay. But, what you learn from practicing haggling can save you thousands of dollars when you go to buy a house or a car back in the USA in the future.

Here are some of the most useful and slightly non-obvious items I pack:
-Hand sanitizer (a lot of it). There are a lot of places with no running water etc., and washing your hands is how you avoid getting sick.

-A washcloth. Clean towels (or any towels) are less widely available than when traveling in the US. Pat yourself down with the washcloth, wring it out, repeat, and you can get pretty much dry.

-Stuffsacks or zip sacks. Lets you organize your clothes, toiletries, etc. so you can find them. Also lets you separate clean clothes from dirty. Also, if you are staying at a hotel, hostel etc., you can dump your clothes in the room and lock it, and then walk around with a lightweight, nearly empty pack that's still got some essentials/valuables in it. You have them if you need them, and someone who tries to steal from your room gets only clothes and other non-essentials.

-Probiotics (you need the kind that doesn't require refrigeration). You can reduce your odds of diarrhea etc. by drowning out the bad bacteria with good bacteria. Not only is food safety and so on a lot worse in third world countries, the local micro flora is different than here, and your immune system is less practiced at dealing with it. Along those lines, eat cooked food, avoid raw food (like juices and salads) as much as you can.

-A steri-pen. UV sterilizer for water. Works even on a glass of water with ice cubes in it.

-A passport carrier. Your passport (in the carrier) stays next to your skin under your clothes at all times, except when you bathe, and then you keep it in your direct line of sight. An American passport on the black market is worth a decade's wages in a lot of third world countries. Leaving it lying around is like leaving $500,000 in cash lying around in this country. Don't tempt people. If you lose your passport, you're going to be stuck there for an extra week at a minimum. Along same lines, keep the bulk of your cash in the carrier, and a much smaller amount in your wallet, so people don't see how much you have when you take out your wallet to pay for things.

-A passport card. These things are useless for their intended purpose (they only let you enter the US by land, not by air). However, a lot of hotels will demand to hold your passport when you stay there. Don't give it to them, you can give them the card instead. Similarly, if your passport does get stolen, the passport card is a much better secondary proof for the embassy than a photocopy of your passport (although it's not a bad idea to bring a couple of those too).

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Re: Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by taipan821 » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:20 pm

raptor wrote:
Check the need for immunizations and follow them. Also bring anti-diarhia and water purification tablet's and use them. Especially if you are going back country.

Get a mosquito head net and bring long sleeve shirts and a couple of pairs of gloves (lightweight and leather). Assume no PPE will be available so whatever type of work you are doing, bring your own PPE.
treat your clothes/bug net with permethrin before you go. If you are staying somewhere with no mozzie screens hang your clothes over the windows and sleep under a bug net. pick up more than one pair of work gloves, the cheap leather rigger gloves work well and are cheap enough to be classed as disposable.

2nd the walmart buying spree, the less 'blingy' stuff you have the safer you'll be.
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Post by casro » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:08 am

Hello,
I’m actually from South America as I’ve just written in my introduction, I travel worldwide on a weekly basis for work. Mostly in Latin America and have been to Ecuador so many times.

If you allow my not humble reply, please disregard the majority of what you’ve read here except the blend in comment and this one above about passport care.

If you care to listen these are my advices:

1- yellow fever vaccine. It is not only that you need it, but it may be requested by border control. As far as I know Ecuador was demanding it. I don’t know if my nationality implies that I come from a yellow fever plagued country but at least to me the vaccine is mandatory. Even if it is not for you, that’s really necessary.

2- Don’t take anything with you. Forget about bringing too much stuff or any stuff at all. I travel all over the world with a carry on regardless of how much time I will stay abroad. I pack 7 set of clothes. 5 to wear from Mon - Fri, 1 for Sat when I put all dirty clothes in the laundry and a 1 for Sun in case the laundry gets delayed in one day.
Latin America is famous for losing your luggage and never finding it again. We frequent travelers never ever check luggage. Checked luggage is also frequently opened by airport personal. They cut locks, steal values, you file a complaint, get a reimbursement check but your stuff is as good as gone.

3- No knifes then. Forget anything tactical or weapons. You can’t bring with you onboard. They also take away tactical pens. You have two options. If you only feel comfortable when you feel the clip of a knife strapped to your pocket, buy it when you land, throw away when you leave. Or do as I do. I carry a Parker pen pretty sturdy that goes undetected and can do some damage if used properly.

3- As the guy said, blend in no matter what. Latin America’s street criminals see a bullseye in tourist’s foreheads. If they rob a local there’s the risk that the guy is illegally carrying or will resist. Poor people tend to fight hard for the little they possess. Foreigners do not. They simply go to the police giving time for muggers to disappear and never be found. It is easier to rob you instead. I wish you didn’t look very american. If you do, maybe grow some facial hair, not full beard. Only foreigners or hipsters have those. Try to not look sharp. Forget the boots entirely!!! Nobody use boots in Latin America except for Peruvian construction workers. Usually people wear spam sneakers copies or some country specific non sense shoes. Whatever they wear, pay attention when you get down the plane. Their shoes will be more or less universal. Notice what the more ordinary-street-poor looking people wear and buy it. You’ll find stores in the airport. Forget about columbia, northern face or any American high tech clothes. They shine from a mile away. Usually you’ll find in the streets people wearing jeans, and weared down colored T-shirt’s like old washed dark green ones. Old battered polo shirts are pretty common as well. Those with the smashed neck, not those with the collar that maintains form and looks sharper. Sunglasss are nice. There should be a sunglass hut shop in the airport as well. They are everywhere in Latin America.

4- We have H1N1 problems during the winter. I caught it twice. That bug is highly contagious and unfortunately I’ve also contaminated my wife at one opportunity and a colleague of mine in another. While I’m young, healthy and do sports, it isn’t life ending but if you’re not, that flu will kill. The best way to prevent it is carrying a hand sanitizer as the virus is usually spreaded through invisible secretions laying on top of surfaces like tables, countertops, etc. You touch it and put your hand in your mouth and you’re done. Even touching people’s hands during handshakes can contaminate you. Don’t get paranoid either, else you won’t go anywhere. If someone sneezes nearby, you may be already contaminated. The synthoms are nasty. You don’t feel like dying (at least me) but you will wish you were. It starts with the most agonizing back pain and high fever. These are the same synthoms of the chikunguña (don’t know how to write in English) fever that you get from the zika mosquito as well. Because of that it can be misdiagnosed. The problem with H1N1 is that the tamiflu vaccine must be taken within the first 24h or there’s nothing else to be done but to survive the synthoms that last 5 days. Forget about Zika. It is under control now and the chances that you get it in US are higher.

5- Protect the passport. Even if I said that looking American may draw attention, not looking foreigner is also bad. Generic looking people could be from anywhere. Therefore Caucasian people without non-identifiable country origin by their looks are targets for passport theft. It is better to steal their passport and change the name to Juan Calderón than trying to pass as green eyed blond named Jose Mendonza.

There’s more but I gotta go now. Can comeback later.

By the way, Ecuador has cities, you know that, right? There are taxis, 4G, shopping malls, world class dining restaurants and ridiculously luxurious areas with Porsches and Ferraris. You may leave at home the nets, tents and camos. You gotta be urban invisible and blend in streets like if you were walking in a bad neighborhood back in US where people may rob for not belonging there.

Kidnappings are ridiculously rare. There are special police units to handle these. Competent and well trained ones. Thugs aren’t dumb either. Loosing passport, wallet and getting beaten if you resist not knowing Krav Maga is what you should worry with. It doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. You’ll be ok and will certainly miss this trip one day.

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Central America volunteering... HELP ME PACK

Post by casro » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:56 am

Remembered something important: water!

People mentioned bringing epi pens and purifier tablets.

My humble opinion is that you not going to Bangalore.

The problem with the water in Ecuador is more cosmopolitan than you may think. Ladies throw away their lady’s stuff down the toilet. The water treatment facilities don’t have chemicals to kill lady’s hormones. Getting exposed to such kind of water will affect you someday. But you would need to drink it during years to notice any effects.

The other problem with tap water is that it heavily contains chlorine and calcium. The chlorine smells and tastes like pool water and the calcium solidifies everywhere. Out faucets have a white solidified powder around it if not cleaned. That’s the calcium.

It doesn’t kill you though. I, myself, against better advise, drink tap water and I’m alive. Probably because of excessive whisky [emoji1]

The regular people however won’t drink tap water. They simply buy plastic bottled water. They are cheap, clean, tastes nice and are everywhere. Including in your hotel room. Just buy it. You have no need for PAW stuff.

I hope it helps!

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