World Unite! Volunteering, Internships, Cultural Travel

Volunteering, Internships and Intercultural Learning in Tanzania, Zanzibar, India, Morocco, Israel, Nicaragua, Bolivia, China, Japan, Ghana, Galapagos, Ecuador


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Medical Elective in Tanzania

Rosemarie, nurse and soon-to-be doctor from Germany completed volunteer placements through World Unite! in León, Nicaragua, as well as in Moshi and Mwanza, Tanzania. Here you can read about her experience volunteering at a Hospital in Moshi, Kilimanjaro.

Why Moshi and Tanzania?

I’ve been wanting to volunteer in Tanzania for a long time, because I had heard so much about this country. I had tried to apply for a nursing placement before through other organisations but strangely may application never worked out. From another volunteer I got the contact information of World Unite! and got a fast and detailed reply about my future placement straight away! Moshi, Kilimanjaro, really spoke to me as a location.

To apply for my placement, I only needed an English CV and a letter of reference from my medical school.  To prepare for my placement I used the information provided on the World Unite! website and on the information platform for participants. The information materials included information about vaccinations, living standards, public transport, general information about Tanzania and my place of work, among others. When my placement was confirmed, I only had to book my flight and paid for my service package. Considering the extensive services I got on-site and before my trip, booking my trip through World Unite! was totally worth it!

Arrival to Tanzania

I flew into Dar-es-Salaam (World Unite! recommend me to get an inexpensive flight to Dar first and to book a national connecting flight from there to Kilimanjaro). Make sure you allow a few hours to get to your connecting flight on-time, since getting the visa in Dar-es-Salaam can be quite time-consuming. I only had one and a half hours between my arrival in Dar and the next flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport and it was not enough, so I had to take the next flight five hours later. Of course, I informed my World Unite! coordinators in Moshi so that my pickup from the airport could be postponed.

When I finally arrived in Kilimanjaro in the evening, World Unite! had sent a driver to the airport to pick me up and to take me to my accommodation, where I met my local coordinators Adelina and her husband George.

When Adelina gave me a hug and welcomed me to Tanzania, I suddenly felt safe and at ease, considering that I had just arrived in a country that was totally new to me!

Adelina showed me around the accommodation and made sure I was comfortable. The next morning, Miriam, the other coordiantor, picked me up from my shared apartment to show me around the city. We had breakfast together and she gave me an introduction to Moshi, helped me to withdraw my first local money (Tanzanian Shillings) and to set up my phone with my local SIM card. She also showed me how to use the public transport system (Daladala = public mini bus) and explained which bus would take me home and which one to take to get to the hosptial. My shared apartment was located conveniently close the Daladala station KDC and it took me only about 15 minutes to reach the city center and my work place.

My Accommodation

Our shared apartment had three bedrooms and a kitchen and was located on the property of the owner, Mama Rose, and her family. Each room had its own bathroom with a western standard toilet, a small sink and shower. However, the water pressure was often very low and instead of using the ceiling shower head, we used the additional hand shower, which ultimately worked quite well. Whenever there was no water, it was worth asking the very helpful owner or her family members for help, as it may be that the water had accidentally been turned off and the problem was easier to sovle than expected. There were two gas stoves in the kitchen, where we could easily prepare our own meals so we did not always have to eat out. Due to the heat it was recommend to us to store everything edible in the refrigerator, including fruits and vegetables.

On a side note: My boyfriend came to visit me during my placement in Moshi and he was welcome to stay at my accommodation too.

My Placement at the Hospital

The Hospital I worked at was a Regional State Hospital and the central point of contact for sick people or emergency patients that can not be treated at the small rural dispensaries and clinics, or for patients who cannot afford a private hospital. There are many different departments and I was allowed to do weekly rotations. During my 30-day placement I was able to work in four wards: The pediatric ward, the maternity ward, the department of internal medicine and the HIV clinic.

How much you will learn and how much you will be allowed to do as a volunteer or intern, largely depends on your level of activitiy and how much initiative you show, just like in Germany. On the other hand, I recommend you to ask for help or to say „no“ if you are expected to perform tasks that exceed your competencies as a student and could harm the patient. For example, I was once present when a woman was giving birth to her first baby and the doctor asked me whether I wanted to assist him. I knew that the doctor might trust too much in my abilities that I did not have yet, rejected the offer and prefered to shadow only.

Looking back, I was very happy about my decision because this birth turned out to be one of the most difficult I have ever seen and it was a mental and physical challenge for everyone involved – the mother, the doctors and the child.

It might happen that you, as a Western student, are very much trusted by the medical staff. Just make sure that you only perform activities that you already know how to master and that you would also be able to do in your own country.

Communication with the doctors and nurses at the hospital was easily possible in English, but very few of the patients had English language skills. That’s why it is very helpful to learn some Swahili before you arrive or to take a Swahili course on-site, so that you can also exchange a few words with the patients or at least ask some simple questions, such as „How are you?“, „How is your child?“, „Where does it hurt?“.

Getting Around in Moshi and Tanzania

Moshi is quite small and the best way to get around the city is on foot. If the distance is longer, you can also take a Daladala. Even the connections to rural areas and the villages outside Moshi are quite good. Moreover, there that run from the central bus station in all directions.

In Moshi there are several small and one large supermarket, as well as many cafes and restaurants, offering local and internationl food. It is highly recommended to buy fresh food such as fruits and vegetables on the street market, the taste is incredible!

Moshi also has an old-fashioned and shut down train station that which is nice and quiet place where you can have drink or just hang out.

Moshi is also a starting point for many Safaris: I spent a day in Ngorongoro Crater and it was well worth it! Don’t miss out on Zanzibar – it’s just a short flight away! I spent the last ten days of my trip there, exploring the markets and narrow streets in Stone Town and the white beaches of Nungwi in the north.

What the staff members of World Unite! offered to me was more than just a regular service. Miriam, Adelina, Katharina and George were there around the clock, if I needed help or had any questions.

When my roommate once did not feel well, Miriam and Adelina did not only take her to the doctor several times and looked after her on a daily basis, but also bought plenty of fruits and vegetables on the market for a quicker recovery. In addition, there were weekly non-binding meetings with all World Unite! volunteers and staff to share experience, to ask questions or to simply chat and have coffee.

I had a great time in Moshi and in Tanzania and would totally do this trip again. The placement also went well and was very interesting for me both in medical as well as in personal and cultural terms. World Unite! was very supportive and my secure base, that I could always rely on. 

Wishing you all the best for your time in Tanzania!

Rosemarie, Germany

Are you looking fo a medical elective in Tanzania? You can find all information about Rosemarie’s placement here.

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Environmental & Nature Conservation in Morocco

Christina from Germany worked for three months in an environmental and nature conservation project in the city of Tangier in Morocco. Here she tells you about her experiences as a volunteer.

„Nous traitons ce monde comme si nous aurions un deuxième dans le coffre.“ (English: „We treat this world as if we had a second as a reserve.“).


This quote expresses the behavior of many people who are unaware of climate change and the resulting problems. I believe that we all need to work for the protection of our environment and its living creatures. We must realize that we have no second planet to live on!

That’s why I decided to do a three-month internship at CEET, the Tangier Environmental Education Center in Morocco.

Above all, my volunteer work involved conducting environmental education workshops in schools and with school classes. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to attend university days and excursions on the subject of geology, nature and environmental protection.

First to the workshops: I presented different environmental topics to my students and usually started with an „icebreaker“ to get to know the children better. Afterwards, we discussed various environmental issues, such as water scarcity and the water cycle or biodiversity in a natural environment.

Together with another German volunteer and our coordinator and Professor Merini, we tried to convey these topics to children and adolescents in an appealing way, e.g. through riddles or through experimenting.

The aim was to arouse children’s and young people’s interest in environmental protection and to show them that there is a need for action to save our planet!


I also took part in projects carried out by AESVT Morocco (a teacher organization for  environmental education and sustainable development):

Through the AESVT I had the opportunity to participate in the third campaign to clean up marine litter at the Merkala Beach in Tangier with 40 high school students and high schools in Tangier. The reason for this was the „Day of Civic Engagement of Young People in the Mediterranean“. The project was also carried out in Tetouan, Al Hoceima and Nador and in eight other Mediterranean countries.

In addition, I participated in two conferences aimed at creating efficient and optimized waste management in Morocco. The reason for the conferences was the unfortunately limited results of Law 28.00, which was created to reduce the negative impact of waste on people and the environment. The purpose of the two conferences was to create an advocacy group on waste prevention and environmental protection, as well as to change the public perception of waste (because it is resources, not „garbage“).

At the end of my stay, I took part in several university days. Not only did this enable me to learn more about ecotourism at the Tétouan Faculty of Natural Sciences, but also to better immerse myself in Moroccan culture. Together with the students, a platform was created for social and environmental workshops and debates. I found the interaction and collaboration with Moroccan students very rewarding.

In addition, I was able to participate in a geo-excursion during the university days, organized by the AESVT. The theme was „The Geopark Mgoun and the economic and social development of the region.“

Along with 110 participants from 25 cities, I had the opportunity to discover a number of interesting geo-locations such as Aït Attab, Lake Bin el Ouidane or the Masthefrane Cathedral in Tamga. We also visited the Ifri Ntwaya Cave in Ait Mhamed and the footprints of dinosaurs in Ait Blal, as well as the Ouzoud waterfalls and other traces of dinosaurs in the Iouariden Geosit at Demnate. In order to ensure the scientific approach of the various topics, experts were invited to provide the participants with information about the geography and the places visited and answered our questions.

During those four days, I have seen places I never dared dream of before. It was a great honor for me to attend the Demnate university days. As in Tetouan, I enjoyed the exchange with the other participants and had a time that will be remembered all my life.

In conclusion, I have benefited greatly from the time in the CEET team, but of course also from all the special features and attractions in Morocco that are absolutely worth a visit!

My volunteer work in harmony with nature has shown me again how important it is to protect this world and its beauty, because we have no second! Or, as the AESVT rightly states: „Environmental protection – said, done!“

Here you can find all the information about Christina’s volunteer placement.


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The most comprehensive eco friendly travel packing list!

Traveling can be harmful on the environment. But with a few thoughtful travel products, you can reduce your environmental footprint and make your suitcase more eco-conscious! Every week we give you advice on environmentally friendly alternatives for your packing list.

With every purchase you take influence on the future you want to live in. For your travel packing list, whether clothing, shoes, toiletries or electronic devices, this means that selecting the material used, the amount of resources needed to make it, the use of potentially harmful additives, the biodegradability of the final product, and last but not least, the production process and its safety and social standards – all these factors have an impact on the environment in which we live! As a consumer, you can help support manufacturers who value environmental and socially responsible practices.

Don’t be discouraged by the number of alternatives you might find: There are manufacturers who seek to offset carbon emissions, and other who use environmentally friendly packaging, some produce as locally as possible, others pay fair wages, use renewable energy, rely on recycled fibers or support social projects. In the end, you have to decide for yourself what is more important to you. There is hardly a product or a manufacturer that is perfect in every way. Instead, it’s about making an attempt to consciously seek greener solutions.

This blog does not want to encourage you to get rid of the travel equipment you already have. Rather, we would like to provide suggestions about environmentally friendly alternatives for new purchases. You can start little by little and slowly transform your travel equipment over time.

Clothing

Did you know that textiles take up the most space in landfills and take hundreds of years to decompose? The only way not to harm the environment with the textile industry is to stop buying new clothes. This is probably not a realistic alternative for most of us. So how can we make a difference that benefits the environment, without sacrificing comfort and style and overburdening our budget?

Rethink every purchase of clothing and decide whether it is really necessary. A good way to consciously buy less is to switch to timeless designs which you can wear for a longer period of time. Multipurpose articles such as e.g. dresses that can be worn as sweaters are convenient and space-saving when you travel.

What kind of clothing do I really need to travel?

  • T-Shirts
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Pants (long, short)
  • Sportswear (top, shorts or pants)
  • Socks
  • Swimwear
  • Underwear
  • Suitable clothing for your internship or volunteer position

For women:

  • Multifunctional article: e.g. dresses that can also be worn as skirts
  • Sarong / Pareo (big, airy beach dress)
  • Leggings (for wearing under dresses and skirts in culturally sensitive regions and countries)

When choosing your clothes, please consider cultural features in your host country as well. In many conservative countries or rural areas, it may not be appropriate to dress too revealingly. Avoid shorts, low-cut t-shirts and transparent materials in these areas.

Which fibers and materials are currently being used for eco-friendly clothing?

Cotton: Cotton is the most commonly used fiber in all our garments. Conventional cotton, however, needs large amounts of water, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides that pose a threat to the health of farm workers and our ecosystem. In addition, cotton depleches the soil heavily. Organic cotton also needs a lot of water and contributes to the degeneration of the soil; but at least no chemicals are used in its cultivation and in production.

Bamboo: Bamboo fibers are one of the biggest current eco-trends. This is no surprise as the plant has many eco-friendly features: bamboo is not only the fastest growing plant in the world, but also cleans the air during cultivation, contributes to the recovery of the soil and requires no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In addition, the water consumption is much lower than for cotton. The conventional conversion of bamboo wood into bamboo fiber requires several toxic chemicals. However, manufacturers can also resort to ecological treatment techniques. Whether this is the case is usually indicated on the product website.

Hemp: Hemp requires little water and only takes a few weeks to grow. Because hemp is naturally resistant to pests, it does not require pesticides and insecticides. Hemp fabrics are stronger than cotton, hardwearing and comfortable. The more you wear the fabric, the softer it becomes.

Linen or flax fiber: Both are biodegradable, do not require chemicals during cultivation and have strong fibers. When worn, they absorb moisture, feel cool on the skin and easily withstand high temperatures.

Tencel: Tencel is made from eucalyptus trees. The plants do only need little water and do not need pesticides or insecticides. Make sure the wood comes from a sustainably managed forest. Tencel is soft, lightweight, breathable and durable.

Lenpur: The basis for this plant fiber is cellulose, which is obtained from the pruning of trees in forestry. Therefore, not a single tree or bamboo must be felled for the production! Clothing from Lenpur is soft and feels like cashmere. It has a heat-regulating and odor-neutralizing effect.

Recycled materials: Clothing can also be made from all types of recycled plastics, from recycled polyester to fleece and cotton yarn. For example, recycled plastic bottles can be mixed with cotton or other materials to obtain a soft tissue. Recycled cotton yarn can be recovered from T-shirt factories and be spun again. On the one hand, it’s a great way to reuse the material you’ve already produced, saving valuable resources. However, the chemical treatment of the materials is problematic, which contributes to the microplastic problem with every wash.

Which outdoor gear should I pack?

  • Rain jacket / windbreaker / waterproof jacket
  • Fleece jacket
  • Hiking pants

Outdoor gear needs to be waterproof, durable, lightweight and quick drying. With most outdoor items these features are met by using PFCs (polyfluorinated chemicals). Studies showed that PFCs evaporates from the outdoor gear in the air and has already been found in secluded mountain lakes and snow. The chemicals can then accumulate in living organisms where the long term effects to the human body are yet unknown. Many brands have already switched to PFC free technologies and are using other eco friendly alternatives such as recycled polyester, recycled rubber for shoes and dye free membranes among others.

Shoes

  • Trainers
  • Flip flops
  • Sandals
  • Possibly hiking shoes, if you’re planning to be in the outdoors a lot.

Soles of shoes and their cushioning system are usually made out of synthetic rubber which is a petroleum-based material. Furthermore, the production of shoes for example in Asia is prone to unfair social and dangerous production standards. Luckily, the choice of responsibly made shoes could not be greater. Look out for brands which are working under the fair trade certification or any other independent social and environmental assessment bodies. Material wise you have plenty to choose from. Instead of using synthetic rubber, shoes can be made of natural rubber which is harvested by tapping into the bank and removing a milky sap while the tree continues to grow. Comfort and quality wise the shoes come with the same characteristics. Other alternatives for the sole especially for flip flops and sandals are cork, hemp, natural bamboo grass, seagrass, corn-based soles and Pinatex which is a fiber made of pineapple leaves. In the category of reused material used for the soles, you can find shoes made of recycled rubber, plastic from the ocean, tires, wine corks, industrial hoses, polyester, post-industrial foam and fabric. Watch out also for all natural dye and non-toxic ink.

Toiletries

Toiletry bag: You can find upcycled toiletry bags for example made out of recycled cement and feed bags and bags made of 100% recycled water bottles.

Toothbrush: Given the fact that dentists recommend exchanging your toothbrush every three months, this would end up to a lot of plastic waste during your lifetime. Alternatively, you can choose from toothbrushes with handles made of bamboo, bioplastic from leftover plants, cellulose (from wood) or recycled plastic for example from yogurt containers. Bristles can be composed of a large percentage of castor bean oil or vegetable nylon which is free from petroleum.

Toothpaste: If you want to understand the exact ingredients of your toothpaste why not make it yourself? There are many tutorials online which promote the use of all natural ingredients such as baking soda, coconut oil and drops of essential oils.

Soap, shampoo, face lotion, deodorant: Changing your skin care products to all natural ones hits two birds with one stone. First, you can be assured that you only let natural ingredients touch your body and hair and no synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens and preservatives are used. Secondly, you avoid thousands of little microplastic parts used in many conventional beauty care products entering the sewage system which cannot be filtered. Once they enter our ecosystem they do not decompose and consequently become part of our food system where the long-term effects on our body are not yet clear. Why taking the risk when there are so many great alternatives?

The best bet when hitting the road is a multi-use liquid soap which can be used for laundry, as a shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, for washing the dishes and many more. There are also soap sheets which come in very small sizes and dissolve in water. If you are in areas with no access to water there are even waterless soaps available. You just apply the liquid on your body or hair and leave it on.

Have a go at an all natural solid shampoo which is great for traveling as it does not account as a liquid when passing security. If you want to try to do it yourself you will find plenty of recipes online which contain for example avocado oil, shea butter and essential oils. In terms of conditioner, many swear by using apple cider vinegar.

Face lotions can also be easily done by mixing your favorite ingredients such as olive oil, almond oil and essential oils.

If you want to avoid aluminum, alcohol and other chemicals which are part of conventional deodorants try also the do-it-yourself deodorant mixtures found largely online. Tested by their many users they are said to do the job. Popular ingredients are baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils.

Hairbrush: Alternatives to plastic handles are similar to those of the toothbrushes namely bamboo, birchwood, cork or cellulose.

Razors: Most of the razors used while traveling are one-time-use razors or razors with a plastic cartridge. Both options compile to a lot of plastic waste during our lives. Additionally, the plastic razors are non-biodegradable and the blades rust while being in landfills. There are two options we can recommend. Changing to a stainless steel safety razor where only the blades need to be replaced during its lifetime. The steel razor is fully recyclable and the blades can be sent back to the manufacturer. The only downside of using a steel safety razor while traveling is that the blades by themselves don’t make it through hand luggage security. If you check your bag then never mind, they will go through easily. If you would like to stay with the plastic ones there are also alternatives made of recycled hangers, buckets or other household items.

Hand sanitizer: Look out for biodegradable, plant-based ethanol and fragrance-free hand sanitizes which ideally come in a recyclable PET plastic container.

Feminine hygiene products: You can save hundreds of kilo of plastic and cotton used for disposable pads and tampons by switching to more sustainable alternatives. It might also come to you as a surprise that pads and tampons are a chemical mix of artificial colors, fragrances and polyester just to name a few. Therefore switching to more environmentally friendly alternatives also is good for your body. A very popular alternative among female travelers is currently the Diva Cup or also called Moon Cup. It is a certified silicone cup which collects the blood and is emptied in intervals slightly longer than those of tampons. It is recommended to replace it once a year. The next good bet is period underwear which absorbs the blood safely while nothing can shift. You will need at least two in order to allow for washing and drying. Our last recommendation is reusable pads which are absorbent and are rinsed in cold water before putting them in a washing machine.

On the beach and in the outdoors…

Mosquito repellent: Most mosquito repellents contain DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide). This ingredient may cause harmful effects if used for a long time and can lead to rashes, skin irritation, headaches and dizziness among others. Moreover, it is highly toxic to wildlife such as birds and can easily enter the marine system by water. Luckily, there are DEET-free mosquito repellents available. Alternatively, you can mix your own repellent made of olive oil and essential oils such as citronella, cloves or eucalyptus.

Sunscreen: The chemicals used in conventional sunscreen have a huge negative impact on fish and coral especially in areas close to beaches, snorkeling or diving terrain. The alternative is a plastic free and biodegradable sunscreen. Not sure if your current sunscreen is eco friendly? It should not contain the following ingredients: Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Octinoxate / Octylmethoxycinnamate, Octisalate, Avobenzone, Ethylhexl Methoxycinnamate , 4-Mehtylbenzylidene and Homosalate.

Travel towel: You want your travel towel to be lightweight and quick to dry. Most of the travel towels are made of microfiber. An alternative could be those made of organic bamboo fiber which is unbleached and undyed, or towels made of recycled materials. Some designs even let the towel turn into a sarong, beach towel or yoga and gym towel.

Electronics

Laptop: If you already have a laptop or tablet which you would like to take with you on your trip this is the best bet in order to avoid buying new electronics and reducing the amount of electronic waste worldwide. If you are thinking of buying a new one find here the things to look out for. The brands producing more environmentally friendly laptops are changing the exterior from plastic to aluminum, glass, wood or bamboo. They are reducing the number of precious metals used and avoid using environmental harming materials such as halogen and lead. Many also use a high amount of recycled plastic, plastic not based on petroleum or natural ash. There is also a shift to reduce the amount of plastic used in the machine’s circuit board, connectors and cables. Another important factor is the product longevity and modular design. The environmentally friendly laptops should run longer than average and are made of a modular design which allows updating and repairing of individual components and upgrading to newer ones.

Phone: If buying a new phone look out for high usage of recycled material, material used from conflict-free regions and fair traded, a modular and timeless design and a brand which encourages you to repair your phone yourself rather then buying a new one. There is currently one brand available incorporating all mentioned features.

Laptop & phone case: For your laptop and phone case, you can find many alternatives made of natural fibers such as palm leaves, cork, tung tree, jute and pineapple. Have also a look at the many funny and interesting upcycling cases made of wetsuits, tires, life vests, seat belts, candy wrapper, coffee bags, plastic bags and many more.

Charger & power bank:  Our recommendation is to change to a wireless charger made of organic hemp, plant-based bioplastic, recycled material or a solar charger.

Speakers, Headphones: You can find speakers and headphones made of cotton, recycled plastic and metals, bamboo and certified woods or solar powered ones.

Digital camera: Alternatively sourced and built cameras in the amount already available for laptops and phones are currently not on the market. Nevertheless, we found a great gadget for having an all-time charged camera by using a solar camera strap providing you choose a sunny travel destination.

Flashlights: There are great alternatives available which do not rely on electric energy. You can opt for a solar powered flashlight, a flashlight powered by human heat or one which charges by shaking it. The outer cases come also in timber, wood or cork.

Travel Equipment

 

Laundry wash bag & soap nuts: A laundry wash bag makes sure you are washing machine independent and do not have to compromise on clean clothes. The bag comes with a flexible washboard inside, is waterproof, pocket-size, more effective than hand washing and can also be used as a dry bag. Combine it with natural soap nuts which come from a tree and are therefore 100% biodegradable. Users have experienced that the nuts only turns soapy in combination with hot water so make sure to add boiled water to your wash bag. If you want a natural bleach just add vinegar or lime juice to your washing.

Packing cubes: Packing cubes come in different colors and sizes and organize your backpack by preventing your items from falling out when opening. Look for packing cubes made of recycled and upcycled materials.

Squeezy bottles: Squeezy bottles are ideal for your do-it-yourself skin care products or any other smaller amounts of products you want to take on your trip. Take the ones made of approved silicone and free of any leaching chemicals.

Water bottle: In order to avoid buying many small water bottles during your trip, you can take your own and fill it up at water stations (if available). A good bet is a bottle or flask made of stainless steel in order to keep your liquids hot and cold. They are durable, recyclable and are not known to leach. Another alternative is a collapsible or foldable water bottle made of approved silicone.

Fork-knife-spoon (spork): Sporks are great for eating on the go and avoiding plastic cutlery from restaurants when ordering a takeaway. You can buy them made of bamboo, stainless steel and wood.

Reusable shopping bag: Reusable shopping bags are also available made from recycled material or natural fibers and help to avoid plastic bags when shopping during your trip. Opt for one which is easily foldable and pocket-size.

Mesh produce bags: Mesh produce bags are another great way to avoid the many plastic bags when buying fruit and vegetable. They are see-through, ultra lightweight, washable and usually made of nylon.

Backpack / Daypack: A good backpack with an optional daypack is one of the most important travel items. There are several brands which are using recycled material such as plastic bottles, airbags, cut-offs from truck covers, tires and many more.

Sunglasses: There is a wide range of sunglasses made of certified wood, bamboo, cork, reclaimed materials, recycled materials and bioplastic.

Wallet / money belt / neck wallet: When it comes to upcycled wallets the current designs surprise you with the use of old skateboards, airplane aluminum, paper, fabric, wood and cork.

Yoga mat: If you do not want to compromise on your yoga practice and roll out your mat at any given time make sure to opt for an easy to fold, lightweight mat made of natural rubber and free of toxic chemicals dyes.

Pen, Journal: To jot down your travel impressions you can choose from plastic pens entirely made of recycled plastic bottles and journals out of tree-free pages, recycled paper or sugar cane fiber.

 

Wondering how you can experience your travel destination more consciously? Here you can find our blog about „Slow & Conscious Traveling„.


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Why learn a foreign language?

Why can it be very useful to learn a new language during a stay abroad? How to learn a new language easily? In this blog World Unite! staff members and participants of our programs worldwide tell about what motivated them to learn the language of their host country and how!

 

 

Thore from Denmark tells why he wanted to learn Japanese during his internship in Tokyo:

 


“When I arrived to Japan, I only knew the Japanese words for ‘Thank you’ and ‘Hello’. Then I took one month of classes in a language school and now I feel much wiser. Even though I can’t speak Japanese fluently, the phrases and language basics that I’ve learned are extremely helpful in my everyday life here. I can now have simple conversations with Japanese native speakers, for instance I can order food in a restaurant, ask a shop assistant for advice or ask for directions. This makes me feel much more confident and welcome.“

Would you like to learn Japanese too? Register here for the next course.

 

Our coordinator Miriam from Germany tells you why Kiswahili skills are important for her work as a coordinator in Tanzania:

 


„When I first came to Tanzania for an internship, I did not speak any Kiswahili yet. Once on-site, I wanted to learn at least a few words in the local language, as I have always done while traveling. I think that some of the basic words of the local language can open the door to the culture and people to you as travelers.

Of course, language is also part of the respective culture and acquiring language skills also expresses respect for the same. Although I did not speak much Swahili in the beginning, I soon realized that people appreciated that I tried to learn their language. Even when traveling, language skills are incredibly useful, e.g. if you have any questions about the bus departure times or if you would like to ask for a price at the vegetable market. You will soon realize that people become more open to you when you speak their language.

First I tried to teach myself Swahili with books and with the help of my host family. Especially the host family taught me many terms and phrases that have helped me a lot in everyday life. After that, I went to a Swahili language course.

Of course, learning a new language is also a challenge. For example, I avoid using the word „to drink“ in Swahili. If you do not pronounce it correctly, you’re saying that instead of drinking, you’re going number two.

Interestingly, there are also some words in the Swahili that also occur in German, but have a completely different meaning, e.g. „Pipi“ (= German: „to pee“; Swahili: „sweets“) or „Papa“ (= German: „dad“,  Swahili: „shark“) or „Popo“ (= German: „bottom“, Swahili: „bat“). “

Register here for a Kiswahili language course in Tanzania or on the tropical island of Zanzibar!

Our coordinator Hasmik  in Jaipur originally comes from Armenia and tells us why she wanted to learn Hindi:

 

„I learned Hindi as I moved to India to live and work and in order to communicate with local people Hindi is way important.

When you first came to India, I had basic knowledge of common words. I downloaded some apps and tried to learn Hindi online prior to my arrival. When I arrived, I realized only knew very little yet and that I had to make a greater learning effort in order to understand people and to communicate.

I many learned Hindi by studying it on my own as as I did not have much time during the day. I used many language apps, online tutorials and books. However still, I feel that a language course would help me to also get the theory behind the language especially to brush up my grammar skills.

However, very surprisingly I grasped the language easily as I had to interact with local people and it helped me a lot. Every time I could not understand something I would simply google translate it. This way it took me 3 months to start communicating basic Hindi and understanding every-day conversations.

In the beginning, particularly the gender of the nouns and verbs was challenging for me to use. I had many funny situations when I confused female with male and people tended to think that I was talking about someone else and not about myself. I remember one special case very well: in Hindi there are the words “katori” which means a little bowl and “kachori” which is an Indian street food. So once my friend told me-give me katori (bowl) and I said there is none, I ate all (thinking that he is asking for the food).

India is a huge country where each state is different from one another. It is estimated that only 10% of Indian population speaks English fluently, however that 10% is so big that it makes India the second largest English speaking country in the world after the USA. I would say that if you are a traveler, student, intern or volunteer visiting North India, then basic Hindi is important to learn. In the South, the English level of people is much better than North because there each state focuses more on their own local language like Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, etc. so there Hindi won’t be of much use, but in the northern part of the country Hindi is the main means of communication.

In the beginning I was hoping that my good English skills would help me to communicate smoothly, but I was very much mistaken. In Rajasthan, where literacy rate is low and some people only use Hindi in every-day life. I particularly had challenges communicating in non-work related aspects. I remember an incident when I spend 1 hour explaining supermarket employees that I needed matchsticks and at the end got to know that they simply did not understand my English pronunciation. The word for matches in English and Hindi is the same, but with a different pronunciation.

I can now use Hindi for everything, starting from having nice short talks with curious Indian drivers to bargaining skillfully for any item I want to buy. One important note: In India people appreciate a lot when foreigners try to speak the local language and I have had a lot of cases that just because of my Hindi people give me discounts, they call me “sister” as they see that I took effort to learn the language so I respect the culture. They consider the person who speaks the local language better integrated into the culture as there is no barrier to communicate.“

Read about our coordinator Julia in Tokyo and what motivated her to learn Japanese:


I started learning Japanese in 2009. When I came to Japan for the first time in 2011, I had already spent two years studying the language.

Actually, there was no particular moment or incident that motivated me to learn Japanese. However, I have been interested in Japan since my childhood.

Of course it’s a cliché that’s the same with many of my generation’s other Japanese learners, but of course my interest was initially aroused by anime on German television, although my interest in it changed over the years. Today I do not remember when I last saw an anime.

Nevertheless, back then I used to think that I wanted to learn Japanese at some point. After graduating from high school, I decided to study Japanese Studies.

It was relatively easy for me to learn Japanese, at least the basic knowledge. It just takes a lot of stamina and time. Just learning by the way does not work in my opinion. From time to time, my motivation was lost, I have to admit.

I have learned through language courses during my studies of Japanology, through self-studying, tandem partners, Japanese literature and films / series. The first time I was able to use my Japanese knowledge was during an internship in Tokyo. I used to live with a family of a Japanese friend. For three months I had to speak Japanese there, otherwise I would not have been able to communicate at all. This experience has shaped my Japanese significantly.

I think it is very important to have a basic knowledge of the local language if you are in a country for a long time. In Japan, just more doors open up into the world of work, and social contacts are easier to make when you speak some Japanese already.

 


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Kiswahili courses on the tropical island of Zanzibar and at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!

Do you want to train your brain and learn a new language? Ulrike from Germany tells us about her Kiswahili course in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

I really enjoyed my Kiswahili lessons and I was able to freshen up previously acquired (and then mostly forgotten) language skills and also learned many new vocabulary. Being a one-to-one course, I also found the chance to converse directly with the teacher a lot very useful and entertaining.

Moshi is a really pretty and scenic town. My accommodation in the centrally located guest house was quite convenient, as I could walk directly from there to the language course.

After my language course I did a tour to Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar. I even came back after that to explore Moshi and Arusha more.

Kind regards,

Ulrike (Germany)

Are you also interested in a Kisuaheli language course? Sign up here.


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Animal Welfare in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Johanna from Germany volunteered for an animal protection project in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, working to rescue animals from illegal trade and non-species welfare, to rehabilitate and release them into a natural environment. Here she tells you about her experiences!

 

To begin with my conclusion: I am extremely satisfied with my trip, the language school and my participation at the project. Without World Unite!, I probably would have never dared to turn my dream into a reality! From the beginning, I had the impression that World Unite! selects their cooperating partners very well and really addresses the skills, needs and wishes of the participants. I can only recommend the organisation!

In my opinion, I would always look for a volunteer project to enter a foreign country, as well as the foreign culture and a new language. In the end, you will get to know the country and the people! On your solo travelling, language skills are extremely useful. I therefore advise you to stay beyond the project a little longer to practice your language skills.

For the first time in another continent…

… I got off the plane nervously but quickly realized that my nervousness was in vain. The first woman I saw at the exit held up a sign with my name on it so I could not think of anything that could go wrong. Together we drove from Quito airport to the hostel where I stayed during my language course.

The atmosphere in the hostel was good. I was pleased that different people from different backgrounds in the hostel came together: young and old, some worked in projects, some attended the language course while others completed an internship. We cooked together or tried out restaurants in the area; watched movies in the evening, played card games, reviewed with each other our Spanish vocabulary and explored the city together. Excursions and trips were outlined in the hostel already but also the language school always had a very helpful contact person.

At the language school

Classes were normally held in small groups. I participated in the advanced course which largely consisted of conversations. Grammar was also repeated but in the end „hablar“ was the only thing that really helped. During breaks, we played games that promoted vocabulary and getting to know each other.

Of course, not everything was great. Within my first week, many suffered from travel sickness. Everyone had eventually caught nausea and / or diarrhea. The symptoms lasted for a day or so but it was obvious that it was because of our new arrival at the place.

What disturbed me personally was the loud volumes of sounds in the district. Except for Sundays, there was constant loud music which was incomprehensible to me. How could one sleep there at all? Surprisingly it somehow worked and for a week, that was an interesting experience.

My absolute highlight during my time in Quito, was my visit to the Cotopaxi. Just driving there is an experience! Even the trips to the markets of Sangolqui and Otavalo are recommended.

My volunteer project

The drive from Quito to Puyo was exciting. I had already met other people in the hostel who had also opted for Yana Coacha. We were driven by bus and picked up at the bus station in Puyo by a taxi driver. So nothing could go wrong there. The animal rescue station looked like a zoo at first sight. The animals however were ill, injured or came from captivity. They were then re-fed and released when strong enough.

The release center in the middle of the rainforest is perhaps the most beautiful place on earth!

The tasks at the project mainly consist of preparing food and cleaning the cages or caring for and training the animals. At specific times, there were special tasks such as maintaining the paths, building shelters for the animals, or even trips. Raul, our supervisor, has a very open-minded and motivating way of working, everyone likes to work there. He is very keen that the tasks are fairly distributed and that every volunteer gets to know all the work areas. Personal preferences/aversions are also greatly considered. There are team meetings twice a day to discuss about work progress. At lunchtime and after work, you have free time to spend in the pool, Wi-Fi area, hammock, bed or somewhere in the park. The city of Puyo is also about 10-minutes drive from the park. Almost every day a group went to the city for shopping or dining.

During the time in the project one lives and works in the animal rescue center. Accommodation and three meals a day are included. There are always vegan and vegetarian options and the food was consistently delicious! On the weekends, there is normally 1.5 days when you are free. My highlights were the trips to the release station Tamandua and Baños. By the way: there are hardly any mosquitoes in Puyo and generally the climate is pleasantly warm. It always rains in between but it is not humid!

General travel insights to Ecuador:

  • There is always happy music everywhere, I now really miss that in my everyday life.
  • The people and animals are unconditionally friendly! You can always get help anywhere!
  • Attention!! you can get sun-burnt in Quito even with a closed cloud cover!
  • Beware of the electric shower heads!! you can allegedly get a blow!
  • Also, purchased goods are always quickly stuffed in plastic bags. You can simply say „no necesito“ if you would not need one.
  • Even 10 dollar bills occasionally cause panic among taxi drivers or market stalls. If possible, you should always have smaller bills!
  • In long-distance coach companies, traders shop for groceries and sell their goods, sometimes also regional products such as cakes or hot corn on the cob.
  • In long hours bus rides, annoying action movies are shown in an endless loop as you drive past the most breathtaking scenery.
  • Buses, taxis and Uber-driving is amazingly cheap, practical and safe.
  • Locally prepared food is incredibly cheap, delicious and healthy. Traditional Ecuadorian food is not very unlike the European! Everything tastes sweet! There are empanadas with onion filling and frosting! The fruit is much tastier than at home (not a real surprise); not all exotic fruits are sweet, some are only suitable for making juices. Popcorn and salad are eaten as a side dish in soups.
  • The rainforest lives at night! You can tell from the many animal sounds that replace the sounds of the day. It is unbelievably beautiful and calming!
  • Anyone who likes the Gondwanaland in Leipzig, will be thrilled by Yana Cocha. It is a really wonderful experience and also a mission for a good cause!

 

Would you also like to volunteer in the Animal Welfare project in the Amazon Rainforest? Apply here now!

 


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Empowerment for Women and Girls in Jodhpur, India

Many women and girls in India face triple discrimination based on their caste, gender and income situation. Anita from Germany volunteered in an empowerment project in Rajasthan and helped to promote financial independence as well as educational, professional and social skills of disadvantaged women and girls. Sophia interned in a psychological practice in Jodhpur and learned about the cultural differences in psychological counseling.

Anita talks about her volunteer assignment:

My name is Anita, I am a 23 year old student from Germany. After volunteering with World Unite! in Tanzania, I wanted to experience another project from the organization in a different part of the world. So I decided to spent my semester break volunteering in a Women’s and Girl’s Empowerment project in India.

The NGO is located in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, a conservative state in north-western India with a high child-marriage rate.

In nine Empowerment Centres, a boutique that offers the women’s own handcrafted objects, and two boarding homes for girls from a far-away village, women and children get the chance to meet, learn and improve different life-skills and most importantly, to strengthen each other.

I worked at one of the Empowerment Centres for 6 weeks. In the mornings, the women had the opportunity to learn Hindi, English, Maths and Sewing for three hours. Our team consisted of 3 volunteers and two local teachers. My task was to teach basic English. During the classes I got to experience how eager the women were to help each other to learn new things. Furthermore, it was an extraordinary experience to see the importance of providing the women a safe place to learn and to improve their knowledge.

After our lunch break which we usually spent together with the local teachers, the center offered activities for children for for 2 hours, including English, Maths and Hindi classes. The children were happy to apply their English skills from school. Whenever we had enough time, the children taught us their games, songs and dances.

Every Wednesday, we arranged a workshop and discussed different topics (e.g. business skills, future goals, hygiene, childcare) with the women and children. The Wednesdays were especially lovely for all of us because we had time for discussions and mutual exchange of thoughts.

After work, we always had enough time to relax with with the other volunteers or go to explore the city, have ice-cream and shop Indian clothes and fabrics. Since all volunteers in this project lived together under one roof, we got the chance to make a lot of new friends. During the weekends there was time for traveling and exploring the surrounding areas. Udaipur’s city palace or the desert-city of Jaisalmer are just a few incredible sights located not to far from Jodhpur!

The time in Jodhpur was overall incredible and I am very thankful for all the things I learned, experienced and the memories I made during my stay.

Sophia tells about her internship:

My name is Sophia and I’m a 22 year old student from Germany. With the help of World Unite! I came to Jodhpur to do an internship in psychology at the practice of the clinical psychologist Dr. Reena Bhansali. She gave me lots of insights into the way psychological counselling works in India. I had the opportunity to work on her patients‘ individual disorder conditions based on her records and documentation and had access to a variety of case studies from her collection. I really enjoyed Dr. Bhansali’s stories from her everyday life as a psychologist in India, which gave me important clues regarding the cultural influences on mental illness.

During my internship, I stayed in the same guest house where the volunteers of the women’s and girls‘ empowerment project were also staying, which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the work of this project too.