The Coronavirus has spread a lot of fear among travelers: With the increasing number of Corona infections worldwide, many international travelers have returned to their home countries as quickly as possible. But some of you have made a conscious decision to stay in their host country – whether you have a job abroad that you can’t quit easily, or simply feel that your volunteering organisation does now need you more than ever. You can stay healthy during travel by taking the right steps to protect yourself and others from becoming infected with Covid-19 (Coronavirus).
You can reduce the risk of infection by:
Hand hygiene: We’re sure you’ve heard it a million times but feel that we can’t repeat the seemingly obvious often enough: Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or the use of alcohol based hand rub is essential to reduce the transmission of viral infections. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and for a time period sufficient to inactivate the virus (minimum 20 seconds, but ideally 40 to 60 seconds). 20 seconds correspond to singing „Happy Birthday“ two times. If you use hand rub, make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands first with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Respiratory and cough hygiene: “Catch it, bin it, kill it”: When you cough, sneeze or blow your nose, use disposable, single-use tissues. Used tissues should be disposed in the nearest waste bin immediately after use. Don’t forget to clean your hands (using soap and water or alcohol based hand rub) after coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose.
If you feel sick, wear a face mask to protect others! If you feel sick, we recommend you to stay at home and to avoid contact with others in order not to infect them. If you can’t avoid contact with others, wear a face mask to protect them! When you talk, cough, or sneeze you may release tiny drops into the air that can infect others. Medical masks are currently scarce and we would like to advise against buying medical supplies which are at the moment urgently needed in hospitals to combat the corona pandemic. You can simply use a cloth or scarf that you pull tightly over your mouth and nose when you’re in contact with others. For everyone with more creative skills among us, there are numerous tutorials on how to make your own mask.
Don’t touch your face: Did you know that according to studies, we touch our face around 16 times per hour? Keep hands away from the eyes, mouth and nose! Your mouth and eyes are areas where a virus can easily enter the body. By keeping your hands away from your face you can significantly reduce the risk of a viral infection.
Keep at least 1,5 meters of distance from other people to avoid droplet infection. Avoid handshaking. Greet people with a wave, a nod, or a bow instead.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid crowded places and public transportation. Walk or use a bicycle instead. When using public transport or being in crowded places, use alcohol based hand sanitizer immediately after getting off.
Carry hygiene wipes with you all the time: Whether to clean your hands after getting off the bus, to wipe the handle of your shopping cart before using it, or to open door handles you actually don’t want to touch: Hygienic wet wipes are a practical all-rounder that should be in your pocket at all times during a pandemic!
Cleanliness and disinfection: Eugh gross! Studies revealed that laptop and computer keyboards are 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Hang on: Your phone isn’t much better either: It harbours 9,000 times the amount of germs found on a toilet seat! This means that also a virus can get on your keyboard or cell phone through smear infection. To avoid infection, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Pay cashless: Paper bills can contain bacteria and viruses that can lead to the spread of disease. If possbile, pay cashless! We know that many of our host countries are cash-based societies. If you can’t avoid contact with cash, wash your hands carefully after handling money.
World Unite! participant Giovanni volunteered at the Mother Nature Camp Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Read about his volunteering activities in the camp and what made him feel at home in Tanzania!
This was the first time I travelled to Africa and I enjoyed the experience from the first day. The staff of World Unite! was supportive in any aspect and made me feel welcome even before my arrival. Once there, I met a lot of lovely people in Mweka/Moshi both among the locals and the other volunteers, and I really felt part of the community.
Surprisingly, during the Tanzanian winter season the climate can be quite cold and very wet, but dwelling right at the border of the Kilimanjaro National Park is an unmatchable experience. As for the camp, it has been newly settled and it is pretty comfortable, apt to host many guests.
The activities are of different types: taking care of the tree nursery, collecting seeds, planting seedlings, cleaning the streets, helping local farmers and more. Mr Sikievu, the local coordinator who leads the project in coordination with the World Unite! staff, is a great source of inspiration and will teach you a lot about the project itself and about the culture of the region.
Other local people work at the camp cooking, keeping watch and doing works of diverse kind; all of them really made us volunteers feel at home, and the connection we established was precious and sincere. Miriam and Adelina (my World Unite! coordinators) were of invaluable help and support, at any time committing to make you get the most out of your stay in Tanzania. I am so grateful of everything and definitely recommend this experience!
Apply now for volunteering at the Mother Nature Conservation Camp Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!
Rebecca from Germany volunteered at Sarah’s and Kos’ Horse Ranch in South Africa for 3 weeks. Looking back, what does she say about her adventure in the Western Cape? Read more here!
Sarah and Kos are amazing! They are lovely and funny people. They showed my around the area and included me in family activities all the time! The horses are amazing and Sarah’s riding skills are insanely good, she loves to teach and makes you improve your own skills! Sarah takes care of everyone individually so the trails are always different and fun so you don’t have to worry that the experience is gonna be the typical tourist experience.
I had a lovely time there and I definitely want to go back!
World Unite! participant Andreas from Germany completed a medical elective at the Bugando Medical Center in surgery and in internal and tropical medicine in Mwanza, Tanzania. In this testimonial he speaks about the insights gained into a different health system and a different culture.
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
From October 5th, 2019 to February 1st, 2020, I completed a four-month stay abroad in Tanzania. World Unite! supported me with the organization of my stay, as well as with accommodation and a language course. World Unite! was also there when it came to organizing leisure activities and trips through the country.
World Unite! arranged my elective at a hospital in Mwanza, in the north-east of Tanzania. I arrived a week before the elective officially started, got picked up from the airport and brought to my accommodation. For the time of my elective I lived in the “Serengeti Guest House” near the hospital. I had Witness, as a coordinator and contact person on site, whom I would particularly like to praise here. She showed me the city on my first days, explained a lot about the culture and the people in Tanzania and taught Swahili through a language course. I am very grateful to her for her commitment, which made my transition into this new situation easy.
I completed my elective from October 14th until December 8th 2019 at Bugando Medical Center. The circumstances on site cannot be compared with the standards that I knew from Germany, but that was precisely why the time there was an important experience for me and taught me many new lessons – both medically and above all socially.
I completed a total of 5 weeks in surgery and spent 3 weeks in internal medicine. Although you are legally not allowed to do a lot of practical work yourself, you still learn a lot about diseases that rarely occur in Germany, such as malaria, schistosomiasis, HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis. You don’t only get to know another health care system, but you also learn to appreciate your own significantly more. The fates of some of the patients can sometimes be very moving and unfortunately, you cannot help all, as only a small proportion of patients are lucky to have health insurance.
I was part at the ward rounds, meetings and trainings. The tasks in the OR were often limited to holding hooks or smaller wound sutures. At the ward I was able to carry out minor medical activities such as taking blood samples, placing catheters, etc. The classic physical examination plays an important role in Tanzania, due to often lacking diagnostic equipment. They are very well trained in this and you can learn a lot from the doctors. Especially at the internal medicine ward, I was heavily involved in the therapy planning and was able to interpret findings (EKGs, heart echos, chest X-ray, etc.).
For me, the elective was very valuable because it allowed an insight into a different health system, a different culture and the department of tropical medicine.
After my elective, I traveled for two months. World Unite! was also able to help me here. A Safari and tours to Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro were able to organize with Budget Safari. Here I would like to praise Adelina in particular, who coordinated all the participants’ activities reliably and was always available. I would also like to mention Ferdinand and his team, who enabled me to be part of breathtaking mountain tours. Tanzania offers such a very broad variety of experiences. You have the magnificent wildlife and beautiful mountains but also fantastic sandy beaches on Zanzibar.
The Tanzanians have a distinctly different culture to us Germans. Everything is a little more relaxed and a little slower (“polepole”) and often things simply take more time than we are used to. Nevertheless, people are very warm and hospitable when you open yourself to their culture. My time in Tanzania was an enormous personal enrichment and broadened my horizon immensely.
I can recommend a stay in Tanzania to everyone who wants to gain a different view on the world. The country and people are so interesting and I appreciate my time in Mwanza. World Unite! proofed to be a reliable organization at all times. I had a dedicated contact person throughout my stay, both during my time in Mwanza and afterwards while traveling. Particularly during these early days, I was very happy to know locals who showed me around and helped me organize so many things.
Rachel from the UK set out on her Working Holiday adventure in Japan. In our blog she tells us why she wanted to spend her 30th birthday in Japan and why she would definitely recommend doing a Working Holiday to anyone!
Japan has been a country I have wanted to visit for a number of years now and I have managed to fulfil my dream as well as spend my 30th birthday in this beautiful country. I have had so many experiences and met some wonderful people that I would definitely recommend doing a working holiday to anyone who wishes to spend a year immersed in a different country with a rich history and culture.
I was introduced to Japan when I started watching anime, although at the time I just saw it as a cartoon. My first anime was CardCaptors which is the American dub of CardCaptor Sakura when I was in primary school. Then I grew older and I watched shows such as Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing and various others. I still watch anime as well as re-watch them.
Two of my passions is history and reading. I read both fiction and non-fiction and in my final year in high school, I read ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden and I found the details of the locations brought wonderful images in my mind and I wanted to see these places for myself. I then watched the film adaptation with Ken Wattenberg and this just cemented this more in my desire to visit Japan. Although, it took me a while to get myself to Japan.
In October 2018, I was on holiday and I found myself feeling in a bit of a rut with life. I was turning 30 and I wanted to do something different. So I looked into Japan and getting work teaching English however most wanted degrees and I don’t have one. I am a horse riding instructor and I went to college to study horses then left to work at stables in London and Cornwall.
Did I give up? Of course not. I kept looking and I found the Working Holiday option which didn’t require a degree. So this made my day.
So I looked through different companies and I found BUNAC, a partner company with World Unite! and looked at the website. I was blown away with the amount of useful information on the site and I decided to go for it, although my biggest concern was the fact I was turning 30 and a Working Holiday visa was only for 18-30. I e-mailed them and arranged a phone call discussion.
I spoke with a member of the BUNAC team who cleared my worries about my age and was extremely friendly. This gave me the confidence to pay the deposit and start the process of filling out the paperwork. I handed in my resignation at work but gave them till after new year as I didn’t want to leave them short and I returned home in early January 2019.
I was getting excited when I found out that for the first time, they had given out the allotted number of visas for the current tax year, which is 1000 however they said they would re-open in April. This put a little hiccup in my plans as I had planned to apply in February to fly in April but I just moved things around. I planned to visit London early April and before the Easter holidays. I went to the BUNAC office in Kensington and met with some of the team who helped me organise my paperwork ready for the Embassy. I headed to the Embassy next and went through security and got a ticket and waited.
My paperwork was looked at and my passport was taken. I was handed a receipt which would have to be handed back when the passport was collected and I returned to BUNAC. I was nervous but they assured me that I had been successful as they would have given me my passport back otherwise. As I live in Wigan, which is a bit far and expensive to travel to London for overnight; I was relieved to find out that BUNAC pick up passports and then send them by next day delivery. Of course there was a fee and I paid it as it was much cheaper than the alternative. By the following Saturday, I had may visa.
Arrival in Japan
I landed in Japan 30th May 2019 at 12:30 pm about half an hour earlier. I got off the plane, collected my luggage and was directed through to customs. Those with the working holiday visa need to go to the left side and wait as this is where we get our work permit and residents card. I then went downstairs and my luggage was checked and I exited to the Arrivals area where I waited for Nozomi, a World Unite! team member from the share house I had booked to stay in.
Nozomi was very friendly and we took the limousine bus from Narita Airport. I was super excited and logged into the free Wi-Fi on the bus so then I could download Line. Line is like messenger and it connects us with the team as they offer support for the whole year even if we move around Japan. We got of the bus and I followed Nozomi who led us towards the Tozai Metro line and told us to remember our stop Kiba which is T13. We got off the metro and walked towards the share house. At the share house, I was shown to where I would be staying and given time to rest before the filling in of paperwork.
When the paperwork was done, I walked to the local my basket and picked something to eat and spent the evening talking to some of other residents.
The next morning, I met up with Nozomi and some of the others and we went to set up our JP bank account. Nozomi helped us throughout the whole process and once we were finished asked if we were going to head out for the day. I said yes as I was eager to explore. We headed to the metro and I gave her 1000¥ and she got me a PASMO card. I thanked her and headed out to explore.
My first stop was Nihombashi, only a few stops from Kiba and I had a wander around. I even went into a museum and looked at some interesting artefacts.
Kimono in a shop window in Nihombashi
There is also an induction meeting, which lasts about an hour and a half. This gives you important information on getting a job whilst in Japan. You can do various jobs such as teaching English, babysitting, work at a restaurant etc. They explain the interview process and how to accept a business card which is really helpful. This is how I found out about Care Finder. This is babysitting site where you set up a profile and then arrange a meeting with the Care Finder team who then verify your profile. This is a good way to generate some income. I have met some lovely people through Caret Finder and it has helped me to boost my income.
Looking back on those first few days, I was glad that I went through a company like Bunac/World Unite! as they helped me get myself established in Japan. They also assisted me in getting a Japanese sim card, work, language school and a wonderful team that I can count on if I need assistance.
Language school and Work
One of the benefits of this programme is being able to attend language school. This is extra but it an opportunity to learn the basics of Japanese from native teachers but also a change to meet other travellers. I did the Hiragana and Katakana which is 4 weeks. I recommend this for those who want an introduction and basic foundation as there are lessons available at community centres.
As part of the support we get for the duration of our stay in Japan, we are sent job alerts through Line. I was alerted to a nursery job by Nozomi which was successful and my boss is keeping me on till end of March which is fantastic.
Another early job I did was one I found myself and that was as a waitress in a Japanese restaurant in Asakusa. I was wandering around and went to have lunch. As it was quiet, I got talking with the manager and left with a job. It was a wonderful place and I even went there for my 30th birthday. Unfortunately, the restaurant is no longer open.
I have also used Craigslist which does have some good jobs for freelance teaching English, schools, however, be careful as there are some that are not suitable for a working holiday participant. Although, my most recent job was one from Craigslist which is teaching English at a nursery/preschool. I love this place and began there in December 2019. I have met some lovely people and the children are fantastic. I work 3 days a week and will be working there till end of April 2020.
Experiences in Japan
I have experienced many things whilst in Japan so far and there’s still much to see and do. I have attended festivals which are wonderful celebrations for everyone to enjoy. I have worn a Yukata which is the summer kimono and it’s made of cotton. I also bought my own in Asakusa.
The Yukata in the photo opposite is the one I brought in Asakusa and I wore this on the last night of the festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita. This is held over 3 nights, 13th-16th July 2019. It was a wonderful evening and many people come to attend the festivities where people come to honour their dead.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my reasons for doing the Working Holiday was to celebrate my 30th birthday. I definitely spoilt myself as I had a lovely hair treatment and haircut at Nalu76 a hair salon in Omotesando. This is a fantastic salon as the staff speak English, very friendly and professional. I then went to Asakusa and had a meal with some friends I had met at the World Unite! share house.
The following day I went to Disney Sea which is unique to Japan. I am a huge Disney fan and this is definitely a place from me. I left early and there was already a long queue however once it opened at 8am we got in quite quickly. It was a lovely day and I had a wonderful time especially exploring Mermaid Lagoon and the Arabian Cost. I stayed for the till 9pm which was when the evening show had finished.
One activity I highly recommend is held on the 3rd November for Culture Day and this Yabusame; archery on horseback. I watched this highly exciting sport at Meji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku and as a horse rider myself, I can see the dedication and skill these riders have achieved. It is popular and challenging as they have to hit 3 targets at gallop. Those that make it through the first round proceed to the next where the target is smaller and when hit confetti is released. Those who have competed for a year are allowed to wear their family crest. It is exhilarating and something I would watch again and again.
Above one of the riders and his horse
Myself with some of the riders
In Novemeber, my mum came to visit for two weeks and we had a wonderful time. We saw Mt Fuji, went to Teamlabs Borderless and Odaiba onsen called Odaiba Ōedo-onsen-monogatari. It is a fun place to visit as you can play festival games, wear yukata, enjoy food and drink as well as various treatments. You are given a wrist band when you enter and you use that to buy with then pay when you leave.
Pictures are Mount Fuji, Mum and I at Team labs and at Odiaba Onsen.
As I reflect I see my time in Japan has been a fantastic experience and I would do it all again. I have learnt much and have met so many people who I hope to remain in contact with. This is something I think everyone would benefit from; to be able to experience a new country and culture is eye-opening. To be honest, a year is not enough and I wish I could stay longer, however I am already planning my next visit.
I wish to say a big thank you to the team at World Unite! and at BUNAC for providing me with this amazing opportunity and hope my experience will inspire others to do a working holiday visa.
Ready for your own Working Holiday in Japan? Apply now!
Carin from Germany supports a women and girls empowerment project in the Indian state of Rajasthan as a volunteer. Her project helps women who are exposed to multiple disadvantages due to their gender, caste and educational level.
After my first week in India I would like to share my impressions with you. First of all: In the new project in Setrawa I feel “on the right place at the right time”.
Note: The women’s and girls’ empowerment project offers educational and vocational training opportunities both in the city of Jodhpur and in Setrawa, in rural India, the location where Carin also operates.
The first days were very moving and I was overwhelmed by the diverse and different impressions: On the one hand, we volunteers support the state schools in teaching English and find very limited resources: There are currently no tables, chairs, books or other materials in the classrooms.
On the other hand, the laughter of the children and their joy in learning, e.g. when we play educational games to learn English, is extremely rewarding and I enjoy every moment of it.
We teach five classes in two open spaces and the levels vary between children. It’s great to see that the more advanced students help the children with less knowledge. Their sense of community is amazing.
Our small team of four volunteers thus starts the first of three “Mission Education” of the new Sambhali projects in Setrawa. The projects in rural will hopefully grow rapidly and contribute to the development of the village community. More volunteers are urgently needed here! Many people in Setrawa live in very poor living conditions and suffer from poor prospects for the future.
The accommodation enables us to regenerate from everyday work and there is delicious food and a very family atmosphere. In the middle of the Thar desert there is a peaceful oasis where our team enjoys creative work in the open air.
I am very grateful to have found my volunteer position in such an interesting NGO in India, thanks to World Unite!
Here you can find all information about Carin’s project and how to register.
Johanna from Germany volunteerd in a project for children in Tanzania for three months. In this blog you can read about her experience abroad, her tasks in the project and her favorite leisure time activities in Tanzania.
My journey started on September 6th, 2019. I never traveled so far by myself without really knowing what to expect. The moment I arrived in Tanzania, I was warmly welcomed by my roommates.
My social project in which I was involved, was the Chapakazi Center in Pasua. I was very pleased about the fact that my roommate Johanna had been volunteering there for the last month. From now on it was the two of us! This was great, because it allowed us to talk about the news and events at work. Our main tasks were the teaching of English and Biology – we painted animals, food and objects on the board, pointed at the respective symbol and asked the class for the words in English and Swahili. Not all children were able to follow – as the ages ranged from as little as two to seven years and all of the 50 children were accommodated in one room. For the rest of the day we involved the kids in arithmetic. We gave them simple mathematic problems to solve, or Swahili letters to copy into their notebooks.
We also played, of course. The teacher Hadija or her assistant Deborah would lead the group and we would play singing, dancing and clapping games on occasion. Johanna and I sometimes brought a music box to dance with everyone in the classroom – that was always a hit.
After the daily makande lunch (corn and beans), Johanna and I would clean the dishes while the children had their nap in the classroom. We finishes work at 4:00 pm.
Our stay in Tanzania was not all work, but also a lot of free time. We did some great trips – to the Hot Springs, to the Materuni Waterfalls, a visit to a Maasai village, short walks and hikes around the area and a Safari. On the weekend, we did what all young people like to do – party. There are some bars and a club in the city center to go to, which was always a lot of fun for us all.
My stay in Tanzania was a truly colorful experience – of my social project, the Chapakazi Center, of the children I loved dearly, the friendships to locals and of the friendships I made with people from home.
My trip ended on December 5, 2019 – I am glad to say that these three months that I was able to spend in Tanzania, have been one of the best times in my life.
Volunteer with Children Abroad in Tanzania – Apply Now!
World Unite! participant Elizabeth from the US volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya for two weeks. In our blog, Elizabeth talks about her work with the rangers and her time in Kenya.
Let me tell you a bit about Lumo Community Wildlife Conservancy and the rangers. The conservancy really is a community project. I got to address the board of directors the other day and met each one, who are all voted in from the various communities that came together to create Lumo. Nineteen years ago when it started, there were only volunteer rangers (a number of whom have been there since then but are now paid), and many of the newest young rangers had parents who volunteered here. Many of the older rangers have been here the entire time (and know a ridiculous amount about the ecosystem).
The money gained by the conservancy through entrance fees from tourists, the Lion’s Bluff lodge, the fees from volunteers for accommodation and meals, and from fees collected from illegal grazers goes to staff salaries, community programs like building a classroom for disabled kids, school desks, water ponds (they survive completely on rainwater harvesting here), and lunch-only for staff.
There are currently 28 rangers. Their jobs are going on patrol to log by camera and GPS where some of the Big 5 are located for the safari guides’ information, manning the front gate, capturing, herding back to base camp and guarding illegal cattle, staying for a week at the dismal “Bore hole” where there is a water pump system for the lodge and a water pond (the elephants recently trampled the main line looking for water).
In case I haven’t said, the conservancy is really trying to relieve some of the human/wildlife conflicts that are mostly elephants trying to get at water.
Need lest say, I find the whole social structure and customs/traditions of rangers fascinating as an anthropologist. I have a heart to continue to support deepening the knowledge base of the rangers here. I just finished a conversation with one ranger about establishing a university fund for them so they can continue studying wildlife management and then commit to coming back to improve the capacity of Lumo for at least 5 years.
I left Lumo on Wednesday morning with much sadness. I’m not sure I’ll feel quite right until I am back in Lumo again.
Volunteering at a Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya: Apply Now!
Stefanie from Germany volunteered in marketing in Myanmar for 3 months and supported local artists in the design and sale of their products. Here she talks about the reason for her trip, her volunteer work and her favorite moment in Myanmar.
Mingalapar in Myanmar!
Why Myanmar of all places? I’ve been asked this question many times before my trip but if you have been to Myanmar once you do surely know why: Myanmar is a travel destination that has not yet been completely taken up by tourism and (still) has preserved many of its traditions. You can see both men and women in traditional longyi on the streets – a piece of fabric that is artfully tied around the waist. I can only recommend buying one yourself and wearing it – every time I did this I got lots of positive reactions from the locals and even a few compliments.
Volunteering for local artists and handicrafts
But now to the main reason for my stay: I looked for a foreign experience that would also help me to develop professionally and came across volunteering for Hla Day. I can say that it was the best decision for me! Hla Day is a social organization that combines local handicrafts with modern design and thus sells numerous beautiful products in a shop in Yangon.
Since all products are made in Myanmar, Hla Day generates constant work combined with regular income for numerous local artist groups.
They are currently working with over 60 groups and every single product has a story to tell! The artist groups include people with mental or physical disabilities who are affected by poverty or live in crisis areas. With Hla Day, they can master their everyday life better and are very proud of the products they manufacture. Sustainability is the main focus, which is why many products are offered that are made from recycled materials. I don’t want to give away too much, but personally I would have loved to buy each of the products and I think the concept is absolutely great.
Although the shop is open every day, I had a normal working week from Monday to Friday. I was quickly accepted into the team by the lovely colleagues, who also answered any questions about the country and people and were always available for fun. Since I had previously worked in marketing, I was also able to actively support Hla Day in this area and above all to deepen my Adobe knowledge. I think it is definitely a great advantage to have some experience in marketing and design, because this internship shouldn’t be just a vacation.
In Yangon you can choose between numerous standards for your accommodation. Based on the price, I chose a bed in a 6-bed room in a bed and breakfast. The B&B is very clean, there is enough space in the room and thanks to a curtain next to the bed there is also enough privacy. The staff, who always looked after me and tried to teach me some Burmese idioms, is also absolutely lovely. They also prepared a typical lunch box for me every day, consisting of rice and delicious vegetables, omelets or curries. I was also able to have my laundry washed there and they answered any questions that I had.
The B&B is about a 15-minute walk from Hla Day, but you can also easily order a taxi and get there quickly. However, I found it exciting to get as much of everyday life as possible and to walk through the streets. Since there was unfortunately no dinner at the accommodation, I usually ate out after work. Street food in particular can be found everywhere in Yangon and I can only recommend trying it! Usually it is not only very cheap, but also tastes absolutely delicious. In addition, there are many delicious fruits and the typical tea rooms to discover – if you like extra sweet tea, this is where to go!
Of course, leisure time should not be neglected in such a wonderful country! At the weekend you have enough time to explore the country and to meet its people. So I went out alone or with friends and could see a lot not only in Yangon itself, but also outside. On a bike tour I discovered the wonderful place Dala on the other side of the river in Yangon. A ride on the circular train allows you to get very close to the locals. Other highlights were a visit to the pagodas in Bago, a weekend at Nwge Saung Beach and a few days in Hpa-an!
There is definitely enough to discover and I haven’t had a weekend where I would get bored.
Since the visa that you apply for for the stay is (unfortunately) only valid for 70 days and my stay was 3 months, I had to renew it after some time. In my case, this meant: an extended weekend with a friend in Bangkok! It was great to see something different in between and to enjoy the advantages of a tourist place.
The Burmese are above all curious, friendly and helpful. Since I obviously look like a foreigner, most people on the street initially stared at me.
After that, my favorite moment would usually happen: After I gave them a smile, people would smile back at me even wider!
Since the country has been closed for such a long time, it is incredibly exciting for most people to meet tourists, many have never seen them (or at least look at them that way). However, they are always reserved and never pushy and what could be nicer than making people happy with a simple smile or taking a photo together.
Of course, not everything is going well in this country, but I can report from my personal experience that I have never felt unsafe. Especially in Yangon and as a woman, you don’t have to worry about being alone or at night. Also, don’t get confused by the fact that the cars are right-hand drive despite right-hand traffic – the Burmese are used to it and know how to handle it.
Did you know that Myanmar is number one in the World Giving Index? At the latest after a few days here, you will also believe this: Donating money and food are part of everyday life and are completely normal for the people in Myanmar. In the morning you will meet numerous monks who collect food donations for their lunches and especially at the pagodas a lot of donations happen. Speaking of pagodas: They are literally everywhere and they radiate an incredible magic. Of course, the Shewadagon Pagoda is particularly impressive at night when you can see its golden shimmer from afar. But even if you drive out of the city you will discover golden peaks and pagodas everywhere, absolutely fantastic!
Stefanie (from Germany)
Here you can find all information about an internship or volunteer in marketing or design in Myanmar.
Our participant Anita from Australia talks about her 5 week volunteer placement at a Horse Ranch in Western Cape, South Africa. Her responsibilities on the ranch included feeding, grooming and caring for the horses and ponies as well as accompanying riding tours for tourists along paradise-like white sandy beaches!
22nd of September: The journey to Cape Town, South Africa begins.
I stop over in Addis Ababa capital of Ethiopia for my connecting flight. It’s 4:45 am in the morning 6:45 am Ethiopian time. We fly among the mountains of Addis and as we come in close to the landing strip beneath I can see the city slums. We land and I get onto my connecting flight to Cape Town. I arrive in Cape Town and I am picked up by Kos, who runs the Horse Ranch with his wife Sarah who I will be staying with.
We start the two and half hour whale coastal route to Pearly Beach.
The route has majestic sandstone mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I notice the diverse range of the native Fynbos plants everywhere. The plants in the Cape are more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in Southern America. There are over 9000 species of plant found here. As we drive along I am hoping I will spot a whale out of the window.
Along this coast live southern right whales, humpbacks, Bryde’s whales and even the odd Orca, although they are rare. They raise their young in the shallow waters to avoid large predators. They come from June – November during their annual migration from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to the warmer waters off Southern Africa where they feed and bring up their young. They are later this year than expected, so I am sure to see them during my stay here. We drive through the town of Gansbaai, pronounced ‘hansbi’ and meaning ‘goose bay’. It is the great white shark capital of the world.
We arrive at the farm and I settle into my barn-renovated cottage.
After hardly any sleep I have a quick dinner with Kos, Sarah, their son Chis and friends Chantelle and Steven. Then I crawl into bed and into a deep sleep. The next morning we are straight out on a trail.
We get to Pearly Beach and the horses walk along the exquisite white sandy shores. In the distance we spot several southern white whales.
One of them is breaching (breaking through the surface of the water), and it’s incredible to see for the first time. We ride back through the dunes, up and down. The horses canter up the dunes. We have to watch out for mole holes, if the horses step on them they go right through them and suddenly your balance is thrown off, so with one hand you hold the reins and the other the saddle.
My riding everyday is improving dramatically.
I am able to lead other horses and canter up and down the beach with ease, even sometimes with a backpack full of cool drinks and snacks. When the weather is good we will swim with the horses. I’ve been moving up the ranks with the horses. I started out cantering on a pony called Jinx then onto the bigger horses Mardi, Kimo and Rocky. There was one horse Pride I was eager to ride and I was always told that he was for experienced riders. The day came when all the riders were novices and intermediate, so I was put on Pride and from the moment I sat on him I realised how powerful this horse was. I kept on having to hold him back. He is a ball of energy beneath me, pure fire with a gentle soul.
I am often helping to lead the horses into the sea and sometimes I get to ride them in. It’s a funny feeling having a horse swimming underneath you, suddenly you feel weightless. And then you feel the power of the horse making its way out against the strong current pulling you back as you hold onto their mane and head back to the shore. An experience I will never forget.
On my last day I have my first fall off Pride. I am leading a canter down the beach. I was struggling to control the horse and it made a sharp turn and I fell straight off. Luckily it is a soft landing onto sand and I get straight back up and canter back down to the group.
5 weeks is over at Pearly beach and now I travel to Cape Town where I stay in a great hostel called Once in Cape Town. They offer a lot of tours around the city. I have roommates from all over the world. I went up Table Mountain together with my Brazilian roommate and her Chilean friend – Makarena and Gabriella. The views are amazing up there. I also visit Hout Bay, which has a harbour and beautiful beach surrounded by mountains.
You can find all information about Anita’s volunteer placement and how to apply on our webpage.