What to Bring
Orphans Africa (OA) is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt charitable organization that began in 2007 with the coming together of three ordinary people whose desire was to build peace between nations by providing assistance to those who are most vulnerable.
This list covers equipment and clothing recommended for your volunteer work with OA in Tanzania. It is not an exhaustive list, nor should you feel like you need to bring everything we’ve listed. This is simply a helpful list, a place to start you thinking. The items you bring will also vary depending upon what project you’re working on . . . If you’re doing teacher training you’ll need to bring different materials than if you are, let’s say, helping to construct one of the OA schools. Also, if you choose to go to one of our more remote locations, elevations can be high and temperatures can dip into the mid-40s at night. Regardless, please use your judgment, be thorough, and don’t wait until the last minute. Our recommendation is that you begin packing weeks or months in advance.
Click here to download a “to bring” checklist (pdf).
You are provided with a mattress and pillow, but sometimes no linens. You will need to bring a sheet and pillowcase. The nights can get cool, so also consider a silk sleep sack or a lightweight summer sleeping bag, good to 45 degrees. This is especially important if you are traveling to some of the remote OA locations such as Mbeya in southwest Tanzania, which are higher in elevation; temperatures can dip into the mid-40s at night. Closer to the coast, such as in the Dar Es Salaam area, nights can range from cool (60°F) to hot (80°F), so come prepared for both.
Clothing & Footwear
*First please review our dress code below.
Besides the usual undergarments and socks, you will need several tanks and tee shirts made especially for hot and humid weather, such as “DRI-FIT” by Nike, made of 100% polyester. It wicks moisture away from the body. Also, you will need a couple of long-sleeved shirts for times when you need to cover up or to protect yourself from insects. Women, bring at least one skirt (no short skirts). A warm fleece jacket or vest is also good. You’ll also want several pairs of “convertible pants” that double as both shorts and long pants. Cargo-style ones with pockets are good.
Bring sleepwear, raingear, sunhat/cap/bandanas.
Bring some concentrated laundry powder and plan on doing your laundry by hand every few days in a bucket. This way you can travel lighter.
Bring sandals, flip-flops for the bathhouse, and comfortable walking shoes.
*DRESS CODE: Because Tanzania has a large Christian and Muslim population, women especially must dress modestly when out in public. Long pants, mid-length skirts, and shirts with short or long sleeves are appropriate attire. No bare midriffs, no revealing shirts, and no short skirts or shorts, please. However, take your tank tops and shorts with you (modest ones), as often your host will advise you that this dress is appropriate for your day’s work. Certainly you can wear more comfortable attire when you are at your host home. But always, please, dress modestly and use your good judgment.
Toilet kit, extra toilet paper, towel (we recommend “MultiTowel Lite” available from www.rei.com, as they are compact, effective, and dry quickly), LED headlamp with spare batteries, money belt/pouch (to conceal under your clothing so as to deter pickpockets), mosquito netting + bar, sewing kit, laundry detergent, guidebook, Kiswahili phrasebook, extra pair of glasses, daily disposable contact lenses, water filter + extra filter (we recommend “Katadyn MyBottle Water Filter” available from www.rei.com—just “dip and drink”), idodine tablets (see “water safety”), journal, sunglasses, ear plugs, sleeping mask, pocket knife (pack in your check-in luggage!), electrical adapters, cell phone*, cigarette-lighter charger, camera + related equipment, dust-proof camera bag, and mini-transformer (220V).
*Your cell phone may not work in Tanzania. We recommend that you check with your cell phone provider.
Paperwork / Documents
Airline ticket, current passport with valid Tanzanian visa, photocopy of passport main page, proof of immunizations, 2 passport photos (just in case you need to buy a visa), contact information (OA, your family), travel insurance certificate (leave a copy with a named relative/friend at home), ATM / credit cards + pin numbers, and cash (see FAQ for details). It is always a good idea to not keep everything in one location in the event it gets stolen or lost. Besides your money belt/pouch, take a wallet for day-to-day use.
Also, be sure to leave OA contact information with a named relative/friend at home, so they can contact you in the event of an emergency.
Medicines / First Aid Kit
Bring your prescription meds, complete with label.
Any over-the-counter pills, such as vitamins, should also have a label (we remove our labels and put pills + labels in Zip-lock bags to save space).
Band-Aids or plasters
Blister kit / moleskin / small scissors
Ace / support bandage
Ciprofloxacin or other antibiotic
Bismuth pills (such as Pepto-Bismal)
Pain reliever such as Advil, or aspirin
Lip balm (chapstick)
Bug bite balm
Mosquito repellant for skin (containing DEET)
Mosquito repellant for clothing. (We recommend Sawyer Permethrin pump spray. One bottle treats approximately seven garments, and is good for several washes. We recommend treating ALL your clothing and sleeping bags/sheets/sacks and allowing them to dry thoroughly while still at home. This will minimize the quantity of Permethrin you’ll need to bring. Also, on the day of your arrival in Africa, we recommend spraying your mattress, pillow, and mosquito netting.)
The packaging for tablets, plasters, including boxes, bottles, and wrappers, takes up huge space. Remove the labels, and pack the tablets + labels in air-tight zip-lock plastic bags.
Pour shampoo, conditioners, soaps, etc., into small plastic travel bottles & label with permanent marker. Don’t take any more volume than what you think you will use.
Fill clean contact lens containers (screw top) with face creams, etc. & label.
Packing folded clothes wastes space; instead, pack “rolled” clothes. Simply smooth out your garment and then roll it tightly.
Let no air space go unfilled! Pack the toes of shoes with socks, undergarments, or even pencil erasers for the orphans.
Avoid displays of wealth. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. Also consider buying a simple, unadorned band to wear in place of your wedding ring.
Consult your airline for further packing instructions so you can be compliant with airport security.
Packing in this way makes luggage extremely dense and heavy. Check with your airline to see how many bags are allowed, weight restrictions, and distribute the weight between your bags accordingly. Also, if you plan to travel between countries within Africa, weight allowance is substantially less; take this into account while packing.
If you have extra room, please, please, bring books, shoes, and school supplies for the orphans! 🙂