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10 Things to Pack for Your South American Community Service Experience

So, you’ve decided to take part in a community-engaged learning experience? Volunteering abroad can enrich your personal worldview. It is undeniably an experience of a lifetime that requires a great amount of determination, commitment and passion towards making an impact—but most importantly, making that impact in an educated and thoughtful manner. You have probably done your research, gone through rigorous training, and have spent countless nights anticipating the beginning of this adventure. The months leading up to your experience can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but don’t fret, your packing doesn’t have to be! Here’s a list of items that you should think about bringing before you go:


1. Sunscreen!!! 

This should definitely be the number one item on your list. It’s going to be hot, sunny and your skin will thank you later. Try to find one that is at least 45+ SPF. I know for some of us, sunscreen can be a hassle. Personally, I hate how it feels and smells, but it’s one of those things that will save you in the long run because you really don’t want your face peeling off while you’re trying to enjoy your experience. For those of you with sensitive skin, baby sunscreen is a great substitute, especially on your face!

Photo by @aveenoca on Instagram​


2. Aloe Vera Gel/Cream 

I am convinced Aloe Vera has magical powers! Not only is it amazing for sunburns, but you would be surprised how great it is as a moisturizer! Not only will this allow you to pack light, but Aloe Vera can work wonders on your complexion and can help retain moisture. Whether you’re travelling overseas or not, this should definitely be something to invest in! You can pretty much find it at any drugstore.


3. Bug Repellants 

There’s going to be bugs, and a lot of them! So be sure to bring some form of cream or spray as a precaution. Don’t forget the Afterbite too, just in case.

Photo by @offoutdoors on Instagram​


4. Dr. Bronners (100% Pure Castile Liquid Soap) 

I had no idea what Dr. Bronner’s was until it was given to me as a gift, and boy did it change my life! Dr. Bronner’s is an organic, vegan, fair trade, cruelty-free, GMO-free, biodegradable vegetable oil-based soap. They claim that it can be used for just about anything, from washing your hair and body to doing laundry and scrubbing toilets. They have a wide range of products on their website, but I have personally tried the Baby Unscented Liquid Soap and it is amazing! Not only will you be able to pack light, but the environment will also thank you for it! I’ve been able to find it at Real Canadian Superstores, but one litre goes for $22 on Amazon here.

Photo by @drbronner on Instagram


5. Re-useable Rain Poncho 

It’s important to be prepared for varying forecasts. To be honest, even a raincoat would suffice. However, I think ponchos can be just as stylish and are much easier to pack. Invest in a lifetime poncho that you can re-use again and again. I bought mine at a Canadian Tire, but I think I’ve even seen some at the dollar store!

Photo by Daoudi Aissa


6. Re-useable Water Bottle 

I think a great re-useable water bottle is always something great to invest in. There are so many great ones out there, so the world is your oyster. Pick one with your own personal flair!

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash


7. Flashlight 

Depending on where you are volunteering, a flashlight can be incredibly helpful when navigating after dark. You can get a flashlight just about anywhere, and some are incredible compact and will barely add any extra weight.

Photo by Andreas Dress on Unsplash​


8. Voltaren Emulgel (or any muscle-relief cream) 

This might be a surprise, but your muscles might thank you for this. Some soreness is inevitable after extraneous physical activity and labour. After a long day, applying this onto your muscles might help you get a good night’s sleep and prepare you for the days to come.

Photo by voltaren.ca


9. Comfortable Shoes 

As with any sort of travel, comfy shoes are a must! You will most likely be roaming around and walking everywhere, so be nice to your feet. Do some research on exactly what type of volunteer work you will be doing, and the terrain you will be exposed to, then invest in some shoes that are right for the job. Hiking boots and rain boots are always a safe option!

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash​


10. A Journal 

I think this item speaks for itself. You are embarking on a wonderful experience, so be sure to document some of it! A small journal will not take up too much space, and it can end up being one of the best pieces of memorabilia that you can always look back to.

Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash​


Now that you’ll have all the essential with you, you can focus on having the greatest adventure of your life. Keep an open mind, learn as much as you can, and take it all in!

Georgia is a fourth-year student at Carleton University. She is currently doing a double major in Humanities and Biology. When she’s not studying, you can probably catch her looking for cool places to eat or planning her next adventure.
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