Sunday, June 25, 2017

Personal Safety – Volunteers

Currently, there are no safety warnings issued by the US Department of State which would caution travelers to avoid the Gambia.

However, even in the absence of a serious, globally recognized threat, you might still find yourself victimized, if you are not careful. Basically, the common sense you would use at home, will also serve you well in the Gambia.

Be cautious in crowded areas such as market places, bazaars or festivals, where you might be the victim of pickpockets, as well as deserted locations such as a beach, park or alley. Avoid scam artists or strangers who approach you, offering bargains or to be your guide. Also, try to avoid appearing too affluent. In fact, it might be best to leave your more flashy jewelry at home. Should you be confronted, however, simply hand over your belongings. While valuables can be replaced, you cannot. Also, avoid public demonstrations or other civil disturbances where you might inadvertently get caught up in a dangerous situation.

Remember to dress conservatively, particularly, if you are a woman. While many people and places in the Gambia are quite modern, it is still a Muslim country, where showing too much skin or public displays of affection are not considered acceptable. Also, while alcohol is available, despite the fact that 90% of the population is Muslim, public intoxication is considered a disgrace and is not tolerated. After all, you will travel to the Gambia not as a tourist but to represent us, and as such, you should be able to act accordingly.

If at all possible, travel light, so you will be less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it temporarily unattended and then finding it gone. At the same time, it would not be wise to carry too much cash nor to show it publicly. Take most of your money in traveler’s checks and keep the serial numbers and denomination of the checks recorded at a safe location. The use of credit cards is discouraged, as personal information is often not safe-guarded appropriately and misuse of credit card numbers is a common occurrence. The best location for cash and valuables is a safety pouch or money belt, worn on your person and underneath your clothing.

A note containing the address and phone numbers for the United States Embassy in Banjul (or your own Embassy, if you are not American), particularly the emergency number which can be reached 24 hours a day, should be kept in your passport at all times, which, in turn, should be kept in your pouch or money belt.

When you are in the Gambia, you also need to remember that you are subject to its laws. Do not purchase or accept any items, such as firearms or illegal drugs, which would be considered contraband. At some hotels, you may be asked to fill out a police card listing your name, passport number, destination, local address, and reason for traveling. These are normal procedures required by local laws. Since we take care of your room and board while you are volunteering with us, we will be able to brief you on any such requirements or customs that may at first seem strange to you.

General Safety – Volunteers

Your safety is of utmost importance to us. However, health and safety risks are an inherent part of international volunteer service. We will make every effort to provide you with all of the information and recommendations you need to stay safe and healthy. At the same time, it is very important for you to adhere to standards for locally appropriate behavior, to exercise sound judgment, and to abide by our policies and procedures.

There are no Travel Warnings or Public Announcements issued by the Department of State which would prohibit travel to the Gambia or make such travel unsafe. However, should such a warning or announcement ever occur, we will suspend our volunteer operations and transport foreign volunteers out of the country. For your own edification, please review the International Travel Information issued by the Department of State. Clicking on the link for “Country Background Notes” on the bottom of the page will allow you to obtain further information about the Gambia. You may also wish to review the information contained in the CIA Factbook.

In addition, we require that all of our volunteers register with the US Embassy in Banjul upon arrival in the Gambia, if they have not already registered with the Department of State prior to their departure. For information on registering, please visit the Department of State website. Nationals of countries other than the United States of America must register in the same manner with their own embassies. If need be, we will be happy assist in this process.

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