After being selected as an ICS volunteer and once the fundraising target was smashed, the common question which dominated mine and most other volunteers’ thoughts was, ‘What on Earth do I pack?’. Honduras is a country I knew very little about. My minimal understanding of this exotic country included knowing it was in Central America, the climate is hot and humid, the nationals speak Spanish and there may not be the same comforts that I am conditioned to living with. So what are the essentials to pack?
Before coming out here I did my fair share of Googling and reading travellers’ packing lists. Something I did pack was a large supply of toiletries, some might say it was excessive but I did not want to risk being caught out with not being able to buy what I needed. In truth, a lot of toiletries you can buy in the supermarket here - but at a cost. Imports are substantially more expensive, so I’d suggest bringing most toiletries from home. Other than the common things to pack (e.g. underwear, clothes, etc.), here are some things that have been surprisingly useful or things I wish I had packed.
1) Torch - Blackouts do occur! Most of the time the electricity will come back on within a few minutes but there are other times where it is out for much longer. It is also handy when you are sharing a room and don’t want to disturb your roommate because you want light to read a book.
2) Water bottle - Water is the essence of life… and it is hot out here! You will use your water bottle not only to drink out of but to brush your teeth, wash your hands as you’re always getting messy and sometimes your face. I lost my handy water bottle a few weeks into the placement. Alternatives of re-using a plastic water bottle bought from the pulpería are an option, but you go through many more as they’re so easy to loose, blending into everything and not as robust. Therefore do your bit for the environment and invest in a good one.
3) Variety of clothing - So this one may seem obvious to some and completely silly to others who know the climate out here. But bring a range of clothes, the nights can get chilly and you might even be required to wear jeans. The hot days makes you sweat through your clothes so bring enough. There will be days where you also want to cover up more, either to escape the intense sun or to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. A cap is handy for being in direct sunlight. Furthermore, there may be occasions which require you to dress in formal attire.
4) Sauce/Spices/Home comforts - This one might seem unnecessary, especially when imagining the Latin American diet. It certainly was for me when I was packing. However, it is inevitable to miss certain foods or taste. I decided I wanted to cook for my host family but struggled to find Indian spices to make a curry. In the end, after searching long and hard, I managed to get hold of some curry powder and wing it, but couldn’t find the important garam masala (it still turned out well).
5) Stationary and school equipment - One thing every volunteer will be doing is taking notes, whether it’s to plan a community event, jot down some ideas, write a journal or plan a class. Pens will also disappear. These items you can buy in the local shop but I thought it was worth a mention as I didn’t realise how much I would be writing. Also fun arts and crafts material are useful, you will be making a number of posters and cards.
A luxurious item which I wish I bought out with me is my laptop. My main concern for not bringing it was security, but what I found was our rooms are very secure and this is not an issue. A laptop is useful for typing up blog ideas, watching videos, downloading books, etc.
Good luck to all the volunteers getting ready for their trip! Just remember 23kg is a lot, you can fit a good amount in it, so fill it. You won’t be travelling so packing light is not essential!
Written by ICS volunteer Dharel Patel