Handout 1: Volunteers' advice to new volunteers
This information was generated by Kenyan Volunteers during a session on personal safety. Although some of this information is specific to Kenya, much of it can be useful to all Volunteers.
Advice Exchanged Among PCVs:
There was a feeling of concern for one anther's welfare and a lively exchange of information and suggested coping mechanisms for dealing with the problems of housing, theft, assault, special male/female issues, etc. Advice to new PCVs comingled with recommendations to those who had been in-country for some time.
- Don't take for granted that people are friendly and can be trusted
- be wary of new acquaintances here just as you would be in the U.S.
- be wary of people who rush to approach you or shower you with compliments
- Take your time
- establish relationships slowly
- don't feel you must be liked by every Kenyan
- Get to know people in your village or area who can identify safe and "bad" areas and who will support you
- may not be supervisor or other Kenyan teachers
- usually can trust farmers, students, headmasters, mamas
- Don't bring unnecessary items which can be stolen
- Don't flaunt possessions
- Don't place articles near window where they can be "hooked"
- Don't be obvious about leaving
- Do be obvious about locking doors - always lock
- Employ askari or get a dog
- Hire a house-sitter or lock possessions in a safe place
- Ask neighbors to watch house
- COS is a time when Volunteers get ripped off
- suggest you give a later COS date to the public
- Don't lend money
- Don't dress and act like a tourist
- Remember dress code varies from area to area
- tribal dress (and undress) is not acceptable for PCVs or even Kenyans outside that tribe
- women were told in the U.S. not to wear pants - this was true for teachers, but extension workers were thought to be stupid because they did not wear them for working in the field and riding cycles.
- Don't open the door at night to anyone you don't know well
- Don't let male counterparts in your house at night under any circumstances if you are a woman
- Don't be promiscuous at your site
- Avoid dark, unsafe places and walking alone. Consider carrying a weapon at night.
- Beware of people bumping or pushing you
- Be aware of tactics used by cons, money changers, "scams"
- Avoid crowded buses if possible
- Don't go out in the city with only one other person or alone at night
- Carrying excess baggage is an invitation to be ripped off
- Don't carry valuables, even in a pack
- If you must carry money, keep it close to body or concealed
- in front pocket
- in bag clutched in front of you
- in "boob-bag"
- if money is concealed, you might carry 5 shillings in a pocket so thief is not tempted to dig deeper
- carry correct money for bus, etc., in hand so as not to reveal money source
- Don't hitch-hike after dark - and be very careful hitchhiking at all times
- If you get caught away from home at night, don't travel alone; pay for lodging
- If you are victimized and decide to report to police, take someone with you as witness and advocate (especially if issue is sexual assault or rape)
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