In a few weeks, a new group of volunteers will leave Philadelphia and head to Douala, Cameroon for two years and three months of volunteering. This new stag will train in North Cameroon which is a different world than the ‘grand south’. I thought it would be useful for those new volunteers who may find my blog to give them a few tips.

First of all, I need to mention that I’ve never been to the north although I plan on going soon.

Cameroon is called ‘mini Africa’ because within its borders you can find every African climate; from rainforest, mountains, savannah to indescribably hot Saharan desert. The new volunteers will be going to the desert and its choking heat.

As such, volunteers should pack accordingly. Bring the following things:

Good quality sandals.

a good towel, a good pillow.

One of those cooler packs that you put in the freezer and at night you can put in your bed to keep you a bit cooler*


Lots of assorted beef seasoning (you’ll eat a lot of beef if so inclined).

Insecticide such as Raid

A few classic books. You’ll have time to read.

A bottle of your favorite liquor

Small mirror

Good (solar) flashlight (see

Your toothbrush

Pictures of home

a few gifts, I’d say three. One for your host family, one for the chief of your village and one for your counterpart. Nothing too cheap. They can tell.

Large capacity Flash drive (2 gigs or more)

External hard drive

Good all purpose knife

If you’re an agro volunteer, bring lots of seeds and books on farming, health volunteers bring small medical equipment and health books.

You’ll learn French, but you will also be almost required to learn Fufulde

Lots of underwear.

Extra money. Up to 500 bux if possible.

Poker chips if you like to play

An open mind and can do spirit

Unblocked GSM phone that is internet capable

What not to bring (usually because it’s provided or easy to get):

Sun block

DVDs, you can buy cheap ones or exchange them with people here.

Insect repellent

Too much clothes. You can get clothes cheaply here.


This list could go on indefinitely, but I’ll stop here. If there are any volunteers that are in the north and would like to add to this list, or any new volunteers check this list out, leave a comment.

*Some of you may not have electricity