Top 9 Things to Bring When Volunteering in a Disaster Zone

by Elsa Thomasma

Natural disasters bring about numerous challenges; volunteers entering the affected area must be prepared to overcome those challenges alongside the locals. However, volunteers have the valuable opportunity to prepare before they arrive, unlike victims unwillingly exposed to the initial event. Volunteers have the ability to make an incredible difference in the wake of a calamity, but the first step to volunteering in disaster relief is packing appropriately.

Handing out Relief Packages after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Handing out Relief Packages after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Photo by Ardie Lopez

Solar Powered Lantern with Charging Capabilities

A multifaceted, multi-use device that is invaluable, despite being slightly costly. In times of limited electricity, this gadget will no doubt come in handy night or day.

Durable Shoes

There will always be plenty of physical obstacles along any journey to provide relief. Protect your feet and you'll be able to endure many hours of meaningful work without your feet distracting you.

Power Bars, Granola Bars, Protein Bars

Eating is essential when you are working under the elements every day, with hardly a luxury in sight. But eating is also most difficult in a disaster zone, so packing meal alternatives will keep you going through the toughest work and fill in the gaps between sometimes unpredictable meal times.

Volunteers during Typhoon Haiyan

Lightweight Clothes

There are most likely no laundry shops or washing machines up and running after a disaster, so washing your clothes will have to be done by hand. Heavy clothes, means longer drying times. Bring lightweight clothes that can be washed easily and dried quickly.

Satellite Phone

Cell service is not a priority when people have lost their homes and hundreds are in need of food and water. Don't get caught without communication, try your best to ignore the price tag and bring along a satellite phone. It will be incredibly useful and you definitely won't regret the purchase when you are in desperate need of help from those outside the affected area.

Mosquito Net

Volunteering in any tropical country typically requires one, but during a disaster mosquitoes can become an extreme nuisance when there are multiple environmental conditions supporting their reproduction.

Refillable Water bottle

You'll need something conveniently sized for travel from site to site. In a disaster zone you'll never know when a water refill station may pop up but you'll also never know when they won't. It must hold a sufficient volume of water to last you a good portion of the day, but also not big enough to weigh you down when trekking across a city or town for who knows how long.

A woman with a medical volunteer

Basic Medications

Cough and cold, fever reducer, digestive, antibiotic, and pain medications packed in your suitcase will prevent you from wasting time feeling under the weather as a disaster relief volunteer abroad.

Last but not least…

Flexible, open-minded attitude

By far the most essential thing to bring with you when doing relief volunteering, as almost any task comes with a few bumps in the road or setbacks. Volunteers must be prepared to go with the flow!

If you have your suitcase packed, it is time to find the best disaster relief volunteer opportunity for you!