Monday 18 January 2016

Volunteering Abroad: 7 Unexpected Cravings

So, you’re off to change the world, or, more realistically, your world. Good for you. You’ve done your research and brought a mess tin. You’re so ready for this.

Of course, you know that volunteering abroad is not a holiday. You know it will be hard work and you know it will be worth it. You’re probably also anticipating some homesickness. You might be surprised to hear that whilst volunteering on the ICS programme it was not wifi, Netflix or makeup that I craved the most. These, more unexpected cravings, hit me hardest. If you’re off volunteering soon, take note, your future self will thank you for it.

A pillow

Sleeping on the floor for 3 months is not the issue here. The thing you’ll miss is not the bed, but, the pillow. Don’t believe the marketing, a travel pillow does not cut it. Do whatever you can to take your pillow with you. Seriously. It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done.

A running tap

This is probably the most humbling craving you’ll ever have. Washing your hands? Brushing your teeth? Having a shower? Get yourself to the borewell and start pumping. The day your team build your first tippy tap will be a great one. Don’t know what a tippy tap is? Going volunteering soon? You’ll find out.

Food you don’t usually eat

You’ll find that food is the key player in roughly 95% of all conversation. Sure, your cook is a total sweetheart and the rest of your village are complete feeders, so, you’re not hungry. Just craving food that’s different. So different in fact, you probably don’t even eat it at home. I spent about 6 weeks fantasizing over bangers and mash. I genuinely don’t know the last time I ate bangers and mash, but, if I had to make an educated guess, I’d say it was about 7 years ago. To compensate, you have developed a genuine addiction to Maggi and Parle-Gs. They're now your most prevalent craving in the UK. It's a cruel world.


Second only to "what would you eat if you were at home right now?" "when will the loop come?" has got to be the most asked question on a Raleigh ICS placement. What's "the loop" I hear you say? Well, once every three weeks someone from the organisations head office (in the country you're in!) will come and visit you, if you're the Team Leader, they bring someone to vent to, but, more importantly, they bring letters from home! If you're doing it properly, you won't have a phone or internet on ICS so this will literally be the only contact you have with home. You'll spend weeks wondering which of your friends has written and whether they'll have sent the goods in time to be on the next delivery. That huge ASOS order you placed? Nothing on this.

Staying in your towel after a shower

Niche, right? This one might just be me but I just wasn't a fan of always being sliiightly damp when getting dressed. There's no time for a leisurely morning routine here. You've thrown two buckets of cold water over yourself and have a tinsy towel but have to work quickly. There are 10 other people waiting to use that "bathroom". 

Fabric softener

Cleaning your clothes is absolutely no problem, in fact if some of your in-country volunteers/lovely villagers teach you their trade secrets, your whites will have never been whiter (tip: don't bring whites). We were lucky enough to be a 30 minute walk from a shop and I picked up some fabric conditioner one day, you know, just because. (You'll be surprised how much joy you get walking around a small convenience store). That afternoon, I put the fabric conditioner to the test. It's not that my clothes felt any different, really, but that washing line evoked the strongest smell of "home" it was just the most comforting thing (see what I did there?)

A western toilet

The ultimate! Today marks two years since I set off for ICS. I’m still grateful for a western toilet, every day. Honestly. Think I'm crazy? Get back to me in 3 months.

My ICS placement was without a doubt the best experience I’ve ever had. I made some lifelong friends and left a piece of my heart in that tiny village, but really, when will bangers and mash catch on in India?


  1. Such an awesome post! I'm currently volunteering with ics in Ghana and I am missing running water so much!!!! Only two weeks to go haha!xxx

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