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What To Pack For Your Volunteer Year

Is it starting to hit you? Mercy Volunteer Corps Orientation is only two weeks away! Some of you may have your bags packed and ready to go and others are blinking at their empty suitcase thinking I can definitely just pack the night before. Either way, packing for a full year away from home can be a daunting task. Many new volunteers tend to overpack assuming they won’t have access to anything in their new city. So, as you begin to pack (or repack for the 3rd time) here are a few things to get you thinking about what to bring with you:

Essentials – What are the items you cannot go without? First remember your documents and then remember your personal essentials. Here are a few to get you started:

Passport (*photocopies of your passport are a good idea too!)
Tickets: Plane/train/bus tickets to Orientation
Money: Are you bringing your credit/debit card? What about a little cash to get through your travel?
Health Insurance Card
Glasses and Contact lenses
Asthma Inhaler
Prescription Medicine (Will you need allergy medicine in the spring? How about Ibuprofen?)

*Photocopies are helpful in the event you misplace your passport. A photocopy verifies your identity unofficially and will help expedite the process of replacing it.

Clothing – Start by packing the basics: socks, t-shirts, etc. Then think about your specific city and service site. Are you taking public transportation on the east coast? If yes, pack for the seasons! Think rain jacket or umbrella, hats and gloves, and comfortable walking shoes. What will your service site be like? If your a nurse, bring scrubs! Here are a few things that everyone should bring:

Business Casual outfit: you will be invited to masses and community celebrations.
Sweaters, sweatshirts, and pullovers (from cold winters to air-conditioned offices)
Bathing suit (even if you are not serving near the coast, your retreat might be at the beach!)
Sneakers and casual clothing (hiking in your new city or an active service day chasing kids)

Toiletries – It is very easy to overpack toiletries but remember that you will be able to buy these in your new city! What you will need for the first two weeks?

Bath towels (these are provided at your new home… just in case you want your own)
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Shampoo and Conditioner
Deodorant, soap, razor
SUN SCREEN and aftersun (Insect repellent too depending on your location)
Chapstick, makeup, hair ties, brush
Feminine products
Tweezers, nail clippers, Q-tips and cotton balls
Band-aids and hand sanitizer
Baby wipes and baby powder

Electronic Items – You are welcome to bring your laptop and other electronics but please remember that you are responsible for the items that you bring.

Camera and iPod
Cell Phone
Spare batteries (rechargeable are a good investment for a year!)
USB drive

Miscellaneous – All household items are provided so you are not responsible for brining sheets, pillows, pots and pans, etc. Other things that might be useful include:

Sunglasses and hats
Book or magazine (be careful about the weight of your suitcase!)
Journal and pens
Playing cards
Photos of family and friends
Watch or alarm clock
Pillow case (these will be provided, but in case you prefer your own)

Pack for your yourself, not for others! Use this packing list and others to get you started but more than anything, trust your own judgement. If you love to be outdoors, bring along your hiking boots, if you hate it, don’t feel like you have to buy a pair. Most importantly, as you start to reevaluate what you are bringing with you, we ask that you keep in mind the tenet of living simply. It is important that you feel comfortable as you relocate to a new city with new community members, but as you are deciding what to bring or how much to bring remember all those you are about to serve. Living simply can be freeing so make sure you leave a little room in that suitcase to try it out 🙂

Comment below with questions or suggestions!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I would also bring stamps and maybe some cute notecards. I really got into letter writing during my volunteer years.

    2009-2010 Philly
    2010-2011 Detroit

  2. Your parent/grandparent’s top five favorite cheap and crowd-pleasing recipes! Cooking in community is fun, and way more so if you gave a couple known good recipes to start with. Bring your favorite cookbook too if you have one, or if you have dietary restrictions — it’s helpful to give your community members a resource if they’re cooking for a diet they’re not familiar with.

    A favorite board game is great to have, especially for those first few days/weeks while you get to know your new community members.

    Good luck, and enjoy your year! My good thoughts and prayers are with you all!!
    Anne, MV Baltimore ’11 and ’12

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