Malawi – Yuen Ho (2012)

Yuen Ho

Yuen Ho, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, where she majored in economics.  Yuen worked in Malawi this the 2012 summer, interning with a non-profit organization to help develop leadership programs for youth.  Yuen received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Yuen Ho’s travel safety tips:

First and foremost, Malawi lives up to its name as the “Warm Heart of Africa.” In general, people are incredibly friendly and helpful. During my travels throughout Malawi I felt safe and welcomed. However, there are still safety tips to keep in mind to ensure that your experiences in Malawi are the best possible.

Public Transportation: Public transportation just might be the most dangerous thing you encounter while in Malawi. In general, the public “minibuses” used around cities are old and in poor condition, and they are always crammed full beyond capacity. Instead of taking the minibus, opt for taking a taxi or shared taxi. While it’s a little more expensive, it’s safer and usually quicker as well. For longer distances, it is worth it to choose a private coach bus over the public buses. Again, public buses are usually in poor condition with extra people crammed down the aisle. In comparison, private buses will only travel with one to a seat and each seat comes with a seatbelt! The AXA Bus Company is a great pick, and tickets are usually only $4-$8 more than the public option. Also, if a driver is driving too fast, don’t be afraid to tell them to slow down.

Traveling at Night: In general, it is best to avoid traveling at night. The roads rarely have working streetlights and drinking and driving is a major problem. Also, walking at night makes you an easier target for muggings and attacks. If you have to travel at night, always do so with other people or a group and only take private cars or taxis.

Respecting Cultural Norms: As is the case with traveling to any foreign country, respecting the local cultural is important. I found that norms in Malawi can differ drastically between rural village areas and urban cities. For example, in villages, traditional wear is very important and women especially should wear appropriate clothing such as long skirts and shirts with sleeves. However, in the cities, it is normal for women to wear skirts and shorts at knee-level as well as pants and tank tops. Respecting cultural norms is a good way to prevent drawing attention to yourself.

Communication: It’s a good idea to check in with your country’s embassy when you arrive in Malawi. The embassy can keep you up to date on safety issues and events in the local area. Also, when traveling, keep in contact with family and friends and let them know what your plans are.

Health/Food: At least in Lilongwe, there are no water sanitation facilities in the city. Never drink tap water, make sure to always purify it before you drink (boiling, UV light, iodine tablets, etc). Some places, especially in rural areas, will sell you “home bottled” water that has not been treated, don’t drink the water unless it’s been treated. Also, Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasite found in Lake Malawi. In some popular tourist areas, such as Cape Maclear, transmission rates can be very high due to the population density. To avoid contracting Bilharzia, don’t swim in the water. However, if you do swim, Bilharzia is easily treated and medication is available throughout Malawi. Just make sure to get checked by a doctor and take the appropriate medicine. Finally, especially in the wet season, Malaria can be a big concern while in Malawi. To prevent contracting Malaria, you should take anti-malarials during your trip. You should also sleep under a mosquito net and apply bug spray when going outside.

Kenya – Jodi Sebso (2006)

Jodi Sebso completed medical school at the University of Arizona in 2006. Jodi used her $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation to support work in a community clinic in Kenya.

Here are Jodi’s travel safety tips:

Traveling in Kenya is definitely not for the faint-hearted or those with back problems! Before you go, register with the US Embassy, which you can do quite easily by filling out an online form. Kenya is listed on the State Department’s list of locations with travel warnings, so keep this in mind when planning a trip there. Places in Kenya such as Nairobi and the coast (Mombasa and Lamu), are typically considered slightly higher risk because they are more tourist-oriented. In addition, be sure to get your travel immunizations—typhoid, a polio booster, yellow fever, and meningitis vaccine, the only one that is optional. Overall, if you do your research and use common sense, you will find Kenya to be quite safe.

When flying to Kenya, there are a number of airlines which you can choose from. British Airways, KLM, and Kenya Airways all service Nairobi. You will fly into the Jomo Kenyatta airport. You must have a visa to enter the country, and you can either get this before you depart by sending your passport and other required items to the Kenyan embassy in Washington, D.C., or by waiting in line at the airport once you arrive. All information can be found at I had my visa before I left home, which made customs take only about ten minutes. Be sure to leave plenty of time before your flight when you depart Nairobi, as the security is very tight (3 separate X-ray machines and several bag checks), and takes anywhere from 1-2 hours just to get to your gate. Once in Nairobi, you can either be met at the airport or take a taxi into town. While in town, there are a number of buses and matatus (small Nissan vans) that shuttle people around the city. Do not travel in one of these vehicles at night if you can avoid it. The streets become pretty unsafe at night, and there is a reason that the city’s nickname is “Nairobbery!” Always keep money and other important items in a money belt. There have been incidences lately of buses on the way to the coast being held up by robbers who are savvy to money belts that hang around your neck or wrap around your waist, so the best kind to use would be one that you can attach around your leg.

I spent the majority of my time in western Kenya near Lake Victoria and in southern Kenya near the Maasai Mara reserve. In order to get from Nairobi to Kisumu, the largest city in the west, there are several buses and matatus. I would recommend the Easy Coach bus company. While it is not the fastest way to travel, it is safe. It costs 700 Sh ($10) for a one-way ticket on a fairly comfortable bus that may have air-conditioning, if you are very lucky! The roads are in extremely bad condition, and the majority of your 7-hour trip will be spent bumping around due to huge potholes. But you will spy zebras, baboons, gazelles, and other animals as you drive through the Great Rift Valley.

Once in Kisumu, you can catch a matatu or boda boda (a bicycle taxi) to get around the city. Boda bodas should cost you between 10-20 Sh per ride. Always take a taxi if you are traveling anywhere at night, or to get back to your hotel if you are at dinner or the like. A good safe hotel is the Sooper Guest House. (No, that’s not a misspelling!) If you are traveling to any location along the lake, you will need to take a matatu. These vehicles are supposed to only hold 14 passengers and drive 80 km/hour, but this is rarely what occurs. I found that the best seats were in the very back by the windows. In this manner you get fresh air and are the least crowded when people are getting in and out during your trip. There are also sometimes small buses that travel to larger villages, and these afford more room but a much rougher ride once you hit dirt roads. There were several instances when I was literally flying out of my seat! A matatu ride of up to 2 hours should cost 150-180 Sh, max. Matatu drivers will charge based upon what they think you can pay, so be firm on your price. All matatus leave from the matatu stage in Kisumu, which anyone can easily point out to you. Nearly everyone that you meet is very friendly and wants to help however they can. Your smile will always be the best tool you have to approach situations. Have a great trip!

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2006, Africa.

Uganda – Kelly Grafing (2006)

Kelly Grafing was a medical resident in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota in 2006. Kelly used her $1000 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation to support her participation in an elective program in Kampala, Uganda where she provided inpatient care to children with extreme malnourishment and rare diseases.

Here are Kelly’s travel safety tips:

  1. Make two copies of your passport prior to leaving. Leave one behind in your home country after telling a trusted person where it is located. Take the other copy with you storing it in a different location than your passport. This is to have documentation of your passport should it become lost or stolen.
  2. Carry your passport and money in a travel safety pass to prevent getting your pocket picked.
  3. Registering with your local embassy either prior to leaving or upon arrival is a good idea.
  4. Malaria prevention is key. Take your anti-malarial medications as prescribed daily. Also prevent bug bites with bed nets and bug repellant. A recommended bug repellant would be Ultrathon Bug Repellent lotion or Sawyer Extended Release Bug Repellant. The key is the extended release of the DEET component. These products are available at camping stores.
  5. Protection from the sun is also important. Have a sunscreen with you always for frequent reapplications. Drink plenty of safe water. Bring a hat and long sleeved clothing to block the sun effect.
  6. Ugandan currency is the Ugandan shilling. As of spring of 2006, 1800 Ugandan Shillings are equal to 1 US dollar. To ensure the best exchange rate, bring $100 or $50 US dollar bills that are new, crisp, and dated after 2000. Many places will not accept bills printed before 1999. ATMs are available but having your own US currency is recommended.
  7. If working in the hospital, open toe shoes are acceptable but otherwise dress is very formal. You will be expected to wear a white coat daily. Men are to wear a shirt and tie.
  8. Shower shoes are a must.
  9. Transportation around Uganda comes in many fashions. Private cabs are safe, often provide seatbelts, but are more expensive at about 5000 shillings. Matu Matus are minivans that function as taxis for the general public. These are safe and cost considerably less at about 300 shillings. Boda Bodas are motorized scooters that you can ride on the back of. I would not recommend this mode of travel, as it is unsafe and known for many traffic accidents.
  10. Walking is safe in Uganda, but should be done in pairs and during day light hours for maximum safety.
  11. Women are safe to travel in Eastern Africa , but should not travel alone. I would recommend that everyone travel in pairs regardless of sex.
  12. It is important to keep up to date on the news occurring in the country you are traveling to or in. Many countries in Eastern Africa are currently not safe to travel in due to political situations. This information should be checked prior to travel as well as while there.
  13. Water from the tap is not safe to drink unless boiled thoroughly. This means it is not to be used for brushing teeth, cooking, or accidentally swallowed in the shower unless treated first. Tap water can be made safe to drink either by boiling it, filtering it, or adding iodine tablets which are available at camping stores.
  14. A flashlight is a must as the power is very unreliable. I would recommend having one that can be carried on you at all times.
  15. You can keep in touch with your friends and families via email that is readily available at many Internet cafes taking into mind the power is working while you are there. Cells phones are cheap to purchase in Uganda , and your family can call you on your cell phone after purchasing an international phone card in the US for about 8 cents per minute. You will need a SIM card if you purchase a cell phone so that it can receive calls. You can call internationally from payphones in Uganda but will have to purchase a local phone card at a rate of about $1 per 30 seconds to 1 minute.
This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2006, Africa.

Cameroon – Sarah Sawyer (2009)

Sarah Sawyer is a doctoral student in environmental policy, and management at UC Berkeley. Sarah spent the month of January in Cameroon where she examined human-landscape interactions and their impacts on endangered species and on the sustainability of critical ecosystems, thanks to a $1500 from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Sarah’s travel safety tips:

Cameroon is a challenging country to visit, but also exciting, beautiful, and very rewarding. It helps to speak both English and French, but you can generally get by with only English. Before leaving for Cameroon, make sure to register with the embassy to get travel updates and advisories. Also, be sure to get travel insurance, which includes evacuation insurance, before traveling. Malaria is prevalent in Cameroon, so begin taking prophylaxis before you start your trip. Be sure to leave a tentative itinerary with contact people at home, but make sure they recognize that travel in Africa is unpredictable and unstructured so your plans will frequently change. Before you leave, throw away all notions of timeliness, stress, and efficiency, and try to relax into a mental state of “whatever happens happens”. Everything takes longer than expected in Cameroon, but if you embrace and enjoy this waiting time, you’ll discover things you would have otherwise missed.

When visiting the Southwest province, it is best to fly into Douala International Airport. Air France is perhaps the best carrier into Douala, although Royal Air Maroc would suffice in a bind. Ethiopian Air is also a great airline, depending on where you’re coming from. Upon arrival into the airport, getting baggage can be a bit chaotic, so I recommend immediately finding one porter or security guard to be your aid. Finding one person to support you in getting your baggage will help ensure that (1) you do not get harassed by other porters asking for more money upon exit, (2) you pass through customs smoothly, and (3) you find a reliable taxi upon exit. Give your porter a nice tip at the end. Customs officers will ask for bribes, but do not give in to them if you know that you have not done anything illegal. As soon as you can, I recommend purchasing a SIM card for your cell phone. They are cheap, and you can fill them as you go. Make sure that your cell phone is a quad-band, and has been “unlocked” for use in other countries before you leave the states, and then put in a Cameroonian SIM card upon arrival. Program emergency contacts, reliable taxi driver phone numbers, and numbers of any other people you come across who are friendly and helpful. You never know when you’ll want to be back in touch with these people. From Douala, you can get to any number of cities by bus. The buses leave from bus stations, and are usually reliably late but trustworthy. I do not recommend the small bush-taxi buses, which often cram too many people, too much cargo, and drive too fast in unsafe conditions. Go for the larger buses, for which you can reserve a seat, and which tend to follow the regulations of the road more closely.

Limbe is a beautiful but quiet city on the coast, which I recommend to anyone visiting the country. Accommodations can be found relatively inexpensively, as long as you go to one of the hotels not directly on the beach. Hotels like the Victoria Guest House, set back off the beach, are clean and well run, and can have rooms for half the price of those on the beach. Average hotel room costs run between about $10 and $40 per night, depending on if you want air conditioning or not. You will rarely find a hotel that has hot water, but you likely won’t want it. The area is very hot, and very humid, but I find that a room with only a fan is manageable. Make sure to bring cool clothes, lots of sun protection, and stay hydrated. Limbe is a relatively safe city, but make sure that if you are traveling after dark you travel in groups and keep the carrying of valuables to a minimum. When you arrive in the country, you can get the police to certify a copy of your passport front page and visa for about 5 dollars, so that you can avoid carrying around your passport. I recommend always carrying a certified copy of your passport, and leaving the original in a safe location. It is always useful to send a local friend or colleague to the police station for you, as foreign faces always inspire artificially high prices. From Limbe, you can visit Mount Cameroon, Buea, and many of the beautiful forested landscapes of Cameroon.

If you plan to travel into the bush, be sure to take appropriate precautions before you leave. First, buy treatment for amoebic dysentery, giardia, muscle pain, fever, and malaria. Medicine is inexpensive in the area, and it’s good to keep a supply of these on hand, to begin treating ailments before you can get back to a hospital. Any local pharmacy will be able to give you good instructions. Try to travel in the dry season (November through April), as bacterial and water-borne diseases tend to be worse in the rainy season (May through October). If you can afford to hire a private vehicle and driver, that is the best option, as you can get the help and expertise of a local driver. If not, go with larger bus companies, and travel with companions. When you reach destinations, try to employ local assistants with a good mastery of English (most people speak Pidgin English, but it can be very challenging to try to communicate with others without help of a good translator), to help introduce you to local people, food, and practices. Palm wine and Kola nuts are always a good way to show people that you have an open heart and are looking to learn and grow from local encounters. Be sure to wear shoes at all times, wash your hands regularly, and boil or treat all water. Diseases are rampant in this area, and it’s much more fun if you can avoid them all-together.

The people in the Southwest province sometimes have a gruff exterior, but keep your mind, eyes, and ears open, and you’ll find that many of them are kind, helpful, and excited to exchange ideas and knowledge with visitors. Notions of truth are not the same in Cameroon, so be careful of being overly trusting, but don’t be afraid to open up and engage with others. Try not to be on the roads after dark, travel with friends instead of alone, and always be aware of your surroundings, but don’t let fear keep you from getting the full experience. Cameroon is relatively safe and welcoming. Always bring some extra money, in case of emergency. Enjoy your time and experiences. Good luck, and safe travels.

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2009, Africa.

Ghana – Robin Baudreau (2011)

Robin Baudreau - 2011 Recipient to Ghana

Robin Baudreau is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in journalism and political science. Robin traveled to Ghana  in the fall of 2011 where she worked with the program ACT (Alliance for Community Transformation) helping to build an orphanage and teaching in a small school. Robin received a $1000 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Robin’s travel safety tips:

No matter how prepared you may be before you leave, you’ll never be completely prepared. Let me explain this in simpler terms: be adaptable. Comparing Ghana to the United States is like comparing apples to… avocados. The only similarity is the seed in the middle. The common ground in communicating to people in such a different situation than ours is that we’re all people. If you start with that, you’ll have no problem. Customs are different; traditions may be stronger and more significant. You should learn them, because something of no disrespect to you may be the complete opposite to them.

Know the currency. Know the exchange rate. Know how much things are supposed to cost and how much you’re actually paying. Despite the majority of good people you’ll come across in your travels, there will be the handful of people that will try to cheat you.

Believe in the good in people. Traveling far away from home can be scary, and especially if you’re traveling alone you need to be aware of your surroundings and keep a watchful eye. But don’t be afraid to believe in the general kindness of people either. Ghana was a place of people helping people, and if you join in on that mentality it will get you a lot farther than your skepticism will.

Know the language. In Ghana the regional language where I was was Ewe, and the first day we got there we bought a tiny notebook at the market and began writing down everything we thought would be helpful to know. It’s important to know what you’re saying when traveling around and especially buying things. It’s also nice when you want to talk to the locals, they love teaching you their language and especially love when you speak it with them. It will just generally make things easier for you.

Go without expectations. This goes back to the first point that I made. I thought I was traveling to Ghana to build something with my hands, but instead I ended up teaching various subjects in a very small, very rural school. I really didn’t want to teach at all, but the joy the children get from having someone new and exciting teach them every day was well worth the inconvenience to me. Plus, either way I was making a difference in some sense.

Always keep a form of identification on you, but don’t necessarily make it your passport. I kept my license and my travel abroad medical insurance card on me ( another thing you should consider getting.) I made sure I always had cash in their currency, as well as an emergency debit card on hand. I kept my passport in a safe place with the rest of my belongings as well as my credit cards and regular debit cards. Make copies of your passport and keep the copies in a separate place than your actual passport. You also want to notify your bank that you’ll be out of the country to avoid them shutting off your bank account. It also may seem silly, but check what type of banks or ATMs are available where you’re going. I couldn’t use my Mastercard in many places in Ghana, and you want to make sure you always have your funds readily available.

Get used to being different. In Ewe, a white person is called a “yevu” (spelling questionable,) and it was yelled at me everywhere I went. I was touched, and poked, and prodded because my skin was white. It was an extremely interesting perspective to be a minority, and I think it’s something that everyone should go through. Don’t be afraid to explore that. It was probably one of my favorite parts of my experience in Ghana.

Don’t do anything that makes you feel like you’re in danger. There’s a distinction between putting yourself in an uncomfortable yet rewarding situation, and feeling like you shouldn’t be in a certain situation. Go with your gut, if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t and don’t do it.

Learn your options for transportation. Road travel wasn’t necessarily the safest in Ghana, but there was really no other option for us. You just have to be careful and take precautions everywhere you go. If you don’t feel safe, say something, and get yourself out of wherever you are. Nothing is worth getting hurt.

Learn to live without your worldly possessions. For six weeks I had no cell phone, no computer, no running water, and sporadic electricity. I was chewed up by mosquitoes, dirty, and I loved it. You learn to live without these things, don’t let the lack of material things discourage you.

See everything you can see. Meet everyone you can meet. Taste, smell, and breathe everything in that you can. You’re going to miss home. You’re going to miss the convenience of American life, but you’re also going to miss your travels when they’re done so you have to soak up every opportunity that you can.

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2011, Africa.

Zimbabwe – Ashley Currier (2000)

Ashley Currier was a master’s degree student in English at the University of Pittsburgh. During the summer 2000, she worked on a project to promote women’s literacy while interning with one of Zimbabwe’s national presses. Ashley was awarded a scholarship in the amount of $1000 to pay for the cost of her airplane ticket to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Here are Ashley’s travel safety tips:

  • Check in with the U.S. embassy when you arrive just to be safe, and leave a copy of your itinerary, including the relevant contact information, with them. There are Internet cafes in all of the major cities so you can (and should) email your parents and friends regularly.
  • I suggest leaving your bankcard at home. You can get by fine with traveler’s checks and cash. Always secure your belongings due to the high incidence of pickpocketing.
  • Keep your wits about you at all times when traveling. Remember that being polite at all times can diffuse potentially awkward situations.
  • If possible, fly direct from New York or Miami to Johannesburg and then on to Harare. The trip will be far less grueling.
  • Do secure letters of introduction, especially if you intend to do work at the University. Letters of introduction help immensely.
  • Taxi drivers are quite helpful and are good sources of information in general. They can tell you what suburbs to avoid, what routes are the safest for walking, and if there are strikes or protests planned. They also offer a unique perspective on the economic and political situation.
  • Commuter omnibuses (or “combis”) are quite affordable but do pose some safety risks. The conductors squeeze as many as 20 people into a minivan and there are no governmental agencies that regulate their operations.
  • A bicycle can be purchased for a reasonable price if you don’t want to use public transportation. You must be careful of erratic drivers of combis and emergency taxis (whose drivers can be scam artists).
  • Be sure to set aside money for your exit fee. In 2000, the exit fee was US$20, payable in US currency.
  • Change only small amounts of money at a time, and be aware of where you’re changing money. Thieves loiter around banks and bureaux de change waiting to take your cash. Don’t ever change money on the street. You can get scammed and even arrested.
  • Most people are quite happy to take US currency anyway.
  • Leave your passport in a safe place and carry a copy of it with you.
  • Try not to carry a large bag or purse with you as it will make you a prime target for muggers.
  • Be aware that there are a lot of street children in Harare – good kids who’ve ended up in rotten situations. Don’t let them dupe you, though, and NEVER pull out money on the streets to give to someone. Keep some change in your pocket if you want to be able to give people money on the street.
  • Victoria Falls can be seen as a day trip. You can fly round-trip on Air Zimbabwe and have plenty of time to see the National Park in a leisurely manner and still make it home before dinner.
  • The postal system is slow but adequate for sending postcards and letters. It’s expensive, however, to ship items back to the US. You may want to consider air freighting bulky items.
  • If you travel to Zimbabwe in the winter, it gets chilly at night. Pack clothing items that can be layered because day temperatures can fluctuate dramatically. Also, be careful to apply sunscreen often, even if you’re only outside for a few minutes.
  • Be sure to pack an adequate supply of any prescription medications you take and carry a copy of the prescription with you. Other types of personal care products can be purchased in Zimbabwe.
  • There are national celebrations commemorating the national liberation movement on August 11 and 12. Plan on things being closed on those dates.
  • One of the most helpful tools in planning my trip was the Lonely Planet guide for Zimbabwe. Their online site “Thorn Tree” was also helpful.
This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2000, Africa.

Zambia – Nisha Thampi (2001)

Nisha Thampi was a student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2001, with the help of a $1500 scholarship, Nisha traveled to Zambia where she worked with children orphaned because of the death of their parents from HIV/AIDS. Nisha will pursue a graduate degree in public health from the University of Michigan.

Here are Nisha’s travel safety tips:

Travel with members of your host family whenever possible. Plan bus trips so that you depart for and arrive at your destination during the daylight hours.

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2001, Africa.

Tanzania – Jesse McKenna (2011)

Jesse McKenna received her masters degree in international public health from Boston University. In fall 2010, Jesse spent 3 ½ months in Tanzania interning with the Foundation for African Medicine and Education where she developed and implemented a long-term health education curriculum for its mobile health clinics. Jesse received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Jesse’s travel safety tips:

  1. Never travel on the roads at night. Many drivers do not use their headlights at night, so it is impossible to see what is coming at you. Plan ahead so you are not in a situation where you need to travel at night.
  2. Take the safe option regardless of price! One seat in a speed taxi (from Karatu to Arusha) is approximately $4 while getting the whole car is $28. It may be enticing to take the cheaper option, but you are putting your life at risk. When you purchase the whole car, you can ask the driver to go the speed you wish. When you just buy one seat, you are the whim of all the other passengers who may be in a rush.
  3. Do not take motorcycles if you do not absolutely need to. They are incredibly dangerous, and there is often not a helmet for the passenger.
  4. Do you research on health clinics and hospitals before you arrive in Tanzania. Good healthcare in Tanzania is hard to find but not impossible. Before you go, research facilities that you could go to in case of an emergency. (FAME Clinic in Karatu offers excellent care, and is opening a hospital for in-patient care in Summer 2011)
  5. Be careful walking in the cities. Keep your valuables close to you and do not flash around your phone, camera, ipod, or other objects of “wealth”. Also, be mindful of the traffic. There are cars, trucks, motorbikes, and pedestrians all over the place so be careful when crossing the street. There are no crosswalks!
  6. Always have your phone with sufficient call credit on it. You never know where your car could get stuck or when your plans could change. Your family back home will really appreciate it.
  7. HAVE FUN! Tanzania is one of the most beautiful places in the world with amazing people.
This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2011, Africa.

South Africa – Michelle Pent (1999)

Michelle Pent pursued a combined MD/MPH degree at Tufts University during the time period in which the Foundation awarded Michelle $2100 – the cost of her airline ticket to Johannesburg, South Africa – so she could participate in a study of nutrition in children with HIV. The purpose of this research was to assess the value of nutritional intervention in improving the well-being of children who suffer from HIV.

Here are Michelle’s travel safety tips:

Be aware of local customs, legal restrictions and politics when you travel abroad. · Obtain current information about a country’s political situation and general information about health conditions, medical care, crime, and the embassy location before traveling abroad. The State Department provides travel advisories. · Whenever possible, take a cab that is associated with a hotel. If you must choose a cab at random, leave the cab registration number with someone in a very obvious manner before leaving. · If you must remain immobile during a lengthy flight, do frequent isometric exercises with your legs to help keep blood moving and prevent clots. · The rear section and the section by the wings are the strongest areas of a plane. Choose a seat in one of these areas whenever possible. Always note the nearest exit on the plane.

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 1999, Africa.

Nigeria – Stephanie Borden (2006)

Stephanie Borden received a Masters in Public Health degree from UC Berkeley. Stephanie was awarded $1000 from Sara’s Wish Foundation in support of her work on a field study in the area of family planning in Benin, Nigeria in 2006.

Here are Stephanie’s travel safety tips:

While in Nigeria, many of the people I met described their country as “rugged.” After 3 moths of living and working there, I came to understand what they meant. I spent the majority of my time in Lagos and Benin City. Based on these two cities I found Nigeria to be fast-paced. There are few (hardly any in Benin City) stop signs or stop signs and traffic is congested much of the time during the day.

The safest way to travel is by taxi. They are relatively inexpensive and will take you exactly where you need to go. Another option is the bus. They are generally full, especially if you are traveling in the morning or late afternoon. However, unlike other places I have been, everyone has a seat so you will not be forced to stand up. Although it is very likely that you will find yourself sandwiched with four others in a seat made for three. Be sure you know the final destination of the bus before you board and try to find out the correct price ahead of time. There are also commercial motorbikes, but these can be quite dangerous depending on the driver. I will pass on the advice given to me: “Do not ride the motorbikes.” However, I had to take one once because nothing else was available. If you find yourself in a similar situation be sure to communicate with your driver. They are extremely receptive. If you ask them to slow down they will respect your wishes. When traveling between cities, avoid traveling at night. I was told repeatedly that this is not a good idea and most locals prefer daytime travel. If you have the option of taking the “Edegbe Line,” take it. These buses are well maintained, regarded as safe, and for a little extra you can get air-conditioning.

As long as you use good judgment you will be fine traveling in Nigeria. Do not do anything you feel uncomfortable with and be aware of your surroundings… SAFE TRAVELS!

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2006, Africa.