Ecuador – Bina Valsangkar (2007)

Bina Valsangkar was a medical student at the University of Michigan. Bina is the founder and president of The Quito Project, a non-profit health and education program for the poor in Ecuador. The $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation helped Bina continue her work in Quito.

Here are Bina’s travel safety tips:

Pickpockets and thieves are a problem in certain areas. If you are aware and responsible, there shouldn’t be any problem. Take the following precautions:

  • Never lose sight of luggage or personal belongs, especially in crowded areas like bus or trolley stops or city streets.
  • Never place your valuables in overhead compartments or below your seat in buses and trains – keep them with you on your lap.
  • Carry wallets or valuables in a zipped bag or clothing, not standard pant or shirt pockets. Keep backpacks in the front of the body when walking in touristy area or crowded city streets.
  • Try to avoid carrying a lot of money all of the time (maximum should be about $20).
  • Be careful when small children ask for money. Often there will be others with them that attempt to pickpocket while you are distracted.
  • Don’t carry your original passport around with you. Carry one of two copies with you for business transactions.
  • Never walk to “La Virgin del Panicillo” (in Quito) on foot. Talk a cab.
  • Never walk through any parks alone at night.

Kenya – Jeannie Schumpert Dias (2009)

Jeannie Schumpert Dias is a recent medical school graduate and an officer/physician in the US Army. Jeannie’s $1000 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation supported her work in Kenya during March when she provided medical attention and education primarily to impoverished women.

Here are Jeannie’s travel safety tips:

Never travel at night! The roads in most 3rd world countries are treacherous!

If you are traveling to another country alone, request to be placed with another student through the organization so that you are not traveling alone throughout the area.

Definitely try to learn the language before traveling to an area that doesn’t speak English. I ran into situations where I was in danger and couldn’t speak the language. I felt that the people who I was talking to understood me, but they acted like they didn’t to gain money from the situation.

Have a working phone! It doesn’t matter the cost, it is worth it and could save your life.

Place your valuables and your passport in your pockets at all times. Do not carry these things in your hands or they may be grabbed and stolen.

Speaking from a female’s standpoint, it is wise to always travel in pairs, NEVER alone. Also, do not get too comfortable in situations even when they seem routine. Keep your guard up and maintain an edge, it could save your life.

DO not take ‘NO’ for an answer when working with an organization and being placed with another student. This will change the whole experience. It is too scary and dangerous to travel alone when you are a target in an area. There is absolutely safety in numbers.

ALWAYS take your country’s embassy phone number, address, and emergency phone numbers with you when you travel internationally. You never know when you may need it! If you are in trouble, call your embassy first. If they cannot help you, they can at least guide you where to go for help.

This entry was posted on November 7, 2012, in 2007, Africa.