If you’re travelling overseas, it’s important to keep yourself safe and well. If you’re taking members of your church with you, especially if they are not experienced travellers, good advice can help prevent the trip being spoilt.
Visit your GP to find out what vaccinations are advised for the country you’re visiting, and allow adequate time to get them. If you’re going to be in a malaria zone, get professional advice on the right anti-malarial treatments and precautions to take. See www.masta-travel-health.com for details of Masta travel, a specialist travel health organisation with clinics around the country.
Take out appropriate medical insurance before you leave and make sure you know what it covers. Keep important details, including emergency contact information, in a safe place.
Take with you a note of your blood group and other significant medical information (for example, if you are allergic to particular medical treatments), in case you need unexpected medical attention. It’s not always so obvious whether the water you’re about to drink is safe – remember to take care. It might be a good idea to have a check-up with your dentist too, before you go.
In hot climates, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your hosts may not realise how much you need), and be aware of the symptoms of dehydration. Take some sachets of rehydration therapy with you, in case you need it, and/or information about how to make your own.
Be aware of the risks of drinking contaminated water – and remember that this also means the ice in your drinks or the water any uncooked food may have been washed in. Reduce risk by drinking boiled, filtered or sterilised water, or factory-made soft drinks. Bottled water should normally be safer than tap water or water from other unknown sources but check that it has an unbroken factory seal – the fact that it’s in a bottle doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t come from a tap.
Take care with your eating too. Avoid salads and other uncooked foods if there’s a risk that they’ve been washed in unclean water or not washed at all.
Eat fruit that you can peel hygienically. Avoid uncooked or undercooked meat, or food that’s been kept warm.
Assess risks before you embark on your trip and decide how you can take action to mitigate them.
Take local advice on safety, e.g. in public places such as crowded markets where there may be increased risk of theft (as a foreigner you may be very conspicuous and present an easy and tempting target).
If you’re carrying cash in another country, make sure it’s securely stowed about your person. Keep it concealed and be aware of the risks. Keep a smaller amount to cover anticipated spending accessible in your pocket.
Be careful in road travel (worldwide, it’s a major cause of injury and death among travellers). Use a seat belt if one is available, and don’t worry about telling the person driving to slow down if you feel at risk. Avoid driving yourself.
Be careful about what you photograph: in some countries there may be local sensitivity or strict official penalties for people taking photographs of or near sensitive sites – this is obviously likely to include military installations but could also apply to strategic locations such as railway stations, bridges etc, and anything that might be deemed to reflect negatively on the country you’re visiting.
Ensuring the safety of children is not something that applies only at home: children are vulnerable everywhere. In your relationship with an overseas church you need to make sure that child protection measures are in place.
If you’re part of a UK church that works with children, you should already have a child protection policy in place in order to safeguard children and manage any situations that might arise. Remember that this policy continues to apply when you travel overseas as a representative of your church. Make sure church staff who may be involved in making links with churches overseas have undergone CRB and reference checks.
Awareness of child protection issues varies from country to country. If you have a child protection policy, talk about it with your hosts, assure them that you’ll abide by it, and explore the possibility of signing an agreement on child protection with your partner overseas church.
Be sensitive to cultural practices in other countries with regard to children. The fact that you may not agree with them doesn’t mean you’re authorised to investigate or report them, but you may consider sensitively and appropriately challenging them as part of your Christian responsibility.
When you travel overseas, make sure your behaviour is consistent with a robust code of conduct which spells out appropriate ways of working with children. See the www.globalconnections.co.uk website for some helpful guidelines.
Make sure that photos and information pertaining to children safeguard their privacy, confidentiality and respect. Be careful how you take and use photos of children. Once the photo is out of your control (e.g. if you email it to someone else), it could pose a risk to the child.
When you’re supporting overseas churches’ work, consider good practice concerning working with children and their needs. For example, don’t be so focused on constructing a building for them that you lose sight of the children’s need for protection and development.