LCI Volunteer Resources
Lighthouse Covenant International Volunteer Guide
Lighthouse Covenant International Medical Mission Care for Short-term Volunteers exists to provide free medical care for people living in the least developed low-income countries of the world. These countries have the lowest life expectancy, the highest infant mortality and population growth rate, the lowest GNP, the lowest access to healthcare, and the lowest number of healthcare workers.
LCI Medical Mission currently exists mainly to build teams of healthcare volunteers willing to travel abroad for one- to two-week missions. This mission is a noble one, but all volunteers must have realistic expectations about such trips. During these trips communities in developing countries gain from the skills and knowledge of our health specialists. The volunteers, in turn, benefit from their experiences abroad in impoverished settings. Be mindful, however, there are pitfalls in such an approach. LCI teams often go on transoceanic trips, crossing several time zones. Adjustment to new time zones and very different cultures can be hard even for the most fit and prepared team members. A large percentage of the trip time is necessary to acclimate to the new settings. Thus, repeat volunteers can help new LCI volunteers in these transitions.
Short-term volunteers must be aware of the fact that some foreign hosts perceive them as only a hindrance, taking more and giving less. Therefore, even though Western volunteers generally may be more skilled and highly motivated, they must be sensitive to their potential negative impact on the host medical staffs. LCI desires that all volunteers try to keep their demands on the hosts to a minimum. In order to have the most positive outcomes possible, it is, therefore, incumbent upon the volunteers to be well prepared for their trips, understanding well LCI's scope and purpose, as they become an extension of our overall organization.
The Ideal Lighthouse Covenant International Volunteer
LCI is looking for team members who are:
- well-prepared with realistic expectations (not naive)
- flexible and resourceful; have a sense of humor
- team players and collegial (willing to teach and share)
- confident, yet humble
- organized and punctual, both in meeting deadlines before and during the trips
- mentally, emotionally, and relationally stable; not trying to "find themselves"
- able to respect boundaries
- culturally sensitive (e.g. historically, traditions, social and political climate, health care)
- gracious in receiving gifts from the hosts and patients
- bi- or multi-lingual, if possible
- experienced in international travel or working with foreign cultures
- good listeners (it takes 2-3 times the normal effort in a foreign country) and observant
- in good to excellent health and safety conscious
- Internet savvy, who can explore pertinent trip-related topics on their own
- and be able to process LCI-sent correspondences
Further, the types of health care specialists LCI seeks include:
- General Dentists
- Family Doctor
- Registered Nurses (RN)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Nurse Practitioner (CRNP)
- Physician Assistants
- Emergency Medical Physician
All of the above volunteers must be in good standing with their licensing boards and be board-certified in their specialties, if offered. Basic and Advanced Life Support, Pediatric Advanced, Advanced Trauma Life Support, Pain Management, etc. certifications are also highly valued.
Many of the LCI medical volunteer team members have at least five years, but more often greater than 10 years, of experience in their specialties.
LCI will also consider possible team members who are:
- Childhood Development Specialists
- Culture Specialists
- Religious Leaders
- High School and College Students
- Community and Business Leaders
- Writers and Photographer
Whenever it is practicable, LCI strives to maintain the same standards of care as are established in the United States. We, therefore, do not authorize team members performing procedures they are not trained to do in the US. We also will not employ any procedures, nor administer any medications, nor apply devices that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We also take the position that if the host health care staffs have not sufficiently demonstrated a working knowledge of a new procedure or in administering any type of medication brought by the LCI teams, we will not give the tools or medications, for example, to do so. Although our goals are to teach and provide medical care, insofar as we are able, we will not compromise these standards in any way that would endanger or harm the patients we encounter.
Comments About Culture Shock
To varying degrees, LCI team members who travel abroad will experience some type of culture shock. This condition is comprised of more pronounced reactions to the psychological disorientation most people experience when they move into a culture strikingly different from their own. Signs of culture shock are:
- Stereotyping of and hostility toward the hosts
- Loss of ability to work effectively and physical ailments
Culture shock is a cyclical phenomenon, with the volunteer experiencing at least two "low" periods during the course of his/her time abroad. This condition is also staged as follows:
- initial euphoria;
- irritation and hostility;
- gradual adjustment and a level of comfort with the culture; and
We ask that prospective LCI team members consider their own culture first in order to combat the subsequent culture shock. A foreigner has described Westerners/Americans as outgoing and friendly, and sometimes these traits are perceived as rude and informal. Americans are also viewed as hardworking, lavish, wasteful, know-it-alls, hurried, and disrespectful. LIC volunteers must be aware of cultural differences where they travel, in order to work well in close contact with others where expectations and values are not the same.
Another approach to confronting culture shock is to learn as much about the destination country as possible. Some of the countries where LCI teams will go have citizens who are isolated and oppressed. Most LCI team members react significantly to such settings. It is especially important to be well-informed about, for example, being under the authority of communist officials. Volunteers must be cautious about how they conduct and express themselves where such governments rule over their citizens much differently.
The bottom line is to remain realistic, with perhaps lower expectations. Be flexible and allow for tolerance. Laugh and keep an adventuresome spirit.
As is always true, LCI team members will encounter glitches and challenges, regardless of how well they are prepared. These members do make a difference in the lives of those in need, but perhaps on a measurably smaller scale in painfully slower ways.Reference: Robert L. Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living, pp. 65-66. Some Tips for Volunteering Overseas
The concept of volunteering is one familiar to Americans. But in some countries, there is no word for "volunteer" in their native tongues. Be mindful, therefore, that some people may receive you with suspicion; perhaps there is an ulterior motive to what you are doing in their homeland.
At the same time, you may not understand the local host health professionals' ordering of events and priorities. Remember it is their prerogative if they opt to arrive late to the clinic or leave early to do other activities. Many of these health care providers must maintain private practices or hold other jobs, in addition to the roles they have at the clinics you visit. They may be every bit as concerned as you are in assisting those in need, but they may also have to do extra tasks to provide for themselves and their dependents.
Be prepared for health care settings that perhaps are not as clean as what you normally encounter. They will most likely be overcrowded as patients and loved ones spread out in whatever space is available. Other common conditions include a lack of reliable plumbing, water sources, and cleaning supplies. As circumstances allow, your example of good techniques for hygiene and minimizing contamination may become valued. You will have to choose methods, however, that preserve the hosts' and patients' sense of self-respect and avoid situations that cause undue embarrassment.
When you are faced with patients who are especially in dire need and have complex medical needs, please remember the "big picture". Consider such questions as:
Will recovery or care demands be too great for the local health care providers? Are the proper medications, equipment, supplies, technologies, etc. present and in the necessary amounts for whatever the cases demand? What about the special requests for treatment not part of LCI's mission or beyond the scope of the LCI team members
Each of these questions must be addressed as LCI volunteers try to strike a balance between functioning within the parameters of the mission and patient safety/promoting goodwill overall.
It is everyone's desire to improve the lives of the people with whom LCI teams come in contact. But LCI volunteers must be very careful not to raise hopes unfairly or state or imply promises that LCI cannot keep. Reassure the hosts of an ongoing commitment to helping through future LCI teams if that, in fact, is what LCI as an organization intends to do. The best rule of thumb, if in doubt, is to have the LCI team leader be the spokesperson and the team translator reliably convey such information.
It also is a precarious position to tell hosts the values of the items teams bring for use among or donation to the host providers. In some cultures, the native physicians expect that humanitarian organizations bring even more supplies than on previous trips. The hosts expend much personally to host LCI teams. Thus, some do not hesitate to ask for supplies and are offended if we do not meet their expectations
Finally, approach your trip with a high level of curiosity and sensitivity. Use all your senses to appreciate this unique experience. Try to see yourself through the eyes of your hosts and the patients. Mutual respect will be the best path to learning, helping, and teaching.
Issues to Consider
Passports/Visas: Every LCI team member must have a valid passport about 4 months prior to departure. Please check to make sure if your current passport has expired or is about to expire.
It is often necessary then to obtain group visas, usually 2-3 months prior to departure. This process requires that all team passports be submitted at the same time from one original location. Once approved and barring delays, the passports and visas will be safely returned to the team members at a reasonable time prior to the scheduled departure.
Trip Expense/Fund-Raising: LCI requires that all its team members raise their own support, an expense that is 100% tax-deductible, usually due in full 4-6 weeks prior to departure. LCI works with value-sensitive travel specialists who coordinate the travel and accommodations and LCI usually benefits from discounts and group rates.
Taking Spouses and Other Family Members: LCI does include some spouses, especially if medically-trained, and mature family members on some medical trips. This decision must be approved by LCI and there are several factors to consider, such as the location, accommodations, flexibility, and skills of the spouse or family member. We are very sensitive to how each additional team member may become a greater responsibility or burden to the hosts. But, the presence of such a person may also be a wonderful asset to all concerned. Please contact LCIfor guidance regarding such a possibility.
Local Politics/Government: LCI takes a clear position about its beliefs and values, but LCI as an organization and it team members should remain neutral regarding their opinions about the local politics/government. All people concerned, both the hosts and LCI team members, may be embarrassed, or worse still, endangered by comments made by LCI team members (publicly, by phone, FAX, e-mail, etc.). Such comments must be reserved for post-trip evaluations or conversations with others upon return to the US.
Equipment/Supplies: LCI will makes every effort to inform its team members of the amounts and types of equipment, supplies, and medications that will be used prior to their travel abroad. LCI may also seek LCI team members' advice regarding supplies orders for upcoming trips. Sometimes LCI desires to offer state-of-the-art technologies, but LCI teams may be limited by conditions that exist abroad. LIC tries to create the best available scenarios of supplies and equipment best suited for the host clinics' present conditions.
Maintenance, electrical systems, and access to spare parts, for example, may dictate that LCI teams use older, sturdier, less complex equipment.
Licensing Requirements: Some sites where LCI teams go may require documentation about the team members' educational and professional backgrounds, especially if visas are required. Understandably, host institutions need the assurance that LCI volunteers meet appropriate licensing and credential standards. LCI will notify team members of such specific needs.
Medical Evacuation/Travel/Trip Cancellation Insurance: LCI now requires this insurance for all team members, an expense which is included in the total trip expense. LCI currently uses Travel Guard, 1-800-826-4919, www.travelguard.com and will order the policies for each of the team members prior to the medical & non-medical team's departure.
Returning home can be the most stressful experience for LCI team members, especially if such a trip is their first one. Culture shock upon return may even be greater than what the team members experienced abroad. While abroad, team members logically would expect their experiences to be different. But if they return home, a place of familiarity and sameness, and they may find that they themselves have changed, others may not be as receptive to their desires to talk about their medical mission experiences abroad. The people they knew before they left, their loved ones and colleagues, will have continued in their lives without such significant personal changes. Effective "processing" after such a trip depends upon the team members' own preparations for this period and how much those they love and trust express their concern. All of a sudden the Western lifestyle may be distasteful to the team members.
LCI encourages team members to contact the team leader, its Executive or Assistant Executive Directors, upon their trips' return to express anything they desire regarding their experiences. LCI appreciates such information, especially since it alerts the organization of any concerns and can help LCI make any necessary changes. If team members recognize that they are having more serious problems in the re-entry process, LCI encourages them to seek the help of mental health professionals or those trained in dealing with stressful life experiences.
What Can LCI Team Members Expect to Gain?
Generally, LCI team members return to say they "got more" than they gave. They observed people in need who, still self-respecting, generously offered themselves and their humble gifts to the team members. They saw intelligent, host health professionals creatively using whatever resources available to them.
They watched treatments and procedures employed, not necessarily standard to the Western mind, but somehow still they were effective. They offered their own medical skills and showed acts of compassion that they did not even know were within their capacities. They found courage in the midst of fear. They witnessed high levels of pain and suffering, yet did not always hear expected and "rightful" complaining. They listened and understood, yet without understanding the words. They taught others by doing.
First-hand, they saw different cultures, customs, and attitudes, all of which impacted the health care of patients. They became advocates for better health care and international development. But they also learned to pray harder than ever for the oppressed and forlorn.
Part 1: Mailing List
A mailing list is your best resource for the support-raising process. It will give you easy and complete access to all potential donors, plus, it will help you keep track of your donations, reports, and thank you notes. Feel free to copy the list enclosed or make up one of your own. If you own a computer, using a database will help significantly.
Step 1: Namestorm
There are particular methods for recalling names of the many people with whom you are acquainted. Studies show, for example, that most people know well over 300 people on a first-name basis, but most of us cannot recall all of those names on command. Rather, most of our brains work by association; e.g. if you are reminded of a relationship with a person/group, then you can better remember their names. Make it your goal to come up with 120 names. Review the list below and check those people who apply to you:
brothers & sisters
Chambers of Commerce
Christian business groups
church missions committees
church-related news ads
editor of local newspaper
former college professors
former high schoolteachers
friends of relatives
grocery store clerks
high school friends
local radio stations
neighbors (current & former)
office building directory
parents' work associates
service station manager
Sunday school classes
As you read each category, use the Mailing List form and jot down names that come to mind. If you cannot remember all the details, write down what you know. Don't try to come up with addresses, and don't eliminate any names that come to mind.
Once you've completed every category, add any other names that come to mind and any other categories you might consider.
Ask your associates to add any names they feel are appropriate and to help you with any names and addresses that are incomplete.
Review your list. Put a check mark next to people you would not feel comfortable asking for support and give yourself a valid reason for this position. Otherwise, these people may surprise you and may be the very people who would be most willing to help you.
Go back over your check marks and see if you can cut out about half of them.
Continue to think of other possibilities, and as other names come to mind, write them down for further consideration.
Step 2: Addresses
Fill in the addresses using your personal phone book and various directories.
Part 2: The Letter
You may feel embarrassed to ask family, friends, and associates for money. You are asking, not only for yourself, but also for a cause to provide medical care in developing countries.
Your presence overseas will have both humanitarian and spiritual meaning, and thus the money will help those who are very truly needy. It is safe to say that you are inviting others to participate, indirectly, in the mission for which you are requesting money. It is up to you to decide who you contact and what you say.
Take advantage of having a partner in the process and spend some time in prayer about your fund-raising. Certainly, it is a difficult thing to ask others for money. It is very humbling. If and/or when you lose confidence in asking for money, select someone who can encourage you in the goodness you are doing. Tips for Writing the Letter
- Be yourself and let your personality come through. If you feel uncomfortable about writing the letter, admit it to the addressee. Tell them how you feel about your commitment to going, e. g.scared, excited, etc. Use some humor, if you feel led to do so.
- Be concise. Try to limit your letter to one page, but make sure you say all you want.
- Be personal. Try to make the letter sound like it is specifically intended for the individual addressed. Sign each copy by hand and try to include a little handwritten note on each one.
- Suggest an amount. Many people would rather know what amount is appropriate to give than have to come up with a figure. Be sure you stress that your supporter should under no circumstances feel pressured to give more than what is convenient. Let them know that any gift is appreciated.
- Stress dates. Let them know when you need the money.
- Instruct them how to give. Make sure your letter states specifically how to go about giving. Tell them to send the check to:
Lighthouse Covenant International
P.O. Box 30125
Elkins Park, PA 19027
and to make the check out to: Lighthouse Covenant International
Have them designate on the check's memo the particular mission to where you are going. The IRS requests that no names are to be put on the memo, though, because they do not recognize individuals as tax-exempt, only the organization, e.g. LCI, which is 501(c)(3) tax-exempt. The best way to assure that the funds go specifically to you is to have the donor write your name on the enclosed sample form and mail it with their check.
Part 3: Mailing
Although hand addressing envelops usually takes longer, they are more personal. Include in each of the envelopes your support letter, an LCI brochure, a return envelope, and a response card. Pray over the letters before you send them.
Part 4: Follow-Up
Nine out of ten people who don't respond to support letters haven't decided not to support you. Rather, they simply haven't gotten around to mailing the check, or have misplaced or forgotten about your letter.
Two months after you've sent your letters, consult your financial report from LCI to see who has responded. Send a quick note to those who haven't responded asking them if they have any further questions, inviting them to call you if they do.
If you prefer calling rather than writing a note, that's even better.
Part 5: Thank You
Obviously, it is important to thank those who have helped get you overseas... for their prayers, as well as their money. LCI will give you complete listings of the names, addresses and amount of the gift for each of the donors.
**Special thanks to Dr. Randolph (Randy) C. Robinson, MD, DDS, cranio-maxillo-facial surgeon, Co-Founder, Face The Challenge, for the above ideas for fund-raising. **
Required Immunizations and Medication List
LCI, Choose Hope Medical Care Mission – One Week – A Changed Life requires that all volunteers traveling on approved trips received the appropriate immunizations before travel. This is for the safety and protection of the patients, other volunteers, and you. LCI relies on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/travel for the most up-to-date information regarding travelers’ health.
With the health challenges that exist in Haiti, we make every effort to minimize any outside health threats that are within our control. One such method is to require immunizations of all our volunteers to Haiti. At this time, we are not allowing any exceptions. The health of the patients and volunteers is of utmost important to us.
Volunteers are required to obtain the following CDC recommended immunizations:
Pollovirus and other routine vaccines
Malaria occurs in all parts of Haiti. Please begin taking antimalarial medication prior to departure.
All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in Haiti: Atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, or mefloquine. For detailed information about each of these drugs, see Table 3-11: Drugs used in the prophylaxis of malaria. For information that can help you and your doctor decide which of these drugs would be best for you, please see Choosing a Drug to Prevent Malaria.
A Special Note about Antimalarial Drugs
You should purchase your antimalarial drugs before travel. Drugs purchased overseas may not be manufactured according to United States standards and may not be effective. They also may be dangerous, contain counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are not safe to use.
Halofantrine (marketed as Halfan) is widely used overseas to treat malaria. CDC recommends that you do NOT use halofantrine because of serious heart-related side effects, including deaths. You should avoid using antimalarial drugs that are not recommended unless you have been diagnosed with life-threatening malaria and no other options are immediately available.
For detailed information about these antimalarial drugs, see Choosing a Drug to Prevent Malaria.
Items to Bring With You
Medicines you may need:
The prescription medicines you take every day. Make sure you have enough to last during your trip. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage. Be sure to follow security guidelines, if the medicines are liquids.
Antimalarial drugs, if traveling to a malaria-risk area in Haiti and prescribed by your doctor.
Medicine for diarrhea, usually over-the-counter.
Note: Some drugs available by prescription in the US are illegal in other countries. Check the US Department of State Consular Information Sheets for the country(s) you intend to visit or the embassy or consulate for that country(s). If your medication is not allowed in the country you will be visiting, ask your health-care provider to write a letter on office stationery stating the medication has been prescribed for you.
Other items you may need:
Iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available. See A Guide to Water Filters, A Guide to Commercially-Bottled Water and Other Beverages, and Safe Food and Water for more detailed information.
Sunblock and sunglasses for protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays. See Basic Information about Skin Cancer for more information.
Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
To prevent insect/mosquito bites, bring:
Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat to wear outside, whenever possible.
Flying-insect spray to help clear rooms of mosquitoes. The product should contain a pyrethroid insecticide; these insecticides quickly kill flying insects, including mosquitoes.
Bed nets treated with permethrin, if you will not be sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room and will be in malaria-risk areas. For use and purchasing information, see Insecticide Treated Bed Nets on the CDC malaria site. Overseas, permethrin or another insecticide, deltamethrin, may be purchased to treat bed nets and clothes.
See other suggested over-the-counter medications and first aid items for a travelers' health kit.
See other suggested over-the-counter medications and first aid items for a travelers' health kit.
An epidemic cholera strain has been confirmed in Haiti, causing the first cholera outbreak in Haiti in at least 100 years. This outbreak is of particular concern given the current conditions in Haiti, including poor water and sanitation, a strained public health infrastructure, and large numbers of people displaced by the January earthquake and more recent flooding.
Although no cholera vaccine is available in the United States, volunteers can prevent cholera by following these 5 basic steps: www.cdc.gov/travel/notices/outbreak-notice/haiti-cholera.htm
Find a Clinic
Many local or county health departments provide pre-travel advice and any needed shots or medicines. CDC recommends that travelers with more complex itineraries or travelers with health problems see doctors who specialize in travel medicine. For more information about how to find a private travel clinic or for contact information for state departments of health, see the Travel Clinics page.
After You Return Home
If you are not feeling well, you should see your doctor and mention that you have recently traveled. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.
If you have visited a malaria-risk area, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area.
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.