Sudan is a great place for adventurous volunteers who want to get away from tourists. This Middle Eastern country in North Africa has many beautiful desert attractions but is most well-known for its violence. With constant civil war and the genocide of Darfur, it’s no wonder media and foreigners tend to focus on the negatives of the country. Although there are some areas volunteers and all travelers should avoid, there is plenty of volunteer work to be done in Sudan.
Teaching and Building Schools
About half of the Sudanese population has received a formal education. However, in some more rural areas the number of children in school is as low as 20 percent. Although the literacy rate is steadily increasing, volunteers can make a difference by working in local schools. Giving children the support they need to get a proper education can truly change lives. Many schools have also been destroyed during the conflicts. The government has worked to rebuild some of them recently, mostly in urban areas, while also focusing on women’s education. Volunteers can work to construct new schools to allow more Sudanese the chance to get an education.
There are a variety of ways for volunteers to contribute to local community development projects in Sudan. A number of prominent human rights organizations have focused on work in Sudan because of the conflicts so this is a great opportunity to work with an organization like Human Rights Watch or the International Federation for Human Rights. Volunteer activities may include construction to rebuild homes and local structures as well as supporting human rights, especially the indigenous, through awareness campaigns, education, and law/policy work.
Planning Your Trip
Know Before You Go: Volunteering in Sudan isn’t for just any tourist. It’s best for volunteers in Sudan to have some prior experience traveling and living in developing nations. It’s also harder to get a visa for Sudan than other places, especially if you have been to Israel. Look into a visa as far in advance as possible and do it in your home country instead of when you arrive in Sudan.
Even though English and Arabic are the official languages, you are much more likely to meet locals who only speak Arabic so brush up on some basic phrases before you go. Unlike many other countries, it’s the older generations who will be more likely to speak English.
Best Places to Volunteer in Sudan: While some parts of Sudan are less safe than other, like Darfur for example, there are still some great places to volunteer. Kassala boasts majestic mountains and colorful markets to keep a volunteer busy. For volunteers interested in history, desert, and being outdoors, Begrawiya is a great place to volunteer. Begrawiya’s inspiring pyramids are reason enough to visit this desert town. Most organized volunteer programs take place in the capital city of Khartoum, which is a great way to meet other expats while also being immersed in local culture.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Sudan
While Sudan is known for being dangerous, there are only certain dangers travelers need to be aware of. For example, theft is extremely rare and never an issue for visitors but you can get in trouble for taking pictures, especially of the military, without a permit. Transportation is another dangerous part of Sudan, the planes are outdated and even car travel is risky. Police and government officials commonly try to get bribes from tourists.
Be sure to see your doctor for vaccinations before volunteering in Sudan. MD Travel Health recommends a number of immunizations for going to Sudan, including hepatitis A and B, rabies, yellow fever, typhoid, and polio. It’s also important to only drink purified, bottled water. It’s a good idea to carry stomach medication as well as antibacterial.