There are several things you need to think about if you wish to volunteer in Lome Central Prison as a therapist. FSIP can assist you with each of these and does not charge any fee to volunteers.
If the main concern is financial, you will need to think about whether you can afford the combined cost of accommodation, flights, insurance and living expenses – though the latter are extremely low compared to European standards. Many volunteers raise money through websites such as justgiving.com or through personal contacts. We can provide advice on fundraising upon application if requested. If you intend to raise money in this way, please supply a realistic travel date on your application form.
Here are some initial things to consider:
- Interview process: All therapists will be interviewed prior to being accepted, and certificates/evidence of qualifications must be provided, no matter what service you wish to offer (Psychotherapy or other i.e., yoga)
- Preparation for therapeutic work in prison: We will help you with this but we recommend you read books and prepare basic materials and techniques to take with you
- Supervision and reporting: There is no supervision offered in Togo – this will take place via Skype or phone (when internet connections are poor, which is frequently!) with FSIP on a weekly basis. You must be prepared to commit to this. You must also prepare a report upon finishing the work which will be sent to FSIP and then translated into French and presented to the prison chief. This is therefore a collaborative process.
- Flights and accommodation: We recommend staying with a local family who can also provide home-cooked food and can cater for special dietary requirements. This also gives you a nice insight into local culture and people to talk to when the day is over. However, it is also possible to arrange accommodation in a self-catered appartment.
- Transport within Lome: You should be prepared to move within Lome on the back of a motorcycle. Cars will not always be available and are more expensive. The usual way to travel is by bike, and it is not for the faint hearted!
- Visas and passports: You do not need a visa prior to entering Togo, but you must acquire one at the airport. You must then ‘upgrade’ this visa to a month stay, and then to two further months. Our partners in Togo can help you with this process.
- Security: We will give you all of the advice we possibly can in terms of staying safe, and our local partners will be on call in case of emergencies on the ground. However, we cannot be held responsible for security incidents which could happen in Togo as they could anywhere, It should also be noted here that entry into the prison building itself (rather than the therapy area in the yard) can be arranged but is entirely at your own risk.
- Insurance: Further to the above, we insist that you take out travel insurance that will cover you to volunteer in a prison. We can recommend a provider for this, and will request to see your insurance certificate before you travel.
- Health: – You must speak to your local tropical travel bureau before you travel and ensure that you have your injections up to date before going to Togo. Whether or not you take anti-malaria tablets is your choice. Malaria is a very real risk in Togo, but anti-malarials also carry their own risks. We can talk to you about this, but ultimately you must make the decision. It is essential that you carry Deet mosquito sprays and travel with your own mosquito net as our accommodation will not provide one for you.