FSIP VOLUNTEERING: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How do I become a volunteer and what qualifications do I need?
Send a copy of your psychotherapy qualification, CV and filled in application form (found on this website). If successful at this stage, FSIP will set up an interview.
You must be a qualified psychotherapist, either fully accredited or working towards accreditation. You need a (3-4 year) diploma or degree in Psychotherapy (any modality) in order to apply. You must have at LEAST 300 hours of one on one clinical experience with psychotherapy clients, preferably in a mix of private practice and public settings. You must currently be in supervision in your home country as we will require a reference from your supervisor.
If you are volunteering to offer another skill in the prison, you must have the relevant qualifications and experience.
- How long do placements last, and how many hours per day?
Placements last for a MINIMUM of one month to a maximum of 1 year and include peer support via Skype during your time in Africa. You must commit to offering your skills in the prison at least 5 days per week, from 8:30am to 12pm and from 2pm to 4:30pm each day. Saturdays are also possible if you wish to work 6 days.
- How do I plan my trip?
You are responsible for planning the logistics i.e. flights, insurance, vaccinations, etc. and FSIP will take care of things on the Togolese side i.e. accommodation, driver, food, access to prison, etc. Royal Air Maroc, Air France and Brussels Airlines fly to Lome, the capital of Togo from Europe.
- Will I be insured?
You are responsible for your own travel insurance to cover your trip and work placement in the prison. FSIP does not recommend any particular insurance company however, we can tell you who previous volunteers have used.
- Where will I stay?
FSIP will organise for you to stay with a family who will prepare your meals each day. They can also advise you on everyday practical matters in Togo. You will pay them directly on arrival or on a monthly basis (for longer stays).
If preferred, we can also arrange for you to stay in private accommodation, though this will be more expensive and at a higher level of risk.
- How will I get to the prison and how often do I need to go?
FSIP will organise a driver who will transport you to the prison twice a day. Motorbike taxis are the main form of public transport in Togo. Your driver will also advise you on everyday practical matters in Togo. You will pay him directly.
We expect volunteers to work daily at the prison at least from Monday to Friday. Some choose to work Saturday too although others prefer to have the weekend to relax and recharge as prison work is very emotionally demanding.
- What is it like working in a Togolese prison?
It is NOISY! You will have to get used to working in a very different environment than that to which you were accustomed. You will have a table in the psychology room, and at any one time there are likely to be 2 other therapists working, talking, chatting or doing HIV tests in there. You will need to be able to block out distractions to focus on your clients.
Despite the above, the psychologists with whom you will be sharing are friendly and very keen to have you there. Your presence will be welcomed and respected.
There are no guards in the room, and no security partitions (though guards frequently walk around outside and ‘helper’ prisoners are constantly in and out of the room and escorting prisoners to and from the room). We have never experienced issues with this but you will need to accept that this is how it works.
- What is the currency and how much money will I need?
The West African Franc (CFA) is the currency in Togo. The exchange rate is approximately 656CFA for €1. You can exchange cash (euro, dollars) and you can withdraw from banks using a master or visa card.
In terms of how much you need to spend, this is a personal matter. However, to allow for items you might want to buy such as phone credit, toiletries, any extra food, evenings out, weekend trips, presents, etc. you need to allow for approximately €100 per week (if eating and shopping in more ‘European’ environments).
- Do I need a visa?
Yes you will need a visitor’s visa to stay in Togo. You can organise this in advance through their embassy in London or you can get it on arrival at Lome International Airport. The visa is valid for 1 month and costs 10,000 CFA, approximately €15. To renew each month you must visit their visa office in Lome.
- How will I get into the prison?
FSIP will put you in touch with our contact in Togo who will introduce you to the Head of the Prison Service as well as to the Head of Lome Central Prison. FSIP will also put you in touch with the psychologists in the psychology building in the prison where you will see clients.
- How do I determine who my clients will be?
FSIP is constantly in communication with Togo to identify clients in the prison who wish to avail of the service and will advise you on how to make contact on arrival in the prison.
- What kind of client supervision will I get?
FSIP will provide you with weekly peer supervision. In addition, although there is no stipulation for supervision in Togo itself, we also recommend that you continue with your own supervisor in your home country in order for the experience to make a richer contribution to your overall professional development.
- What overall support will I get from FSIP?
It is a FSIP stipulation that you must avail of weekly peer supervision with FSIP so we know how you are getting on, to help you address any issues that may arise, as well as to know how your work in the prison is going and support you with any issues you may encounter.
- What language(s) will I need?
French is the official language in Togo (Ewe and Mina the main local languages). We recommend a basic level of French to get by and communicate with colleagues, driver, family, in shops, etc.
In the prison English, Spanish and Portuguese are the main languages of the international prisoners, so the more of these you speak the more clients you can work with.
- I am a pre-accredited therapist, will the hours count towards accreditation?
You are responsible for checking this with your accreditation body. In Ireland the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) recognise the prison hours but you will need to find a way to get adequate supervision if you wish to count them officially. We have no agreement in place with UKCP or BACP to count hours towards accreditation.