Monday, June 23, 2008

Care package ideas & tips

A can of sausages

Honey mustard

Chelsea And Jessica in the Konni hostel

Rad Care Package Ideas (updated 10/23/09)

Dried fruit
Dried veggies
Dried eggs
Nuts, trail mix, anything crunchy
Jerky (SlimJims are good, too; take'em out of their box & tuck into corners of the care pkg)
Cereal (Cheerios, Chex, Granola, Grape Nuts...)
Spices, sauce mixes (see below), soy sauce, Thai boxed foods, Indian spices, HOT SAUCE
A big thing of seasoned salt (we salt our food, then sweat it all out)
Mustard, honey mustard!
Parmesan cheese (or other nonrefrigerated cheese)
Cheeses like they sell at Xmas, which don't need refrigeration
Packaged tuna (or cans, which can be re-used here)
Packaged chicken
Real bacon bits
Packaged meat in general (although I'd caution about the waste thing-- the tuna packages don't burn very well, so they're a bit troublesome to dispose of...)
Dried faux-meat (This stuff is surprisingly good)
Coffee (a BIG one with coffee drinkers-- you can't get it here. just nescafe)
Things to flavor water (powdered drinks) CrystalLight individ packets fit in corners of pkg
Emergen-cee (immunity boosting supplement)
Underwear (cotton)
Anti-itch products (Aveeno, cortisone, anything for heat rash/bug bites)
Batteries (AAAs power most headlamps)
Wind-up flashlight that doesn't use batteries is a good gift
Magazines w/news of pop culture in US (trashy zines we would never usually read)
Children's picture books
Movies (all hostels have dvd players)
Music (some folks have laptops and can transfer songs on to others' iPods for them)
Peanut m&ms (regular m&ms are great too)
'Just add water' cookie mixes (I've personally never heard of this, but someone here swears by them)
Peat pellets for starting seeds
Seeds that will grow in a hot climate (tomato, eggplant, collards, cucumber, beans, peppers, melons: seeds can be hard to find in Niger, and quite expensive)
Memory card for camera (of course you have to know what model the camera is. An extra card is nice b/c it makes it possible to take some video footage, and maybe even send it home)
US stamps that can be put on letters that are mailed by people coming back

Don't worry about the "import taxes" that you may have read about on some blogs, quoting erroneous information about ridiculous amounts of money that volunteers might have to pay when claiming their packages. The duty I have had to pay has never amounted to more than the equivalent of 2 US dollars. Sooo worth it.

Several volunteers collaborated to make the above list; it might be of special interest to families and friends of new volunteers. I (mom) added the dried eggs because eggs are hard to find where J lives, and they are such good protein for a great price (80 eggs for $10). Other big hits in the packages I have sent include the small items that she used to like to "borrow" from my desk: glue, tape, pencil sharpener, paper. I sent an inflatable beach ball world globe (cheap from eBay), a children's French picture dictionary (Usborne), a Unicef children's book with great photos (Children Just Like Me), books with farm animals, a Hausa dictionary, a book of n. hemisphere star constellations, and a map of Niger. Jelly bellies survived the hot trip, as did an outdoor thermometer. Graham cracker and Oreo pie crusts (plus instant pudding mix) were a nice surprise; acidophilus was an early request. Knorr's Pesto sauce, taco seasoning, soy sauce, and Indian sauce mixes made the trip. ( I found soy sauce in a plastic bottle, but anything that might break or leak should be put in a sturdy zip lock baggie.) And what a great place to which I can happily send stacks of National Geographic.

Cheapest way to send a package: get a Flat Rate box free from the post office: there are 2 sizes that you can send for $41.95; there is a larger size costing $53.95. They can weigh up to 20 pounds. No such thing as "surface mail" anymore. Be sure to get the right customs form for it, declaring things in a general, uninteresting way, "school supplies" for example, so that it will be unlikely to be tampered with.

How long does it take to get a package to Niger? To Peace Corps Niamey addresses it seems to take a bit longer than to some of the outlying regions. It takes, on average, 3 weeks for a package to get to Konni. Then the volunteer has to pick it up. Allow one month.

Things NOT to send: peanut butter, rice, elbow macaroni, anything made out of millet. No sunscreen (provided by PC)

Care packages are really really really appreciated by PC Niger volunteers. Thank you to those of you who have sent packages!!


Marcia (Elizabeth's mom) said...

What a helpful list. Thanks so much. My daughter has just started her Peace Corps stint in Niger, and I've been wondering what to send her.

If anyone were to send coffee, as you note, how would the volunteers use it? Wouldn't some kind of cone and filters be needed too, at least?

Kerry said...

Good question. Maybe a little french press? I'll find out, I guess, when we visit next month!

Eve said...

I'm also getting a package ready to send to Niger. I used lots of ideas from the list, and found single serve instant coffee packets (Taster's Choice) and Lipton cup-a-soup packets.

Kerry said...

OK, I'm back. Volunteers definitely bring french-press types of coffee makers from the US, or have them sent. Nescafe is widely available in little packets there, but it just doesn't do the trick for die-hard coffee drinkers.. The most popular items I have sent were the Knorr sauce mixes, the honey mustard, ketchup, seasoned salt, and lots of trail mix.

Kerry said...

This is going to sound dumb. I sent her a potholder and a dish towel. With chickens on them, very Americana. It's just that when we visited her there was nothing to grab onto the hot things, and no little towels. I know she'll appreciate this.