Each year hundreds of volunteers and visitors join us in our work in Central Asia. We are always encouraged by having you folks join us, even if just for a brief time, in advancing the Good News to the peoples we have come to serve. Most of these volunteers come as a team from fellowships in the US, while others are visiting us as family or friends.
While you are with us we want to ensure that you have a successful trip while remaining safe and secure. This is easier to accomplish in some areas of our region than others. We have found that the most effective security and crisis management activities are those that prevent unwanted occurrences, or reduce the impact/consequences of unpreventable events. How one reacts to an unfolding security crisis can have a large impact on the eventual outcome. Adequate preparation and training (proactive steps) help individuals respond appropriately (reactive steps) during a crisis. Taking the time to “train” our volunteers/visitors is one of the most valuable and effective proactive steps we can take.
I. BEFORE YOU COME
A. Your Volunteer Team Leader of your group is your leader, but when you join us on the field, the Pamiri Team Leader should be listened to for guidance.
Please complete this Volunteer Info Sheet:
Note to Volunteer: We will NOT share personal/health information unless it is an emergency.
Medical issues we might need to be aware of in an emergency:
Allergies (food and medicine):
Any physical conditions that prevent you from long periods of driving/riding on very rough roads, much walking, carrying your own luggage?
Have you had surgery recently? Just because your Physician has released you for travel does not mean that he has an understanding of just how rough the conditions are here.
Occupation and position:
Emergency name and contact information (phone and email) 2-3 contacts, and please list their time zone as well.
Recent Surgeries (within the last 3 months)
Overseas Experience: Please list the places you have been and how much time spent there
Other helpful information:
Attach a copy of your passport
D. you have insurance? Does your insurance company cover a medical evacuation from Tajikistan? Most will not, but the company that we use (Adams & Associates.) will insure you as an addendum for your personal insurance.
E. Immunizations. It is wise to have had these shots before you come:
F. Safety can begin with packing
“What to Bring” or “Packing Guidelines” list:
Copies of passport identification page and visa—and KEEP THEM SEPARATE from your passport
Copies of your airline tickets—keep with passport and visa copies
Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends
Bring what you need. Your favorite brand is likely not available.
Bring all prescription medications you regularly take-BRING IT IN YOUR CARRY ON !!! ( if it is a liquid you will need proof of your prescription for TSA in the USA)
Over-the-counter medications, vitamins and minerals you normally take
Avoid the appearance of affluence (Do you really need that large bottle of……….. from Sam’s club while you are here? Our people are not used to seeing large containers of much of anything..)
Clothing recommendation(s)/suggestions: Western clothing is acceptable. Men wear loose pants and long or short sleeve shirts. No shorts please!
In addition to some LOOSE pants/jeans, women must bring LONG skirts/dresses and blouses to wear on visits to the village. Find skirts that you can wear modestly while sitting on the floor- no higher than mid-calf, and perhaps choose clothing a size or two larger than you would normally wear. No midriffs, no tight skirts or above mid calf, or short sleeved tops. Best if pants or leggings are worn under the skirt/dress. Scarves are worn but are inexpensive here and make cool souveneirs as well.
“What NOT to Bring” list
Leave your jewelry or irreplaceable family objects at home
Do not wear t-shirts or jewelry with religious slogans or symbols.
Do not wear t-shirts or other items with a political agenda
Leave US flags & pins at home
Leave all unnecessary credit cards at home – this is mainly a cash society. ATM’s are a new thing, use ONLY after seeking the advice of a team personnel, as not all are trustworthy.
Traveler’s checks are not negotiable here
Any materials that could hurt your—or our—work here should be left behind. This means any materials that link you back to any “religious” agency or organization. It is not uncommon for bags, purses, and wallets to be searched and these materials could pose a threat.
Religious Tracts, extra Bibles ( of course bring your personal Bible!)
H. Useful Information:
Large crowds are to be avoided.
Men and women do not touch in public.
Voices in public are moderate. Do not call attention to yourself by using a loud voice.
It is illegal to take photos in the Dushanbe airport & of policemen, soldiers on the road, military installations & including guard posts along the road as you travel. When taking photos of people, it is polite to ask. Most will grant permission willingly. Also we would be glad to print some of your special photos so you may give them to your new friends you make here.
While crime in general is low here in Badakshan, one needs to pay attention while still in Dushanbe. Pickpockets abound in areas where people are crowded together and foreigners frequent. Men, keep your wallet in your front jeans pocket. Ladies, a medium size purse- strap over the shoulder and held under your arm works well. It is a good idea to have separated your monies into at least two different places in your purse/wallet. Dollars in one place, and local Somoni in another place that you can easily access.
Americans are generally admired here, they have not seen many tourists with loud voices….
As you know, this trip is not like others that you may have taken. You will be traveling to a part of the world where converting to another religion can be dangerous. We are considered a restricted access country. We ask that you please maintain a few security guidelines when planning and promoting your trip. Please substitute “Central Asia” for the destination of your trip for publication and advertising – web sites, Facebook, state and associational newspapers and announcements to your fellowship, TV, and radio. Prayer support emails should not be forwarded, or printed & posted in a public place.
A Reminder: The trip starts the moment you leave home and doesn’t end until you are back at home. You should exercise the same caution in all airports and any cities you may be traveling through that we exercise in-country. It should be assumed that the people around you understand English and their conversations regarding the trip and their experiences should be appropriately guarded. Many people understand English MUCH better than they speak it.
Pointers to share with the volunteers/visitors:
Know WHY you are coming and stick to it. - You are coming to help us with a project, or you are a tourist, or maybe you are coming just to visit us. Please if you need clarification on this, consult with us, before you fill out any forms.
Don’t answer questions about other people. Let them answer themselves and tell their own story. Do not share information about workers that live in-country. A useful phrase is “I don’t know “Glen” that well, let me introduce you to him.”
Don’t give more information than asked. Simply answer the question. For example you are asked, “Where are you going?” Good answer: “I am visiting a friend in the Tajikistan.” Bad answer: “I am visiting a friend in the Pamirs. His name is Glen H. He works there. Then we are going to cross the river to Af..” Another example: “Are you an American?” Good answer: “Yes.” Bad answer: “Yes, and I am going visit in Turkey, then I will be going to Tajikistan. We will be doing witnessing wherever we go.”
In any of your answers you should not mention that this is an M trip or even remotely indicate it is or that you are visiting an M - even in airports, including the US. Do not refer to the field personnel that live here as an M. It is better to strike this word from your vocabulary. Start now referring to people who live here as “workers.”
When arriving in Tajikistan you might be asked the following questions.
Q: “Why are you coming to Tajikistan” A: “To visit your country.”
Q: “Where are you staying?” A: “With a friend.”
Choose a code word or phrase to be used when someone on your team is talking about something they should not be talking about or are talking too loudly. This should not be something silly that would make the group laugh or that would attract too much attention or else people who where not listening before might begin to pay more attention to them. Let us know the code word that you have chosen, we might need a reminder as well!
Protect the identity of nationals who are believers. They may yet not have shared with their family, co-workers or friends that they have become Christians.
Try to avoid using the word “Christian” to refer to yourself. It is better to say Follower of Jesus. The word Christian in this area means Russian Orthodox, not particularly a bad thing, but Follower of Jesus means something much more relational and hence desirable.
While in travel be very cautious in mentioning organizations such as your home fellowship, our home office, etc. Do not make it known that you are even connected to such an organization. Once you are here, you may say that you are with such and such a church if it comes up in conversation. If you are a pastor, while you are here, say so, again if it comes up in conversation. Religious leaders are honored.
We cannot stress this enough. It is just, if not more, important to be security minded at airports and on planes. Visitors have been heard on planes and restaurants to loudly say, “Yes, we are members of such and such church and yes, we know so and so, and we are looking forward to our M trip.”
Communication Guidelines for sharing:
Please do NOT:
Publicly share that you will be visiting Tajikistan
Do not print or put on the internet that you will be visiting Tajikistan
Do not put in any type of newsletter or publication that you are visiting Tajikistan
As you develop your prayer support, you may want to be more specific in what you share. Then there is the “inner circle” of a very few highly trusted people. These people pray for you continually, and are very much a part of the work. They know specific details and are very trustworthy. BE SURE to explain to all your prayer supporters the security guidelines about your trip that you’ve been given so that they will not share in inappropriate ways what you have told them to pray for.
Sometimes people do not understand how small the world is and how quickly news travels. Please do not jeopardize the work we have been called to and more importantly, please do not put into jeopardy the national believers that we work with.
The earthquake site has obviously made the news on the internet. Let’s not add to the connections to be made.
J. Share with them possible questions that they may encounter and give them suggested answers.
What will you say if you are asked… (Give possible contextually appropriate answers)
Where are you from? USA or your state
Why are you here? Tourist or coming to help with such and such a project
Can you help me get a visa to America? no
What is your work? A general answer
Who do you work for? truth
Where does your money come from?
Are you an M? no ( not in their understanding anyway)
Are you a Christian? (Mind you, they are thinking of the Christians they know, which may not be what a real Christian is.) Follower of Jesus might be better
What is your religion? Follower of Jesus
What do you think of the prophets/leaders of other religions? Now is not the time to lecture as to how wicked so and so may have been. An answer of, “I don’t know much about him, do you, and can you tell me about him?
Have your read other holy books? I have read the Injil ( New Testament) the Tavrot ( the Torah) and if you have read part of the Koran, you wouldn’t need to hide it.
What do you think of the local women? They are nice, mannerly.
How much money do you make? It is a culturally acceptable question here, maybe give an after taxes figure.. or say, I don’t have too much left after taxes, which will get a laugh and get you off the hook.
Why did Americans bomb Iraq? “I am just an ordinary person, I don’t know why the men in the government do things.”
What do you think of the war in Iraq? Hope it will be able to be over soon..
Why do Americans love Israel and hate us? Americans don’t hate the people here. You can hear all kinds of things on the television.
What do you think about our religion? I don’t know much about your religion, can you explain what you love about it to me?
What do you think about our country It is beautiful, fine weather ect.
What do you think about our president/leader? Maybe ask about him from the questioner. Remember it is illegal to criticize the president, or other members of the government.
Where are you staying? With friends – don’t get specific
How long will you be here? answer
How much did ____ cost?be prepared, it is culturally ok here for someone to inquire the price of most anything.
How much do you weigh? Same here
How old are you? And the same. It is only rude for a younger person to question an older, unless maybe with admiration in the tone J
K. Who will the stateside Media Spokesperson be for the volunteers if a crisis occurs? Please decide this beforehand, and let us have their contact information.
L. If you do not travel with a laptop, we will be able to let you email your families. The connection is slow, pictures are difficult to send, but you’ll be able to let them know that you have arrived safely. While we are still careful not to share every detail online, our email is secure or you will be able to access your account online. MSN and Yahoo have proven to be difficult to access here, Gmail is not quite so bad.
M. We do have a cell phone that you may use to contact your family. We don’t encourage long chatty calls, as the system is NOT secure and one must always assume that someone could be listening in. If you choose to bring your own cell phone, if you have a quad-band phone it should work.
Instructions on how to contact us. Our phone number is 011-992- 93-597983 (from the USA), if you are dialing from Turkey, dial 00- 992-93-597983. If you have a major travel delay that would delay you for a day, while still in the USA due to a missed flight, please call ASAP. Our time is +5 GMT but should an emergency occur, do NOT worry about the time difference.
As a foreigner entering Tajikistan you will be given a small document to complete before you go through passport control. We will provide you with a copy and with relevant information filled out before you come. You will fill out both sides, they will take one at passport control, and you must retain the remaining half in a safe place until your departure when you will give it to passport control there.
If your bags are many, there are usually young fellows that in the airport that are willing to help you- they will want a tip, wait until you are with us outside and we will help you pay up.
Should your luggage be lost or delayed, it is handled in another building, we will help with that, notifying the proper personnel.
Never make jokes or side comments when going through customs.
After you have made it through customs, you will be facing the exit door, whereupon many taxi drivers are thronging the door. “Joy Te” with a smile will work wonders and you will be able to see us standing outside waiting on your arrival.
- Security Training Video - A security training video for volunteers has been developed called “Safe Travel Solutions - A Faith Based-Training. The video is designed to aid you as a short-term team to:
-travel more safely and securely
-better support long-term personnel by knowing and following security protocols
-understand what information is confidential and how best to maintain confidentiality
-increase survival of a crime or an act of an unfriendly foreign government
-better coordinate information flow during a potential crisis within a volunteer’s own family, team, sending group, and the media
This video covers six sessions and comes with a Leader’s Guide, a Student Guide. For more information their website is www.safetravelsolutions.org and their phone number is 1-866-289-5505.