Gifts for Peace Corps Volunteer?
November 20, 2008 7:46 AM   Subscribe

[giftfilter] It's that time of year again. I want to send a Christmas care package to a friend who is volunteering with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. What's good to send?

She's teaching English language fluency to students in a fairly developed area - she has regular internet access and such. I saw this post and I plan on sending her some nice soaps and stuff, magazines, and some tasty (gluten-free) American food. But I want some more ideas. Things she may not be able to get in the Philippines? Or things you would have appreciated while traveling/living in Southeast Asia?

She's a big reader so I think I might send her an giftcard but it seems she'll have to spend a lot on shipping the books. I know she's been enjoying reading free books from Project Gutenberg. Would a gift certificate to something like be better?

Also, anything I should know about shipping internationally?

posted by radiomayonnaise to Shopping (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To answer your last question:

I do not want to discourage you from sending something to the Philippines but do it if you and your friend truly believe in "it's the thought that counts."

My mother's side of the family is in the Philippines. Every package we have sent has never not been messed with. Every package we have sent has had items taken from it. My grandmother even told me a letter I sent to her had been obviously opened and haphazardly shoved back in the envelope - we assume when the person didn't find any money. There was one package where my grandparents were contacted saying they found the "lost" package and want a reward for handing it in (it contained medicines my grandparents needed).

We now ship to a branch of the family business in Hong Kong and my aunt and uncle pick up packages whenever they go there for business trips.
posted by spec80 at 8:31 AM on November 20, 2008

Does she like to cook or bake? Find out what food she misses. Something to help make it would be fabulous taco seasoning, baking soda, peanut butter and some spices can all be hard to find). Junk food she misses would also be welcome. A book that it hot now and not easily available would be great. In Peace Corps, books are passed from volunteer to volunteer when they are good, usually the libraries set up in the volunteer lounge are filled with stuff not good enough to be passed around.

Avoid high end electronics or stuff that has major value, it will most likely be taken or held up in customs.

To be honest, though, spend a couple minutes to write a really, really nice letter. Those always made me cry in the best possible way.
posted by piratebowling at 8:39 AM on November 20, 2008

When I was in Peace Corps, my favorite care packages contained good paperback books, photos, mix tapes (or CDs..depending on what she brought), magazine articles, and most importantly, long letters! I wouldn't bother with a gift certificate- might get stolen and or be hard to use.

Don't send anything of value and I'd also vote against foodstuffs...they tend to get ruined in transit.
posted by emd3737 at 10:38 AM on November 20, 2008

I also vote for long letters. The trick with these care packages is to maximize the personal value, and minimize the general value. I think pictures can be great too. I often find myself wishing I could show people something from my home; snow, or the house I grew up in, that kind of thing (I'm living in Africa for 18 months). Nothing beats getting something in the mail from home, and long letters are the best of those. Next to that, I like books, music, and dvds (my friends have sent home-made dvds with favourite shows on them; these don't attract too much attention from customs). For me, no package has been messed with, but I have had to pay for the items sent, since customs here chooses to define "import" as "anything crossing the border", so that's another potential reason to stick to lower-cost items.

Really, nothing beats stuff that makes you feel connected to the people at home. A letter might not feel like much of a gift in the classic sense, but it's amazing how much it can mean to you when you are cut off from the life and the people that you've known.
posted by carmen at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2008

Shipping to the Philippines via USPS does not normally go very well. Things are lost, opened, or held for ransom if they look interesting or valuable. Fedex and UPS are here, but they will require a lot of paperwork to be filled out and are not cheap. A Fedex letter envelope costs me about 65$ and takes about 3 days to deliver. Balikbayan boxes are the cheapest way to ship to the Philippines, but they travel via boat and can take 4-6 weeks to arrive. Balikbayan boxes can be sent from most large US cities, should be completely filled as they will be stacked inside a container, and the contents should be declared as something generic like personal effects. Electronics are heavily taxed on import and should be avoided.

I'm in Manila, but I don't really have problems finding food items (well, except for the lack of good cow-related products). It is my understanding that Amazon does ship books here fairly efficiently, but the rest of Amazon's inventory is off limits.

Christmas in the Philippines is very much about the human experience and not about gifts. I think letters, items that remind her of home and the people there, and things she can share with others and her students will probably carry the most value.
posted by joelr at 10:17 PM on November 20, 2008

« Older The bats have left the belltower; the victims have...   |   Maybe the two seasons of ‘Weeds’ we just watched... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.