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Fire or theft

» RCLT fieldwork manual home

This might include money, equipment, passports and travel documents and other personal possessions. In the worst case, you might lose everything.

You need to be aware of what University Insurance will cover. You may be required to get a police report and sometimes getting this may cause more problems than it solves. In some cases it may be wise to leave some of your possessions and papers with a trusted person in a nearby village or town; but you will always have to have your passport and money with you and these are therefore always at risk of loss.

Questions you need to know the answers to:

  • Where is the nearest police station?
  • How can I get money if I lose everything?
  • Do I have the contact number of my embassy?
  • What are the insurance requirements for getting repayment?

"I had money stolen from my room in several villages. The first couple of times this happened I did nothing; the third time I reported it to my host. There was so much upset and distress caused to the host by this that I regretted informing them. The next time a theft occurred in another village, I didn’t report it."

-- Stephen Morey

"In Ethiopia, I learned that people made a difference between 'taking' and 'stealing'. If an item that is not locked away goes missing, it is not considered a serious matter. In fact the owner is considered to be at fault for not taking appropriate care. It is only considered 'true' stealing if an item that is locked away in a box, cupboard or suitcase is taken."

-- Yvonne Treis

"Since there had been occasional hold-ups between my fieldwork village in Papua New Guinea and the provincial capital, I left valuables such as credit cards, passport, or plane tickets in town, as there was no need to have them with me in the village. I left them either at a bank safe, or the safe of the hotel where I would stay in town, or a person from the village who lives in town. It is difficult to decide which option is the safest and most convenient. If you think the hotel or the bank are well run and you know the managers, that is a good option. My local consultants told me that I should only trust hotels that are run by expats, as local business people were not trustworthy."

-- Gerd Jendraschek