Sending a Care Package to PNG
Getting a care package from loved ones back home is tremendously uplifting and encouraging to missionaries on the field. A care package is a great way to say “I care” to missionaries who are separated from their loved ones by many miles!
That being said, sending an overseas shipment is a much more involved process than sending a domestic shipment. It can sometimes take weeks—even months—to be delivered, cost a lot of money, and require a lot of confusing paperwork. Even if all the steps are followed correctly, there’s no guarantee your shipment will arrive at its intended destination when (or in the condition) you expected it to. So, here are some general guidelines to help make the process a little easier.
Step 1: Understand what types of things you can/should ship, and what you can’t/shouldn’t.
While many things aren’t available here in PNG, the availability of things in some of the cities can be surprising. It is almost always cheaper for us to buy an item locally than to have it purchased and shipped internationally. Almost all our household goods are either already furnished or available to us here in PNG.
However, there are a good number of things that just aren’t available or aren’t available in sufficient quality here in PNG. Clothing, shoes, electronics, and the like are of poor quality and availability here in PNG. Also, even electronic media which is available online for free back in the states—like sermon recordings, for example—cost us a lot to download since we must pay for our internet usage by the megabyte. So, here are some things that we would generally enjoy:
- Sermon recordings—from your favorite preacher or your church, either burned on a CD or on an inexpensive flash drive.
- Contemporary Christian music CDs—While we missionaries eventually adapt to our new cultures, music from our home country still touches us more deeply than the music from the country we serve. If you heard a new song on the radio that you think we’d love, buy the CD and send it to us! Chances are strong that we haven’t heard it yet, but check with us first just to make sure we don’t already own it.
- DVDs–We don’t have movie theaters here, so getting a new DVD is about like going to the theater for us! Just check with us first to make sure it’s not one we already own. If it’s a new release, we almost certainly don’t have it.
- A letter from the heart—won’t cost you anything (except the shipping), but incredibly meaningful. Tell us what’s going on in your life, our home church, our state/country, etc. It helps us stay up to date on life back “home” and makes us feel involved in your lives. You hear about our lives all the time in our newsletters, we want to hear about you, too! Include some pictures if you can!
- Games, toys, books, and puzzles for our kids. (They LOVE hot wheels cars, and they make great gifts to the children of our national friends here.)
- Board games, card games, etc.
- Batteries–Especially AA batteries, which are expensive and poor quality here.
- Candy, spices, and non-perishable snacks—delicious and largely unavailable. Avoid candy or snacks that might melt or spoil if they’re left on a pallet in a hot warehouse for a month (like chocolate). Package these goodies well, so that ants and bugs can’t get to them. (We’ve had ants chew holes through Ramen noodle packages…) Seasoning packets (like gravy mix, muffin mixes, ranch dressing, etc.) are great. Also, Jason loves Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo sauce, but such flavorful wonderfulness is simply not available here. 😦 However, please note that food of any kind CANNOT be sent through DHL.
- Clothing—This can make a good gift, but please check with us first! Not only is size a concern, but modesty and practicality can be issues, too. Clothing that is very practical and modest in the US—like denim blue jeans/shorts—may not fit either criteria here.
- Ask us! There’s no telling what might have gotten destroyed by the humidity in this environment. If you’re at a loss for what to send, but want to send something, send us an email first.
- Repackage and ship goods we purchase online—Amazon, Ebay, REI, Walmart, etc. don’t ship to PNG. So sometimes it would be helpful to have someone receive and package up things we order online and then send them to us. If you’re willing to check over an order and repackage it for overseas shipping for us, that’s as good as going out and buying something for us—and it’s cheaper!
I got many of these tips from this blog, so you can read more here: http://moneyhelpforchristians.com/missionary-send-care-package/#ixzz4fvIBaiyw
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Step 2: Determine what type of shipping you’ll use.
- DHL—This is probably the quickest method of shipment but also the most expensive. DHL packages are usually received here in PNG within a week of shipment from the USA, and are very reliable. Of course, this service comes with a hefty price, and DHL is not the easiest to figure out for the first time user. DHL is best for sensitive electronics or other more valuable items. For normal care packages, see the next option.
- US Postal Service—One of the simplest and cheapest methods of shipment is to just take your package to USPS and let them handle the details. Packages sometimes take only a week or two to arrive in PNG, but usually take much longer. USPS is not quite as reliable as DHL, but they’re still pretty good, and they’re much cheaper than DHL. But, a small flat rate box can cost about $90, so “cheap” is relative here. Overall, USPS is probably your best bet for most packages.
Step 3: Understand how things work once your package gets to PNG.
Anything (both people and cargo) that enters or leaves the country is subject to inspection by customs officials, both in the country of origin (USA) and the destination country (PNG). When a package is sent from the US, the sender must fill out a customs declaration card, which is affixed to the outside of the package. The sender (you) must describe the contents of the package and estimate a value for them. This declared value is used both to determine the insurance liability of the shipping company AND to determine the amount of duty (“import tax”) that must be paid by the recipient (us) when they pick up the package from the PNG Post Office.
Customs duty varies widely, and is often up to the subjective valuation of the customs official inspecting the package. However, they typically go by what the description on the package states. So, for example, if you send a package labeled “Clothing….$300,” customs will likely charge a 15% duty plus handling fee, so our cost to retrieve this package will be $45.
Duty is not charged on used items. So, feel free to send us your gently used board games and stuff you’re not going to use anymore but is still in decent shape.
So, with that in mind, here are some tips that the Ukarumpa Post Office has published, which we will pass along to you.
Tips from the Ukarumpa Post Office:
Goods imported through Post are to be charged with duty in the same way as goods imported by sea or air as specified under PNG Government Law on Postal Importation. (See http://www.customs.gov.pg)
Personal gifts from one person to another are to be treated in a flexible manner.
While determining value a liberal approach should be taken especially in respect of Birthday, Christmas and Wedding gifts, such gifts could be as follows,
* The parcel is wrapped in a gift paper
* A gift card is included with the gift
* A letter from the sender to the addressee that they are sending the gift and
* Gift item is not of commercial nature”
Customs don’t open boxes very often these days. So please inform your friends or families at home to label ‘Gifts’ on the outside of the box in big letters, if it fits into the above criteria.
Any of the personal gifts that do not meet the above criteria will be charged duty at the rate in force.
Duty is definitely charged on clothing, shoes, noodles, some toys, learning supplies, electronic items and Supplements & Vitamins.
- We love receiving packages! But, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make us smile and appreciate your gift.
- Please don’t send us your fresh garden produce…it will not be fresh when it arrives. 😉
- Before you pack something in the package, ask yourself, “Can this package survive the three-month long postal employee “package football game” on top of a giant mound of ants inside a hot, humid warehouse?” From the looks of the packages we’ve received thus far, this scenario is not unimaginable… 😉
- Items in glass jars, non-bug proof packaging, and/or liquids should be packed inside study ziplock bags (and cushioned, if they wouldn’t otherwise survive being tossed around). When in doubt, bag it. Large ziplock bags are handy here, anyways!
- Food of any kind MUST go through USPS. It cannot be sent via DHL. Generic descriptions on the customs declaration are fine (i.e..–“culinary items” for food items.)
- Please label your package “GIFT” and “NOT FOR RESALE” in large letters so that Customs knows that you’re not shipping us stock for our new General Store. If you’re sending it as a birthday, Christmas, or anniversary present, please also label it as such on the outside of the package.
- Feel free to take any shiny new toys out of their packages, play with them a bit, and then send them on to PNG. Gently used items are just as “good as new” to us! If the item(s) in the package are used, please label them as such on the customs declaration form and give it a fair yard sale value.
- Please send us an email or letter informing us of the contents of the package so we can check it when it arrives. If you want it to be a surprise, just label the subject line of the email or the outside of the letter accordingly, and we’ll set it aside until after the package arrives.
- Please check with us first before sending anything of significant value. There may be more reliable methods of shipping that we can arrange aside from sending it through the Post Office.
Our address in PNG is:
Jason and Jennifer Hill
PO Box 1 (132)
Ukarumpa, EHP 444
Papua New Guinea