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Have You Volunteered Abroad?
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Ham Sandwich
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Nov 6, 2008, 03:27 PM
 
I have been looking into doing some volunteer work abroad next year and some of the websites that offer volunteering assignments look like they might be a bit shady to me. Just wondering if any of you have volunteered abroad and if so, what service you used and how it worked out for you.

Thanks!
     
paul w
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Nov 6, 2008, 03:58 PM
 
What kind of work? What are your skills/education?
     
SSharon
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Nov 6, 2008, 04:42 PM
 
I volunteered on the ambulances in Israel but it was organized by a group I was with for the year. The do have a foreign volunteers program that helps arrange the EMT course and house people during the volunteering, but I suspect that this might not be what you had in mind.
If I'm wrong, let me know and I can help you out.
AT&T iPhone 5S and 6; 13" MBP; MDD G4.
     
Yose
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Nov 6, 2008, 07:55 PM
 
I volunteered in India earlier this year. Often you'll have a western NGO which has a database of volunteer opportunities around the world… Unfortunately many of them charge a fairly high fee for what amounts to putting you on a list and forwarding emails from the actual NGO you'll be working with. Furthermore you'll often have to pay a second fee to the NGO in the country you actually are working with that will cover your accommodations, etc. This fee to the local NGO is usually quite reasonable and you get good value from it. There is one Canadian NGO called CADIP that *in my opinion* does not offer enough value for the money that you give them. While you do get setup with an NGO that you might not have otherwise known about I don't feel it is worth it, in hindsight of course.

Instead I try and talk to other travelers and find out the names of the NGOs they've worked with when doing volunteer projects abroad. I have some contact info for NGOs in India, Turkey, Thailand, Iceland, and Peru.

I'm currently working with an organisation called VSO. They are very different from many of the "volunteer tourism" organisations you'll find out there in that they will cover the cost of your project, but only after you go through a fairly intense selection process and a number of training sessions. I'll be going to one next week in Ottawa. They deal in volunteer placements which are 3months to 2yrs in length though… When I went the selection process in August they had flown in two doctors from the east coast, a social worker from the states, and the rest of us were from Toronto… They have projects that can match most skill sets.

On the flipside I have a friend who is very much against volunteer tourism because she feels in the end it's really not good for the people you're helping. In most situations I have to agree… Does it make much sense for a few westerners to fly around the world to help build/renovate a school and play with the kids when there is a very skilled workforce who could use the money instead?… So it's important to remember that *most* of the time you'll be getting a whole lot more out of the experience than the locals will be… I've seen a lot of people come back and be very high and mighty and will probably be that way for the rest of their lives because of the one time they went to Africa. (don't get me wrong, it's good to go, but it's so often for the wrong reasons).

Anyhow, best of luck!
Yose.
Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
     
Ham Sandwich
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Nov 6, 2008, 08:00 PM
 
My background is pretty heavy into IT. But, I've also worked on small farms. I'm basically looking to do some light English teaching, IT work - maybe even help out with building. But, I'm not above digging ditches or sowing seed, either.

The websites I've come across you usually pay them so you can volunteer your time in needy areas of the world. The work is usually teaching English, building or working with children - nothing too specialized. They usually provide you with a family to stay with and local guides or help. From the prices of seen, the services are quite expensive and usually based in some remote (to me) region of the world - so I'm a bit wary of sending a lot of money to some place that could leave me high and dry in a foreign land.
     
Yose
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Nov 6, 2008, 08:02 PM
 
If you want to use your skills you should check out VSO — you could end up training people, setting up systems for an NGO or town, etc.
Yose.
Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
     
Ham Sandwich
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Nov 6, 2008, 08:11 PM
 
Wow! Thanks for all the info, Yose. I wasn't even aware of NGOs.

Giving it the term "volunteer tourism" (which I've heard it called before) makes me feel pretty icky about the whole thing. And, reflecting on how your friend feels about it and processing it with my thoughts about the idea has given me a pause.
     
Yose
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Nov 7, 2008, 02:54 PM
 
No problem, glad to share it. It's good that it made you pause and think… And remember going to do a project overseas is still a good thing but you should be aware of the whole picture and not just the marketing description on Uniterra or whatever website you're looking at.

How many weeks vacation do you have?

E
Yose.
Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
     
Ham Sandwich
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Nov 7, 2008, 05:55 PM
 
Delving into it a bit more today, it seems that two weeks just isn't worthwhile for anyone involved. So, I'm starting to look at longer stays (up to two years) but surely getting my feet wet just to make sure with a shorter program - say, two months.

I have five weeks vacation with the ability to take an extended personal leave of absence, if need be. I wouldn't wholly be opposed to volunteering turning into a career, either, though.

I am getting my CV and resume together to submit to VSO - thanks for the heads up with that organization!
     
Shaddim
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Nov 7, 2008, 07:07 PM
 
volunteered a broad for what?

/cymbal crash
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
   
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