International Volunteering & Careers
At its heart, NGOabroad is made up of a complementary team:
Ann McLaughlin MSW, the brawn
Mary Ellen Walker MPH, the brain
I do all the work & Mary Ellen does all the thinking!
Mary Ellen & I were hiking & climbing buddies years ago.
For both of us, adventuring is both local & international.
Mary Ellen is precise & The Queen of Details. I am more Big Picture.
I have all the questions; Mary Ellen has all the answers!
Below the step snow are cliffs – hanging glaciers. “On belay, Mary Ellen!”
We learned that once you take care of safety, you can go anywhere.
Tell your mother that we will teach you how to adventure safely.
NGOabroad was “in utero” for almost 10 years, and was finally born in 2004.
IIn the early 1990’s, I was offered an international social work job. At the emd of the interview they said: “We would like you to do trauma counseling in either Cambodia with genocide survivors or in Guatemala with children who saw their parents brutally murdered during the 30+ years civil war. We would love to have you, but it enriches our programming to know, what would you propose or do?”
“Agh, I am such a social worker! I have learned that if you do not do a thorough intake or needs assessment, then your intervention may be off. Before I zero in on one place, I must really look at the whole world to see how & where to focus.”
For 10 years, I did a “needs assessment” – researching the community and national needs in many, many countries. I had extensively studied world cultures earlier in college – African Literature & History; China, Japan & India; Russian history, literature & language – but I deepened my understanding of history and current events of almost every corner of the earth. John Lear, Latin American professor at University of Puget Sound, Lucy Jarosz, Africa professor at the University of Washington, and Peter Dorman at American University of Beirut generously guided my studies.
This extensive background work shapes our international volunteer opportunities: it is what makes our volunteer abroad programs more real & challenging; aimed at tackling humanity’s challenges. This in-depth research is also what informs the international career counselling that I do. I know what the needs are for almost every profession; and what is going on in almost every corner of the earth. While most scholars zero in on one region – zeroing in gave me a funny kind of claustrophobia – my goal was & is to have a broader perspective & impact.
Ann McLaughlin, Founder & Director
What inspired the birth of NGOabroad?
Upon return from work in the Balkans, friends and colleagues asked me how to find work abroad. I realized that many people dream of serving internationally but have no idea how to accomplish that goal.
I am well suited for this work: I spent those 10 “in utero” years developing an extensive knowledge of history and current events which is critical to preparing others to work abroad or volunteer abroad. I have traveled, most of it by bicycle – Ireland, Scotland, England, Switzerland, and France; Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; Japan and China; India and Sri Lanka; Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia; Turkey and Greece; and South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. Since becoming director of NGOabroad, I have visited and coordinated with colleagues in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Morocco. …the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia & Chile. Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India & Nepal…Lebanon, Jordan, Israel & Palestine. Like most world travelers, I am an adventurer: an avid mountaineer, bicycler and kayaker.
Most importantly, since 1992, I have been accumulating resources. I am the kind of person who must know the “Big Picture” before I zero in. (You learn the usefulness of this as a counselor.) So I researched future global trends, culture, history and current events & organizations of Eastern Europe and CIS (the former Soviet Union), Africa, Latin America & Asia. This research informs what I offer you.
As a Social Worker with 27 years of experience, I am deeply committed to humanitarian work. Social Workers have earned their reputation of knowing the resources. I am no exception. I know hundreds of international grassroots organizations and NGO’s (non-government organizations). With NGOabroad, I serve as a career counselor matching your skills, interests and goals to humanitarian needs. The creation of NGOabroad is the integration of Ann McLaughlin, Social Worker, and my fascination with world cultures, history, and events. In my youth, I wanted to change the world. Now I want to enable many people to change the world; I want to harness your talents and contribution. It is tremendously exciting work. I look forward to working together.
Mary Ellen Walker, Our Walking Encyclopedia
We are lucky to have Mary Ellen on the team. She is a walking encyclopedia. She has touched almost every corner of the planet and she has a extensive understanding of world cultures and current events.
With decades of experience in health, Mary Ellen is well equipped to do the Travel Consult – the health & safety talk for those going to Africa. She also trains public health volunteers to do health campaigns.
“Do you realize what a resource you have in Mary Ellen?” emailed Phillis Morgan after her Africa consult. “Yes! That is why she was recruited to be on the team.”
I have been pushing travel preparation ever since someone got worms in their feet in Kenya. Many health problems can be prevented. Our aim is to educate & thus empower you, rather than babying you, so you are a Walking Encyclopedia too!
“Mary Ellen’s obviously an expert on international travel & public health and keeps current. I previously worked in Africa but still found the consult was invaluable in preparing me for my new post. Mary Ellen’s consult was well worth the time and money.”
Invaluable in Sorting Out Chronic Illness
“Mary Ellen helped me make all the right decisions in difficult circumstances. I have a chronic illness that I thought would prevent me from volunteering. Early in the planning process, I was shuttled from doctor to doctor, trying to decide where in the world I could go. Mary Ellen translated a myriad of medical and technical information into on-the-ground travel realities. People are not kidding when they call Mary Ellen an encyclopedia. In helping me to address my particular needs, her wealth of knowledge proved both practical & invaluable and I would not hesitate to call upon her again in the future.”
Caitlin Sweeney, USA
Jay Borseth, "The Microsoft Man"
Jay & I have known each other since kindergarten! Jay worked for years at Microsoft, now he is a software programmer for the brain research being done at the Paul Allen Foundation. Jay knows most everything in the world of technology so he is who I turn to when I need help with the website. When Jay isn’t programming, he is no doubt sailing or biking.
Kim Johnson, scrappy business smarts
I met Kimmie years ago when we both worked in Grand Canyon. (Kimmie has been playing on rivers ever since!) Kim works as a business consultant and is the only person that I know that reads the Wall Street Journal. More than any of the other business brains on our team, she has very solid, practical solutions to vexing problems.