International Volunteering & Careers


The Corona crisis: the need to volunteer in your home community

March, 2020. Wow! Everywhere in the world, the borders are closed. Everyone in the world knows to not shake hands, wash your hands and stay away from crowds. Have we ever experienced, as a world, as humanity, such a common experience?

This is a time, when while still observing the “social distancing” that is recommended, that you may be able to volunteer and be of great help in your own community. In my community, we already had a network for emergency preparedness. When the Be Prepared organization was designed, I think that people were really thinking of disasters like earthquakes. But I just talked to a neighbor who is helping find support for displaced workers and people financially impacted by COVID-19.

A great model for how communities responded to a crisis is how Buenos Aires responded when their economy tanked in 2002. Soup kitchens sprang up.. Urban gardens were planted. People bartered. Neighborhood assemblies met once a week to discuss issues that affected the larger community.. In other words, common citizens pulled together to create solutions in the crisis.

In some places, you see this happen during emergencies. I still remember hearing how Moville, Iowa responded to a jetliner going down in their nearby corn fields. Everyone in the town turned out to pull people out of  the wreckage. They had the community college psychology students doing the crisis counseling. Moville did an extraordinary job of mobilizing all their community strengths and so can we.

This tremendous sense of community is one of the most important forces driving solutions in a crisis. Just like with volunteering abroad, people want to help. So in the same way that you offer to volunteer abroad, roll up your sleeves and offer to help whereever in the world you are weathering this crisis. We need you!

New Service! Educational Guidance for those who want to work abroad

November 29, 2019.  For people who are wondering what classes to take or how to prepare to work in international development or otherwise “change the world”,  Ann now offers Educational Advice. Often colleges have an academic, theoretical  emphasis, and often you will need more practical skills. Some  people never received helpful guidance so they get off on the wrong foot and I think “Why didn’t you come to me earlier!” Let Ann know if this would be helpful to you and we can set it up. 

Culturally Sensitive, Ethical International Volunteering

October 6, 2019.  Because NGOabroad does such real volunteering, working closely with local communities, it is crucial to be culturally savvy. This attitude lies at the heart of ethical volunteering. As Vishwajeet said to Melinda Gates,  “Their cup is not empty; you can’t just pour your ideas into it.  Their cup is already full, so you have to understand what is in their cup”. 

In her recent book, Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates elaborates further, “If you don’t understand the meanings and beliefs behind a community’s practices, you won’t present your ideas in the context of their values and concerns, and people won’t hear you. (p. 43) She continues on p 44:  “It is a delicate thing to initiate change in a traditional culture. It has to be done with the utmost care and respect. ..Grievances must be heard. …Failures must be acknowledged. Local people have to lead. Shared goals have to be emphasized. Messages have to appeal to people’s experience.” #volunteer abroad, #international volunteering, #ethical volunteering

Volunteer Abroad with Kids? Family Volunteering

September 1, 2019.  People ask if we have opportunities for family volunteering. If you have read the page called Volunteer Abroad, everything that we do is custom fit. That is some of our programs are well suited to kids and families, but really because we are so skill based, we want to know parent (s) skills and interests; and we want to know about all the kids – their ages and interests. So please send Questionnaire and resume (copy and pasted into the body of the email) for each adult and then we can talk about what opportunities would fit well for your family. #volunteer abroad with kids, # family volunteering

Volunteer Abroad in Public Health - Global Health - Women's Health - working as partners

August 15, 2019.    We had a fascinating conference call yesterday:  one of our Uganda directors, a Public Health volunteer,  the NGOabroad health specialist and myself.  In an earlier conference call, we had discussed what the Public Health needs are in this very mountainous part of  Uganda. The director said: “We have clean water from protected springs and the Ugandan government has taught how to have good sanitation so we don’t need help with WASH (Water and Sanitation, Hygiene). What we really need help with is preventing fistulas and family planning.”

The director said that most young women are married at age 13, 14, 15 and are expected to start “producing” children shortly thereafter.  They are expected to have a baby about every year; so many families have 10 children. When young women bear children so young, their pelvic bones and uterus are often not ready for child bearing, so the baby may get stuck in labor and delivery.  This is especially is a problem in the mountains as the only real solution is a C-section.  A C-section may be too far away and cost too much for most families. Without the C-section, baby and mom may die; or a fistula may develop where tissue from uterus, urethra, rectum or intestines get smashed together in the prolonged hours of unsuccessful labor.

This conference call was an example of partnership that I speak of below. The Ugandan director had many great ideas, one of them being for the Masters in Public Health (MPH) volunteer to not only do talks at villages all through the mountains but also do a Training of Trainers – train local women who will continue this “sensitization” campaign over time.  We welcome you to help with this process! We invite men to help also as it is the husbands who want their young wife to bear children at a young age. Thus part of the talks will be devoted to family planning. Interested? This is a breath-takingly beautiful part of Uganda – reminds me much of Switzerland.  As I said below, our African directors are asking for your help. #international volunteering in public health, volunteer abroad in global health, # women’s health

Working as equal partners - not the Great White Savior - African directors ASK for volunteers

July 14, 2019. Some people are now hesitant to volunteer in Africa because they do not want to be a paternalistic Great White Savior. We say:  our
African directors ASK for volunteers, we do not impose something on them. We work together as partners. Rather we ask our volunteers to
jettison a paternalistic attitude, if you had it at all. It is any attitude which needs to go so that then there will be people who can
respond to the requests from African directors.

See this enlightening video about “Equal Partnerships – Check your Privilege at the Border” by Dr. Lisa Adams:

Want to Volunteer Abroad in Lebanon or Jordan with Syrian refugees?

April 11, 2019. It has been hectic and busy here trying to get international volunteers ready to go do their volunteer abroad programs for summer of 2019.  We have had many, many people requesting to work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan – people who are studying Arabic; who are studying or writing their thesis on migration, immigration or refugees. We have many Europeans who have been helping refugees in their home countries or in Calais. We had the application of several high school students who have been helping refugees.

One said: “One large project I took on last year was to organize an entire house for an incoming refugee family. I obtained hundreds of items (beds, soap, towels, toys, pots, and pans, etc) and put together the apartment to make it more like home. I had to be very organized throughout the whole operation.” Many people say “Yes, this is the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.” We have had offers of help from Poland, South Africa, Australia, Europe, North America….

However, Lebanon and Jordan are overwhelmed by the number of people that want to help. They are getting pickier and pickier about who they accept to help. We have had people that have already arrived in Lebanon or Jordan, then contact us. Please be aware, that as we say on MENA page, it takes forever to get things arranged in Lebanon and Jordan. Please apply ideally 6 months ahead! #Volunteer Abroad, # Lebanon, # Jordan, #Syrian refugees

Considering work abroad in international development work? This is a great read!

March 22, 2019.  There are not many books that cover as much ground as Duncan Green’s  From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World.  Though Green teaches at London School of Economics,  this book is more practical than pedantic or erudite. He draws on years of work as Senior  Strategic Advisor at Oxfam GB.  While many  aspiring to work in international development emphasize one small category that fascinates them: whether trafficking or child soldiers or refugees, Green reiterates the need for us to tackle poverty where 4/5’s of the world lives on less than $10/day. This is why we have the same focus at NGOabroad. Green draws on a wealth of knowledge to establish his thesis: that active citizens – people having a voice in the decisions that impact their lives – and effective states that emphasize health, education and rule of law are what help people out of poverty. Give it a read! Not boring; but bringing life to a vital subject. #international development, # poverty

Sorry for our absence. We had some technical difficulties. But we are back!

March 4, 2019. This has been a very busy several months, as we get volunteers ready to volunteer abroad in June, July & August.  If you want to go another time of year, though, most of our international volunteer programs run the year round!

Brawl in Sri Lanka's Parliament! = the Importance of our Political Science placement

 Nov 20, 2018. Are you someone fascinated by history, political science & current events? Have you been watching what is going on in Sri Lanka?! Why was there such a fierce fight in Parliament over no confidence vote for Rajapaksa? To understand the intensity of the brawl, it is essential to know history. What was Sri Lanka like under Rajapaksa? Do some Googling and see what you find.

Then if you have a real interest in Political Science, democracy building, human rights or history, consider our placement in Sri Lanka that is all about political consciousness raising village by village, awakening & empowering. #Sri Lanka, #democracy building, #political science, #history


Two New Amazing Environmental Placements! Come Volunteer Abroad & Help!

Nov 18, 2018. There is more press about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: 45,000 to 129,000 tons of garbage floating in an area the size of Alaska and how the whales are ingesting the garbage,  Boyan Slat, of the Netherlands, has launched a clean-up effort. See: In the same issue of The Economist, they talked ways that recycled plastic is used in building roads:

Come be part of the solution! We have 2 new Environmental placements – in the Caribbean & in Vietnam – that focus on Climate Change, recycling/ waste and Sustainability. Come help!
#volunteer abroad, #climate change, #sustainability, # plastic, #recycling, #waste

Are you an ethical volunteer? What directors look for: someone who GIVES more than they take

Nov 11, 2018.  There is a more attention paid to ethical volunteering: how you benefit the community and organization that you serve. But here I want to zero in on the behavior and attitude of volunteers and some things directors have commented on around the world:

“So many volunteers come here and expect me to be a tour guide. We want volunteers that help with our mission, not hinder it.”

Another director said to me: “I look for people that can help in a variety of ways; people that have an attitude of helpfulness… rather being super picky about a task fitting their skill set. We need people that will help with the mundane tasks too.”

One director candidly said to me: “I don’t want that entitled attitude…..that someone knows more or is better.”

I say this in the information that I hand out to international volunteers: travel light. Don’ bring all your fancy electronic gadgets. Leave your iPad and Ipod at home. The cost of these gadgets is more than most people in India, Nepal, Peru or almost every developing country will see in a year.

So more and more, as we get these comments from directors all over the world, we really look at the attitudes of volunteers that apply.

The in-country director and organization that you work when you volunteer abroad with usually puts a lot of time and energy to host you. So many have said to me: “We are looking for volunteers that give more than they take.”  Often directors are looking for very specific skills that their staff does not have.
#ethical volunteering, #ethical volunteer,  #volunteer abroad, #international volunteers

Watch your emails and have your voice mail enabled as that is how we will be communicating

After we do the Intake call with you, and you have decided to move forward, we will notify you by email that you have been accepted. Watch your emails. Sometimes emails from NGOabroad end up in Bulk or Spam mail because I load up the subject line. There was the very unfortunate situation of us doing a “rush order” for woman that wanted to do micro-finance program in Costa Rica over her winter break. She was accepted to the program. I notified her of acceptance by email. No response. And to this day I can not reach her by phone. She wrote a scathing review. So we ask that you do these things at your end to avoid this problem: watch your emails…check Spam & Junk mails. Forward us your receipt. And answer your phone…have your voice mail operating and not full…so that we may take care of any such problems that arise.  And if you have not gotten an email about your acceptance within a week (though it does take FOREVER in the Middle East!), then please contact us. We very likely were trying to contact you, like in the above situation.


Hurricane Florence in US.... massively wet monsoon season in India

Sept 19, 2018.  A hurricane …. a typhoon …. a monsoon:  different names for same kind of intense storms in the tropics. Our colleagues at our Gandhian community and school in Kerala wrote to us about their flooding: Kerala experienced heavy rain, flooding and landslides for the first time since 1924. Kerala got continuous rain since May. More than 200 people died in August alone due to landslides, drownings, and house collapses.

All the major 39 dams of the state of Kerala were filled completely and authorities were forced to lift the shutters of 33 dams which submerged all houses and towns of 3 districts including Cochin Airport, which was closed for 2 weeks. Even two storied buildings located on river banks were submerged which required people to find shelter on roof tops. Army helicopters were used to save them. A group of fisher folk from coastal villages came for the rescue with their boats and saved hundreds of people trapped in the houses. They brought their boats and operated in the flood affected areas where normally motor cars are used for conveyance.  13,00,000 people were sheltered in  3,000 rescue camps.    #flooding,  #hurricane,  #Kerala

NGO's are likely not like back home...aka.... "This isn't Kansas, Toto"

Aug 24, 2018. We have had people volunteer abroad and they expect NGO’s to be the same as back home.

Most international volunteers understand that African grassroots organizations do not have the funding or the personnel power as organizations in the West. They do a lot with a little.

But people expect the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) organizations to look more like what they would find back home. I had an American mother comment about a Jordanian organization. I said, “You need to remember that Jordan is a monarchy. Many organizations in Jordan are actually launched by the queen. They are more top down, rather than starting at the grassroots and building up. They are just beginning to develop a strong civil society.”

What is civil society?
Civil society is the “aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens.”

So likewise for Mongolia. Mongolia’s civil society – all its local NGO’s – have really only begun to emerge after the collapse of the Soviet empire and Mongolia no longer lived under the tutelage of the Soviet Union. Mongolia’s first free, multi-party elections for a bicameral parliament were held on July 29, 1990. It’s civil society has been growing since that time.

We have a fascinating volunteer abroad position in Mongolia helping them build that civil society. If you have a skills, training and experience in Public Administration, Politics or Law or even Sociology please send your Questionnaire & resume and we can discuss further how you can help in this most fascinating volunteer abroad placement. Gives great experience in an internationally acclaimed organization!
#volunteer abroad, #international volunteers, #MENA, #Middle East, #civil society, #NGO, #Mongolia


What governments don't like NGO's? Those that do not like their policies challenged!

Aug 1, 2018. Non-government organizations (NGO) are part of a checks and balance system on many governments. Picture Human Rights Watch.  Or picture our democracy building program in Kenya. Most of the activists in Kenya were jailed and tortured by Moi who was president from 1978 to 2002. When the activists got out of jail, they vowed “That will never happen again.” They worked together to see that a new constitution was written that devolved power from Nairobi and puts more power at the local level into the hands of the people.

So NGO’s may challenge a president’s power or policies. This is why autocrats do not really like NGO’s so much. One government (let us leave them unnamed) closed down thousands of local NGO’s and closed down Greenpeace who was protesting the dam that was going in.  

So the world of NGO’s is constantly changing and evolving. In future blogs we can talk about certain NGO’s with whom we work. But what is so exciting about working with NGO’s is that they tend to be more connected to the needs of the people, thus more vibrant and crucial. So do consider volunteering abroad and immersing yourself in the very important work being done all over over the world.
#NGO, #democracy building, #Kenya, #volunteering abroad

International aid organizations/ NGO's "swarm"

Grief after tsunami in 2004

July 8, 2018. International NGO’s are slightly different than their grassroots cousins. For one, international NGO’s usually have funding; whereas many grassroots organizations on sheer commitment and zero budgets.

The international NGO’s tend to “swarm”: move the hot spots together. Picture 2004 – the earthquake in Banda Aceh and the tsunami that followed. Almost every international NGO swarmed to Banda Aceh to offer help. The Oregon based NGO, Mercy Corps, tripled in size to serve the need and became a major player in international development.

NGO’s swarmed to the Balkans and former Soviet bloc in the the !990’s; and later to Afghanistan and South Sudan. Now there are more aid organizations responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. We have some great volunteer opportunities working with Syrian refugees. Check out the MENA page.
#international aid organization, #international NGO,  #grassroots organizations, #Syrian refugees

What, the dickens, is an NGO? And what role do NGO's play in the world?

An alternative to the slums of Kampala

June 29, 2018. NGO means non-government organization. NGO’s are a critical part of international development and humanitarian work. NGO’s often pick up the slack – where governments leave off or do not provide services.

For example, NGOabroad is partnered with a Bolivian NGO that builds roads, clinics and schools in the remote, remote parts of Bolivia. In areas of the world that are cut off, a road is life changing. As I saw in the remote areas of Bali on the flanks of the volcano, Mount Agung, a road was life changing: people could now take their produce to market and get goods and services too.

Another example of the NGO doing work that a government might: NGOabroad has a fascinating new placement, helping build homes so that people can leave the slums. In some countries, housing is handled by the government. In developing countries, governments rarely have that kind of money in the budget. (Or in corrupt regimes, the national wealth is going into the pocket of the president rather than addressing the needs of the people.) So consider volunteering in Africa helping people leave the slums and have decent homes! Or tutoring in our secondary school started by citizens!
#NGO, #international development, #humanitarian work, #slums, #volunteering in Africa

June 17, 2018.  The new website is finally finished and live! This is something like a summit register on top of mountain. After months of work,  we have finally reached this pinnacle. Many thanks to Leslie McGee,  Susan T. Beer,  Alissa Bell,  Jay Borseth and Kingsley Northcott for making this this new website possible. Thank you, thank you for all your help!

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