Volunteering Abroad

1. "The needs & opportunities in other countries determine if your skills are suited to paid or voluntary work." This is a direct quote from your website. Can you please elaborate on paid volunteering opportunities?

NGOabroad offers several separate but related services: ”NGOabroad is a unique service that helps people enter international humanitarian work & provides frugal, customized international volunteer options.”

Some people that come to me have expertise & experience that is well suited for paid international work. The website says “international [paid] humanitarian work is competitive.”

So paid international opportunities are not volunteer opportunities. They are real live jobs which I connect people to if they ask for a Roadmap of Resources. In intake, we discuss if they qualify for this. If people are having a hard time getting that first international job, they ask for one of our challenging volunteer positions that will give them essential skills.

2. Your organisation lists many types of skills that are needed and focuses on humanitarian work. Can you give an example of how a student who is interested in teaching might benefit from this experience?

Benefit from volunteering or working internationally? I see it the other way: how will a community that has no teacher or 50% illiteracy benefit from a teacher? Teachers are a critical "ticket out of poverty."

How would the teacher benefit? They would gain a deeper, richer understanding of the world that is then conveyed to their students back home. The teacher would likely come away with a more profound understanding of poverty and global inequities which often fires linkages & activism in the classroom.

3. Is it possible to have a lifetime career with NGOs?

Sure. People have done it for decades...it is just getting more attention now because there has been an explosion in the number of NGO's.

Working in international humanitarian work is more erratic than domestic work because you are not hired for a lifetime but for the duration of a given project. NGO’s do not have the same funding base as most domestic employers in the UK or North America. In contrast, employment in NGO’s are sought after in Africa.

4. Your site lists opportunities in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. How do each of these differ and which is best for beginners? Which is best for more advanced volunteers?

No generalizations can be made like that, really. It depends on your own skills, cultural background and international experience. But in general, Asia is a good place to begin; Africa can be more challenging. Central & South America require Spanish.

5. You offer career consultations on your website. Please elaborate on this.

Career consultations are career counseling for people who want to enter or advance in international humanitarian work. International work is very competitive. Most people that come to us have gotten frustrated & discouraged with the job search because they do not know how international work is organized or where to look for opportunities that aren't crowded with applicants. I also help with cover letters & resumes which are key to getting your "foot in the door."

6. Do you have opportunities available for couples who are interested? I noticed that your site caters to all age ranges, which is unusual itself, but does it allow for couples and families to volunteer also?

I can cater to such a wide age range because everything is tailored to you. I can work with highly unusual requests & needs because we custom fit. We are not "one size fits all" or "mass produced volunteering."

We definitely work with families...and certainly with couples. Again, our Questionnaire is essential because then we can see how varying needs or skills in the family or couple will be balanced.

7. In your opinion do volunteer experiences help students in their careers later on?

Volunteering helps in future career steps if you develop skills & perspective.The key is gaining Skills & Experience.

What gets you a job?

Skills & experience. NGOabroad's volunteer opportunities tend to be more challenging & fulfilling and actually help you develop skills & experience. .

When I make what we call a Roadmap of Resources, I map out international opportunities that will give important skills & experience, from entry level to more advanced. But some volunteering opportunities with other programs are so simple that I would not put them on a resume.

8. What do you say to people who have been in working in the private industry for more than 15 years and are thinking of joining an NGO to do some good?

I say, "Wow, can we use your talent!" NGOabroad is one of the few services that harnesses the skills of experienced workers & professionals. NGOabroad was born with the vision that if we took all the talent on this earth, we could solve all of our challenges.

9. In what ways is NGO Abroad different from other volunteer organisations, besides your career-oriented services?

1) Most volunteer organizations have a handful of opportunities. We have many, many ways to engage your skills...far more opportunities than can be listed on the website.

2) The heart & soul of NGOabroad is the custom fitting. Your volunteer experience is more personalized...it is not standardized...thus it is more fulfilling. We want to see your answered Questionnaire, so that we can see where your skills & life experience can be put to best use.

3) More sophisticated: addressing emerging social problems and trends.

4) Thus we get journalists applying; doctors, entrepreneurs aand accountants who have retired. We get students who thrive on the challenge & people with decades of experience that gravitate to our capacity to really use their skills.

10. What skills do you believe are the most important that can be extracted from the NGO experience that will be valuable to a future employer?

Resourceful. Ability to solve problems. Expanded world view. Ability to work with a wide variety of cultures…the ability to bridge differences to work together.

Most people that want to enter international humanitarian work are “people's people”, they have strong interpersonal skills, resilience, a sense of adventure and are innovative. The NGO experience did not create these attributes; they were likely born with those traits. These traits “wear well” in any and every future job that they will have. As a group, those drawn to international service are the leaders & change makers of the future. The international experience is often the catalyst for new project or contribution. The international experience it often fires them for the rest of their lives.

Ann McLaughlin MSW, trained as a Social Worker is an international career counselor and Director of NGOabroad. NGOabroad is a unique service that helps people enter international humanitarian work & provides frugal, customized international volunteer options.”