When Sherry was in her late twenties and newly married, she spent time at the University of Rhode Island with her husband, who was a faculty member there. In addition to finishing her dissertation and teaching a few courses, she also engaged in several international volunteer activities at the university. She served as the president of a volunteer organization that matched international students with American host families. She also coordinated orientation and cross-cultural training sessions for international students.
Directly after graduating from college, Mark moved to the city of Yanji, in China's Jilin Province, as a volunteer with the Salesian Lay Missioners. His primary duty for his year in Yanji was as a teacher of English conversation at a technical high school managed by Catholic priests. He organized after-school activities for his students (such as "extra English" and guitar groups), chaperoned weekend field trips for students, and taught English in several other venues around the city.
As we discussed in the introduction to the book, idealism is typically a driving force for those interested in a career in international education, exchange, or development. Coupled with this idealism is a desire to serve. Volunteer opportunities give professionals the chance to feed this desire while gaining international experience. Sherry did international volunteer work in the United States, whereas Mark did international volunteer work abroad. We both gained rich experience and new perspectives from these activities, all while satisfying our desires to serve.
It is certainly true that not all people are in the position to take a year or two off from the real world in order to volunteer abroad for no pay. Certainly, the decision to volunteer requires much reflection on your part to discern whether the experience will be both beneficial to your career and feasible within the confines of your life situation (e.g., repaying student loans, taking care of bills, or family obligations).
Yet, as Sherry's experience demonstrates, you do not have to go abroad to volunteer. Certainly, your career in international relations will benefit immensely if you do indeed go abroad at some point. (Sherry later worked as a paid English teacher in Brazil for a year.) But if your situation mandates that you remain in the United States, there are still myriad opportunities for valuable international volunteer experience. Such experiences, whether in the United States or beyond, will help you acquire solid experience in the field, increase your foreign language proficiency, gain further regional expertise, and equip you for future success in multinational and cross-cultural settings.
Sample Volunteer Organizations
American Refugee Committee International
430 Oak Grove Street, Suite 204 Minneapolis, MN 55403
Telephone: 612-872-7060 and 800-875-7060 (toll-free in the US) Website: arcrelief.org Twitter: @ARCrelief
Founded in 1979, the American Refugee Committee is a nonprofit organization that provides health care and health care training to displaced peoples in developing nations worldwide, including Liberia, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda, South Sudan, Thailand, and Uganda. Volunteer positions are categorized by country or service; position descriptions include job qualifications, responsibilities, and time and financial commitments necessary from the volunteer.
Amigos de las Americas
5618 Star Lane Houston, TX 77057
Telephone: 713-782-5290 or 800-231-7796 (toll-free in the US) Website: amigoslink.org Twitter: @AMIGOS_Americas
Amigos de las Americas is an international, nonprofit organization that provides volunteer experiences in Latin America for high school and college students interested in public health service and leadership development. Participants live with host families and work with a team of two to three other volunteers in a small community. Participants must have some knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese. Amigos has supported more than 25,000 volunteers during its nearly fifty years in operation.
Art for Humanity (AFH)
635 South 25th Street Arlington, VA 22202
Website: artforhumanity.org Twitter: @artforhumanity
AFH is a completely volunteer-based charity with the objective of "helping the poor to help themselves." Working primarily in Honduras, AFH distributes used items to families who can then use, distribute, or sell the donated products. Volunteers for the organization may work within the United States at the Arlington, Virginia, office, from their homes, or onsite in Honduras at the university and other facilities established by Art for Humanity.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
228 West Lexington Street Baltimore, MD 21201 Telephone: 877-435-7277 Website: catholicrelief.org Twitter: @CatholicRelief
Catholic Relief Services is the official international relief and development organization of the US Catholic community and works through local churches, governments, and community groups to offer development assistance. Volunteers make a full-time commitment for one week to three years or longer.
See the profile of Tom Garofalo for more information. Tom worked as a country representative for Catholic Relief Services from 1998 to 2008.
104 East 40th Street, Suite 903 New York, NY 10016 Telephone: 212-557-8000 Website: concernusa.org Twitter: @Concern
Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in more than twenty-five countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe. It engages in long-term development work, responds to emergency situations, and seeks to address the root causes of poverty, working in fields such as health, education, sanitation, natural resources, and emergency relief services. Concern offers volunteer opportunities in the United States ranging from organizing fundraising events to joining an organizing committee for Concern's events. Concern also looks for volunteers with specialized skills, including camera crews, producers, and film editors.
Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane Santa Barbara, CA 93117
Website: directrelief.org Twitter: @DirectRelief
Direct Relief International is a nonprofit medical commodities donor founded in 1948 that sends medicine and medical equipment to developing nations worldwide. Direct Relief relies on volunteers for tasks such as clerical and administrative support, program research, editorial work, public outreach, warehouse inventorying, and event hospitality. All volunteer opportunities are offered only at Direct Relief's facilities in Santa Barbara. It does not send volunteers abroad.
375 East Little Canada Road St. Paul, MN 55117
Website: globalvolunteers.org Twitter: @GloblVolunteers
Global Volunteers is a nonprofit organization that has been working to expand volunteer efforts since 1984. Global Volunteers has programs in seventeen countries that cater to all types of volunteers, including couples, families, LGBT volunteers, seniors, and students. In 1999, Global Volunteers was granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a position that allows it to collaborate on child safety and development in UN efforts against poverty and hunger and in promotion of education. Volunteer opportunities are available for one to three weeks.
Health Volunteers Overseas
1900 L Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: 202-296-0928
Website: hvousa.org Twitter: @HVOUSA
Health Volunteers Overseas works in more than twenty-five resource-poor nations to provide health care, training, and emergency assistance to those in need. Individuals volunteer as overseas health professionals for an average of one month, though both longer and shorter placements are available. Volunteers are encouraged to train local professionals and use local medical equipment whenever possible to create sustainable health practices.
Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD)
1117 Hancock Road
Williamstown, MA 01267 Telephone: 413-458-9466
Website: iicd-volunteer.org Twitter: @IICDMA
IICD, founded in 1987, offers work and study programs in Africa (eighteen months) and Brazil (nine months). The programs include training and orientation in the United States, group work on a development project, and development education upon return to the United States. Approximately one hundred volunteers participate in IICD programs each year.
See chapter 6 in this volume.
International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
1900 M Street, NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: 202-589-2600
Inspired by the Peace Corps in 1964, IESC recruits highly skilled executives, administrators, and technical advisers (often recent retirees) to work on more than 1,000 IESC projects and to share their years of experience and expertise with people in developing nations. Volunteer Experts (VEs) register in IESC's Skills Bank and are recruited to provide assistance on projects in more than 130 countries. Paid professional consultancy positions are also available.
The International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership (IPSL)
200 Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR 97214 Telephone: 503-395-IPSL (4775)
IPSL is a consortium of colleges, universities, service organizations, and other related organizations that have united to foster and develop programs linking community service and academic study. It sends approximately one hundred college or university students abroad each year to combine studies with community service.
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
122 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10168 Telephone: 212-551-3000
Website: rescue.org Twitter: @theIRC
IRC is a refugee relief agency founded in 1933. Every year it sends approximately 300 health care workers to developing countries for short-and long-term assignments. People with previous experience in relief activities overseas are preferred. IRC offers both paid and unpaid positions.
See also chapter 9 in this volume. Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC)
PO Box 3756 Washington, DC 20027 Telephone: 202-687-1132
JVC, advocating the values of the Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests, offers volunteer positions both in the United States and abroad. It offers two-year positions in teaching, community organizing, and ministry in Africa, Central and South America, and the Pacific. Voluntary service is based on living simply, keeping faith, doing justice, and building communities. JVC provides insurance for volunteers, covers travel expenses and room and board, and provides a small stipend.
Methodist Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church 475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
Telephone: 800-862-4246 (800-UMC-GBGM, toll-free in the US) Website: umcmission.org Twitter: @umcmission
Methodist Global Ministries, officially known as the General Board of Global Ministries, is the international mission agency of the United
Methodist Church. The organization coordinates the work of 135,000 volunteers in seventy countries and forty-eight US states. Methodist Global Ministries administers the Global Justice Volunteers Program, in which young adults (eighteen to twenty-five years old) live, work, and learn in the midst of foreign communities where justice support programs are implemented. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) works in more than eighty countries. UMCOR and Muslim Aid (see the following) have established a formal partnership, embarking on joint projects.
PO Box 3
London, E1 1WP England
Telephone: +44-0-20-7377-4200 Website: muslimaid.org
Muslim Aid, founded in 1985 "to alleviate the suffering of the victims of poverty, war, and natural disaster," is a volunteer-reliant collaboration of twenty-three British Muslim organizations. Through their offices in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and the United Kingdom, Muslim Aid works in partnership with local governmental and nongovernmental organizations to conduct initiatives in emergency relief, education, health care, orphan care, and economic empowerment. The organization focuses its projects on long-term sustainable development. It lists some volunteer opportunities on its website, many of which are based in London.
Partners of the Americas
1424 K Street, NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20005 Telephone: 202-628-3300
Website: partners.net Twitter: @PartnersAmerica
Partners of the Americas grew out of a 1962 call by President Kennedy for citizens of the Western Hemisphere to work together. Partners pairs a US state or area with a region or country in Latin America or the Caribbean (or both). Partnership committees are community based and are composed of volunteers who work with their counterparts to assess needs, access resources, and jointly plan and carry out development projects in health, education, rehabilitation, and other areas. Partners of the Americas has evolved into 120 volunteer chapters linked in sixty partnerships.
Peace Corps of the United States
See chapter 10 in this volume.
International Headquarters 255 Carter Hall Lane
Millwood, VA 22646
Telephone: 540-837-2100 and 800-544-4673 (toll-free in the US) Website: projecthope.org Twitter: @projecthopeorg
Project HOPE began practicing "medical diplomacy" in 1958, developing relationships with peoples of different cultures and nations by sharing medical knowledge and treating patients alongside local health professional counterparts. The program sends doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals and educators to more than thirty-five countries. These volunteers work to improve the skills of local health care professionals and train other educators and practitioners.
See chapter 9 in this volume.
One Rotary Center 1560 Sherman Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201 Telephone: 847-866-3000
Website: rotary.org Twitter: @rotary
Rotary International is an organization of professionals worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary coordinates youth exchange programs for high school students and provides a range of district and global grants (rotary.org/en/ grants) for students, teachers, and others. Rotary also coordinates such volunteer opportunities as hosting international visitors, group-study and friendship exchanges, global peace forums, and an End Polio Now campaign.
Salesian Lay Missioners
PO Box 30
2 Lefevre Lane
New Rochelle, NY 10801
Website: salesianlaymissioners.org Twitter: @SLMissioners
Salesian Lay Missioners is a Catholic association that sends volunteer lay missionaries to such countries as Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, and South Sudan, as well as to communities in the United States. The Salesians (SDB) are a Catholic society of priests and brothers founded to reach out to poor and needy youth. The order has approximately 17,000 members working in one hundred countries. Volunteer missioners work in Salesian communities in their respective countries, focusing on education and human development among youth.
Mark worked as a volunteer Salesian lay missioner in Yanji, China, serving as an English teacher at a technical high school.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
UN Campus Langer Eugen Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10
53113 Bonn Germany
Website: unv.org Twitter: @UNVolunteers
UNV works to promote and harness volunteerism for effective development. It places participants in developing countries to work with human rights monitoring, nonmilitary peacekeeping, humanitarian, and refugee work. UNV places close to 8,000 volunteers in more than 160 countries for a variety of time periods and assignments.
Volunteers for Peace (VFP)
7 Kilburn Street, Suite 316 Burlington, VT 05401 Telephone: 802-540-3060 Website: vfp.org Twitter: @VFPUSA
VFP is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 that promotes participation in International Voluntary Service (IVS) projects, historically known as International Workcamps. VFP offers placement in more than 3,000 IVS projects in more than one hundred countries each year, including forty projects in the United States. Volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, and each project typically involves participants from four or more countries. Most projects are short-term (two to three weeks) and do not require any specific professional or language training. The IVP website features a searchable Volunteer Project List, a large repository of volunteer projects around the world.