Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

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We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and dont’s of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or know-how, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

You spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

NGO Spotlight: Made in a Free World

Every so often, stories break about the illegal, degrading working conditions of people who make things that we normally take for granted.  These stories are headlined with images of starving children working in mines, or with workers locked into tiny bunks after completing 12-hour workdays, and readers are reminded that their new clothes didn’t just come from a rack at the retail store.

Thanks to globalization, children who work in forced labor practices exist in a world so close to ours, and many times, we are reliant on their labor.  25% of the fish they catch is sold in Europe and North America, and a lot of the minerals used in household products are mined in Asia and Africa.

However, no one wants to think about the conditions in which their laundry detergent or t-shirts were made, but Made in a Free World wants businesses and consumers to adjust their consumption habits and stop seeing human rights abuses as “someone else’s problem.” This anti-slavery organization takes action to labor injustice by bringing public attention to the worldwide prevalence of child and bonded labor through partnerships with businesses and consumers.

Made in a Free World helps businesses and consumers understand the reality of their purchases by using their trademarked supply chain transparency tool, FRDM. Upon analysis, companies can use theses results to adjust their own consumption habits and reduce their slavery footprint.

Made in a Free World attacks the issue of slave labor from both the supply and demand sides to cultivate long lasting change.  They work to help free slave laborers and provide them with resources, but also to educate companies about the danger of working with suppliers who abuse labor practices.

Take the eye opening and interactive quiz on Made in a Free World’s website called How Many Slaves Work For You?  . The quiz asks users questions on consumption habits and often times, quiz takers are shocked to see their results.  Just because we can’t see injustices in another country doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and we have to change the westernized “out of sight, out of mind” mentality starting here.

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By juxtaposing questions about personal consumption habits with habits from people in developing countries, quiz takers are reminded of their privilege.  It’s not meant to disenfranchise users, but to inspire them to make a difference and by contributing to Made in a Free World, the lives of these children can be directly impacted.

As a result, Made in a Free World has spread awareness to slave labor, and liberated children from back-breaking labor in developing countries with sustainable solutions.

If you want to learn more about Made in a Free World, you can check out their page on the Universal Giving Website.

Human Trafficking

By Pamela Hawley

Lately, you may have heard a lot about human trafficking.  Human trafficking is stealing children away from their families. They are then often used in the sex trade where they grow up in terror and are left with only one option to survive. This is an experience that, in short, wrecks their lives.

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Here are some other little known statistics:

  • Expected years of schooling is 9 years. 
  • Child labor among children ages 5-14 is 16%.
  • At any given time, more than 12.3 million people worldwide are enslaved and forced into labor, bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude and involuntary servitude.

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In some places, modern slavery is still a common practice. Let’s take a look at an example: Mauritania. According to the Global Slavery Index, the estimated prevalence of modern slavery in Mauritania is very high – 43,000 people or 1.058% of the population. The goal is 0. 

Now that you know something about this issue, you must do something.

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Help stop slavery. Click here. 

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Want to know more? Here is some Background on Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, in which human beings are controlled and exploited for profit. “Sex trafficking” is a modern term. It was coined during the second wave of the women’s movement in the 1980s when female activists started protesting the exploitation of women and girls in prostitution and pornography. In this industry, perpetrators use force, fraud, or coercion to manipulate and establish control over individuals. According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking generates $150 billion in illegal profits each year. The two most commonly known forms of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labor. Any instance in which an individual engages in a commercial sex act (such as prostitution) as the result of force, fraud, or coercion is considered sex trafficking. Sex trafficking also includes the commercial sexual exploitation of children or minors. Some examples include factories, “sweatshops,” brothels, “massage” parlors, online escort services. The most common industries associated with the trafficking of people include: agriculture, construction, garment and textile manufacturing, catering and restaurants, domestic work, entertainment, and the sex industry.

Background on Mauritania

Mauritania is a country in Western North Africa. In the Middle Ages, Mauritania was the cradle of the Almoravid movement, which spread Islam throughout the region and for a while controlled the Islamic part of Spain. European traders began to show interest in Mauritania in the 15th century. Mauritania is rich in mineral resources, especially iron and ore. France gained control of the coastal region in 1817 and, in 1904, a formal French protectorate was extended over the territory.

Today, Mauritania is the eleventh largest country in Africa, with about 90% of its land in the Sahara. The country’s capital and largest city is Nouakchott, which is home to 3.5 million people. Culturally, Mauritania is a special mix. The population is almost equally divided between Moors of Arab-Berber descent and black Africans, and this striking cultural combination is part of its appeal.  About 20% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. The country suffers from human rights issues including slavery and child labor. Mauritania was one of the last countries to pass a law abolishing slavery. However, this law has not been effectively implemented, resulting in a high number of modern slaves.

 

 

Famine in South Sudan: Take Action with Mercy Corps

Four months ago, famine was officially declared in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world. Since then, thousands of families have been living day-by-day, mothers have skipped multiple meals a day to feed their hungry children, and millions of individuals have only eaten three or four times a week in to conserve their shortening food supply. 42% of the country’s population does not know where their next meal is coming from.

However, what is most surprising, and even disturbing, about this famine is that it is a man-made crisis. Typically, famines are caused by uncontrollable factors, such as unfavorable weather or crop failure. However, the extreme food shortages occurring today in countries such as South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia are entirely attributed to war and continuing conflict, putting 20 million lives at risk of starvation and death. As VP of humanitarian leadership and response for Mercy Corps states, “It’s entirely a man-made construct right now, and that means we have it within our power to stop that. Wars are hard to stop; famines are not.”

Organizations such as Mercy Corps serve as a platform for immediate change when these types of global disasters and emergencies occur. Over the past 20 years, Mercy Corps has directly responded to every single global crisis. They have provided basic necessities such as food and water, as well as delivered assistance in the form of cash to families in need. These families then have the agency to purchase what they need most which stimulates their local economies and communities. This is a perfect example of Mercy Corp’s deeply-held belief and commitment to grassroots change. Mercy Corps hopes to mitigate similar situations from occurring in the future, as well as empower those who live in these affected areas. Mercy Corps has helped 220 million people in 122 countries build better futures for themselves, their families and their communities.

As these conflicts in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia inevitably continue, the number of starving families and individuals increases. It is imperative that we take action and assist those in need of basic food and water resources. Here are several ways you can help and make a difference today!

  1. Support global emergency response efforts by donating here
  2. Give to Mercy Corp’s Humanitarian Response Fund in order to directly assist families suffering from famine
  3. Sign Mercy Corps’ petition to reject detrimental federal cuts on the International Aid budget

 

NGO Spotlight: Osa Conservation

Today is World Environment Day!

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Have you ever been to Costa Rica? You might know this tiny country in Central America by its breathtaking forests and its abundant and varied wildlife. In 2015, these natural wonders attracted over 2.6 million tourists! However, Costa Rica will not continue to be the beautiful attraction that it is today without conscious, driven organizations like Osa Conservation, who are striving to protect these delicate ecosystems.

Founded in 2003, Osa Conservation aims to conserve and restore the biological diversity of the Osa Peninsula. Located in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, this location has been deemed by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth.” In this small area of land, there are various species of birds, mammals, plants, trees and insects, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Osa Conservation’s goal is not only to protect such diversity but also those who directly benefit from this ecosystem. For example, the people in the area are dependent upon clean air, drinking water, food, jobs, cultural resources, and climate to survive. If any part of the peninsula were to disappear, this could lead to disaster for local inhabitants.

Here are three volunteer opportunities on our site that can help Osa Conservation reach their goals!

  1. Volunteer to help restore the forest ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula – participate in reforestation efforts from planting seeds to analyzing success rates
  2. Protect Costa Rican sea turtles – patrolling the beaches and moving vulnerable nests to Osa Conservation’s hatchery drastically increases the survival rate of this vulnerable species
  3. Help research jaguars and other big cats  – by studying these important animals, Osa Conservation is better able to protect their homes now and in the future.