The White Helmets

Katie Nelson

Since 2011, Syria has been paralyzed by a gruesome civil war between the Assad regime, the Kurds, and rebel groups. The conflict has displaced more than 11 million (both internally and externally) as refugees, and killed nearly 500,000. In 2017 alone, the United Nations requested $8 billion in aid to put towards “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” As the fighting intensifies, it is Syrians themselves who feel its weight on their shoulders.

The Syrian Civil Defense (SCD) is at the forefront of the conflict. What started in 2012 as a makeshift series of rescue teams evolved into a more cohesive volunteer-based unit, now colloquially known as the “White Helmets.” The White Helmets come from all walks of life, from students and artisans, to doctors, engineers, and teachers. Their mission is simple: “To save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property.” The group primarily deals with the aftermath of governmental airstrikes, but at its core, the SCD is wholly dedicated to providing nonpartisan aid to nearly seven million Syrians. In addition to operating as a first-response unit, the White Helmets’ work spans across a multitude of sectors in the public sphere including distributing information, rewiring electrical cables, and checking the safety of affected buildings. The volunteers’ pledges to the pillars of “Humanity, Solidarity, [and] Impartiality” aligns them with the courageous values of the group, with one another, and adheres them to the betterment of Syria herself in her darkest hour.

In 2016, the White Helmets were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and won the year’s Right Livelihood Award for their service to the international community. That same year, Netflix released its documentary “The White Helmets” featuring the group, produced by the Oscar-nominated team behind “Virunga.” While key players in the battle have continuously flirted with peace negotiations, fighting in its current state seems to be at best an inconsistent ceasefire. Yet organizations like the White Helmets keep hope alive for millions and epitomizes altruistic volunteering.

To learn more about the White Helmets, please check out these links:

https://www.whitehelmets.org/en 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1NguKirQDg

 

 

Sources
1. Durando, Jessica. “Syria’s civil war: Disturbing facts show cost of conflict.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.
2. “Syria: The worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” Amnesty International NZ. Amnesty International, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 July 2017.
3. “Volunteers to Save Lives.” Volunteers to Save Lives | SCD. Web. 20 June 2017.
4. Campaign, The Syria. “Meet the heroes saving Syria.” Support the White Helmets. Web. 17 June 2017.
5. “Syria’s White Helmets win ‘alternative Nobel Prize’.” BBC News. BBC, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.
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Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

experteering photo

 

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.

May Your Work Bring Just and Lasting Peace

Our CEO Pamela Hawley uses quotes to motivate herself and to teach others. Here is her analysis of a lovely quote from her blog Living and Giving.

President Lincoln advised us… “Whatever work you are devoted to….may it bring just and lasting peace.”

Our respected President Abraham Lincoln brought this to light in his 1865  Inaugural Address. What a calling for each of us to think, as we go about our work each day, how it can bring “just and lasting peace.”  And I think work here is not just our professional work, but any task to which we are devoting ourselves.  Any project, endeavor, activity — from raising a child to decorating a Valentine’s Day wreath — can have kindness, justice and peace as a necessary ingredient to our performing of it.

President Lincoln says something instrumental here: As we strive for our goal, it should be peace brought between each one us, and then also with all countries.  The point here is that gentle justice, no matter how small, and a caring, kind sense of peacefulness in all our interactions, bring that sense of worldwide peace. And it must start with ourselves, our conversations, our actions between each person we meet. That’s a great calling for us in living rightly every day!

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln led the United States through the American Civil War and in so doing, preserved the Union, ended slavery, strengthened the national government. He promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, canals, railroads and tariffs to encourage the building of factories. He is admired for his commitment to national unity, equal rights, liberty, and democracy in America. 

The second child of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln,  Abraham was self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s. Married to Mary Todd in 1842, he was an affectionate husband and father of four children.

Bio Source: Wikipedia: Abraham_Lincoln

Devote yourself by volunteering for peace and justice here.

“Sail Away from the Safe Harbor”

Here is one of our CEO Pamela Hawley’s favorite quotes from her blog Living and Giving.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didnt do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Its okay to feel safe. In some ways, we need to feel safe as a launching pad, knowing that someone believes in us.  And from that harbor, we can and should launch into spectacular venues where we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. You will grow and be inspired in ways you could never imagine.  You inspire.

For those of you who dream and discover starting from shaky ground, you have a courage that will carry you through to new heights and insights.  You inspire!

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835.  In his writing, he presented an honest, yet satirical portrayal of antebellum south.  His criticisms of the south, such as in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, cried out against racist attitudes.  He led an exciting life as a ferry boat driver and a prospector during the Gold Rush; his experiences enhanced his understanding of the American culture which he wrote about.

Consider leaving your comfort zone by volunteering abroad. Search for an opportunity here.

My Volunteer Experience in Tanzania

By Nicola Da Silva 

The phone buzzed and it was my mom. “Guess what? Nic, Andrew, and Lex booked a trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania and invited me to join. We wish you and Daniel could join to – any chance of that??” Sometimes you get invitations to events and you weakly offer to try your best to make it happen and other times you get an invitation to something and you know that no matter what you will be going! This was one of those. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about going on this trip, but as soon as I knew about it, I couldn’t think about anything else. I started making plans the very next day and everything fell into place perfectly in the 3 weeks I had to pull it off.

I also decided to contact UniversalGiving and see if they could set me up to do some volunteer work while on vacation. Amazingly they helped me find Embrace Tanzania. I emailed them and they got me in touch with Selestin, who is based in Zanzibar and manages the volunteer effort there. 2 days before I left on the trip I emailed Selestin and told him I was coming and would love to have a look at what they  were doing in Zanzibar and see if I could help and also get them connected with Universal Giving. Selestin replied straight away and gave me the address and his telephone number. By the time I checked into the hotel, he had already spoken to them to help organize a day I could come see the different volunteer sites.

On Monday April 28th, my mom and I stepped out of our hotel and into a cab and went to Bububu, Zanzibar. Selestin met us there and showed us around the building where volunteers stay and then Selestin, his colleague Edward, my mom, the cab driver, and I went for lunch. We chatted about the different volunteering options and how my mom and I could get involved. Next stop was the orphanage where Mama Suz looks after about 30 children. The house is a school in the morning; then some of the children go home and others stay at the orphanage. Some children are orphans and others have parents in the sober houses nearby.

I could see that Mama Suz tries her best to look after all these children, but I also noticed that she was conscious of the state of the building and the lack of beds for all the children. We met the kids and then had a “business meeting” in the shade of the tree. I explained what UniversalGiving does and that I would get her connected with them and then asked what her ideas were. Wow – she has such amazing plans and knows what’s important. She said, “these children are orphans and the best thing for them is to have a stable home.” She wants to buy a house so that the children feel secure; buy a bus and have other children in other villages attend her school and pay school fees; and have the school fees as an income so she can afford to look after the children in the orphanage. I loved the idea and we started chatting about what she needed for that to happen. We figured out that the best thing would be for her raise money to buy a piece of land and have a volunteer project set up to build a house for her and the children.

The next step would be to raise money for the bus and get the new children from other villages enrolled in her school. She may need to get more volunteer teachers or hire some more teachers. I offered to do all I could to help her with this dream… and to be honest ever since I got back a month ago, all I can think about is how to help Mama Suz and the children have a home.


Inspired by this amazing story? Click here to change a child’s life by volunteering in Tanzania!

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

experteering photo

 

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.

Want to Volunteer? Three Things To Ask

From the website Dear Pamela: where Pamela Hawley answers questions from Duke University students about social innovations and nonprofits.

How do you pick the right volunteer experience for you? It’s important to be diligent in your choice of organizations when volunteering. Ask yourself the following questions to determine which experience best fits your goals.

  1. What cause is important to you?

Identify your greatest passions. What is a problem you want to solve? Who are people you want to connect with? If you don’t have answers to those questions, don’t worry. Sometimes you know, and sometimes not! That’s where you just have to try, learn more about the cause, and see if it engages your mind and emotions.

This is why volunteering is so great. You can always try it, commit for a reasonable time, and then try something different. Start with an area about which you are curious, such as education, the environment, or health care. Interested in animal conservation? Volunteer with Pandas International to assist conservationists in caring for pandas. That raises another point: You can use volunteering to explore another part of the world. Working with Globe Aware in Peru, for example, will allow you to engage in a way much beyond that of a tourist.

  1. What is the organization like?

The nonprofit sector continues to grow, with new organizations popping up daily. Understanding the organizational structure is critical to a positive volunteer experience. Would you like to work in a larger organization that might have more resources but is more rigid? Or a smaller, entrepreneurial organization that has less fiscal support but multiple opportunities to serve?

You also need to consider the leadership structure. Are they friendly, open, willing to give you opportunities? Do you see yourself enjoying your day working with them? If you answer yes, then most likely you will have a positive relationship. They will want to see you grow and develop, and you will want to help them. It’s a “win-win” for everyone. Try to meet with the leader or volunteer manager prior to starting to ensure it’s a good fit.

  1. How much time can you dedicate?

Be realistic about the amount of time you can spend volunteering. Often, volunteers comment that they benefit from investing a lot of time becoming a part of the “nonprofit family.” You can learn the ins and outs of the organization and gain greater expertise.

However, you may have time only to help on weekends every now and then. That’s great, too. It’s just a different kind of experience. Volunteering one time to help a soup kitchen pack meals for families for the holidays is a good example. You’ve helped fill a need, and your heart is filled, too!

You’ve got a heart to give. Now, take the time to think about how you want to volunteer. By being thoughtful, you’ll use your time well and get the most out of your experience. (It also helps the nonprofit!) No matter what, you’ll be a better person. And the world will be better, too.

Visit Duke University’s website where Pamela can answer your questions on social innovations and nonprofits here!