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How Do You Volunteer Professional Services?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the with-caution dept.

Businesses 366

keefus_a writes "My wife and I usually take a week long vacation in the Spring and I tossed out the idea of volunteering abroad. Neither of us has a problem with doing manual labor, or whatever task is needed. However, I thought it might be of some value, and substantially more rewarding than our daily grind, if we could volunteer our professional services (I'm a network guy and my wife has a master's degree in counseling). The problem is that I haven't found any resources for doing so on a short-term basis. So I ask Slashdot. Has anyone ever done short-term volunteer work in your professional field? What organization did you contact? Or are we better off donating money to a particular cause and just working on a tan?"

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Obvious. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836888)

Craigslist Casual Encounters?

Easy... (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836940)

"Or are we better off donating money to a particular cause and just working on a tan?"

Yet a 3rd choice...

Keep your money for yourself, and go somewhere NICE for a tan.

Re:Obvious. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837132)

Who's up for a little ass fucking? 17 big black boys against your anus. Bring yo Tears.

Church (3, Insightful)

jep77 (1357465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836892)

Find the nearest church. The leaders there will be able to help you find a cause.

Re:Church (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836982)

With the expected amount of bias, of course.

Re:Church (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837466)

You're going to find bias anywhere you try to volunteer, church or otherwise. I'd advise not to volunteer at a Christian church that showed bias, as the preacher is likely a wolf in sheep's clothing (Pat Robertson has converted more Christians to athiesm than all the athiests at slashdot).

Take homosexuality, for instance. How many clean shaven preachers preach against homosexuality, when the Bible says not to make yourself look like a woman and facial hair is a secondary sexual characteristic? Pat Robertson is guilty of this sin. The truth is, God loves homosexuals as much as he loves anyone. None of us are perfect, and all are forgiven. A judgemental person is NOT a good Christian and any judgemental preacher is not one you should follow, or work for.

Re:Church (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837548)

None of us are perfect, and all are forgiven

All are forgiven? I don't recall reading that all people (I assume that's what you meant) are forgiven in the Bible.

Try the Unitarians (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837642)

Though they may not qualify as a church ;)

Re:Church (4, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836994)

Addendum: if they ask you to take a "free personality test," you should try a different church.

Re:Church (1)

sh00z (206503) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837134)

Not funny; that's insightful and/or informative.

Re:Church (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837298)

    Either way. If "they" found it, they'd not only be modding it down, but they'd have a C&D sent to /. .

Re:Church (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837288)

Also "stress" tests.

Re:Church (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837440)

They're called "stress tests" now.

Xenu lives!

Re:Church (3, Funny)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837324)

I'm just going to go ahead and shoot this down and suggest that you contribute your time and effort to supporting FOSS. There have to be plenty of developers out there who could really use your wife's counseling services...

Re:Church (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837456)

My church has gotten me many volunteer work and connected me with the Red Cross which is now using my services.

How Do You Volunteer Professional Services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836894)

Card in the 'phone box. Shouldn't this be in Idle?

Re:How Do You Volunteer Professional Services? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837096)

How Do You Volunteer Professional Services?

Just call yourself an "escort" on Craigslist and, well, you know, "if you like the guy, you may choose to stick around after the date voluntarily".

Impossible to do with organization (3, Interesting)

emj (15659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836926)

I worked in Peru and Bolivia in 2001, and I say just go somewhere, most captials in 3rd world countries have multiple NGO offices, go there and ask. Network is hard since you will most likely work for a telecom company instead, but local universities could of course be glad to get help.

just say no (2, Interesting)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836934)

That's just crazy. Take a vacation, relax, enjoy life. There's plenty of time (51 weeks a year to be exact) that you can toil away at that grindstone.

Trust me, you (and your emotional/physical/mental well being) will thank me.

Re:just say no (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837284)

You think he should volunteer 51 weeks a year? Or you think volunteering is a waste of time?

Re:just say no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837314)

That's just crazy. Take a vacation, relax, enjoy life. There's plenty of time (51 weeks a year to be exact) that you can toil away at that grindstone.

Trust me, you (and your emotional/physical/mental well being) will thank me.

If you only get one week off a year, then you can do much better for your emotional/physical/mental well being. I get nearly 4 weeks off a year at my job. Of course, I could be making more money-wise elsewhere, but I don't consider money the be-all-end-all measure of worth.

Re:just say no (2, Insightful)

theelectron (973857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837330)

Trust me, volunteering can help your your emotional/physical/mental well being more than a simple vacation.

Re:just say no (1)

FileNotFound (85933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837770)

Clearly you've never volunteered.

Look this may be hard to understand, it's just some people aren't selfish and actually LIKE and ENJOY helping other. We do not need to be paid for it, the warm fuzzy feeling is enough, not that you'd know anything about that...

Answer (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836948)

"Hi. I'm offering professional services on a volunteer basis. Contact me at ______________" Post this exactly on craigslist.

Re:Answer (4, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836988)

The guy at ______________ is gonna be pissed.

Re:Answer (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837116)

The guy at ______________ is gonna be pissed.

I'm the guy at _____________- and I'm getting sick of idiots who can't dial properly.

Your timing is suspect.. (4, Insightful)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836966)

Based on recent tragedies in Haiti. If your just offering to provide local general volunteer services, approach your local charitable organizations that provide those types of volunteer services and let them direct you.

If you are considering volunteer work in disaster areas, please.. please, do not do it. There are professionals trained in those types of things, the last thing they need is for a group of volunteers who went to help out, suddenly requiring rescuing of their own. After the main disaster cleanup is done, and the areas are safe, then offer yourself up as a volunteer, but till then, stay out of dangerous areas.

Re:Your timing is suspect.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837010)


Re:Your timing is suspect.. (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837206)

People can help by donating money and/or goods. If EVERYONE went to Haiti to 'help' nothing would get done. Let the professionals handle things until everything is stable.

Shortsighted Thread is Shortsighted (3, Insightful)

Slipped_Disk (532132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837436)

Most of the rescue work to be done in Haiti is done - Finding people at this point is now recovery. At this point the range of "professionals" needed is much broader than you or the grandparent imply.
  • Medical personnel are needed for the ongoing care of the injured Many of those there now are volunteers, new volunteers will be needed when those currently in the field need to return home to earn a living.
  • Construction and Demolition specialists are needed to repair (or demolish and rebuild) structures.

  • Infrastructure specialists (power, plumbing, roads & telecom) are needed to rebuild what was destroyed.
  • Counselors are needed to help people deal with the shock, and in many cases tragic loss.

For many of the people in those categories Haiti will be their first "real" disaster scene. Others may have previous experience and volunteer to help even though their "day job" isn't rebuilding nations after a catastrophic event.

While I agree that people should only go into a disaster area like Haiti as part of an organized recovery effort I don't believe the "Don't go there because you don't work for [insert disaster group]" attitude this post and the grandparent take is at all productive - These organizations do not have the manpower or expertise to do it all themselves.

Just my $3.50 as someone who has gone in after fires and floods to bring skeleton infrastructure up and support further recovery.

Re:Your timing is suspect.. (1)

tigre (178245) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837520)

And at this point, money is more helpful than goods just because of logistics.

Peace Corp (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836974)

If you live in the States. I'm sure they have some place they could use a bit of network help for a week.

Of course, is there really a project you can think of taking on and finishing week?

Yachana Lodge [] is a nice Eco-lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon along the Napo River that needed network help the last time I was there - of course they're looking for Spanish speakers, and a little more than a week.

On the other hand, they do need laptops, and Amazon networking is pretty extreme. The jungle eats pretty much any cabling you lay down in a year or less, so they have an all-wireless mesh network with solar and some small-scale (talking bicycle tires with cups on them) hydroelectric power for slow charging.

So if you could come up with a durable, lightweight, very low power (beyond netbook low-power) design for a laptop (solar?) and you wanted to raise money and build some, I bet you could make a trip of going somewhere where they need them and distributing them and teaching basic use. But a week is tricky.

The problem with short term - professional (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836976)

I do a web site as a volunteer.

  Its not a short term gig because it involves maintenance of backend databases etc..

Make sure any network you set up is maintenance free or very standard.

There are lots of ways to volunteer, and find appropriate work. A site called volunteermatch existed a long time ago. Sometimes I help with painting. Its not what I do professionally but its oddly satisfying.

with all due respect (2, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836978)

Every country has an excess of networking engineers, and the last thing people need during a disaster is Deanna Troi.

Unless you have an expertise in food distribution/agriculture, medicine, or communication - in the first case, you are probably in the military or academia; in the second, Medecins sans Frontiers; and in the third, in the military or amateur radio emergency societies - you will probably just be excess baggage.

Of course, if you are not just looking for an excuse for holiday and want to help at home, where you will actually be useful in smaller scale projects looking for locals, go for it!

Re:with all due respect (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837236)

Every country has an excess of networking engineers, and the last thing people need during a disaster is Deanna Troi.

Not really. Networking, particularly telephone and internet networking is very important during a disaster. Think about it this way, if you were in, say, Katrina and somehow had cell service, it would be easy to call in your address and get help if you needed it, if you didn't have cell service or a way to communicate, the chances of being rescued go down.

Re:with all due respect (1)

Ohrion (814105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837362)

The parent was referring to Original Poster's wife, who is a counselor. Troi was also somewhat of a counselor.

Re:with all due respect (1)

jpcarter (1098791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837482)

Ah, that makes sense. I couldn't remember her crimping cables or griping about firewall policies...

Re:with all due respect (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837606)

Ok, that makes sense. I thought it was simply referring to people torrenting Star Trek.

Re:with all due respect (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837404)

if you didn't have cell service or a way to communicate, the chances of being rescued go down.

Which is precisely why I mentioned the military and amateur radio emergency societies, such as the Amateur Radio Emergency Service [] in the United States. These guys do routinely help out in national disasters, and occasionally with international contacts, but they do so through having spent a generous proportion of their free time in self-training exercises so that they are useful during such emergencies. Relief efforts will be co-ordinated through the society, unless of course you find yourself in an emergency, in which case you will put your training into practice.

I do, of course, encourage geeks to get involved in amateur radio. I am fairly new to it, and do not yet have the skill to get involved in emergency exercises, though I would like to reach that stage. I am just not going to pretend that offering a Spring break week each year is going to put me in that state. Professional readiness for emergencies involves ongoing training and exercise.

Re:with all due respect (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837400)

the last thing people need during a disaster is Deanna Troi.

And if real world shrinks were anything like the ones you see on TV, you'd have a point. []

Still, it is hard to see what a shrink or IT guy can accomplish during a 1 Week excursion. The whole idea of volunteering professional services without a much bigger time commitment is silly.

Re:with all due respect (2, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837512)

And if real world shrinks were anything like the ones you see on TV, you'd have a point.

I agree. I was not trying to poke fun at the role of a professional counsellor (goodness knows I have benefitted from counselling!). The idea of someone being able to provide quick and effective mental health assistance at some international/interplanetary disaster site for a week a year just reminded me of the TV heroine image of Troi.

Yes, an academic involved in studying mental health in disaster situations might suddenly be in demand for a week, but your general counsellor will not be. Perhaps there is a counsellor equivalent of ARES as mentioned in this post [] ?

Re:with all due respect (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837700)

Still, it is hard to see what a shrink or IT guy can accomplish during a 1 Week excursion. The whole idea of volunteering professional services without a much bigger time commitment is silly.

What you're looking for is a job shadowing gig, like a one week internship.

If you're the type that can keep your mouth shut, this works pretty well. If you won't shut up, you'll slow down the workers. However, if you get a good personality match, both sides get quite the education.

Lots of higher ed professor types do this for a couple days in the summer, in order to integrate their teaching with the needs of the modern workplace, etc.

Expect to work with smaller companies and sign scary NDAs.

Re:with all due respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837418)


Some people do actually need infrastructure....

Re:with all due respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837472)

"last thing people need during a disaster"
Who said anything about a disaster?

Re:with all due respect (2, Insightful)

spmkk (528421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837496)

"...the last thing people need during a disaster is Deanna Troi."

Really? So, in a place where thousands of people are burying whatever dead loved ones they're lucky enough to find, everybody will be just fine once the running water's fixed?

There's some people over here [] who might disagree with that perspective.

Re:with all due respect (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837660)

I think OP was criticizing counsellors who see themselves as Troi, not counsellors in general. Counselling takes time. You can't just use your power of empathy and be on your way by the end of the episode.

Did he mention a disaster? No. (3, Insightful)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837678)

Did he mention a disaster? No. Did he mention Haiti? No.

Your snide comments are not helpful.

The poster wants to volunteer his technical skills abroad in an area with need. I'm sure there are plenty of places in the world who could use some professional expertise. You yourself suggest that he can help at home, but perhaps he'd like the experience to help abroad.

Unless you have an expertise in food distribution/agriculture, medicine, or communication ... you will probably just be excess baggage.

Really? The Peace Corp seems to be very active in building schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. They aren't excess baggage.

Re:with all due respect (2, Insightful)

spribyl (175893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837752)

Actually they do need counselors during disaster for both the rescuers and the rescued.
I have a friend to volunteers with the Red-Cross to counsel folks that have returned.
Would you believe even the counselors need counseling.

Geek Corps (2, Insightful)

spuke4000 (587845) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836998)

Not exactly a good fit for one week, but Geek Corps [] does this kind of thing.

Telecom / Engineers without borders (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837004)

I don't have any experience with these organizations, but you should check

Engineers without borders []

Telecoms sans frontiers (without borders) []

If you have a good skillset... (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837076)

Call one of the national NGOs whose purpose you support and ask where you would be useful, or if there are regional orgs or offices that do something similar where you are that maybe you can help out at. For example, if you want to help with modern day slavery (about 200K teens in the US are at high risk of being trafficked each year), try calling the Polaris Project. They can probably either let you know a few orgs near where you are or get back to you within a few days.

Short-term volunteering (2, Informative)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837078)

Professional service is not suitable for short-term volunteering - better dig a ditch or something simple like that.

Re:Short-term volunteering (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837194)

We have a winner. Finalize, cleanup and close.

By the time you've gotten in tune with the rest of the band, the gig's over. I'm surprised that needed telling to "professionals", to be on the blunt side of honest.

Re:Short-term volunteering (1)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837490)

So after all the ditches are dug, everything just magically becomes great and stable again? I agree that the most important thing right now is mostly physical labor, but I imagine there's some kind of transitional phase where having people with counseling and networking backgrounds WOULD come in handy.

Re:Short-term volunteering (1)

pleappleappleap (1182301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837618)

I agree that the most important thing right now is mostly physical labor, but I imagine there's some kind of transitional phase where having people with counseling and networking backgrounds WOULD come in handy.

But those professionals will be needed for much longer than a week. Going there for a week means getting into the swing of things and then leaving. The startup and ending of a worker's involvement with a project are the times when they work at their least efficient.

it sounds... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837080)

like your daily grind is unsatisfying.

Do what you love instead-- that will be infinitely more rewarding to you and the world than working a "job" and trying to "do good" by volunteering.

Find the thing that is right for you and focus all your energy into that-- good things will abound. You will not need a vacation, and your sense of duty and accomplishment will be sated. Plus, you will be doing the thing that only you are qualified to do-- the thing that you want to do.

Contact NGOs on the ground (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837090)

Especially small to medium sized local ones, they're always looking for all the help they can get since they can't afford to hire out services on a regular basis. They're usually also the ones that are best connected into the community and are more concerned with quality than scale. Its a good idea to look into groups that are used to international volunteers as well, just to make life easier. An example of this type of organization would be Manav Sadhna [] in India, which operates out of the Gandhi Ashram in Gujarat.

Re:Contact NGOs on the ground (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837138)

>> An example of this type of organization would be Manav Sadhna in India

Great, you can spend your vacation voluntarily training up the guy who your company will outsource your job to.

Location is everything (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837146)

Having been robbed in both Mexico and Jamaica, both of your professional skill sets could be of great use depending upon where you vacation. Trying to get an internet connection to cancel your credit cards should test your network abilities, and your wife could provide you with counseling after dealing with customs.

FWIW, my post-Jamaica tan was far better than post-Yukatan tan...I'd book a trip to Monitigo Bay if I were in your shoes.

Time seems to be the element (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837154)

A week isn't much time to do anything anywhere. Six months, mabye.

Johannes Wilm did some good work recently: "Nicaragua Builds An Innovative Agricultural Information System Using Open Source Software"

Phil Hughes, former publisher of Linux Journal, is living in Nicaragua. You may find some information on his web site, Nicaragua Living:

Get a tan (5, Interesting)

rbrander (73222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837168)

I like the one suggestion above, to just go and ask. Few organizations are as mired in bureaucracy as the head offices of NGOs. It's the field offices that may be able to come up with some work on the spot.

Short of that, get a tan. Sorry, but there's no such thing as "intellectual day labour" - most jobs that use education require you to mesh in with a team, with an office environment, with a set of clients and problems. It takes a week, minimum, often a month, to be productive enough to pay back the hours spent showing you around, introducing you, briefing you.

If you want a great story about the fun of dealing with NGOs, try this 3-screen Atlantic article on the lady who had the terrific idea of a co-op of Afghan farmers that would produce essential oil from their pomegranates for use by "The Body Shop" and others for high-end soaps. It involved purchasing, at first, a single hand-cranked seed-oil press. []

My favourite bit on page 2 - asked to fill in a 14-screen spreadsheet with numbers on "production coefficients", the "equipment procurement, loan-repayment summaries, sales figures, labor costs, packaging and shipping costs, and cash-flow statements. It took me two weeks, full-time, just to fill in the cells with real numbers. And I have a master's degree from a U.S. university. I began to wonder how Afghan entrepreneurs would ever be able to negotiate such requirements." Presenting it to them at the end of the two weeks, she's told, the "...agribusiness team greeted the spreadsheet with a snort. "We don't need anything like that. He just loves to cook up these spreadsheets," they remarked of their colleague."

You don't tend to find it because it isn't useful (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837176)

Most professional type stuff requires longer terms. The reason is that often you are dealing with complex situations and a week isn't even really enough time to learn the system, much less accomplish anything. I think about where I work and if you can in and said "Hey I'd like to help out for a week," I'd have to say "no thanks" because you couldn't do anything useful. While I could certainly use more sysadmin type help, it'd take longer than a week to get you trained up on what we've got.

Short term volunteer work is almost always going to be grunt labour type stuff because there's almost always a need since it doesn't pay well and it takes little to no training. Your more advanced skills aren't likely to be used.

Have a vacation AND do something for people (4, Insightful)

osgeek (239988) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837182)

Take your vacation somewhere where your tourism dollars will really help the locals: Goa, India (or just travel in India); lots of places in South America; Phuket, Thailand; etc. Skip big tourist drawing areas like the Bahamas where your money goes into the pockets of wealthy hotel and tourist industry owners.

Stay at more modest accommodations. Spend your money on small local service providers, food providers, crafts makers, and so forth. Tip them well.

By doing these things you'll stretch your vacation dollars farther, be more in touch with the local culture, have a good time, and help disadvantage people just trying to make an honest living.

Re:Have a vacation AND do something for people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837516)

You are suggesting Goa and Phuket - and staying away from touristy areas at the same time? _Really_? You can't have been there. These are charter resorts propped full of tourist industry.

I would suggest Khambodia or Laos. These are countries which are not touristy yet.

Re:Have a vacation AND do something for people (3, Insightful)

pikester (448955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837652)

Detroit fits all of those requirements and you don't need a passport!

Starting a non-profit to respond to just this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837184)


I'm actually starting a start-up to help for just this! It's focused on getting advertising and technology (programmers) to volunteer to create Public Service Advertising campaigns. The site isn't ready yet, at all! We are right in the middle of updating the copy, but what the hell: [] Check it out. Let us know what you think. It's really premature to show publicly.

Right now there are just two of us working on this, so if you're interested in committing sometime let me know. We're also looking for $1000 in donations so we can file and apply for 501(c)(3) status.

We're really good guys, so don't judge us too harshly. We just want to contribute.



Donate the money IMHO (3, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837212)

My experience, which is mine and only mine and so can't speak for anyone else, was that volunteering tech time was overwhelming.

I volunteered to do the web programming and graphics a few years back for a small organization. The thing it's just like work. There are deadlines, pressure, unrealistic requirements, the whole deal. And just like real tech work, it's not easy to hit the ground running on day one as there's a learning curve to how they work and operate. It's not something that's easily broken up in 4 hour casual chunks just when you want to do it.

I'd say just do habitat for humanity or send money or something. But don't try and be a network admin for a week somewhere. It wouldn't be fun to have you totally screw up their firewall on your last day before heading back to your job. Send them money so they can contract local services where someone is doing it as their job.

Great news! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837224)

Neither of us has a problem with doing manual labor

Come by my place.

I see what you're trying to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837240) really want to goto Disney that bad huh?

Your skills may not be needed...but (1)

TwoEdge77 (92704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837252)

If you are willing to help do other work like building, cleaning, providing education...then you might have a chance of finding something. Most needy countries do not need your skills, networking and counseling are for the rich. Most need someone to install a water purification system, food distribution, education about safe sex and aids prevention, construction of homes, creating irrigation canals, driving supplies to remote areas, cleaning flood damaged homes, just giving the local kids some organized games together to forget about their plight, basic and health education.

May be difficult short term (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837274)

Most organizations will want more than a week commitment for anything more complex than grunt labor. Just like with a job, it takes time to ramp people up, and it isn't worth the effort on their part to do so for someone who is only going to be helping for a week.

For example, consider the task of setting up a new network. They will need to familiarize you with the current infrastructure. Then you can design, purchase equipment, and setup the new network. Finally, you must explain what you did to whoever will be maintaining the network. That will take more than a week, and it would be just as easy if the normal guy that maintains everything upgraded the network himself. If you can find a charity that just happens to be in the middle of an upgrade the week you take on vacation, they would be happy to have the extra hand, but that's unlikely.

For volunteer social work like counseling (and even some tutoring), most organizations like you to go though several days of training before hand. Even if your wife is more than qualified to do the work off the bat, they need to make sure you are both on the same page (not to mention the CYA aspects).

If you can find time in your schedule to volunteer a couple hours a week, you will find more volunteer organizations that are able to use your skills. There are websites where organizations can post for help they need, such as Volunteer Match [] or 1-800-volunteer [] .

Why Volunteer? (1)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837290)

Just keep working most of us are so underpaid for the hell we go through we might as well be volunteering.

I volunteer all the time (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837338)

Which usually means creating websites for non-profits. The only issue I've ran into is support after the launch can be tricky: The non-profits will need updates and changes and improvements all the time, which can lead to some time-management issues. A good scope of work agreement usually solves this.

I used to help coordinate volunteers overseas. (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837344)

I wouldn't say it's impossible to do well, but it sure is hard, for two reasons. First, it takes a lot of staff time, proportionately, to get a short-term volunteer up to speed. Second, a lot of people (especially people working in their own fields) are very insistent about doing things they way they are used to, and not the way their hosts do them. This means that not only they not helping, they're actually setting the host organization back.

So, take some time to reflect on your willingness to do someone else's tasks, in their way, on their schedule. To really be helpful requires an uncommon amount of humility.

Funny you should ask... (2, Interesting)

Daley_G (1592515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837350)

Just last evening I was approached by someone who has been *very* successful in starting non-profit org's, and asked me to "help out". Instead of compensation, we've worked out a deal where I can claim my time as a charitable donation (because after all, that's exactly what it is). That means that this donation offsets a bit of the work that I've done elsewhere. The charity is happy because they get "free" work, I'm happy because I get to do what I love, and it feels good to "donate". Besides, the networking contacts have already started to pay off!

RedCross is a great place to start (2, Interesting)

techess (1322623) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837384)

I've done volunteer work through the RedCross. [] Like others have mentioned if you are just wanting to help a week at best you'll be digging ditches or sorting donations. Small things like sponsoring a blood drive or working the refreshment stands at a blood drive is very helpful and can be done short term.

They've got chapters all over the world so they may be able to hook you up with a foreign "office" for something short term. They are a great group to volunteer with year round and they give you a ton of options so you can find something that fits in your life.

You may also want to try [] I've never used them, but RedCross uses them as the backend for their volunteer search pages.

Vacations are supposed to be VACATIONS. (1)

TomXP411 (860000) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837386)

Your company gives you time off so you can relax and recharge. They recognize that humans need a few days to unwind and do something NOT work-related. If you go volunteer and do basically what you would have done at work, isn't that just doing your job somewhere else?

Go on vacation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837428)

The point of vacation is to go on vacation.

volunteer opportunities for tech people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837464)

Try volunteer opportunities page on

It depends on your goal (2, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837468)

If you want to make a difference, work the extra week at your normal job, take the payout on vacation time (assuming this is an option) and whatever you would have spent on travel, and donate the cash to the charity effort of your choice. It will go a long long long way.

With one week's time, doing anything professionally is a major resource sink. Just imagine if you (or your wife) were to walk into a new job, where very few others really knew what you did, and asked you "go make yourself worthwhile in one week". You would barely be cognizant of the position's needs in one weeks time, much less provide any real benefit to them.

On the other hand, if you want to merely feel like you did something useful, go fly yourself somewhere, nose around in someone else's business for a week, then up and leave. It's sure to generate some head scratching, but not much else.

A brief translation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837470)

For all those who have never volunteered, here is what the poster really said.
"Hi. I'm a really highly educated individual (in my own mind) who wants to help the poor unwashed masses out there with my vast experience. I know I could take my Spring vacation and just volunteer at a soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity and feel really good about myself but I want to be treated as *SPECIAL*. I want the unwashed masses to see who wonderful I really am. In that light I'd like to use my vast knowledge in (useless corporate middle-management skill). Where, oh where, is there an organization enlightened enough to see they really really really need my help and would be lost without me?"
Here's the standard answer.
"Yes, everyone wants to be special. Here's your special hammer and your special broom. Get to work."

With the amount I get paid? (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837492)

With the amount I get paid, I virtual am volunteering.

Australian equivalent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837494)

In Australia, there is an organisation called goodcompany (
Blurb from the web site.
goodcompany is Australias most effective meeting place for volunteers and community groups, inspiring a new generation of professionals who can make a positive difference in our communities.
goodcompany makes volunteering easy by matching skilled professionals with community group needs.

Maybe there is something similar over there?

Give Camp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837502)

Desktop/network support for women's health clinics (4, Interesting)

astrix5 (1725884) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837522)

As a woman who can remember the dark days before Roe when pregnant girls "disappeared" out of schools and thousands of desperate women died every year from backalley and coathanger abortions, I know I have to do my part to help abortion rights. Since I'm not a medical professional and can't perform free abortion services myself, I do the next best thing and donate my time at local Planned Parenthood and private abortion clinics. The doctors, nurses and staff are all wonderful, welcoming people, but most of them know next to nothing about computers because the average abortionist is over 60 years old. Increased reporting requirements, insurance mandates, and electronic records means that computers are more important than ever and small abortion clinics have trouble even keeping their computers and networks running and can't afford expensive consultants and medical software.

All this means that you wouldn't believe the smiles on the faces of abortion clinics staffs when I volunteer at their offices. My latest deal is saving them money on software by installing open source wherever I can. I live in a mid-sized mid-western city, and recently redid a local Planned Parenthood network. I replaced their hokey Netgear router with an old Pentium II beige box running OpenBSD 3.3 as a firewall (BEST release of ANY OS for a firewall, IMHO), and I even reinstalled the secretary's Windows 98 PC with Ubuntu 9.04 and OpenOffice and told her it was Windows Vista. (HA!)

So if you want to put your skills to work for the greater good, call your local abortion clinic and tell them you can help with their computers. You won't regret it.

If i could... (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837528)

I would fly to Haiti and help. Boy do they need it. The whole infrastructure is totally fucked. I have never cussed in a post before but it needed to be said.

Find a conference and present and/or network (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837552)

The only useful professional service you can do in a week, outside of an operating room, is attend a conference.

Try to do a presentation on something from back home that the locals would not know about. Topic selection should involve things that you can't just download off freshmeat or print PDFs from the locals can do that perfectly well without you. Give a presentation on something the locals could not possibly experience. If in a tropical area, a short presentation on arctic data centers, or if in a monopoly phone provider area, a presentation on playing multiple telcos off against each other. If their country does not use -48VDC in the data center, and you do, or vice versa...

Also try to get on a conference roundtable discussion, the odds of you being the token-"whatever" are far better when you're the foreigner.

Network with the locals, you can get very interesting tours and trade advice with each other. At least you'll have some fun telling fish stories. Make some friends and send them some gifts when you get home (careful of customs laws!).

And remember learning goes both ways, not exclusively 1st world to 3rd, you can probably learn a heck of a lot from attending the locals presentations and listening very carefully.

The problem is finding a place with both a computer/hacker con and a counseling con at the same time. I suspect one of you are going to be pretty bored every other year. Or you'll be taking two short vacations per year instead of one long week.

The best part, is you might get the boss to pay for at least some fraction of your vacation... Once you get home give a short presentation at the next staff meeting about what you learned, then get the cheap bastard to pay at least your conference entrance fee.

Your fields aren't short-term. (1)

Slipped_Disk (532132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837558)

Counseling and Networking/Telecom are not "short term" one week fields - Networking and Counseling are not like medicine where you can do quick meatball surgery and fix immediate problems.

For your wife to be of any value she would need to form a therapeutic relationship with people, which takes time and trust. This won't happen in a week, and such short term "counseling" may end up doing more harm than good.
For you to do any good you would need to engineer a solution to some problem (could take more than a week in itself) and be available to help with deployment, which could stretch into months or longer depending on the scale of the project.

If you want to volunteer I suggest finding local causes - Your wife could work a crisis center hotline one night a week, and you could volunteer at a local non-profit that needs the networking help but can't afford a full-time guy.
If you want to help out a stricken region but can't commit to a month or longer I think your money is more useful than your time (and probably tax-deductible).

I think the Joker put it best, actually (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837576)

"If you're good at something, never do it for free"

There's really a lot of wisdom in this. On the one hand you're devaluing your means of earning a living. On the other you're risking burn-out. Volunteer if you want, but keep it simple and don't mix your work-life into it.

Re:I think the Joker put it best, actually (1)

FileNotFound (85933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837740)

Clearly you're missing the point of volunteering.

"devaluating your means of earning a living"? You're kidding right? You realize most places that would WANT your service on a volunteer basis do so because they flat out couldn't afford you.

Claiming that volunteerism devaluates professional labor is like RIAA saying that each download is a lost sale.

Yes you risk burn out, a burn out from volunteering. I've burned out volunteering several times. It's no big deal, you take a break, do your thing and maybe get back to volunteering again.

Niall Mellon townships? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837608) You can lay LAN cables throughout the houses?

Dont do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837614)

I've done it, volunteering overseas during a vacation for me has always turned out to be a LOT of work, esp if its something specialized. You will end up with people who DESPERATELY need you and who are in TERRIBLE shape. They will milk everything out of you and you will not get to relax or see anything. My boyfriend and I did this one summer in Italy and though it would be a fun lark, we quit after three consecutive 12 hour days, and we worked seperately. You don't go on vacation to not spend time together.

You will regret it.

Look for a local provider to non-profits (1)

dawich (945673) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837634)

Where I live, there is a provider for non-profits - cheap access, connecting them with cheap hardware and software licensing, etc. Every so often they ahve an IT day of service you can sign up for to wire a space, or configure a bunch of servers/workstations for a youth center, etc.

Look for names like community computing, communitynet, net, etc.


Starting an organization for something similar... (1)

rio517 (1725894) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837668)


I'm actually right in the middle of launching an organization to do just this. Initially, we're trying to focus on professional services of advertising professionals and programmers/tech pros to help create public service campaigns. The site isn't ready. We're right in the middle of a copy rewrite - we even still have lorem ipsum in some places. If you promise not to judge too harshly, you can visit our totally not ready site at: []

Like yourself, we're just trying to find ways we can contribute.


mario-a/ (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837676)

I tried to contact them once, they never got back to me. Does anyone have any recent experience with them?

Take a staycation (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837688)

Stay at home. Find a local organization that needs help -- although many more need help with simple HTML and hosting than with bigger networks. Plenty of local agencies can find a good use for counselors.

You'll spend far less money, waste far less time in transit, have a lower carbon footprint, and help your own community. I'm *sure* that there are plenty of people and organizations in your own area who need help... why not start there?

Glad you asked (1)

C0C0C0 (688434) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837704)

In Atlanta, you should contact TechBridge [] . In many other parts of the country, there's nPower [] . These are companies that provide technical services for non-profits, and they both make extensive use of volunteers. For counseling, well, you probably want to consult a different board.

Responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837724)

As has been mentioned, volunteering any sort of tech work involves a lot of time and ramp up.
But it also can cause them to expect you to come back and fix things if they break later.

And if something you did was incorrect you can be liable for damages.

In today's society it's much safer to either (if you're feeling guilty for something) donate money or just don't do anything at all. You're safer for it.

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