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Volunteer Work Abroad? 225

Posted by Cliff
from the travelling-good-samaritain dept.
MKalus asks: "Looking at what is going on in the world right now and realizing that computers are not everything (yes, there is more than that) I was considering for quite some time now volunteering in an international project. I was looking at institutions like Casa Alianza and Doctors Without Borders but the problem I am facing is that all of these organizations mainly seem to search for volunteers in medical fields and not so much in High Tech Areas. This is, of course, understandable as I don't really think anybody needs a server farm if they don't have enough to eat at the end of the day." Update: 12/03 15:19 GMT by C :MKalus has been reading the comments sent in so far, but had this bit to add: "I am NOT from the US, I am german living in Canada, as such things like the Peace Corps for example are not a viable option."

"Now I am aware of several organisations where you can go for two weeks in a developing country and help on a farm etc. I also remember the Geekcorps but as nice as it sounds to bring the internet in parts of the world who don't have it I don't quite see the sense in it when at the same time thousands of people die everyday.

So here's the question: Is there a geek out there who managed to volunteer for a longer period (6 months to a year or maybe even longer) in a project abroad, something along the lines of those I've mentioned abobe?"

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Volunteer Work Abroad?

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  • start your own (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by edwarddes (199284)
    if you cant find an existing organization that fits your needs, why not start your own? im sure there are plenty of fellow geeks here who would love to join somthing just like what your looking for.
    • First of all, props to the guys who can just pick up and leave for six monts at a time, but for the majority of working shmoes such as myself, it is an impossibility. Good intentions don't put food on the table, and I don't know of one employer who would let a person leave for a year, then graciously welcome him back.

      If I had a company and somebody came to me with a resume showing he took off for a year to do goodwill work in some other country, all I'd see is a guy who needs retraining on a years worth of technology changes. You want to help out, donate money. Let the out of work hippies donate months of their lives.

      AWG
      • So you think that the doctors that work for Doctors Without Borders are out-of-work hippies, rather than people that have been to medical school for years and are prepared to risk their lives to help others rather than have a cushy job in a US hospital. What a sad, obnoxious little shit you are. Perhaps having a wash more than once a month and actually leaving your bedroom might open your eyes.
      • My God, that's pathetic.

        First of all, I can think of few employers that wouldn't let you take a year off for something like that. Personally, I've never had problems getting extended leaves even for entirely hedonistic pursuits such as long-term travel - even when working for the government.

        Secondly, you really think it's all "out of work hippies" donating time? Ever heard of United Nations Volunteers [unv.org]? Medecins Sans Frontieres [msf.org]? These organizations bring some of the world's most capable and accomplished people out into the field to do constructive, beneficial work.

        If you really can't see past the short-term minutiae of buzzword retraining in the face of proven opportunities to make a real difference in the world, you are doomed to a shallow and useless life.

      • Not necesarrily. As another poster has pointed out. Taking a year out for world travel rarely puts anyone behind the eight ball hard enough that it's not swiftly recovorable on the first job back home. Anyway if you dont get the old job back (do you want it back?) you get a new one. It's IT remember.

        Seriously speaking, I spent six months doing something far more contentious than human welfare work, and that was forest-rescue work. You know, chaining to trees and the like, and it still ended with me going straight into IT work. I've done defence work, security work, and many fairly conservative jobs since, and no one really is bothered by my "hippie" stance, because employers value passion and motivation.
      • If I had a company and somebody came to me with a resume showing he took off for a year to do goodwill work in some other country, all I'd see is a guy who needs retraining on a years worth of technology changes. You want to help out, donate money. Let the out of work hippies donate months of their lives.

        I really don't want to judge you, but I won't hide the contempt I felt when I read that. Feels good saying who you'd hire and fire if you ran the zoo, doesn't it? Power trip fantasies, I know all about 'em, they really help boost the ego. Know what's also a good ego trip? Connecting to people, knowing what makes 'em tick. Knowing that with a few good questions, you could tell whether this guy was slumming it in the backwaters and lording it over the population while drinking down the local brew every night because they couldn't hack it back home, or whether this is someone who really knows how to relate to real strangers, folks with different cultures and idioms, someone who knows how to make do on a tight budget, under less than ideal conditions, with less than the state of the art. Heck, sometimes they're both the same person, not everyone who's effective is a saint. That's the real world ... one in which you don't own that company, and perhaps never will if you don't appreciate what your employees bring to the workplace beyond empty certifications.
    • by texchanchan (471739) <ccrowley@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:58PM (#2644099)
      Anybody know of a geek org that provides onsite tech support (hardware, software, training) to disabled people?

      When I was a support tech some of my co-workers went out and worked on systems for paralyzed people, MS patients, and so on. They weren't supposed to but did it because the customers had no other access to technical help. Many of these users had old discard computers given to them by charities. They were living on extremely minimal disability payments and had no money to pay for upgrades, parts, or tech support.

      This is still the case, only I am out of contact with this segment of the user community since leaving tech support. But they're still there, they're still poor, and they need online access more than anybody else does. Often it is their only method of communicating with the outside world--several of our paralyzed users couldn't even talk, could only type with a stick. The government provides only enough assistance to keep these people alive. Somebody else has to help them keep in touch with the human community.

      • On this line any homebound/hospicebound (think children with cancer, the elderly, advanced aids patients, people with disablities, etc) can benefit *greatly* from the community the internet can bring to their otherwise isolated lives. There was an article on slashdot [slashdot.org] about helping the elderly w/ computers that had, if I recall, some links to organizations that do this. Think globally act locally?

        I also would argue w/ your opinion that tech does no good for starving people (server farm? let them eat servers!) - while it's an obviously true statement on one level think again. Starving people are starving because of insufficient infastructure, war, and oftentimes just plain lack of jobs and education. I don't think I need to elaborate on how technology in various forms can help these situations (yea, even war, if they get the world's attention to a problem (anyone remember live aid, south africa, or can anyone tell me why we helped in the balklands but not in rawanda? spotlight, mostly, IMHO). Basically the internet is a great way to send a message. Can you imagine a blog of a starving kid in some 'stan (Ubaki, kazi, wherever) - sensationalistic a-la Geraldo? sure. but it might get the kid enought attention to get some help.)
      • I've worked with the disabled and poor before also and it has led me to think that sometimes it can actually be more useful to provide tech support than to provide food.

        The disabled benefit a lot by hackers like us donating time, code, plans, etc. Setting up a computer with a voice reader, writing a more handicapped friendly UI to a common program, or donating opensourced wheelchair designs could be incredibly helpful. I do hope everyone here knows that the average childrens wheelchair is kludged together by idiots who've never sat in a wheelchair (and thus make some pretty horrible designs), has about the same number of parts as a bicycle, and typically cost about $5000. If you could provide a good design for common items such as a wheelchair that were opensource and had a charity that would build them and give them away at cost you'd be doing an incredible favor.

        As for the poor I take the opinion that you're better off letting others feed them but pick some that are being fed and teach them some useful skills. Advanced farming techniques, programming, engineering, etc. Teaching poor people to read Bible lessons or plow a field the old way is pretty useless if you're trying to break them off the starvation/welfare cycle. Skills are what makes the difference. That gives them some pride and the ability to compete on equal ground with the best of us.
  • One Step At A Time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rbrander (73222) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @01:51PM (#2643915) Homepage
    You aren't really specific about whether you most want to help in places in need (in which, yes, you'll surely have to pick some other contribution than I.T.) or just go abroad with the talents you've got.

    Many commentators say the best bang for the 1st world's development bucks will come from helping nations that are hurting but are also developing - to help tip the balance towards upward progress.

    In which case, I think you don't even have to travel far. Learn Spanish and do some travelling south of the Rio Grande and I think you'll find Mexico and other latin american countries are in endless need of teachers and NGO office volunteers that know their way around a computer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2001 @01:54PM (#2643927)
    >I don't really think anybody needs a server farm
    >if they don't have enough to eat at the end of
    >the day.

    They don't need a doctor at this point either.
    What they needed was either farming in the last
    growing season, and/or a transportation infrastructure, together with whatever economic means would have been require to make all that happen.

    By the time widespread hunger sets into a place,
    there's sadly not much to be done.

    Have you considered the Peace Corps? You could
    at least work in commo, if that's geeky enough for you.
    • What use is the net? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:05PM (#2643949) Homepage
      Infrastructure is nice. Infrastructure is good. Having the right equipment, irrigation and transportation would certainly be welcome.

      But information is the next best thing. You may not have a tractor, but knowing how to plow a field without causing soil erosion is important. You can't build an effective grain silo without having the plans for one; but if you know how they're laid out, you might cobble one together.

      I suppose you could photocopy a bunch of plans and hand them out, but the net allows neighboring villages to share their experiences and figure out what works in that area and what won't, and to make arrangements to buy equipment and materials on the cheap when it becomes available.

      Of course the net is no panacea, but it's of more help than you might think.
      • Proof that Slashdot could use either a "Katz" or "Naive" in moderators' repertoire.
        • Or perhaps "Teenage Katz bashing Troll"

          Ok , granted that it's a pretty wierd concept whacking a computer in a village that possibly doesnt have a phone, there are ways that information and grass-roots McGyvering can be usefull.

          I've seen hippie communes where the most amazing stuff has been built outa bits of junk and the like

          A 286 loaded up with Minix , Chipmunk basic and some simplistic database software could probably go a mile in helping village elders (with geek help) organise and create some form of information infrastucture to help plan and coordinate things like harvests and also in planning for when appealing to governments and aid agencies is necessary. A word processor and 9pin could probably go a long way in impressing the regional tinpot bean counter.
    • Have you considered the Peace Corps?

      The only problem with that is that you're officially under the thumb of the U.S. State Department, which can lead to some real ethical frustrations.

      • I have been considering joining the Peace Corps. Could you please elaborate more about these "ethical frustrations" ?
      • The only problem with that is that you're officially under the thumb of the U.S. State Department, which can lead to some real ethical frustrations.

        Like what? I'm genuinely curious. Do you imagine the CIA is blackmailing Peace Corps volunteers into assassinating village chiefs?

        I know dozens of returned volunteers, and I've spent time at Peace Corps houses around Africa and Asia. I also work across the street from Peace Corps HQ here in DC and lunch with some folk occasionally.

        In all this time, I've heard a fair range of complaints - inappropriate training, muddled project objectives, stultifying bureaucracy, etc., but never anything like you suggest. The Peace Corps has a robust institutional personality and is not particularly cowed by State Dept foibles.

        For that matter, I'm not sure what flavor of ethical frustrations you're talking about, but as a fairly liberal person who's worked in the State Dept as well as a range of other departments and agencies, I can assure you that State is well left of the overall Federal center of gravity.

  • Classic problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @01:57PM (#2643937) Homepage
    It's a classic problem with foreign aid organizations. What they get are young people with the wrong skills. What they need are experienced blue-collar leaders: farmers who've successfully farmed tough land, experienced truck mechanics, construction foremen, and pipeline field bosses.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You'd be doing the world a lot more good if you stayed in the States and used your most productive years to start a business that employed gazillions of people. There are two advantages to this: In the interim, gazillions of employees have enough disposable income to be able to settle down and raise families, and, in the long run, when you get old you will have enough money to really help the beneficiary of your choice.

    PS: Most charities are, at best, fraudulent, but are more likely to be detrimental to the very people they are supposed to help.

    • You'd be doing the world a lot more good if you stayed in the States and used your most productive years to start a business that employed gazillions of people.

      That's only true if you value something strictly by the money it generates. Truth is, there's a lot more to the world than money

      • Well I definitly don't value something only by the money in generates. But the Talmud does devides the levels of charity into a list and the Rambam ordered them from lowest to hightest, at the top of his list he puts those acts which enable another to become self reliant. For more info see this Page [jewfaq.org]

        That being said not everyone is cut out to start or run a business. And in a business even if you do everything right it is still posible to fail.
  • Yes, for a long time now I want to do the same. I think an on the field participation, build a network, teaching people how to do that could be a goood think. And also working from my home ountry developing software they need. I suppose most od this idees are done already. Like on East Timor, UN built some IT infraestructure. But a computer related Org could be more productive. I would like to know about one or to help build one. What do you say?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:07PM (#2643962)
    Hey,
    2001 is the UN year of the volunteer. I am curently teaching in the Cisco Academy in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. THere are plenty of IT related opportunities with the United Nations in the ICT sector. As long as you have at least 5 years experienc and are at least 25 years old.
    Check out www.unv.org for more information. Plus if you are willing to go to Afganistan, I can assure you you will probably be on the next flight with out bombs!
    • out bombs? (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Plus if you are willing to go to Afganistan, I can assure you you will probably be on the next flight with out bombs!

      What are "out bombs"? They sound somewhat threatening to the Taleban, considering they are not too keen on gays.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:07PM (#2643963)
    You're looking for "Engineers Without Borders":
    here a few of their addresses:

    http://ewob.colorado.edu
    EWOB USA

    http://www.ewb-isf.org
    EWB CANADA

    http://www.isf-france.org
    EWB France = Ingénieurs sans Frontières (ISF)

    There are lots of other local and national EWB groups, a google search should find em.
  • by Llama Keeper (7984) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:09PM (#2643965) Homepage
    Rather than looking abroad may I suggest joing a domestic (USA) organization. Americorps [americorps.org] is a national civilian service organization that send people to different locations around the US where strong minds and bodies are needed.

    A great friend of mine joined for a year and work with inner city kids in Las Vegas, worked at a soup kitchen in Denver, fight fires in the Sierra Nevadas, built trails and did eco-rehab in the Sierras and many other fun projects.

    I looked at joining six months ago when I was between jobs, and deciding if I wanted to return to college. The people I talked to were enthusiastic about having a geek who was interested in joing (I'm also a hardcore outdoor enthusiast, so that was a plus side for them as well.)

    Americorp is a great deal, you commit to work for a year, you get trianed, then while working get a small monthly per diem and at the end of your service are eligible for a decent amount of $$$ for college. I would highly reccomend it to anyone who is interested in helping people. When my current contract with my employer expires I'm joing for a year.
    • Rather than looking abroad may I suggest joing a domestic (USA) organization.

      Judging from the way MKalus spelled "organisations", Americorps may in fact be abroad. Although I got the feeling that the desired destination was like S. America, Africa, Balkans, etc.

      -B

    • by JonToycrafter (210501) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:52PM (#2644078) Homepage Journal
      Americorps is about the last place you would want to go if you're looking to do charitable work. If you join Americorps, you're most likely to end up in a intern-level job at a large corporate non-profit making less than the minimum wage ($802 a month, I believe, $826 in urban areas). The program was conceived of to allow middle-class kids with parents who will help support them to do work in communities they don't know the first thing about. It's an exercise in cynicism. And the "decent $$" you get at the end is $4700, and you're severely limited to what you can spend it on. So after a year's work photocopying, since Americorps jobs can't be direct service jobs, you've made $14,612, which hopefully was enough to live on. Maybe in a rural area this works out OK, but in NYC, forget it. If you go to here [friendsofvista.org] there's more info. Check out the patronizing photo while you're there. It's so....Manifest Destiny.
      • Americorps is about the last place you would want to go if you're looking to do charitable work. If you join Americorps, you're most likely to end up in a intern-level job at a large corporate non-profit making less than the minimum wage ($802 a month, I believe, $826 in urban areas).

        I'm not sure where you got that information, but it's definitely not always true. While I was in high school, I worked with an Americorps crew on a project to give schools decent computers (note: I was not a member of Americorps at any time). Big businesses would donate old computers for a tax write-off, and we'd turn them back around for the schools. Along the way, the volunteers learned a lot about computer hardware repair (the computers we got weren't always in the best condition).

        The program wasn't run by Americorps, but Americorps volunteers provided a mix of technical know-how and administrative help (finding businesses to get stuff from, and schools to donate to). High school and middle school students provided a lot of the volunteer hours in actually rebuilding the computers (in exchange for learning how to repair computers, and having lots of computers to practice on).

        The Americorps people that I worked with were definitely _not_ doing intern-level work. They were getting a great mix of technical and managerial experience.

  • by n0-0p (325773) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:11PM (#2643970)
    I hate to sound harsh but I think you might be looking at this from the wrong angle. The truth is that many of these aid organizations do more harm than good in the long run. They try to solve the problem by providing a little additional food for subsistence and medicines for the most common diseases. This may give people a warm fuzzy, but all it really does is add to the problem of over-taxed resources and over-population in these regions.

    If I were you I'd look into organizations whose primary focus is infrastructure development. Building schools, developing industry, and raising the general standard of living is a far more effective goal. It may not have the same immediate gratification of medical aide, but in the long run it's a lot better for the people and probably more along the lines of your skills.

    • I think that you're wrong in two ways. First, people that go off to different parts of the world to give food and medicine have behaviors and social values that rub off on local populations and make the transition to a developed society far more easy.

      Second, population and over-taxed resources are not the problem, but the symptom. In places where volunteers have a chance to influence, I would imagine it would actually help to ease the symptoms.

      Our real mistake is trying too hard be to politically nutreal - like watering down values like freedom-of-speech and freedom-of-religion, or writing them off as just differences in opinion. When we do that, we water down our social values for the sake of getting along - and thus water down our influence on other peoples freedoms.

    • I hate to sound harsh but I think you might be looking at this from the wrong angle. The truth is that many of these aid organizations do more harm than good in the long run.


      That is certainly not true for "Doctors without Borders" (MSF, medicines sans frontiers). Their approach is aimed at establishing a hospital or other medical site mainly with the help of residents. They rely on assistance from the people they help in lot of ways and their doctors and other skilled workers train residents in a way that enables them to hold up the operation of the site after MSF leaves.

      They basically jumpstart and incubate hospitals. Until they can work on their own.
    • Hah! I was about to post the same thing. Many charity organisations have skewed and often dangerous ideas about the meaning of the word 'help'. There are numerous examples where charities, although probably acting with best intentions helped ruin local economies. One example would the the american food aid for Egypt that alomst destroyed all farming in the Nile delta. Also the biggest charity flop has to be the Ethiopian tomato plant. Following the advice of 'experts' there was a nationalised tomato processing plant raised in Ethiopia, which was supposed to make produce sold in Europe. The nationalised land for growing said tomatoes was exploited and what used to be a fertile piece of terrain quickly turned into a wasteland. Most farmers are aware that growing the same produce on a piece of land year by year is bad for the soil. Meanwhile Europe refused to buy those canned tomatoes as they already had an oversupply of their own. The gigantic tomato disaster was one of the main factors in the huge famine that swept the nation during the next big draught.

      Some charities can be truly harmful. Especially the ones that openly advocate marxist ideas and/or try to forward their religious agendas in the process of 'helping' the poor. Those marxist charities persuaded many poor countries to nationalise industries and introduce centrally planend economies. The consequences of switching from tribal feudal systems to military based socialist experiments were naturally catastrophic. The socialist doctrine in Ethiopia already cost millions of lives lost to poverty and famine. India is still paying their bill for their socialist experiment. North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world is on the brink of collapse thanks to their refusal to embrace global trade and their Marxist inclinations.

      By all means go with a charity, just make sure you pick one carefully and scrutinise your choice. Remember charities should be helping the poor and not use them as grounds for testing their social reform ideas.

  • IT in NGO's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BanthaPoodoo (214891) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:11PM (#2643973)
    I worked as an intern for Doctor's Without Borders a few years ago at their office in New York. As one of only a handful of people in the office who knew much of anything about computers, I did a lot of work on their website, mostly in the form of putting a lot of their fieldwork online. From this experiencem, I have found that NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations) need a lot of help in this arena. Since IT workers are in relatively short supply, and since we want to get paid for our services rendered, it's hard to find IT services for free, which is what NGO's really need.

    I think that as more of the fundraising comes from online sources (paypal, et al) these organizations will need people like us to set up the infrastructure to do these kinds of things. Sure, it won't be as "hands on" as picking up a shovel or suturing a wound, but volunteerism takes on many forms, and we as savants can be of great service if we put our knowledge to use in this regard.
  • Peace Corps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan Sullivan (515195) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:11PM (#2643977)
    The Peace Corps has specifically solicited for computer expertise. Check out

    http://www.peacecorps.gov/assignments/focusareas .c fm#it There's plenty of work to go around.

  • EDUNIX is a company based in the United States that attempts to develop technology companies in the caribbean by specifically targetting the country's educational infrastructure. The company uses open-source software to "connect schools to the internet" at a reasonable price. (I am currently working for this company and doing work in Dominican Republic and Cuba, and you should see us online in about a month so remember to check us out).

    I know as a computer geek it is often hard to see the value in this. However, it is important to note how important technology is as a factor of long-term economic growth. By targetting schools specifically (and using open-source in general), you are adding to the country's intellectual capital today (educating more people in the methods of doing business in today's economies and thereby making them more "hireable") and also adds to their GDP growth in the long-run (for example, by educating one person who then forms a company that exploits technology to increases worker productivity and icreasing output, etc).

    It may not seem like much, but engineers (whether they build dams or software) are key to the development of modern economies (which need to operate efficiently and in large scale with complex structures).

    Or maybe I am just a geek with a high opinion of myself.
  • by zdburke (304337) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:14PM (#2643983) Homepage
    Netaid [netaid.org], part of the UN Development Programme [undp.org] doesn't offer work abroad, but uses the Net so you can work locally to help those abroad. A lot of the assignments are more oreinted toward research/advocacy/education, but there are tech needs associated with those things too: sysadmins, DBAs, Web developers, etc. This is part of the UNDP's Information and Communications Technology [undp.org] division.

    Global Technology Corps [globaltechcorps.org] is run by the US Department of State [state.gov] and sends people abroad to build LANs and such.

    Trust For The Americas [trustfortheamericas.org] sends folks abroad to teach tech, and also to setup the infrastructure -- building networks, etc.
  • VSO (Score:3, Informative)

    by alanw (1822) <alan@wylie.me.uk> on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:15PM (#2643985) Homepage
    From the VSO web site [vso.org.uk]
    <cite> VSO is an international development charity that works through volunteers. We enable people aged 17-70 to share their skills and experience with local communities in the developing world. We passionately believe we can make a difference in tackling poverty by helping people to realise their potential.
    ...
    VSO currently recruits volunteers of any nationality who are living in the EU, Canada and the United States. In addition we are currently running pilot programmes recruiting volunteers from Kenya and the Philippines. We have established offices in Canada and the Netherlands. </cite>
    • And from my contacts with VSO volunteers, they do in fact do IT-related work. The VSO was instrumental in getting Belize its first e-mail link back in the mid-'90s, before BTL got into the picture.

  • Here's a few: (Score:1, Informative)

    by quartz (64169)

    The American Red Cross [redcross.org], American Rescue Team [amerrescue.org], the Salvation Army [salvationarmy.org] are only a few organizations among many others for which you can volunteer to help the poor and disadvantaged people in a foreign country called America. Hope it helps.

  • by basking2 (233941) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:19PM (#2643995) Homepage
    ESI (Educational Services International) [teachoverseas.org] is a group that primarily teaches conversational English to countries with out a large monetary base. They also have a computer course they are working on. This is computer science more than "click here and a paperclip should appear." :-)

    They are an evangelical group which means they are there to show the love of Christ via action. They are not a mass-evangelical group. The idea is that they do a good thing in God's name, and folks get curious and start looking at they why behind the actions. So, if you are a Christian, this is a very good group. They teach in Russia and China primarily, but the computer courses are based more in the near Eastern areas. Hope this helps!
  • Have a look at Engineers Without Borders [ewb-isf.org]. It's a nonprofit group, only recently started, whose purpose is to bring the technical skills of professionals in the developed world to help solve problems in developing countries.

    EWB is growing quite fast, and it has already set up international placements in some Third World countries (India, Nepal, Chile). I'm sure they could use whatever support you can provide.

  • by QuadPro (16532)
    At HAL2001 there was a talk from someone of CryptoRights. He said they desperately need people for human right work in foreign countries. If you're thinking about helping, and you have computer skills, visit cryptorights.org [cryptorights.org].
  • by muffen (321442) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:28PM (#2644014)
    I don't really understand why you need to work for a non-profit organisation abroad. I am currently living in my third country, and in a few months I moving to my fourth. I don't work for a non-profit organisation, instead, I work for a company that gives me a good salary.

    How is this good and how does it help anyone in a third world country?
    I give away approx. 300 dollars a month to two different organisations.

    The amount of money I give away isn't really noticable to me (I mean, I can pay my rent and drink my beers), and if I believe the adverts from one of these organisation, I am getting clean water to 1500 or so children.

    My suggestion to you, get a good job in the country of your choice (if your anything close to good in the IT field, this shouldn't be too hard), earn money and DONATE! I think you will help more this way.
    • The problem is this: You are occupying a position that could be held by a local. In this way, you are a detriment to the infrstructure, not a help. The goal of most of these volunteer organizations is to build infrastructure to improve life, then leave. I can accomplish the same you are by donating without leaving These United States (tm), not to mention that working here possibly makes more money to donate.
      • First of all, by saying I work in a different country than the one I was born in does not mean I work in a thirdworld country. I am not taking the job for some poor person that can barely feed his family.

        Second of all, you say you can accomplish the same as me, my question to you is... are you? Countless times have I heard this from people... most of whom have never given anything to anyone.

        I was aware of the fact that some people may prefer other methods of helping, I was simply trying to put forward mine (which is the main reason I like /. , all ideas get heard and everyone has a say). For some odd reason it seemes that you don't like the fact that I donate some percent of my salary. I can asure you I never expected a reply like yours.

        I can accomplish the same you are by donating without leaving These United States (tm), not to mention that working here possibly makes more money to donate.
        ... and right now you are doing what?

        I think that IT people do best in donating. You can argue about this, no doubt about it! ... but thinking that what I'm doing doesn't help?
    • You are right, you DON'T understand the problem. You cannot help countries in need just by "giving them money". What they need is food and medicine during emergencies, but more importantly, they need skilled people who can help build infrastructure to help the economy grow - things from simple farming equipment all the way to high-tech tools. The money people donate helps pay to get this done. But to get anything done, YOU NEED PEOPLE. Skilled people for that matter. That is why I believe that volunteering to work for a non-profit org is way way better than just donating money.

      I come from a 3rd-world country - Bangladesh to be exact. I was lucky enough to have parents that poured their heart and soul to give me a good education, which allowed me to be able to come to the US for college. But I digress. Bangladesh has thousands and thousands of villages, all inhabited by relatively poor people. What they needed was not money, but education and training. Foreign Aid organizations and the local government did just that. They installed a "Money for education" program which encouraged families to send their children to school (especially girls) instead of keeping them at home to work (at home or in the fields). They send skilled people to villages all over the place to train people how to better cultivate the land with newer but not-that-expensive technology. They give simple loans to people to get started. And all in all, the government actually almost breaks even. Because although there was an initial investent that had to be made, it was rewarded greatly by a vast number of people suddenly earning a decent revenue through fishing, farming, etc.

      That mission didn't cost very much money, what it needed was lots of people.

    • ... and if I believe the adverts from one of these organisation, I am getting clean water to 1500 or so children.

      No. You are getting money to those who actually get water to 1500 or so children.

      Don't get me wrong -- what you're doing is a good thing, it is needed, and you're probably donating a lot more than the average. But the organisations to whom you donate also need people who can spend the money where it is needed, to help building infrastructure, schools etc. These organisations need both voluntary work and donations -- do whatever you prefer.

  • A friend of mine has left Europe for Burundi this september. He enrolled with doctors without borders. He is absolutely not a doctor but a computer engineer (we were together at the university). His job will not mainly be computer oriented but he will be supporting the doctors, organizing transports, communications, I don't know exactly in fact !

    If you want to know more, you can send me an email and I will forward it to him.
  • Maybe you should consider focusing on places where the people are struggling to get enough to eat. I guess the real question is, is there any place that is lacking in knowledgeable computer people. Seems that a few small obscure countries have some very talented people.

    I might also check to see if there was any project that meshed what I liked to do a lot, with something that benefits your charity. These aren't trivial questions are they?
  • How about Geeks in Ghana [geekhalla.org]? -Dave
  • Three years ago, my company was going to volunteer to do the website for Doctos Without Borders, but we didn't do it because of budgetary restraints (ours). Four months later, they won the Nobel Peace Prize... Doh!

    When I spoke with them, I realized that many of these NGOs are struggling through IT and licencing problems, just like any small business on a tight budget. Even the Red Cross forks over millions to the Voracious One [microsoft.com] in licensing fees every year. You might be able to donate your services as a sysadmin, setting up communications and logistics for these organizations-- even in the bush.

    I cannot speak for the company, but I bet that Red Hat would be willing to listen to a good idea as part of their Open Source Now [redhat.com] project.
    (these comments reflect my personal opinion and do not reflect on the opinions or positions of others)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You should be happy you didnt get to hook up with Doctors Without a Conscience ... unless you like playing god along with them.

      This 'humanitarian' organization kicked out its Greek chapter because it refused to play god.

      The Greeks went to Yugoslavia while the country was being bombed for three straights months (NYC residents would have been shitting in their pants after the first week) against the wishes of this 'humanitarian' group who gets to decide who lives and dies.

      Then again, look at the winners of of that pop prize....killers and murderers (jews and palestinian) and Uncle Tom (Kofi Anan) ...yeah, it means about as much as an MTV award.

      Remember what the president of CARE Australia said in Canada 2-3 years ago about CARE Canada?
      "Were sick and tired of Canada using their NGO's for all their intelligence work because those of us who arent involved in spying end up paying the price."
  • I've just finished doing a project for a Graduate Diploma in Emergency Services Management this year. Developed countries can cope with disasters much better than developing countries, and one aspect of this is because developed countries can throw more IT at the problem in stages of preparation, mitigation, response and recovery. I feel there is a growing need for open source and free software developed by an international community, with a view to providing software services for managing information and resources in a disaster, or aid program. There is SUMA [desastres.net] a SUpply MAnagement program that is used for the transfer of aid and supply. There is commercial software available for emergency management, but once again only the rich countries can afford it. Learn GIS and offer your skills to governments and help in the preparation and mitigation stages by planning for natural and manmade disasters. There are plenty of opportunities for those involved in IT that want to help! :)

    Cheers Gav
  • Schools (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LinuxOnHal (315199)
    Schools could always use the extra tech support/experience. As a technical volunteer of a school district, I can tell you how challenging it can be. A lot of that work is domestic, but I'm sure schools abroad could use the help too. Education is always going to be an important place for technology, because that's where people like you and I are trained early on. My school did not have very much technology when I was there, but I was lucky enough to have experience elsewhere in it at a young age, and I think that is what has allowed me to succeed in the technology world today.
  • by simnick (264282)
    Engineers Without Borders is a young, but very dynamic (growing extremely fast) NGO looking to apply engineering know-how in the third world in areas like housing, energy, IT, water, demining etc... They are canadian primarily, but chapters are starting up all over the states, and internationally. An organization to watch (http://www.ewb-isf.org/)
  • It would be interesting if there was some group set up whereby green computer people would go volunteer for a good cause and work with some paid experts in the field.

    You know, a group of college computer science majors donating time to install servers somewhere for a good cause working with someone who actually knows what he's doing... In fact, if it's set up right the "kids" could even end up paying for the experience.
  • When I left university 10 years ago I came very close do doing what you want to. I was going to go teaching computing to kids in a school in Nairobi Kenya. The term was for about 2 years and a charity was funding it. The funding fell through and i didn't go :(

    There are charities around you just have to find them
  • Try the embassy (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by imrdkl (302224) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @02:55PM (#2644083) Homepage Journal
    If you just want to travel abroad, there are perhaps better ways to do it. Marry a foreigner, for example. Or join the Navy. Otoh, if you really want to help people, then my suggestion is that you contact the embassy or consulate of the country of your preference, to get some suggestions for local organizations which could be contacted directly, or possibly with their help.

    Get started on your shots, too. Thats loads of fun.

    • An afterthought... no matter what option you finally choose, the single biggest advantage you can give yourself to get into the position and place that you want is to have a minimal working knowledge of the countrys language, including dialects, where applicable. This is hard advice for most americans, but believe me, it's the only way to fit in and really help.
  • First, you seem to think that because you aren't building a bridge or digging a ditch, you can't help.


    That is entirely false. Many of these countries need infrastructure and other resources to make their marketplaces more efficient or facilitate better exchange of information or resources either internally or with the rest of the world.


    In fact, while the average agricultural worker in an agricultural economy could care less about establishing a secure internet connection when they're having trouble feeding their families, by creating infrastructure you may be able to help thousands of farmers by allowing market intermediaries to better market or sell goods internally or abroad.


    As much resources are wasted in many developing nations because markets and infrastructure are inadequate or easily abused due to informational inequities or corruption as anything else.


    The point is that your skills are valuable. You may be able to use them to help more at the macro level than a strong back and sweat could help at the micro level. As you would do in the job market, leverage your skills in volunteering by using them in their most productive capacity.


    Finally, you may be able to help from right here at home. Look at Bram Moolenaar's vim [vim.org]. More specifically, download it, then type ":help uganda". Vim is charityware. Rather than pay for this open-source product, the author asks you to donate to the Kibaale Children's Centre [vim.org]. I use vim all the time, and I've made a donation. In fact, I contributed more than I've paid for any other piece of software in years.


    So if you're a good coder, consider something of that nature. Or get creative. I don't know how much Bram has raised for the KCC, but I'd guess his coding skills have made a big difference in alot of children's lives.


    You've obviously got a big heart and a good head. If you use them both, I have no doubt you'll make a difference :-)

  • Geek Corps (Score:2, Informative)

    by Eol1 (208982)
    Here is a high tech volunteer organization that goes into 3rd world country and helps their budding infrastructure.

    http://www.geekcorps.org/

    Thinking about doing it myself in a year or so.
  • While it is all very wild over there, if there was a way to get geek volunteers into Kabul, this would do more to bring the rest of the world to Afghanistan than anything.

    Point being, the first priority is not to bring democracy to Afghanistan, although this would be nice.

    [Afghanistan, in fact, is democratic to a fault. Typically they do not have one or two major parties. They tend to have hundreds of them.]

    What is more important is that _education_ is brought into the mix. Restoration of the education system is vital to an effective civilization, unless, like the Taliban, you maintain your power base through maintaining the population in ignorance.

    A major part of this is Education in Technology. Bringing technology to Afghanistan, along with all the other fundamental resuorces, would accelerate the recovery of the country.

    Information can be considered a fundamental resource for any civilization.

  • It is not necessary to go abroad to make something useful for the world.

    As you live in a democracy, you can encourage the people you voted for to change some politics that the USA have and that are the source of a lot of pain in the poor countries.

    The first things that come to my mind are the number of international treaties that the USA have not signed [cunr.org] :

    1. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW [un.org])

    2. the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC [unicef.org]). All countries except for the United States and Somalia have ratified it.

    3. the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

    4. the ban [unicefusa.org] on antipersonnel landmines [cdi.org] (the Ottawa Treaty)

    5. the Kyoto Protocol [cnn.com]

    6. the Law of the Sea Treaty [un.org]

    All those treaties, if signed and applied, can make the world a better place for poor citizens of poor countries.

    There are also a number of treaties thatthe US has stripped to signe them [foreignpol...nfocus.org].

    NOTE : Don't get me wrong, I am not your basic anti-US socialist european. In the numerous talks I had with people after the 11th september, I was always blaming those who said "It's their fault ! Good for them". I was (am) also defending the action against the taliban (except for the use of some nasty bombs).
    But, being a supporter of the US must not hide that it's a BIG SHAME to have not signed, ratified and applied those treaties at least !

    PS : sorry if some info is outdated, do not hesitate to notify me.
  • From 1987 to 1989, I was in the Peace Corps in Malawi. For two years, I taught high school, but during my third year I taught computer classes at a government training center, mostly to civil servants. I girlfriend (who became my wife), had a job developing database systems for an organization called Malawi Against Polio.

    By the way, there are a lot of things I disliked about the Peace Corps, but for the most part,the good outweighed the bad. And what an experience. Those were three of the most interesting and wonderful years of my life, despite some real hardships.
  • Voluteer to teach (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jvollmer (456588)
    Many years ago, I voluteered to teach in a rural school in Texas. I did this for two years and taught all of their Computer courses. I even wrote some specialized tutorial software for the schools. It was a blast. Go to: VESS [vess.org]
  • There are some real interesting opportunities at home that can have big impacts world wide. If your into wildlife and helping kids Cyber Tracker World is gearing up for some interesting work. http://www.CyberTrackerWorld.org
  • Ok, I don't usually write comments with inflamatory subjects like this, but I'm really irritated with them.

    Two years ago, I gave DwoB $50 because I liked their attitude and cause. I'm not the most charitable person, but I regularly give $50ish to causes that strike me.

    I swear to you that DwoB has used that entire $50, and probably much more, to send me paper mail soliciting more money. I've gotten 2 to 3 pieces of USPS mail from them a month for the past two years. It's gotten to where I throw them out without opening them.

    Needless to say, they are not getting another dime from me. Maybe one of these days when I'm less irritated I'll deal with calling or writing them so they stop using other people's money to solicit me.

    Cheers
    -b
  • ... helping to run the election.

    No, this didn't use my software engineering skills, but it did use my management experience gained on software projects. (Oh, and really you do need some experience of elections as well.)

    [Most of the volunteers at the Kosovo election were looking forward with more or less trepidation to the call to Afghanistan in a couple of years' time ...]
  • So many people, organistations and develloping countries could use IT Skills. An IT NGO could have several missions: supply IT expertise for other NGOs in need, devellop the infrastructure and spread IT science in the develloping countries.

    I cannot begin to express how rewarding it is to teach people with hunger for knowledge and outside communication in some of the world's most deshinerited countries. I did it under contract for a private firm, but I would be willing to do it for a NGO. There are so many ways to help.
  • by Irvu (248207) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @04:04PM (#2644210)
    I once asked a guy from Iraq about this. His country is facing massive starvation, medical problems, and decaying infrasturcture due to the U.N. Sanctions. Sanctions which aren't weakening Saddam any. (see here [independent.co.uk] or here [who.int][msword warning])

    He personally had no need for a server farm. But he did need a news source. People support the sanctions he feels because the don't know how bad they really are. , but a news source, some way of getting the word out to the public, an Indymedia [indymedia.org] or a Cryptome [cryptome.org]. Something to inform the world of what is happening. That alone can make all the difference by motivating others to make changes or even volunteer their time.

    I'd suggest looking at one of those sites or starting another if you prefer.
    If you'd rather have a job the WHO is advertising [who.int] for Professional staff (including IT).
  • by haroldcore (540701) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @04:13PM (#2644226)
    I spent three months in Ghana, volunteering with Geekcorps. It's a good organization, providing support both for the volunteers and the community in which they operate.

    If you're looking to offer your geek skills and want to push yourself to make a difference in a challenging environment, I recommend you look into Geekcorps. Believe me, it's no walk in the park, and if you come out of the experience having made a positive difference in the lives of the people (and businesses) with whom you work, you'll have a real sense of accomplishment. Besides, there's nothing like immersion in a different culture to expand your horizons.

    Some people put forth an argument that goes something like this: Why help people with technology if they can't find food to eat? Frankly, I think this is an oversimplification. High tech skills philanthrophy is not mutually exclusive with food and medical aid. There's plenty of need for both in the developing world, and you have to choose how you can best contribute.

    If your strongest skills are in high tech, then you can make a real, positive impact on other people's lives, simply by sharing your knowledge. In Ghana, for example, a single employed individual is often responsible for supporting five, ten, even twenty other people who have trouble paying for their daily bread. If you can help one, two, three, or more people find gainful employment in a budding high tech industry, you're not only helping them improve their own lot in life, but you're indirectly helping everyone else in their family network.

    There's millions of dollars of aid going all over the world to help pay for food and medicine. How much effort is going to help working people rise up from menial jobs into the middle class? This is where high tech skills transfer can make a real difference. Check out Geekcorps at www.geekcorps.org. Take it from this former Geekcorps volunteer.
  • by descapa (247250) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @04:17PM (#2644231)
    Service opportunities for geeks:

    http://www.unites.org/

    Project listings:

    http://www.unites.org/Html/projects/projects.htm
  • If you do a bit of searching on google.com you can easily find hordes of people/organizations who take time out of their lives to go overseas to set up Internet access labs. Think about how helpful that ends up being to people in oppressed areas! I was following a man who went to Serbia and set up a lab for the Bosians. It's a great thing to do, as it gives them access to one of the most important things of our generation: information.
  • Two organizations (Score:3, Informative)

    by cascadefx (174894) <`morlockhq' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday December 02, 2001 @04:20PM (#2644242) Journal
    The first one that I would suggest is the Geek Corps [geekcorps.org]. It has been in operation for a few years now and has sent its 3rd group to Africa to help with infrastructure and business development using communications technology. Check it out.

    Closer to home is an opportunity to work for your living with an amazing organizaion. While not strictly volunteering, it would definitly be a paycut. Habitat for Humanity [habitat.org] does more to promote cross cultural peace than any other organization that I know of. Nothing breaks down barriers more than providing decent living arrangements for total strangers. The Job Opportunities [habitat.org] page currently lists these current technical positions:


    • Youth Programs Coordinator
      PS 1415
      This position is responsible for assisting the Youth Programs Officer in supporting Habitat for Humanity affiliates and campus chapters in developing age-appropriate activities for youth ages 5-16. It involves developing resources and publications related to youth programs, facilitating workshops at Habitat regional conferences, responding to inquiries related to youth, and contributing to HFHI publications. The qualified applicant must have excellent writing and public speaking skills, be self-directed, Microsoft Office familiarity, strong interpersonal skills, experience with the programmatic aspect of a community service organization, and a Bachelorfs degree in a related field.

      Reconstruction Volunteers*
      Facilities Management
      Basic Volunteer
      Under the direction of the Property Manager, work with other volunteers in fixing, restoring, and furnishing HFHI housing to the accepted standard set by Operations. Repair corporate buildings as needed. Responsibilities and duties include: understanding safety precautions and utilizing them at all times; repairing broken plumbing fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens; painting houses, both interior and exterior; repairing/installing floors, walls, windows, hanging doors, and mirrors; light construction duties; and working independently to identify or replace defective mechanical equipment. The qualified applicant should have six months of related maintenance or construction experience, have the ability to work with various tools, both power and hand-held, be able to complete assigned duties in a timely manner, be able to work well with others and able to lift 75 lbs regularly.

      *At this time, the Americus/Sumter County Affiliate is no longer in need of Construction Volunteers, until further notice. However, we are very much in need of Reconstruction Volunteers.

      Application Technician - Habitrak
      PS #184
      Basic Volunteer Position
      This position is responsible for supporting Affiliate information systems that are sanctioned and distributed by HFHI, e.g., Habitrak and International Mortgage Tracking System. This position provides customer service and technical support for all HFHI Affiliates using these products. As well, this position receives questions and requests via phone and e-mail and responds in appropriate manner; tracks problems and recommends temporary workarounds and long-term fixes; works with customers, Program and Project managers to analyze information needs and existing systems; assists in design, implementation and enhancement of new and existing programs; documents all problems, resolutions and procedures per HFHI guidelines; assists in customer training; and maintains and enhances good customer relations. The position is also responsible for participating in the specifications and scheduling of product enhancements, testing and implementation. This position exercises a leadership role in promoting awareness of Affiliate information product needs. Relevant experience in software development, programming, or as a systems/business analyst; expertise in MS Office products, MS Visual Basic, MS Access; and customer service, training experience, and technical proficiency in SQL or major RDBMS preferred. This position performs other related duties as assigned. The qualified applicant will have strong analytical and technical skills and excellent communication and interpersonal skills. As well, the qualified applicant would have a Bachelorfs degree from an accredited institution. A degree in Business or Computer Science preferred. Qualifying experience may be substituted for the Education requirement on a year-for-year basis up to a maximum of two (2) years.

    • #0974 Client Server Analyst Programmer
      Posting Period 11/09/01 - 12/15/01
      Projected hire date 01/07/02 or before
      Position located in Americus, GA.
      This position functions as the primary application support for the International Mortgage Tracking System (IMTS). IMTS is an automated business management application for HFH international affiliates written in Visual Basic using current market tools such as Crystal Reports; ensures efficient information processing, data integrity, and delivery of useful accurate information to the users; Visual Basic programming and development along with clear communication with both technical and business personnel are the key duties for this position along with demonstrating sound knowledge of business processes and systems support requirements. Must have a Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience with at least ten semester hours in any combination of Business, Computer Science, Management Information Systems, Management Science, Mathematics, Statistics, or a related field and three years relevant work experience. Must also have three years experience in information technologies; practical working knowledge of IBM PC computers, MS Office products, and MS NT workstation; programming and systems analysis experience; business analysis and RDBMS experience; practical working experience with MS Access, FileMaker Pro, Crystal Reports, SQL server, Visual Basic and ASP.
      ($31,450)

    • And of course they can always use vulunteers at your local field office. Look them up in your phone book and offer your services.




    I think this also underscores the point that many organizations need your help and have a hard time recruiting people at reduced pay. Check out your favorite organization and see what sort of technical positions they have posted. If you want to gain more than a paycheck out of your work, then they may be able to use you.

    Here are some other opportunities offered through the United nations:

    United Nations Information Technology Services [unites.org]. From thier website: In his Millennium Report, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed the importance for developing countries to benefit from the opportunities emerging from the digital revolution. He proposed the creation of a global volunteer programme aimed at bridging the digital divide between industrialized and developing countries. UNITeS, the United Nations Information Technology Service, is an initiative that channels the creative energies, skills and solidarity of volunteers around the world to collaborate with people in the South to improve their capacity to make practical use of information and communications technologies (ICT). In key fields like health, education, income generation, gender equity, environment or humanitarian aid, volunteers working under the UNITeS programme are striving to bridge the digital divide, one person at a time. The United Nations Volunteers programme is coordinating this new, UN ICT volunteer initiative.

    The United Nations Volunteers [unv.org] offer opportunities locally and abroad.

  • ...about working in the IT industry and making a decent money. You can always DONATE money to any volunteer organisation. And they can do something with it. When you are volunteering you are pretty useless for decent 3. world development projects. However, your money can make much use from such projects.
    Think about it: 100 $ make may supply several people with food/medication for some days. These are 1-3 hours of work for IT people.
    What useful could you do in 1-3 hours in a 3 world country ?
    Volunteering might make you feel good, but DONATIONS do something good.
    Decide for yourself what you really want.
  • Almost all groups similar to the ones that you mentioned have servers, websites, and use email to keep in contact with each other. Therefore they have need of in-house geeks. This would likely be in the home office, but you never know.

    Here's a link to a site that just might help in your search for such groups that operate in the United States.

    http://www.interaction.org/

    Good Luck
  • If I were fluent in Urdu, I like to think I would be on the next plane to Peshawar, Pakistan, to create a non-religious school. I think that, if successful, that plan would give one of the highest bangs for the buck that an individual could get right now in nonprofit work.

    Poor Pakistanis put their sons into madrassahs for several reasons. It's free to them (sponsored by rich Islamists abroad), the boys are clothed and fed, they learn the *rudiments* of a normal education, and it allows them to serve their religion. Parents have no other options, since the Pakistan government fails to provide real money for public schools (and the other social services the madrassahs provide).

    If you were to create a free school oriented around math and science, that offered kids some chance of getting a real job somewhere down the line, I think you'd get plenty of willing students. (Remember, Pakistanis and Afghans do not hate Western technology, just because some of them hate the culture it comes from.)

    You simply don't talk about Islam. And you don't teach Arabic. Arabic isn't the language of business in Pakistan, Urdu is. So you teach Urdu and English (the global language of business and science). You don't discredit or analyze Islam; you simply say it's the business of a family and its mosque to teach religion, not the business of a technical school. (Besides, there really isn't time, given all the other stuff you need to teach them.) You could also teach girls, which madrassahs never do (although you might decide it's culturally easier to teach them in separate classes or schools).

    Each student you take in potentially represents a family lifted out of poverty, and a life turned away from violence and terrorism.
  • VSO (Score:2, Informative)

    by FerretJohn (536886)
    I returned recently from a year in Nepal, at the national library there and any skills that you have are useful out there. If you can build a wall thats handy and if you can sort out the website and the computer systems thats useful too. Its all about teaching others about your culture, and learning while doing a useful development project. John 'Ferret' Barbrook
  • geekcorps.org (Score:4, Informative)

    by braddock (78796) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @05:02PM (#2644326)
    Folks should definitely check out the Geek Corps.

    www.geekcorps.org [geekcorps.org]

    One of the nice things about the Geek Corps is that instead of trying to do it all themselves, they instead concentrate on educating local's and helping local businesses to build an information infrastructure.

    In addition, it sounds like it would be a great time because Geekcorp volunteers all live together during their stay.

    -Braddock Gaskill

  • As a poor Afghan Internet Mogul I see the need for better computer access in third world countries. Do we not crave the same hi quality porn the internet provides? Do we not seek MP3's from big corporate music just like you? If only we had the access that you so fortunately enjoy My coop needs more computer! junis
  • by bort13 (96346)
    Here's my take on this, as an American with some experience overseas:
    Americans overseas are generally problematic. They tend not to know the native languages, and however well-intentioned, make the people there culturally self-concious just by being their old USA selves. The most helpful volunteers would have skills mentioned above, but also be somewhat culturally aware and be able to speak the language.
    IMO, developed with work experience in several connected industries, many big name non-profit organizations are huge money and publicity generators. I'm not convinced of their ability or their willingness to really help anything. I now have a general distrust of large non-profits in general, but pay attention to their issues.
    With your basic, everyday experience as an American, you can in all likelihood find a good job in the USA. With one job, you can usually get another, better, well-paying job. This is the mandate of our Capitalist culture. There are tradeoffs here, and it's easier for some than others; but a native-born American young person has a good shot in life here.
    People in many countries make shit for wages -- really incredible, like $8 per day in some countries in
    Europe. They need more companies to provide better paying jobs.
    There's no quick answer for capital distribution, it moves slowly in general. Converseley, systematic investment over time creates new areas of wealth.

    So what does this entail? You can make a shitload of money here -- really, all you have to do is work. What you do with that money is about the most impact you can have. Investing capital in companies creates economies, domestically and overseas. For the QED: invest in companies or mutual funds that either help where you deem a great need exists, or toward an ideal you hold. Whatever. Your money is your vote.

    Some links:
    Socially Responisible investing [google.com]
    Mutual Funds, green and otherwise [google.com]

  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday December 02, 2001 @06:06PM (#2644468) Journal
    What the World Wants [osearth.com]

    This is really important. That is the information regarding the amount of
    the world military resources being three times that needed to solve all
    the major problems in the world.

    The logic is along the lines of preventitive health care.

    Solve the problems, take care of the world, and you greatly reduce the
    probability of conflict and of course prevent large bills of warfare.

    The more people that digest this information, the sooner it will happen!

    with heart! 3seas

    P.S. Of the many ways computer technology fits in: this may be of interest. [mindspring.com]
    .
  • If you're Canadian, CUSO [www.cuso.ca] is always recruiting for IT postions. My first job out of college was a netcorps (6 month) postion in Kingston, Jamaica. Basically building crappy Access databases (if you can consider Access a database) some web pages, and a lot of training. Once here I made some contacts with an organisation (PACT [jamaica-kidz.com]) and 3 or 4 months after I went home they called and had me back as a full CUSO cooperant, with a little extra pay. Now I'm halfway through a 2-year contract and I've been told that I can stay longer if I choose.

    Right now I'm developing our web page (www.jamaica-kidz.com [jamaica-kidz.com] , yeah should be .org but it was already there when I started and we can't afford to alias it) and a Performance Tracking System database (to give funders indicators on the results of the project). This is all to help a nation-wide literacy project.

    Overall it's a great job... I travel all over the island working with over 30 organisations, and on the weekends I'm a few hours drive from the nicest beaches in the world. Of course there is some amount of violence here... but after a while you know how to keep safe.

    If you are looking for computer related jobs in the third world, there are positions out there. check CUSO [www.cuso.ca], and also VSO (I was gonna take a postion with them before I got a better offer from CUSO).

    There are a lot of developing nations where there already is running water, electricity and (in most parts) telephone. In these countries education is a priority and that's where the computers come in. Computers can be used to help people to learn to read. And besides that, do you think it's a good idea to for countries that are already behind to get further behind by neglecting IT? I wish anyone considering this line of work lots of luck.

  • Last year, I spent 8 months working for a couple NGO's INSIDE of Afghanistan. believe me, the need for workers in the IT industry is great for these orgs. i didn't get paid while i was there, had to raise my own money. Howerver, it was a completely fulfilling time. just shop around i suppose; there are many organizations out there, and many need computer help. me? i did a lot of networking inside offices, general PC maintenance, and radio system setup and maintenance. despite harsh conditions, harsh taliban, and language bariers, i made it, and came out a better and more rounded person.

    doensn't mean you have to go to Afghanistan, but it shows that even in the worst place on earth, there was a need.

    many religious groups work in these kind of places in the world, and are your easiest link to this kind of work, but many government sponsored programs also exist, and need help.

    the UN offered me a salary of over $100,000 if i would work for them.. so the opportunities are there.. just keep your eyes open and do your research.
  • we're not ready yet, but something like this is one thing we're hoping to do with Geeks4Christ [geeks4christ.org].

    Now if only we were organized and had some projects going... :-) But if anyone is interested, feel free to e-mail me.
  • What about the Peace Corps [peacecorps.org]? They need math and science teachers. That would be the first place I'd look.


    -h-

  • Demining, for example the Canadian International Demining Corps [www.cidc.ws] is an excellent opportunity. It combines knowledge, skills, unique environments, and an element of danger, all with the chance to help people recover from conflicts and rebuild. It's demanding, and there is a lot of way to go to finish it. One hot spot is Afghanistan; imagine going there to help the place recover. You can bet that the most recent conflict there hasn't reduced the number of mines, but it has led to a suspension of demining activity. When it is safe on the ground again, it will start back again.
  • IT Corps [gmu.edu] is a program run by George Mason University in cooperation with the UN Development Programme that sends IT people all over the world to do international development work. They don't pay -- in fact, you have to pay your own way -- but you get to work within the UN system (with all the support and prestige that implies) and they have programs in many countries where nobody else is doing this kind of thing.

    I toured one UNDP project that used IT Corps people in Egypt. It was a young project, but it had potential.

  • This is, of course, understandable as I don't really think anybody needs a server farm if they don't have enough to eat at the end of the day."

    I seem to make a habit of pointing out these typical americanisms, often at the expense of Karma. I suppose you can't help getting narrow-minded moderators.

    The sentence read in the context of the article, as if every country outside of the USA has a famine problem. There are plenty of volunteer organisations around the world in countries that are not experiencing drought or famine, judging by US cable TV - the USA is one of those countries.
  • If you can't leave home, but still want to lend a hand in solving the world's problems, the United Nations Volunteer [unv.org] program sponsors the NetAid.org [netaid.org] site. It maintains a database of jobs that can be done from your own home or acrosss the Internet, including things like DBAing for a hospital in Kenya, online fundraising for various causes, speech writing for the heads of a non-profits, copy-editing, online technical support, what have you. You can search on criteria based on your skill and interest set, nations that you would like to help, project times, and amount of time that you can commit each week. Check it out and make a difference.

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