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How Do You Volunteer Professional Services? 366

Posted by timothy
from the with-caution dept.
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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How Do You Volunteer Professional Services?

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  • Obvious. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:20PM (#30836888)

    Craigslist Casual Encounters?

    • Easy... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      "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.

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

        That's just a great idea. Someone steps into the light, says he wants to do something good and you react like this.

        On the D&D scale, are you chaotic evil or neutral evil?

      • by demerson3 (1631599) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:55PM (#30838374)
        Serving others from the heart is far more rewarding to the soul than anything else I know.

        The International Association for Human Values is a large organization actively doing phenomenal work around the globe with very little overhead, but they are little-known in the US. Disaster relief, youth empowerment, forums for peace dialogs, community developemnt, environmental action, and rural education are some of the focuses of the organization.

        I've volunteered for a few organizations, and I've found that IAHV volunteers are consistently not only driven and hard-working, but also peaceful and wonderful to work with during the day.

        http://iahv.org/get_involved.asp [iahv.org]
        http://iahv.org/show_address.asp?country=United%20States [iahv.org]
        (flash warning... some pages work fine with gnash)

        What do you get more of, the more you give away? Love.
        Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful time.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          Ok, then at the very least...what about "charity begins at home"?

          There's tons of people in the US that would need some help...

          And if vacationing...spending your $$'s within the US helps out the local economy, and Lord knows we need all the help we can get here in these times.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by virtualXTC (609488)
            BS - Capitol-ism and charity are mutually exclusive values; spending money doesn't have any Karma value.
            Given the current economic structure in the US how much of the average vacation expenditure do you really think goes back into the economy?! Do you really going to wallmart and to stock up for your vacation (buying goods made in china) and then then filling your non-American car with gas and taking off for a week to stay at holiday inn and sip on Budweiser puts money back into the US economy, you might
  • Church (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jep77 (1357465) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:21PM (#30836892) Homepage

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

    • Re:Church (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:26PM (#30836982)

      With the expected amount of bias, of course.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        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

        • 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.

          • Re:Church (Score:4, Funny)

            by dotgain (630123) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:26PM (#30837838) Homepage Journal
            Oh, you're forgiven, but you'll still burn in Hell.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by gknoy (899301)

              If you're punished in Hell for your sins, how is that Forgiveness in any way, shape, or form?

          • Re:Church (Score:4, Informative)

            by Temujin_12 (832986) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:44PM (#30839146)

            The truth is, God loves homosexuals as much as he loves anyone. 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.

            Since this will inevitably lead to a fire storm of misinformation about Christianity please first read the following basic and universal Christian doctrines (or axioms if you will) before commenting. Note that I use the word 'axiom' deliberately here (ie: they are given w/o proof):

            1. God loves everyone (no ifs ands or buts)

            2. God wants His children to become like Him

            3. God is perfect

            4. None of us are perfect (this is the dilemma)

            5. Christ takes upon Him the consequences of mankind's sins

            6. Christ is now qualified to redefine terms to return to God

            7. Christ teaches that all who repent are forgiven

            8. Christ teaches that He is the one who determines whether or not someone is forgiven

            Misinformation about Christianity can almost always be tied back to a misunderstanding (or ignoring) of one of these core and universal axioms. Different Christian sects branch off of these as primarily as they strive to understand and come to different conclusions about points 5-8.

            Before reading someone's rantings about Christianity (for or against) and making a hasty generalisation about all Christians, first check what they are saying against these core axioms (whether or not you agree with the axioms themselves). I've been surprised doing this how much misinformation is out there.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I know this better than probably most on Slashdot. I'm fairly well acquainted, in fact, and could provide verses for most of what you listed.

              "All are forgiven" sounded more like a "all go to heaven" type of statement. I don't think that's Biblical, which is ironic since he mentioned some extremely specific Biblical passages in his post :)

              Regarding "redfine terms to return to God," not sure that's quite accurate. The terms were always the same. God, through His Son, provided a way so that His Son could f

        • Though they may not qualify as a church ;)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            Religion is like politics; don't look at the church, don't look at the party, look at the leader himself. Illinois has had good leaders from both parties, and bad leaders from both parties as well. All denominations have good preachers and bad.

            That said, I think Pat Robertson is a tool of the devil.

    • Re:Church (Score:5, Funny)

      by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:28PM (#30836994) Homepage

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

      • by fm6 (162816)

        They're called "stress tests" now.

        Xenu lives!

    • Re:Church (Score:4, Funny)

      by jittles (1613415) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:51PM (#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...
  • by emj (15659) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:23PM (#30836926) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VonSkippy (892467)

    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.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      You think he should volunteer 51 weeks a year? Or you think volunteering is a waste of time?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by theelectron (973857)
      Trust me, volunteering can help your your emotional/physical/mental well being more than a simple vacation.
    • 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...

    • Re:just say no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotmail3.14.com minus pi> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:59PM (#30838450) Journal

      Take a vacation, relax, enjoy life.

      Some people climb mountains on vacation. They're out in the cold, possibly getting rained or snowed on, sleeping on hard ground, straining muscles and risking serious injury. Yet still they call it their 'vacation', and no one argues.

      This guy doesn't mind the type of work he does, and he likes the idea of helping other people in his free time. While he's doing it, he's going to visit novel places in other countries, discover new cuisines, learn about different cultures and lifestyles, and have a whole office full of new friends who are glad to see him and want to show him a good time. The locals will know the good places to eat, the fun things to do, the little hidden sights and pleasures that you can't find in your travel guide. He can pull CAT5 during the day, then walk outside and drink rum while the sun sets over the beach.

      What's so bad about that? Different people relax in different ways.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:26PM (#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.

    • 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.

      The airflight isn't worth it. If you want to help, donate $3k instead. They can feed a lot of people on that kind of money, and probably train some Haitians to start rebuilding.

      I foresee a construction boom when this is all over.

  • 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.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:26PM (#30836978) Journal

    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!

    • 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.

      • by Ohrion (814105)
        The parent was referring to Original Poster's wife, who is a counselor. Troi was also somewhat of a counselor.
      • 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 [arrl.org] 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 emerge

    • by fm6 (162816)

      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.

      http://www.trauma-pages.com/disaster.php [trauma-pages.com]

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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

      • by vlm (69642)

        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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spmkk (528421)
      "...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 [samhsa.gov] who might disagree with that perspective.
    • by stefanlasiewski (63134) <[moc.ocnafets] [ta] [todhsals]> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:16PM (#30837678) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • Disabusing someone of a naive or selfish notion is not snide, although it might be slightly painful to hear.

        I'm sure there are plenty of places in the world who could use some professional expertise.

        Yes, but such expertise is provided through organisations with transnational connections and volunteers either training on an ongoing basis for emergencies, e.g. ARES [arrl.org], or providing their services for extended periods.

        The Peace Corps., as far as I'm aware, involves dedicated volunteers working abroad for extended periods, with financial benefits for the groups it targets such as student loan deferment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spribyl (175893)

      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.

      • Would you believe even the counselors need counseling.

        Certainly. The Samaritans [samaritans.org], dubious as some of their methods may be, emphasised to me the recognition that volunteer counsellors must themselves be debriefed where necessary and observed carefully. Counsellors often need to talk through with someone else whatever situation they have just discussed with the visitor/caller.

        However, unless things have got completely mad, disaster counsellors would still require specific and regular training, normally forming a sitting army of sorts. Also, such people would not

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

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

      The story has nothing to do with disasters. Just volunteering.

      Visit volunteermatch.com and see how much IT help non-profits need. Its quite a bit. The alternative for a lot of non-profits is to pay a consulting firm 200 dollars and hour to boot up a Windows 2003 machine and setup a domain or setup a basic website.

  • Geek Corps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spuke4000 (587845) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:28PM (#30836998)
    Not exactly a good fit for one week, but Geek Corps [geekcorps.com] does this kind of thing.
  • by Ed Peepers (1051144) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:29PM (#30837040)
    I did a quick search and found http://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/index.html [onlinevolunteering.org] and http://www.volunteermatch.org/ [volunteermatch.org]. I haven't used either, so I'd be curious to know if somebody here has and what the experience was like.
  • by oldhack (1037484)
    Professional service is not suitable for short-term volunteering - better dig a ditch or something simple like that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      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.

  • it sounds... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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 [manavsadhna.org] in India, which operates out of the Gandhi Ashram in
    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> 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.

  • 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.
  • Get a tan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:39PM (#30837168) Homepage

    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.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200712/afghans [theatlantic.com]

    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."

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:40PM (#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.

  • by osgeek (239988) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:40PM (#30837182) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pikester (448955)

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

    • by ari_j (90255)

      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.

      I like the way you think. Or did you mean to add a 'd' in there? ;)

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:43PM (#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! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Neither of us has a problem with doing manual labor

    Come by my place.

  • 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 wil

  • 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 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 e

  • by Daley_G (1592515)
    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 networkin
  • I've done volunteer work through the RedCross. http://www.redcross.org/ [redcross.org] 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 a

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:02PM (#30837468) Homepage Journal

    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.

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

  • by astrix5 (1725884) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:05PM (#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.

  • 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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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.

      It was like that before the earthquake ... because they made a culture out of killing the guys whom build infrastructure ... bring a bullet proof vest and consider the trip a success if you make it home alive.

      Last week a team of ham radio guys tried to improve Haiti's commo infrastructure, so the Haitians shot and killed one of them, and the survivors retreated back to the D.R. Unless you believe the Klingon proverb of "today is a good day to die", stay out of Haiti.

  • 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 cisco.com... 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,

  • 1) http://www.taprootfoundation.org/ [taprootfoundation.org]

    2) ???

    3) profit!

  • "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.

    • 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 b

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

  • 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?

  • by AmElder (1385909) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:31PM (#30837948) Homepage

    The French have a word for this: it's called a 'congé solidaire' (holiday in solidarity?) which makes it easy to google. I believe the French government actually grants citizens the right to take time off to donate time to support economic development in select countries, so there's an entire mini-industry supporting this in France. If by some chance you speak French, you might try googling congé solidaire and see what comes up. I see Routard has a site [routard.com] about this kind of vacation. I know there are also Swedish companies that specialize in volunteer holidays abroad.

    English-language companies also exist that do this kind of thing. VSO [vso.org.uk] in England is a large organization that arranges volunteer work abroad for non-experts (I mean people who don't have local knowledge or an expertise in charitable work). Instead of looking for someone who specializes in working holidays, which may in some cases be more good intention than good works, try talking to a volunteer abroad organization. You will be far from the only ones asking about short stints. Maybe you can negotiate something with them. You might be able to use your skills or you might not, only someone who has more specific knowledge about volunteer abroad programs will be able to tell you. Keep in mind that there's often a sunk cost for sending out volunteers, which is why there's more demand for people willing to make longer-term commitments.

    I haven't heard of any companies that specifically cater to the technically inclined.

  • Volunteering sounds nice, but aren't you just doing for free what a local worker would get paid for?

    By the time you fly into a country, get yourselves settled into a hotel, cure your jetlag, get to the place you're volunteering and become familiar with the local practices, customs and ways of working your vacation will be over. That's even presuming you speak the language. What's worse is that by going to another country and donating your time you are effectively taking work OUT of the local economy, not

  • Short term professional services in any developing countries are pretty much worthless.

    Whatever you implement will be undone within days to weeks of leaving. You can't possibly teach the basics of whatever your professional abilities are in less than 6 months, otherwise a local expert could have been found.

    If your services can be of use within a short-term stay you are just taking jobs away from locals and not helping the country at all.

    If you want to help, some very basic things can be great for seriously
  • As mature adults, I think mentoring is a great way to use the skills you've acquired. Sure, you won't be doing computer networking, but you probably have a great understanding of math that you could use to help out a middle school kid who's struggling. Your wife's counseling skills would undoubtedly come in handy.

    My wife and I have been mentoring a young girl now for almost three years and she just told me yesterday she might be moving, so it's been on my mind all day. But the experience has been really

  • Crazy? (Score:3, Funny)

    by darkpixel2k (623900) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @09:44PM (#30841110) Homepage

    ...volunteer our professional services (I'm a network guy and my wife has a master's degree in counseling)

    You know...that might actually work. After I let some volunteer-for-a-week upgrade my network, I'm sure my boss will demand I have a shrink examine my brain...

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