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How Can Engineers and Geoscientists Volunteer Overseas?

volunteering in Keyna

Surveying the ground in Kenya to increase drilling success. Photo by Erin Ernst, 2016.

Have you ever wanted to volunteer on a project overseas? You've probably read about interesting engineering/geoscience projects and the people making a difference. But, it can be daunting to figure out how to take time off and make it happen.

Then, once you get the time off, where do you go and how do you ensure that the project you embark on will make a positive and sustaining impact?

Luckily, in the info-graphic and interviews below, I was able to compile a number of considerations you should make to plan a meaningful sabbatical. The info-graphic has been inspired by three interviews I conducted with Canadian engineer grads that have made a real difference overseas. You can read about their experience below the info-graphic.



How-To Volunteer Overseas

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Q & A With 3 Canadian Engineering Grads Who Made a Difference Overseas

Read the question and answer sessions below by pressing the "+" button.

3 Of My Takeaways From Interviewing The Volunteers

  1. Picking the right volunteer organization can improve your chances at a successful trip. Performing proper upfront research about the volunteering company will increase your chances at working on a project that has a sustainable and positive impact on the local community. The organization can also help you apply for grants, train you before leaving and ensure that you are working in a safe area. As we heard in Erin's case, if the situation becomes unsafe, a well-run outfit will have the experience and resources to quickly move you out of harm's way.
  2. You don't need to leave your home country to make a difference. There are likely dozens of community organizations in your city or town that are doing good work to support worthwhile causes. Consider making a difference in your community first. After helping a local organization, you may want to help an organization working abroad. Luckily, you'll find that nearly all of the organizations that operate overseas have local volunteers and staff planning, organizing and supporting the delivery of overseas projects.
  3. Happiness is not linked to consumption. As it was pointed out in both Brian and Kelsey's interviews, their experiences highlight the fact that you don't need a lot to be happy. On an overseas volunteer mission, you're likely to meet many happy people who don't have a lot. On the other end of the spectrum, you probably already know lots of unhappy people who have too much stuff. This may be best depicted by the fulfillment curve below.


the fulfillment curve

From Your Money or Your Life; Penguin Books, 2008


What lessons did you learn from this article or your own volunteering experience? Tell us in the comments below. 

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  1. Gavin Simone on March 14, 2017 at 10:15 am

    A special thank you to Kelsey, Erin and Brian for sharing their volunteering experience, lessons and recommendations.

  2. Nabil on March 17, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Nice subject and experiences to share, the valuable questions & answers had almost covered everything someone needs to know about overseas volunteering. Thanks.

  3. Beryl on March 18, 2017 at 3:34 am

    As an environmental major with a background in agriculture, I noticed a lot of oversea volunteer opportunities. Some of them even in famous tourist sites, like Tahiti. However, never come to my mind that people can volunteer while working in companies. Nice article, gave us all kinds of heads-up if you want to volunteer overseas.

  4. Saba on March 18, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Those really motivated to continue my volunteering journey. It’s really important to give back to the community and contribute to society, especially when we are given so much! Great article!

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