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Carpenter wanting to help people get on their feet.

August 12, 2014
Q. G’day mate, how are you? I’m a carpenter and would love to help people get on their feet with shelters and rebuilds and what not, can you point me in the direction of a group that could take me on? It becomes unaffordable to always leave a paying job,
A. Hi Thomas – I’m well, thanks. 
So – as I understand your question, you’re a carpenter, in Australia, who would like to carpent internationally, helping people who need support building a home. The bad news is that I don’t think that there are a lot of opportunities to work as a carpenter internationally. I’ve never come across community that was afflicted by shelter needs who lacked the skills to assemble or build shelters. Construction (unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled) is a fundamental activity that pretty much every society has figured out. Shipping foreigners who don’t understand the local language, cultural, colloquial building practices, procurement norms, and traditional construction scams is not usually a good idea technically or from a financial perspective.
That said, a solid understanding of construction, contracting, and construction management is a great skill-set that a lot of international agencies need. International NGOs often get money to build thousands of shelters, and need to issue bids, analyze them, issue and monitor contracts etc, and people who can do that efficiently and effectively are in demand in most large INGOs.
Hope that helps!
2 Comments leave one →
  1. crockermark permalink
    September 22, 2014 12:40 pm

    snarky but true! i wonder though how many aid workers started with a volunteer gig somewhere? I know a lot of people who started that way. Over time, some of them also became great development experts … everyone starts out with a naive perspective and a lack of understanding. How should we encourage participation at the beginner level for people who are willing to serve?

  2. September 22, 2014 12:43 pm

    Mark – I try to constrain my snark, and was trying to be constructive in that response… It’s true- many of us started out just showing up without much to offer, and figuring it out. It’s a fine line to walk acknowledging that, and also not encouraging too much of that approach. Do you have any thoughts?

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