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16 year old with no skills?

June 12, 2015

Q. Hi Nick,

I want to volunteer in aid work. I’m a 16 year old Canadian with no skills, just an able body. Is this possible?


A. Hi Peter,

First off – I want to recognize your desire to help, and salute that as a noble thing. I don’t want to sound negative, but as you know, when someone says that they don’t want to sound a certain way, it’s because they are about to do just that!

There are two main issues here – the first is that you are a young man with ‘no skills’ – I’m afraid the developing world is not short of that particular commodity. In fact, you probably lack the basic skills of getting by in culture and speaking the local language that your counterparts in other countries do have, plus nobody will have to pay to ship them overseas and support them there. So my short answer is that this isn’t much demand for unskilled volunteers.

Secondly though, the question presupposes that there is a lot of unskilled work to be undertaken, which I don’t really think is the case. Development and relief work is a sophisticated and skilled undertaking, with potential serious downside risks. In few other professions would someone say that while they have no skills they want to have a go.

So – my advice is this – go to college, get some skills, travel and work a little overseas and see if you’re serious about a career in this line of work.

Good luck!


One Comment leave one →
  1. June 19, 2015 11:19 pm

    Hey, Peter!
    I totally agree with Nick but maybe I can offer a couple concrete Canadian groups to help start the journey.
    1) before college – Habitat for Humanity – I have had many friends join their short term overseas programs (with school or your parents until you are 18) and loved it. It’s a relatively risk free way to explore development
    2) In college – There is a strong community of Enactus groups in Canadian colleges. While they do not explicitly focus on international development, their passion for social entrepreneurship and youth leadership building makes them great experience…I’ve seen Enactus on a number of successful applicants with the international aid organization I work with.

    Good luck on your journey…if you can dream it, you can do it!!

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