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Transitioning from home design to relief work

February 3, 2016

Q. Hi Nick,
First off love your blog here. And I am going to find your book to buy. Second, I’m a 33 y/o former Chef and now currently design homes. Doing any sort of international volunteering, aid/humanitarian work has always been something I have wanted to do. Granted I am more of a boots on the ground grunt labour type of man I would like to think that my experiences with handling food, food management (ie storage/preserving) and structure design could be a possible asset for certain regions. Is there a non-profit or any type of organization you could recommend that someone like myself could start with to get the experience needed? Even if it were something as simple as helping to build schools and homes.
Thank you in advance,

A. Hi Jordan,

Thanks for the feedback! So – I don’t know where you live, but I’m assuming it’s the UK or US. My first observation is that most development or humanitarian situations are not in need of ‘grunt labor’. There isn’t ever a shortage of people to do the hard manual work. International staff need to bring some kind of expertise that isn’t available locally. That’s usually in the project management area, or in some kind of technical specialty.

My advice if you’re really interested in this as a career is to look at the transferable skills that you have in that area, and then start to build your professional network and experience overseas. There really aren’t a lot of organizations that will help you get the experience that you need, bar the usual suspects of the Peace Corps or VSO – you need to figure that out in a more entrepreneurial way I’m afraid.

One thing I would suggest is that you consider whether you might be able to scratch this itch domestically. The design / food management skill set might be much more valuable to domestic non-profits than international ones?

Let us know how you do,



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