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Helping and volunteering in Syria

March 7, 2018
Q. Dear Nick,
How can i get involved with volunteering and helping in areas such as syria?
Thanks,
Elijah
A. Hi Elijah,
Thanks for the question. First off, thanks for noticing Syria – it’s the single biggest engine of human misery in the world, and should be front page news every single day. So thanks for paying attention.
So – to your question. I’m not sure where you live, and whether you’re talking about getting involved in supporting operations in a ‘donor country’, or whether you’re talking about traveling to ‘areas such as Syria’ to volunteer. Let’s deal with that second one briefly, and let me beg you not to do that. Syria, and other places like it are unstable and dangerous at best. There is a sorry litany of foreigners who have come to nasty ends in Syria and in the region. Agencies that operate in these areas don’t use volunteers because it’s difficult and often technical work to deliver aid in these contexts.
My advice, in general, about volunteering overseas is that, if you can’t arrange something through a mainstream agency, then going to an area that is a ‘staging area’ for the aid world can be a good option. As long as the area has good tourist infrastructure (which these places generally do – that’s why agencies stage there*) then you’re most likely to be at no more risk than if you were on vacation. While you’re there you can network and make yourself useful, and work at getting hired. Which leads me to:
Marketable skill – what are you envisioning doing? There’s no shortage of unskilled labor, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a proposal about how you will add value. Very often there is a role for native English speakers who can write well and translate raw assessment information into external communication material, reporting, or funding proposals, but you’ll have to work on you pitch in this area.
To be honest, my e-book addresses a lot of this in more detail – I would really recommend you pick up a copy here!
Good luck, and stay safe!
Nick
* Aid organizations don’t want to put their bureaucracy and logistics functions in the line of fire. Procurement, logistics, finance, HR etc will generally be located in the nearest stable place to a disaster or conflict.
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