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How to get paid to work in disaster relief with a BA in English (or programs teaching abroad)
June 5, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I would like to find would in disaster relief so I may travel and begin to pay off my student loans for my new BA in English. I'm also interested in teaching English abroad and have been trying to find programs in both of these fields, so if anyone has information on anything where one can travel, doesn't matter how terrible the pay just as long as there is one, again, I'm in debt.

I want to work in disaster relief for a spell. I'm currently applying to join the Americorp program and have been recommended to check out the red cross and FEMA. Unfortunately, those organizations are searching for indivuduals with experience in the medical field, and I just received my BA in English with a concentration with Rhetoric and global studies.

I have looked into the peacecore, fullbright scholarship as well as several programs that teach abroad such as the JET program, the TALK program, the CIFE program, however the odds are very much against anyone's favor of getting a position. If anyone has any information on similar programs, I would highly appreciate any information.

I'd like to travel around a bit and would love the oppurtunity to help people for a while as well while paying off some student loans, however the posibilities are less then wide and plenty.

If anyone has any information, I would HIGHLY appreciate it.
posted by Nighthawk3729 to Work & Money (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know a couple of people who do this (e.g., one guy traveled to Haiti with the Red Cross after the quake). They really don't need English grads, they need trained medical professionals. If this is the route you want to go, I'd suggest getting certified as an EMT (which is the basis on which this friend of a friend travels).

I'd also note that it's not "traveling around a bit"--it is strictly getting lifted into a disaster zone, working amid incredible human suffering for 22 hours a day in substandard conditions and with incredible frustrations, and then being sent home after five weeks. The guy I know who does it is also, coincidentally, from a wealthy family; I'm not sure he actually gets paid. It's certainly not going to help with your student loans much.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This really depends on how much debt you are in and what kind of debt it is, i.e. federal or private.

If you just graduated, you probably have a six month grace period before your loans will come due. With federal loans, your deferment options are better than with private loans.

I say this because it's going to be hard to work in International Development of any kind at this stage while trying to pay your loan installments.

Americorp or peacecorp can qualify you for federal deferment - and sometimes even a small amount of repayment - but they won't pay you enough to make actual payments on your loans, more than likely.

Otherwise, most people I know who have done work in disaster relief have done so on their own dime. With an English degree, it will be tough to get a job with Mercycorps or the like - not impossible, just tough.

I recommend getting a different sort of job, saving for a few years, paying back some debt, then taking some time off with your savings and go somewhere and help out.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2012


I had the fortune to help side by side with Americorp members after a flood hit my school in Binghamton. I came down one night about 2AM since my school was shut down and wound up walking around among the displaced and my heart went out to the them. The next day I showed up to volunteer and kept going back.

That being said, I want to help, and if there is anyway in hell I can start paying off my student loans, that would be amazing, that is what I need, heck, at least I would get support from my family if it did.

I just want to start getting involved in another state, 5 weeks is a great amount of time. Whether it's in disaster releif or teaching, just something that gets me moving around. I forgot mention I have been applying for to become a foreign service worker for the past two years, unfortunately, they usually only take people around the age of 30 and have, "are considering leaving their first or second career", while and I'm 24 and fresh out of college.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:05 PM on June 5, 2012


They are federal.

The peacecorp takes 2 years and rarely take people without EXTREMELY excellent service records. I myself have tutored ESL students for two years and TA'd once. The competition has lead service programs and provide stiff competition.

I am out of school now, with a little bit of debt and willing to take a job anywhere but my hometown, I want to get out there and travel. It seems teaching is the way to go.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2012


I would suggest focusing on teaching English - it is more compatible with your current skillset, there are a lot more paying jobs and you are less likely to kill someone. JET is one such government sponsored program in Japan. China is also a hot spot now. These sorts of positions should pay well enough that if you don't drink all your earnings you should be able to pay down your loans.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2012


WorldTeach, if you can make it work financially? Lots of WorldTeach folks go right from that into the Peace Corps.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2012


I don't plan on drinking it away.

I know about the JET program, do you know of any programs in China? I know that both China and South Korea are hotspots right now, but I can't just walk in the door and expect a job, I'm hoping to secure a job before I drop a few thousand on a plane ticket and walk into a country I don't know the language to.

At this point in time, I'm attempting to get any job I can to get some money together for a plane ticket and a few months rent if thats what it comes down to, but just showing up and hoping for a job is a terrible plan in my book, though a handful of people have suggested it.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2012


If I were you I would concentrate on the Americorps and on the possibility of teaching ESL. Americorps has a lot of different types of jobs and I'm sure some of them are applicable to you. Teaching ESL in the right country can be very lucrative (i.e. South Korea or the United Arab Emirates), though to get those jobs you will probably need a CELTA certificate which'll take a month and a couple thousand to acquire. I know a couple people who paid off big college loans pretty quickly that way. (It is hard work.)

Also check out Teach for America.
posted by feets at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2012


I have looked into the peacecore, fullbright scholarship as well as several programs that teach abroad such as the JET program, the TALK program, the CIFE program, however the odds are very much against anyone's favor of getting a position.

Then you should probably apply to all of them to maximize your chances of getting in to at least one, and focus on doing things that would make you more competitive for them in one to three years, LIKE getting certified as an EMT or medical assistant, and working at non-development related jobs for a few months (like construction or food service or temping) while getting ahead on your loans and saving enough money to abroad for a few months. Repeat until you have enough experience to be competitive.

Have you gotten the Red Cross DRHS training yet?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2012


My partner spent a year teaching in South Korea with EPIK - which is the program that recruits co-teachers for public schools around the country. He used Footprints, which does recruiting for EPIK (however there are other companies out there, he used this one on the recommendation of a friend who used them before). The korean school year starts up in August, but recruit year round for some areas. Great option if you are looking to pay off some loans while travelling, my partner paid off ~10 000 in school debt and had enough to travel around Japan for 3 weeks at the end.
posted by snowysoul at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Applying to join the AmeriCorps program" is pretty vague. Ignore this if you already have a good handle on Americorps bureaucracy but lots of people thinking about Americorps don't so it might help someone else who stumbles upon this question. Americorps has three branches-- NCCC; State and National (hands-on direct service); and Vista (usually more behind-the-scenes service focusing on poverty alleviation).

So, if you're interested in Americorps and disaster relief the first option would be to look for a specific program or position focusing on disaster relief which would probably be through State and National. You can look on the AmeriCorps site for this but their search function in my experience is not the best and these positions will be listed elsewhere, like idealist.org or on individual organization webpages if you poke around.

The other option that seems perfect for you is NCCC. NCCC programs travel around a region of the US (you choose the region I think) and one of their focuses is disaster response and preparedness. They also have a program through FEMA that focuses specifically on disaster preparedness/relief.

Americorps benefits in your situation would be: a) being able to pay down ~5,000 of your loans at the end through the ed award b) gain experience in disaster relief c) travel.
posted by geegollygosh at 1:12 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some programs exist for forgiveness of a certain amount of student loan debt, but they're pretty specific: Federal Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation--if you can get hired as a full-time teacher on an Indian reservation or in a low-income area (you don't have to have a teaching credential, but it certainly helps.)
posted by Ideefixe at 1:37 PM on June 5, 2012


"If this is the route you want to go, I'd suggest getting certified as an EMT (which is the basis on which this friend of a friend travels). "

As an experienced Firefighter/EMT and long time Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer, this is not the case. They won't even look at most people (unless you're well connected) that haven't been on disaster deployments before. They do seem to accept pretty much any RN though, even those with zero disaster experience. Your chances as a new EMT are somewhere close to "none." There is a whole lot that goes along with it, and the school & certification are just the beginning.
posted by drstein at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Take an ESL job in Korea, China, or elsewhere (here, or here) to gain experience living abroad, as well as language skills, which are both pretty critical to obtain any sort of decent disaster relief job (or even volunteer position). No organization is going to fly you out to some random, falling apart country without knowing you're ready to handle it, let alone have practical skills to help (more than the locals, whom are much cheaper to hire, know much more about the culture, region, and language that you, and need the money much, much more). Plus, many ESL jobs pay pretty well (most decent positions start at $2000 plus airfare and housing).

In the meantime, continue to volunteer with local outreach, or local NGO offices. Even mundane fundraising or clerical support shows your commitment to the cause, and can often get you an "in" when they need urgent help abroad.
posted by hasna at 6:14 PM on June 5, 2012


The peacecorp takes 2 years and rarely take people without EXTREMELY excellent service records.

Yes, it is a two-year commitment; don't apply if that is too long for you. I'm not sure what you mean by "EXTREMELY excellent service records," but the Peace Corps (you'll do better on your application if you get the spelling correct...) accepts gazillions of recently graduated college students with pretty pedestrian resumes. There's a Q and A thread on Reddit from a current PC recruiter who breaks out the numbers and needed skills pretty clearly, and what she is saying matches the experiences of the people I know who have applied and been accepted within the last couple of years.

All that said, the money is better and the paperwork a lot less if you go the TEFL route. There have been a bunch of previous AskMes with answers from people with current experience; some searching should give you those links. The Americorps volunteers I meet have had some pretty mixed experiences; I think it really depends on the specific program you are in and on the exact volunteer placement you get. Living on a small volunteer stipend is a lot more fun (and honestly more luxurious) in the developing world, which probably explains part of their unhappiness.
posted by Forktine at 7:43 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks to everyone who replied.

@Snarl - I thought it went without saying that I'm applying to all of them, so to correct that, I'm applying to all of them.

@feets - Thank you, I have already applied for Teach for America this year.
As far as working in the United Arab Emirates, do you know of any particular program? It is nice to know that people want to be taught, but I cannot just walk into a country without a job in mind, and just saying that there is work is of no use to me. I don't mean to sound harsh, but everyone keeps talking about the abundance of jobs, BUT THAT'S IT. In that, there is nothing for me to actually work with, I already know there is work, but I need to get hooked up with someone that can actually get me hired.

EMT people? I don't want to become an EMT, my brother was them, I want to get involved as soon as possible, but in any other capacity while being sent to another area.

@Snowy - Thank you.

@gee golly gosh - Thank you.

@Ideefix - I'll check it out.

@Drstein - I don't want to be an EMT, but thank you.

@hasna - Not sure what "starts at $2000" means, you mean a month?
Also, no ESL job pays pretty well from what I understand, I just need something to save a bit of money, I'm not looking to live an extravagant lifestyle, but I do want to pay my loans, travel and see if I like teaching.

@Forktime - No, I mean it takes two years to get in. As for the mixed experience, are you saying the people who went into the programs in developing countries were better or worse off?
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 10:03 PM on June 5, 2012


No, I mean it takes two years to get in. As for the mixed experience, are you saying the people who went into the programs in developing countries were better or worse off?

As the thread I linked on Reddit describes, about a year from application to leaving is pretty normal. I've known people who flew through much faster, and I've known a couple of people whose processes took more like a year and a half or longer due to complicated medical clearances, but a year is a pretty safe guess.

By "mixed experiences," I mean that some of the Americorps volunteers I meet are having amazing and fulfilling experiences, and some of them are hating it. Someone above broke out the different Americorps programs; locally, there appear to be big variations in the volunteer placements and supervision. I think overall it's a good program, just kind of mixed at the bottom level, that's all. If you are flexible and can roll with pretty much any situation, you'll probably do fine.

(You could say exactly the same thing about the Peace Corps, but the difference there is that even if your job is totally crappy you are still getting paid to live in another country. I think it's a lot harder to put up with a shitty situation when there's no adventure involved.)

Here is a MeTa link about a Reddit IAMA about TEFL work by Meatbomb, in case that doesn't show up in your searching of old AskMes.

Lastly, no one (Peace Corps, Red Cross, etc) is going to pay you to do "disaster relief" with no skills and no experience. The Red Cross will give you training and use you as a short term volunteer within the US; the Peace Corps will give you a development job like teaching ESL or doing community development work, because they pretty much don't do disaster relief. Check out the job requirements in the listings at a place like devex to get a sense of what is required for the sexier, better-paid disaster relief jobs, and to see what you might qualify for.
posted by Forktine at 2:59 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another one to try: Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
posted by tgrundke at 4:51 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember your previous question on this topic. You have a number of requirements and preferences and I think the key to finding a good answer for you is to clarify them. Correct me if I'm wrong, you want: So, let's take teaching English in Korea as an example and compare it with the four points above. Teaching ESL in the right country can be very lucrative (i.e. South Korea or the United Arab Emirates), though to get those jobs you will probably need a CELTA certificate which'll take a month and a couple thousand to acquire.

That is not the case in South Korea. I'm very much in favour of new teachers getting the CELTA, but the majority of employers in the ROK haven't even heard about it and don't care about it.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but everyone keeps talking about the abundance of jobs, BUT THAT'S IT. In that, there is nothing for me to actually work with, I already know there is work, but I need to get hooked up with someone that can actually get me hired.

I don't mean to sound harsh either, but just about any combination of relevant search terms you can think of will lead you to information about and job adverts for English teaching jobs. Hasna linked to some recruitment boards. I'm unclear what additional 'hooking up' you require.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:45 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here is the book that will answer most of your questions: Work Your Way Around the World: The Globetrotters Bible, by Susan Griffith. If someone wrote a book to answer your specific question about how to work overseas with no "practical" skills, then this would be it. And here is a good review of it, from the always interesting Cool Tools blog. Because the book is updated with the most current information, here is a situation where you really need to seek out the most recent edition-- either buy it, make sure the library has the latest copy, or just go read it in the store if you have to.

There is a lot of good advice here in this thread, especially from Busy Old Fool, so I won't repeat what others have said, except to say that now is the part where you start to go do the work of finding these jobs. There is no magic hookup. You have to make this happen for yourself. Good luck!
posted by seasparrow at 6:44 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


@seasparrow

Thanks for the book, I'll check it out. As far as the work is concerned, I have spent alot of time finding the programs I have and sifting through databases, but I first had to ask people where the databases were and if they knew any programs. As much as people say that there are jobs available, there is a system in place to find the jobs that is much more efficient, programs that accept people, such as the JET program, the TALK program, the EPIK program, Americorps seperate branches as well as the peace corp.

This is still in fact the work of finding the jobs, I'm nowhere from done finding work. Anyone who has posted that, "there is work there" I'm thank you for the good wishes, but that is all they are, there is no substance to them other then a tip of a the hat and "next question please". Several people have posted invaluable information alreadly, but I do thank everyone for trying to narrow down an answer, as hard as my thank you sounds :P.

@busy old fool - all good questions.

First, ROK?

I guess to sum it up, I have two goals in mind that I am happy to do. The heart of it is leaving my current area. Teaching in a foreign country fills this out nicely, and I' m thinking about teaching for a living, so this is a good test run. As for disaster relief, this is something I'd love to get involved in.

It seems, hook up, has come under fire here. A program is required for these jobs. As I mention with the JET program, the EPIK program, etc. Even then, the danger is finding a scam program, they are out there, such as the plethora of programs in Mexico that constantly have people breaking their contracts to get out of shitty conditions.

And many people have hooked me up to these programs, given me a heads up on them and certified their validity, such as the head of the Romance languages dept. at Binghamton University whom gave a stamp of approval on TA positions in Madrid, certified government work as well as the CIEE program, although she was hesitant due to the high cost of the program.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2012


Oh, does anyone know how I would get a job working at for the United Arab Emirates? I have no idea where I would start with that one.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2012


For example, the Latinos In Action project is one program that I'm applying for right now through Americorp, this is something specific I can hand to some, just like tgrundke suggested the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) or gee golly gosh suggested that program through FEMA.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2012


ESL jobs don't all (or even mostly) operate as "programs." Most of them place classified ads which individuals respond to just like any other kind of job. You can find many of these ads on a website called "Dave's ESL Cafe." Many of these jobs will require you to have ESL teaching certification, which will cost you maybe $1500 and a month to get. (In Europe and some other places the most popular cerification is called the CELTA, so you might look into that.) The ESL certification program you take may assist you with job placement, even providing interviews with recruiters from various countries at the end. But in any case, there are jobs all over the world -- including in the UAE -- which you can seek and apply for remotely via ads on Dave's ESL Cafe and other ESL job boards. That's what I was referring to when I said "there is work there."
posted by feets at 2:00 PM on June 13, 2012


True, but I'd feel much more comfortable going through a program, I've heard of people getting stuck in jobs that are not worth it they found on their own, the bonus of needing nothing more then a bachelor's is enticing as well.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 6:20 PM on June 13, 2012


Also, I don't have $1500. Personally, I've never heard of a worth while program with in class training for under $2000. Heck, I've generally heard of programs in the range of $3000, but again, no money, so I'm starting work on Monday.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2012


A program is required for these jobs.

As feets points out, that's absolutely not the case. It may be your requirement to go through a program, but the vast majority of English teaching happens outside programs.

I'd feel much more comfortable going through a program, I've heard of people getting stuck in jobs that are not worth it they found on their own,

Programs are not immune from buyer's remorse, as Forktine's comments demonstrate. However, there is probably more of a minimum standard with them, so I appreciate your concern, especially since your limited funds would make it harder to walk away from a bad job. You should be aware that this dramatically cuts down your opportunities, of course, especially since some programs involve an upfront cost which you're currently unable to pay.

So, you now have 'reputable programs only' as another requirement/preference to add to the list. As I said, I think you're more likely to get useful answers if you can list specific, prioritised requirements, because it's clear from a lot of the answers here that people are not sure whether your priority is earning money or working in disaster relief or being on a reliable program etc. For example, you have said you want "to save a bit of money", but you also said "doesn't matter how terrible the pay" so it's understandable that some of the suggestions you're getting don't meet your requirements.

Anyone who has posted that, "there is work there" I'm thank you for the good wishes, but that is all they are, there is no substance to them other then a tip of a the hat and "next question please".

This is not a fair characterisation of people who have taken time to freely offer you help. I just looked through the answers and I can't see a single one which simply says "there is work". There are a dozen or so links. There are names of specific programs and job sites. There is advice about the practicality of working in disaster relief, a key part of your question. You have recently clarified that you're only interested in organised programs, which makes some of the answers irrelevant, but that's not the fault of the people who posted them in good faith trying to help you.

I guess to sum it up, I have two goals in mind that I am happy to do. The heart of it is leaving my current area. Teaching in a foreign country fills this out nicely, and I' m thinking about teaching for a living, so this is a good test run. As for disaster relief, this is something I'd love to get involved in.

OK, that makes sense. In general, teaching is probably a lot easier to get involved in than overseas disaster relief, although there are some development projects linked above that might be more appropriate for you. I don't know a lot about that area, though. If you want to teach in the future, obviously teaching has another benefit there.

But again, beyond those two goals, you've mentioned paying off debts, you've talked about upfront costs, you only want to be on a program... as I said before you need to decide what's essential and what's a preference in order to get the best from AskMe. As it is, you've had a lot of answers which pointed you at resources that aren't useful because the posters didn't know all of your requirements.

ROK?

Republic of Korea.

Oh, does anyone know how I would get a job working at for the United Arab Emirates? I have no idea where I would start with that one.

I know people who have jobs there, but I don't know about programs there.

Also, I don't have $1500. Personally, I've never heard of a worth while program with in class training for under $2000. Heck, I've generally heard of programs in the range of $3000, but again, no money, so I'm starting work on Monday.

The $1500 figure that feets gave is the (rough) cost of a CELTA, generally agreed to be the most widely-accepted entry-level qualification teaching for teaching English as a foreign language. However, it's a qualification for people who want to find jobs teaching English, it's not a program.

Good luck with your new job.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:44 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


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