Where should we spend our volunteer time?
July 5, 2012 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I (both engineers) are looking to volunteer about 6 months of our time abroad. Where should we be looking?

My husband and I are looking for volunteer opportunities abroad (we are currently in the US), and are seeking your help!

Ideally, we'd like something lasting about 6 months, which means Peace Corps is out. We are both engineers (electrical & biomedical/mechanical) in our late 20s. We are also avid cyclists, and are pretty good bike mechanics. While we aren't set on using these skills necessarily, I thought I'd put it out there. I did come across mayapedal.org, which sounds like a fantastic fit but they are not currently looking for volunteers.

Among the places abroad, we are open to pretty much anywhere but are leaning toward India. Our parents were born there and we'd love to spend our volunteer time there. We'd like to start early 2013, if that's possible at this point.

Google produces overwhelming results, and it's hard to know who to trust. I have checked out Idealist.org, which also seems to produce overwhelming results, even when narrowed down to India. I did find the Bodhi Tree Educational Foundation, which sounds promising.

Also - the lower the cost, the better.

So, I'm here seeking advice and/or anecdotal experience. Specifically:

1. Are there any volunteer abroad opportunities you know of where we can utilize our engineering expertise, fitting the criteria above?

2. Do you have any anecdotal experience to share or ideas for volunteering in India for 6 months or so (in any area where help is needed)?

3. What about our bike mechanic expertise? Any organizations focused on helping people fix their bikes for transport?

4. What other websites or resources should we be looking into?

5. Are you at all familiar with the Bodhi Tree Educational Foundation? Any advice specifically for this program?

Any other advice, not focused on these questions, is more than welcome. We know that we want to spend our time doing some good, but really don't know where to start.

Thanks in advance!
posted by TessaGal to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at what Engineers without Borders are doing?

Do you have a regional preference or language familiarity with any particular part of India? There may be ways to narrow down searches then and make some recommendations.
posted by infini at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2012

posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: I would say no regional or language preference. We both speak Gujarati pretty well & I understand Hindi too.

Thanks for the links so far! Looking forward to hopefully some more!
posted by TessaGal at 10:41 AM on July 5, 2012

Do you want to see if there might be something via NID? Memail me for intro's
posted by infini at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2012

While there are many NGOs that would welcome your participation, here is one that might fit in with your background (not bike-related, though)


I will try to contact a few people I worked with before who are closely associated with social work and memail you.
posted by theobserver at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2012

Shrishti could always use engineering volunteers through the Honeybee network and the Shodh Yatras.
posted by infini at 12:07 PM on July 5, 2012

While the traditional two-year Peace Corps stint is out, Peace Corps Response is not. Response positions are for periods of 3-12 months, depending. It used to be only open to RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) but it was recently opened up to everyone. Some positions require that the volunteer be a former Peace Corps volunteer, others do not. It's worth a look!

PCVR positions also often require a more developed professional/technical background, which seems to fit with your engineering background.
posted by ekf at 6:07 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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