Ask Paywizard.org: Help me search for volunteering opportunities for a high-tech worker in Asia
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Question: I am at an age where I can look down the road about a decade and see retirement lurking. I want to be a volonteer (long term, i.e. make a multi-year commitment, not just be a two week voluntourist) somewhere in the developing world. The complicating factor is that the skills I have are pretty specialized, even obscure.
I am an IT person in a hospital. I run the PACS, a system that juggles all the different kinds of radiologic digital images created by all the devices that image your insides--the CAT scanners, MRI machines, Ultrasounds, etc. etc.--and stores them in a monster online archive, and delivers them to fancy hi-res viewing stations for the doctors to scratch their heads over. I know how to operate one of these thingies, how to fix it and how to put one together. (...) I imagine there are overseas universities and medical training institutes that could use an instructor with lots of digital radiography experience. I could help!
There are some prerequisites: there has to be *some* technology and *some* money--you can't build systems out of jute and copra. The country can't be totally undeveloped. The selfish constraint is that I would like to go somewhere in the Far East and experience a life and culture as different as possible from what I know. I'm good with languages and have plenty of time to become fluent in an Asian language. If I knew where I was headed I could start studying that language now, several years in advance. But where should I be heading?
First, let me tip my wizard hat to you! For you to be carefully and thoughtfully planning ahead toward retirement and identifying opportunities to use your many years of experience and specialized expertise in a new culture and potentially a new language, is both admirable and exciting. I am inspired just thinking about where your adventures and abilities might take you, and am only too pleased to help you think through next steps.
Understanding that you have the time to prepare and to find (or create) the right geographic locale and volunteer opportunity is very helpful in this situation. Let me suggest three different resources, which I hope you will find helpful. Each of these organizations and opportunities may well lead you to other resources and insightful individuals to further aid in your research and planning.
1. is a user-friendly search engine containing more than 58,000 nonprofit and community organizations in 165 countries, which you can browse by name, location, mission, etc. By searching for international volunteer opportunities, you will be able to find literally thousands of specific volunteer opportunities. You’ll also be able to begin developing some relationships with experienced individuals and organizations that will help you match your abilities and interests with the needs of various Asian countries, the structural/financial/technical constraints,and cultures you anticipate immersing yourself in. In addition to the search options available, you can also define what listings you’d like to receive by email from among the hundreds of job openings, volunteer opportunities, internships, events, and resources posted by organizations throughout the world. You can also design a volunteer opportunity for yourself by setting up a “Volunteer Profile” detailing your interests, skills, and schedule (which will then be searched by Idealist organizations).
2. The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange is an association of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the US international educational and cultural exchange community whose mission is “to formulate and promote public policies that support the growth and well-being of international exchange links between the people of the United States and other nations”. Their International Exchange Locator, a directory jointly published with the US Department of State, contains an extensive collection of information on international exchange organizations and programs. In the Locator, you can learn about US-based nonprofits engaged in international exchange programs and services, including addresses, websites and e-mails, phone/fax numbers, exchange programs, exchange services, financial assistance, domestic and international offices, who to contact for additional information, and more. You can also learn about exchanges offered throughout 37 Federal agencies, departments, and bureaus, as well as 51 Fulbright Binational Educational Foundations and Commissions. This rich resource may help you learn about specific opportunities or help you connect with others with extensive knowledge about countries’ resources, medical and technological infrastructure, and demand for abilities such as yours, not to mention experience with local cultures and languages.
3. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent international medical humanitarian organization working in more than 70 countries throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, and Europe. While their focus is on delivering emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care, their volunteers and networks include physicians, nurses, logisticians, water-and-sanitation experts, administrators, and other medical and non-medical professionals working along more than 22,500 locally hired staff to provide medical care. It’s likely that they will be knowledgeable about your abilities and may be able to help match your expertise with those onthe-ground to help with your future volunteerism.
I hope these are helpful leads. Please keep us updated on your adventures, and good luck!