Archive for the ‘volunteering’ Tag

Quote of the Day: In Honor of MLK and the National Day of Service

I thought that this quote was particularly important to consider on this day of service. Action is and will be crucial going forward to make the world a better place for everyone. I believe that the great danger of our time is not a hot button issue such as global warming, global health or the economic crisis. The real enemy is indifference. I hope that today’s day of service becomes a wake up call that prompts people to be engaged and get involved.

“The global economy is giving more of our own people and billions around the world the chance to work and live and raise their families with dignity… But the forces of integration that have created these good opportunities also make us more subject to global forces of destruction — to terrorism, organized crime and narco trafficking, the spread of deadly weapons and disease, the degradation of the global environment. The expansion of trade hasn’t fully closed the gap between those of us who live on the cutting edge of the global economy and the billions around the world who live on the knife’s edge of survival. This global gap requires more than compassion; it requires action. Global poverty is a powder keg that could be ignited by our indifference.”

— President Bill Clinton’s Farewell Speech


Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

My experiences this past year were as much about learning about challenges in global health as realizing how poverty compounds and exacerbates global health issues. The most important lesson I have learned is that nothing occurs in isolation. It will take a lot more than money to help eliminate poverty; focusing exclusively on economic development ignores many of the issues such as global health that contribute to the entrenched nature of poverty in communities worldwide. Participating in Blog Action Day seems an appropriate bookend to a year of volunteering abroad as an opportunity for your involvement.

Reading Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power really opened my eyes to the need to approach global health from the perspective of the poorest of the poor, reinforcing what I saw in my daily experiences. It’s hard to talk about reproductive rights when women do not have access to their own sources of income to assert those rights. It is hard to reduce childhood mortality due to preventable diseases such as malaria and waterborne diseases when families can not pay for access to clean water and bednets. When a mother can not afford to buy milk, encouraging adherence to HIV treatment seems like a pointless task.

Huge global problems such as global poverty remain invisible to many and seem daunting to those aware of the tremendous human impact. There is no quick fix to the problem of global poverty, but you can and should act now. It’s never too late to start and there is always something that you can do. The most important thing is to do something positive; inaction is truly the worst action to take. So speak up, stand up, show up, pay up…whatever it is that will contribute to the end of poverty.

– Learn more about global poverty issues from the ONE Campaign.

– Donate to the Blog Action Day-supported organizations: The Global Fund (via and Kiva.

– Look around in your community for volunteering opportunities to fight poverty. and Volunteer Match are good resources to begin your search.

– Use the web to connect to organizations abroad to offer your experience and time. NABUUR and UN Online Volunteering offer good starting points.

Gen Y and global health: Not a match made in heaven

What would you think if a job that you were interested in asked you to work for free for at least six months to a year before even considering applying? And not only work for free, but also work abroad? Would you jump at the opportunity?

This is a basic expectation of most entry level jobs in global health and the entry level jobs that expensive to obtain experience qualifies you for are far from challenging and substantive. Here is an excerpt of responsibilities from a large nonprofit organization that works in global health (portions are redacted that are specific to the organization.)

“• Assist in preparation, review, and editing of reports, scopes of work, papers, manuals and presentations;
• Schedule and coordinate meetings and prepare necessary meeting materials;
• Maintain organization of electronic and paper files;
• Assist with tracking and submission of all project deliverables on two key projects;
• Work with travel agent to coordinate travel logistics for site visits and meetings;
• Assist in preparation of consulting agreements, purchase orders, and/or sub-contracts.”

Global health is definitely one industry where Gen Y has not changed the way the workplace functions. There is a high barrier to entry for recent college graduates who can not afford to pay for their volunteer experience abroad neither during college internships nor after graduation. Unpaid internships are the norm rather than outliers. Global health is an industry where supply outstrips demand, partly due to the advent of high profile organizations such as the Gates Foundations and the Clinton Foundation.

Even when you finally enter the workplace, finding a challenging position is very much about paying dues. Entry level jobs consist almost entirely of administrative work. Management hierarchy and approaches to management are heavily influence by government practices due to the overlap of both personnel and the funding from agencies such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These same management practices certainly play a role in the declining interest in government careers.

Millenials generally have two paths to receiving a promotion: work in the mindnumbingly dull entry level job for 2 years or go to graduate school. Promotion is heavily based on seniority of tenure and/or credentials rather than talent and expertise. I would love to spare myself from spending thousands of dollars, however it is not really an option. My decision to live abroad was prompted as much by personal reasons as career considerations.

The future of this field depends on the injection of new ideas and perspectives that Gen Y has to ability and desire to deliver.  I wonder when and if the powers that will be willing to accept and welcome them.

Is mandatory service an oxymoron?

During the last week, I have worked on tweaking my project include more community involvement. While talking with my boss, one of the ideas that I proposed was working with students from the national university in La Plata through internship opportunities at the clinic. There is clearly an academic interest for a partnership between the university and the clinic as they are a variety of disciplines that could have something to contribute. The first concern that I had about such a partnership is the the university would compel students to participate as a requirement rather then an opportunity that they could pursue. Continue reading


I know that rejection is a fact of life. You can’t always get what you want. Yes I stole that from the Rolling Stones. But there are some things in life that you think are given. Free refills (if you are from the South), wearing flip flops around Christmas time (again if you are from the South…or California), and Google’s strange ability to ubiquitously helpful. And until a few days ago, I thought that volunteering belonged in that category. Until I received this email.

Dear Ms.Mason,

Thank you for completing the UNV application. Given that the minimum age to serve abroad as a UNV volunteer is 25, we are unable to offer you an assignment. We encourage you to reapply at a later stage and in the meantime to check our links to other organizations that promote or are linked to volunteering at

If you wish to engage in sustainable human development activities via the Internet, join UNV’s Online volunteering service at

You may also wish to visit the WorldVolunteerWeb at to obtain a wealth of information on volunteerism worldwide. To be informed about volunteer news, events and organizations, subscribe to the newsletter at

With our best wishes for success in your endeavours,

UN Volunteers
At the Service of Peace and Development

At the service of peace and development. Now, I could understand if I was rejected for something related to a skill. But simply because I am not 25? Since when did the UN start practicing age discrimination? I thought that was reserved for American rental car companies. Apparently I was wrong. It seems that youthful goodwill is not accepted in service of peace and development.