We all want to do some good in this world, leave it at least a little bit better off than we found it, and, ideally, it would be nice if we could do that while exploring the far-flung corners of the globe. Of course, there’s the problem. We all want to do it, but very few people even know where to start looking for international charity jobs, let alone whether we’ll fit the criteria to take them.

Fortunately, here are a few tips to get you started.

Are You Up To It?

This is the sort of thing that will sound amazing in theory, but once you get right down to it, is this actually what you want to be doing? You’re going to be leaving behind your friends, family and probably most of your favourite breakfast cereals.

What’s more, charities aren’t famous for sending their people to places where everything is fine. It’s entirely possible you’re going to be feeling homesick while working under incredibly harsh conditions and dealing with some really unpleasant problems.

Before you even start applying you need to think about whether you’re psychologically ready for that. The truth is, you’ll never know for certain how well you’ll cope with it until you’re there, but it’s definitely something you need to think about.

If you currently have a job in the UK it’s worth talking to them about the option of taking a sabbatical (where they keep your job open for you when you return). Most employers will specify you can do paid work while on your career break, but they may make an exception if you’re planning to work for a charity.

One Option: The Red Cross

If you’ve put even the slightest thought into ever working for a charity abroad, or if you’ve ever actually seen the news, you don’t need me to tell you who the Red Cross are. With roots going back to Geneva in 1863, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement has made a name for itself assisting people through the very worst crises in some of the most troubled parts of the world.

The Red Cross often recruit experienced professionals, who they call “delegates” to take on a huge variety of roles. These include construction, finance, water and sanitation, programme management, medical staff and more.

They have contracts that can last anything from a month to over two years, with some positions allowing delegates to bring their family along with them, always depending on the circumstances of their role.

The Red Cross keeps a register of professionals with skills they can use, which you can sign up for by applying online. If they need you they will invite you to come to their UK office in central London for a selection day, after which the Red Cross will check your references and put you through an enhanced CRB check to ensure you’re on the level. This will get you into an induction course for delegates, and once you’ve completed that course, you will be considered for future positions that the Red Cross needs filling.

Another Option: VSO

Perhaps the leading independent international development organisation on the planet, VSO uses its volunteers to combat poverty in developing countries all over the world. Their approach is to bring people together so that they are able to share skills, improve their own capabilities and improve understanding across international boundaries.

One area they are particularly keen to invest in is education, which is absolutely crucial in empowering people in developing countries. Ethiopia is a country they’re focusing on at the moment. In the last twelve years they’ve gone from having only two universities in the country to almost thirty, creating a huge demand for trained teachers. If you’ve got the necessary educational experience this is an ideal opportunity.

Shop around, and be aware that the majority of the positions you find will any be able to cover your expenses, with much of this work being volunteer work. However, where ever you go, you will find that the biggest rewards of these jobs are the experiences you gain, not how much they pay you.

Chris Farnell is a freelancer writer interested specialising in recruitment, including international charity jobs.


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