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Is This Project for Me?

How you determine if a project is right for you depends on your skills and interests. You may be looking at established projects that have an application procedure. Or you may be registered with organizations who contact you when they have a technical development project that suits your skills. But either way, at some point you'll need to answer the question of whether the project suits you ... and vice-versa.

The key is to be realistic. An archeological dig may sound romantic, but brushing dirt off rocks hour after hour, day after day becomes drudgery unless you have a keen interest in archeology. Working on a technical assistance project can be very rewarding, but it is work. If you really have “vacation” in the back of your mind, you will resent the workload.

Established Programs

Craig Murphy in Kenya   Go M.A.D. photo

There are no tricks to evaluating an established project or program. Field organizations are typically very careful not to “oversell” their projects. They would much rather lose potential volunteers and advisors than have an unhappy situation on-site.

All that is required is that you realistically absorb what they are telling you. Cold water showers mean just that. (Take one at home and see if it changes your perspective). If they emphasize packing insect repellent, there is a reason.

To get more information and background on a project, ask the organization if you can contact a prior volunteer or advisor who participated in a similar project. Also, consult our Country Guide to get a feel for what conditions might be like.

Individual Projects

If you register with organizations that use skilled advisors for technical assistance projects, evaluating a project can be a challenge. The opportunity to do such projects pop up sporadically, and you may have a short period to accept or pass on the project.

Read the project description thoroughly. It may have extensive information on the background of the companies involved, but the information on the project itself is often brief. Highlight it and read it over several times.

Can I Do the Job?

Honestly assess whether you have the skills and desire to do the project. You may need to filter out some cumbersome descriptions. “Guide the technical deployment of a global communication infrastructure” might mean “Help them get their E-Mail set up.”

If you need clarification, talk to the project coordinator, recruiter, or even the in-country staff of the field organization. But don't expect them to be experts in the details of a technical project. While they can tell you about the company and give you a feel for the project, you can help explain and simplify the project description for them. If your background is not appropriate for the project, you can outline the qualifications of a good advisor, and maybe suggest some good candidates.

You Want Me to go Where?

The village of Sam, India

Before accepting a project, take the time to read thoroughly the Country Guide for the country where your project is located. But keep in mind two things:

  • The area where your project is located may not be representative of the country as a whole, and
  • Your standard of living may be very different from the locals.

One approach is to compare the standard of living and conditions for a country with a place you have visited. Just compare the two countries side-by-side to get a feel for the relative standard of living. A good rough measure of overall standard of living is the GDP - per capita number. However, comparing lots of information side-by-side will give you a feel for conditions in the country.

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Site Version 1.75 - Last updated December 20, 2006
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