Business Professionals Forced to Wait Longer for Peace Corps Assignments

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the very tight funnel through which Peace Corps sends all applicants, for increasingly fewer Volunteer spots around the world. (It’s complicated — you might want to read that post.)

I wrote about the plight of generalists —the well-educated applicants who can learn to do different assignments well, but aren’t specialists in any fields currently requested by Peace Corps host countries — whose application numbers far exceed the number of open generalist Volunteer positions due to recent budget woes.

This past Monday, when next year’s Volunteer positions opened up for nomination, the problem wasn’t for the generalists. Most generalist openings have been delayed a couple more weeks.

The people who got shut out of Peace Corps this time around were the business professionals, in some cases people with 30 years of business experience. Peace Corps’s two assignments that require a background in business include:

  • Business Advising — requiring either a Bachelors in a business-related discipline, or a high school diploma and four years of business management experience. These Volunteers help people in their communities plan and Continue reading

Why It’s Wrong to Assume that All Service Participants are Young

How branding national service as an opportunity only for young people does more harm to the movement than good.

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

While many service corps do have upper age limits — City Year, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Public Allies, and many other team-based programs — most programs do not have an upper age limit.

In fact, several programs specifically recruit professionalsExperience Corps, Atlas Corps, CUSO-VSO (the Canadian VSO), Volunteers for Prosperity, and United Nations Volunteers just to name a few. Others like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps*VISTA recruit almost entirely college graduates because of the skill required in carrying out service.

And yet when people speak of service they almost always describe it as an opportunity for young people to give back, receive scholarship money, develop leadership skills, and go an an adventure before settling down with a real job.

What difference does it make if most people think of national or international service as a pursuit for the young?

Here are some reasons:


If we assume only young people will enlist in a citizen service corps, we won’t recruit new corps members as creatively Continue reading

Diaspora Volunteering

Diaspora volunteering connects Diaspora communities with their countries of origin through strategic volunteer placements.

Many people in Diaspora communities have a passion for helping their communities back home, and Diaspora volunteering is one of many ways they can help. Sometimes Diaspora volunteering can also counter the effects of out-migration of skilled workers and bring entrepreneurial energy to isolated communities.

The Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO, the U.K. counterpart to Peace Corps) is one international volunteer-sending group that offers Diaspora placements for long-term, stipended assignments. For example, VSO Canada—which accepts U.S. citizens—works with partners to match the skills of Canada’s Diaspora communities with the needs of “under-resourced social development sectors in their countries of heritage. VSO Canada (now called CUSO-VSO) works with people of the Guyanese, Filipino, and Ethiopian Diasporas.

African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) partners with VSO in the United Kingdom to harness the knowledge and skills of the African Diaspora to nurture small and medium-sized businesses in Africa through its Supporting Entrepreneurs and Enterprise Development in Africa (SEEDA) Initiative. (Other ways for members of the African Diaspora to contribute to the development of African countries: Project Diaspora, supporting members of the African Diaspora to support African nations through remittances. specializes in remittances to Zimbabwe.)

Indicorps is a fellowship program that recruits young professionals of the global Indian Diaspora to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, to serve for one or two years with a grassroots organization. The program aims to nurture social conscious leaders “to transform India and the world.”

People of the Jewish Diaspora have many opportunities through which to volunteer with communities in Israel. Some places to start are the Jewish Coalition for Service, and also the National Council for Volunteering in Israel which lists volunteer opportunities for residents and non-residents of Israel.

Do you know of other international volunteer-sending organizations that focus on Diaspora volunteering? We’d love to hear!

Today, the first 2009 Global Volunteering Fair takes place in Washington, DC, at Google. Check out other fairs this week in New York and Boston. In honor of the fairs, The New Service blog will feature international service programs all week!

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: :: post to facebook

The Service Gap Year at Mid-Career

The New York Times highlights stories of people who take a year to do something outside the norm for their careers.

Traditionally, the gap year is a break from academia for recent high school grads, to get a year of work or service experience before going onto college. Sometimes kids go overseas for the year. Countless structured opportunities exist; or they can cobble together something on their own.

But what about gap years for older adults? As the NYT article suggests, taking an unpaid leave from a job at mid-career can have some unexpected benefits; it also outlines some of the financial considerations.

Here are some service opportunities that include professionals as corps members or fellows:

AmeriCorps*VISTA recruits college grads, including people at mid-career, to work in community-based organizations, agencies, and schools to end poverty. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) participants build the capacity of their organizations. Read more on this blog post. Many other domestic service programs are open to people of all ages; check out the list of Corps and Coalitions on the right-hand sidebar.

Atlas Corps — also known as a two-way Peace Corps — brings rising professionals from NGOs in the Global South to the United States to serve for a year; U.S. professionals find opportunities to serve at NGOs in Colombia, India, and soon, elsewhere. Fellows must have 3-8 years of experience in the citizen sector of their home country — to check your own eligibility, check out this list of questions.

Peace Corps has a reputation for taking idealistic 21 year olds abroad to serve in mud huts, but consider the facts: the average age of Volunteers is 27, and five percent of Volunteers are over age 50! Many projects require experience, and the mud hut life is not universal. For mid-career professionals with children, note that you can’t take them with you, so best wait till they have flown the coop. Also Peace Corps assignments are two years long.

U.N. Volunteers mobilizes volunteers and integrates them into development projects in their home countries and abroad. The minimum age of a U.N. Volunteer is 26, while the average age is 37 with five to seven years of work experience. (I’ve linked to the Wikipedia article because the official site won’t open for me.)

Volunteers for Prosperity is a U.S. agency that invites “highly-skilled American professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, economists, computer specialists, financial sector professionals, business executives and others with specialized technical expertise and significant practical experience” to volunteer with a long list of VfP partner agencies.

VSO Canada is an international development agency that sends skilled Canadian and U.S. professionals abroad for long-term volunteer assignments that last between seven months and two years. Highly experienced professionals can enlist in shorter-term stints (3-6 months). VSO Canada is now known as CUSO-VSO.

Mid-career professionals must take into account mortgage and car payments, children, and other considerations that young adults on a gap year simply don’t have. If you can afford a year off, the rewards can reverberate throughout the rest of your career through a refreshed perspective, more objective decision-making, and new networks.

Do you know of other service programs that recruit professionals? I’d love to hear about them!

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook