Avocation And Vocation With A Career In Disaster Relief

With a recession apparently still closing places of employment at record numbers, unconventional careers are increasing in popularity. More and more people, many but not all baby boomers, are seeking to utilize their professional skills in the service of a cause they believe in.

The Wall Street Journal reports on one woman's journey from Big Four corporate accountant to coordinator of relief efforts following natural disasters like the Fargo, N.D. floods that have not yet completely receded. Claire Bonilla applied for position managing software and teams that direct relief efforts. She thought that the combination of professional skills and a passionate cause would be a good fit for her. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she said "I'm a philanthropist by nature - I've always been involved in volunteering, reaching out and helping communities - the outcome [of my efforts] is measured in lives saved and people being helped and that is incredibly rewarding."

People are finding many ways to support themselves through work that helps others cope with natural and humanitarian disasters.

More people are breaking into new fields by volunteering - and opportunities abound. Work to build up U.S. communities and provide homes is constantly going on, and volunteers are always needed. Habitat for Humanity and other organizations run programs that volunteers can sign up for. Grass roots efforts are leveraging the web to publicize volunteer opportunities at a smaller and more person-to-person level. Reconstruction in Katrina continues unabated. One local effort is recruiting volunteers in Waveland, Mississippi where ten houses are under construction and skilled tradespersons are needed.

Disaster Relief, or Emergency Management as some call it, is becoming an attractive career. The Center for International Disaster Information speculates that the "field of humanitarian assistance may become a formal profession with well-defined career paths." It advises anyone considering this area to think about how flexible they are and how important their personal time and space is. Remembering that the work is usually practiced away from one's home community, interested parties also should consider - the authors say - the impact this career is likely to have on family and friends.

One place to start a career in this area is with the US Government. FEMA has careers in emergency management. These are opportunities to use conventional skills in an unconventional manner.

Disaster relief career opportunities also exist overseas, attractive for those seeking additional adventure. ReliefWeb is an information broker web site concerned with the humanitarian relief community. Its job listing page shows over a thousand vacancies in places like Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe. Jobs in Human Resources, Healthcare, Finance, Logistics and other fields offer the opportunity to develop cross-cultural communication skills, and practice global relations within a chosen field.

To get started - whether volunteering or job hunting - one needs to identify disaster relief organizations and select appropriate ones with which to initiate contact. Lists can easily be found online such as one on the Special Libraries Association web site. You can find more agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on the The Disaster Center web site.

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