In most cases, relief organizations do not accept ad hoc volunteers in the midst of disaster response. It takes time for an organization to vet, train and incorporate volunteers into their organizations so that the volunteers can effectively and safely participate. Organizations generally prefer that you contact them between crises. However, a few organizations have been requesting volunteers for the current crisis.
Volunteer opportunities in Haiti
Volunteer opportunities are more prevalent during recovery operations, the long-term effort to restore a disaster-stricken area to normal functioning. The Red Cross and the International Medical Corps say they expect to need volunteers “down the road.” Interested volunteers should apply now with their local Red Cross chapter so they can be trained now.
Your chances of getting a volunteer assignment (or a paid one) increase with training in relevant disciplines. ReliefWeb keeps an ongoing list of training opportunities around the world.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: The Haiti Volunteer Network provides a place for relief organizations in Haiti to post requests for help and for volunteers to describe what they have to offer.
Project Hope is asking physical therapists and other health professionals to fill out an application for its database of available volunteers. (See also PAID OPPORTUNITIES.)
The Center for International Disaster Information keeps a database of disaster assistance offers, including offers of volunteer assistance. CIDI cautions that “volunteers without prior disaster relief experience are generally not selected for relief assignments,” and says candidates with fluency in the local language and/or needed technical expertise (such as medicine, communications logistics, or water/sanitation engineering) have the best chance of getting a volunteer assignment.
Volunteer opportunities close to home
Many more volunteer opportunities are available for support activities like updating websites and spreading news of the relief through social networking media. But, raising money for the relief effort remains the best way to help, organizations routinely say. Holding a fundraiser in your community, or attending one, can be enormously helpful to the relief effort. Check local newspapers, blogs and this website for information about fundraising events.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Help find missing persons. From the comfort of your computer, tag photos submitted from Haiti. The project is a joint effort of The Extraordinaries and Ushahidi.
Crisis Commons is a volunteer organization that offers a variety of ways to help, including remotely from your computer.
Paid Humanitarian Work
PAID OPPORTUNITIES: ReliefWeb lists current vacancies with humanitarian organizations in locations throughout the world. Recently, Handicap International (application) and CBM have posted vacancies for physical therapists and other medical specialties.