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Fancy volunteering for the UN - from home?

When I was exploring ways to fill my days last year – before I plucked up the gumption to launch this blog – I spent some time investigating volunteering opportunities and ways I can make a difference with the most flexibility.

Village in Malawi, Africa. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

One option stood out for me – online volunteering through the United Nations. As someone who once had aspirations of being the Secretary General of the UN, doing a bit of work online from the comfort of my home would have to do, for the time being.

The beauty of this international volunteering portal is that there is something for everyone. Connecting real people with a range of experience, skills and time capacity, just like you and me, with real people in need all over the world.

The website describes its purpose as "connecting volunteers with organizations working for sustainable human development”. With the focus on development work, volunteers contribute their expertise and skills online to help overcome a number of challenges faced by developing countries.

There are a number of organisations that advertise tasks and roles they need filling, and you can pick and choose according to your skill set and time commitment. Organisations advertising on the website range from grassroots organisations, international NGOs, local government, education institutions to United Nations agencies.

To find the right opportunity as a volunteer, you can search by task, development topic or region. Examples of task categories include writing and editing, design, project management, consulting, IT development and co-ordination and facilitation. Development topics include education, environment, health, gender, food and agriculture, and youth. Regions are global – spanning from Arab states, Eastern Europe to Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

So what types of work can you really do? Examples I found in my search include:

  • working with volunteers in Tanzania and worldwide to add data to an online map of Tanzania to map villages, schools and health centres. This will allow better delivery and monitoring of health services to local communities;

  • teaching English via Skype to children in West Bengal;

  • daily review of political, development and economic issues in Spain and submitting key issues to the entity that manages external relations for the United Nations Development Program;

  • designing and updating the website for the Swedish Organisation for Global Health;

  • graphic designer required to develop the layout of an annual report for the World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre); and

  • various tasks requiring language translation.

Villager showing off their new water pump in Malawi, Africa. Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

All the work is done for free of course, but the job satisfaction must rate pretty high if you’ve helped an African charity connect local communities with better access to healthcare. Admittedly I haven’t yet given my time to a not-for-profit or UN agency in this way, as writing took over – but it is something I will definitely re-visit when baby #3 is here and settled.

So if you are interested in using your writing, marketing, design or similar skills to better the lives of people in need take a look at You will also find tips and resources for online volunteering.

The site’s very existence and reach across sectors, skill sets and countries impressed me hugely and made me realise we all have so much to offer from the comfort of our own home – just by getting online. Have a look – you won’t be disappointed, and will hopefully be inspired to give back a little.

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