My Experience Working For an NGO & Why You Should Do It As Well.


If you have read my post about the reasons why you should volunteer as a student, you probably know by now that I have worked for quite a lot of non-profits in the past. It opened so many doors for me and would like to go a little bit more in depth into one of these experiences in the field of translation. I am French and have a bachelor’s degree (& a blog) in English, which makes translating quite natural for me but it is a field that is quite competitive. So in order to train myself, I decided to work for a non-profit. My fellow blogger Chloe from the blog Litandbits asked me to share more about this particular experience, so here we are!

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How It All Started & How I Got The Offer.


Flashback

First, a little flashback: since I turned 18, I more or less always worked. First, for a local newspaper, and then in many other fields. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been feeling so sad not to be able to volunteer. I work at a supermarket every weekend but there is something so fulfilling in investing time and energy into a non-profit structure.

NGO Mékong: the beginning of a beautiful adventure

On Linkedin, I came across a job offer from “Tous Bénévoles“. It is a group in France that offers volunteering positions in various fields such as writing and translating. I contacted a non-profit called NGO Mékong directly through the app, and here I were. The next day, I was already offered the position!

The association operates mainly in Laos and has already helped lots of families find jobs and lots of children access education. Their latest project consists of an aquaculture farm project. Basically, they want to initiate a project consisting in creating insect-based flour in order to feed fish living in the Mékong. This project has several purposes, here are some of these:

  • Making sure that fair treatment between men and women is respected.
  • Increasing sustainability.
  • Training local populations.
  • Having low environmental impact.
  • Bringing water to the village in which the project will take place.

The end goal of the project is to be totally taken over by the inhabitants of the village located in the Champassak province. That means that the project is not meant to belong to the association which created it but to be totally self-sufficient in the end.

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My Job as a translator.


My background in translation

I had already done quite a lot of translation work in my life, first on the blog, but also in school. Indeed, my bachelor’s degree was… English! Nonetheless, I had never done any “technical translation”, which means that I had never translated official documents for a company or an association. This type of translation, even though it does not have the same difficulties as a literary translation (style, rhythm &c.) has its own difficulties. The main one, in my eyes, has been finding the right vocabulary because, let’s be honest, I did not know all the words used in the documents even in my native French.

Translating for NGO Mékong

When I got contacted by the instigator of the project, he told me that I would have one week to translate a document that would go directly to the U.S. Embassy in Laos. I did not really know yet what stressed me the most: the deadline or the embassy!

However, there was really nothing to stress about: the project manager was really kind and understanding and the document even got translated in advance. In the end, I would say that the biggest difficulty was neither the deadline nor the embassy, but the limit number of words. The document required a specific number of words for each answer (it was a question/answer format) and that, oh that was HARD!

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What I have learnt & Why I would recommend the experience.


Getting experience in a new field, but stress-free.

Even the most stressful thing (translating a technical document in only one week for the U.S. Embassy) did not seem that hard because… it was volunteering! There is no stress when you volunteer, simply because you are not paid, you usually choose something you like and/or a cause you care about (if not, why volunteering?) and you do not have a boss watching you all the time.

If new jobs kind of scare you (which is totally fine!), you may find that trying that job through volunteering first is a great way not to stress when it will eventually be your full-time job.

Expanding your network.

Let’s be honest, if there is ONE very important thing when it comes to your professional life, it is having a strong network. What is it for? Basically, know that even someone you did not think could ever help you professionally can know someone who knows someone who knows the CEO of the company you would love to work at. It is that simple. When you are volunteering, you get to meet a lot of different people with very different backgrounds. Networking does not mean you create fake relationships, I would even say that the more genuine, the better. These real relationships you have with the people you have previously volunteered with (keep in mind that if you both volunteer, you have a giant common point in the very beginning) can end up giving you your dream-job five years from now.

Learning new things.

When you volunteer, you get to learn a lot of very useful and interesting things. First, you get to know people as we said previously and THAT is astonishingly valuable. Then, you get to know yourself better as you are giving everything you have to a cause you are 100% dedicated to. You are finally learning new methods (how to translate technical documents for instance) that you will be able to use later in your full-time job.

For all the reasons mentioned above, never think that volunteering is a loss of time because it does not make you immediate money. Eventually, it will make you a lot of money, but not in the traditional way. All the things you have learnt and people you have met will end up creating a path toward your dream-job, and that job will make you a lot more money than the jobs you could have accessed if you had not previously volunteered.


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  1. I volunteered for an NGO 3 years ago in India! I learnt a lot and that experience helped me build my network! It was a great experience so I relate to this post. Thanks for sharing!

    Feel free to read some of my blogs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that sounds like a very interesting job, thanks for sharing it! Like I said I was very curious about it hah. It’s great that you got to translate a document that went to the U.S. Embassy – that’s more impressive for your portfolio than most of the tasks interns have in paid jobs, which I suppose is another advantage of volunteering 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you, I am beyond happy that post was interesting to you. I would say that the main “problem” with most internships is that you can either choose a big firm and there, you do not have much responsibilities, or you can choose a small firm and have responsibilities but the “wow effect” will more or less vanish. The big firm gives you the “wow effect” on your resume, but the small firm gives you the skills. I may write a post about that as well, actually!
      The great side (one of the great sides) of volunteering is that you can volunteer for a big NGO (I know that the UNO is open to volunteering for translations &c. for instance) AND learn valuable skills.

      Once more, thanks for commenting,
      Camille

      Like

  3. Camille, thank you for sharing these experiences. Volunteering in general is such an emotionally rewarding experience for many. As you note, doing it with a purpose and a clear objective can also be professionally beneficial. I like that you mention the value of networking. I once read a comment from an executive in which he said that once you get to certain level in your profession, people already assume that you have a high level of expertise, so success becomes less about having technical competence and more about forming relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate you sharing that comment with us, I think it is so true! I never really paid attention to it that way but that makes perfect sense. And I think that is true no matter the field you work in. I will be releasing a post soon about the importance of networking and the “right way” to do it (the way that does not imply using people as if they were nothing more than a mean to an end) so if that is something you may be interested in, stay tuned!
      I would also be very happy to read your thoughts about networking in the future, maybe in a post. 🙂

      Take care,
      Camille ♡

      Liked by 1 person

    1. What is the name of your NGO? I worked for NGO Mékong, you can find a link to their website in the post. You just have to turn their website to English. 🙂 It was really interesting and, as I wrote in the post, it taught me a lot both in terms of skills and in terms of happiness.

      Like

    2. I worked in many ngo. I am telling you the name of two. One is Children international(Sahay). CI is based on Cansus city. And other ngo is Future hope India,where I have seen vols from almost all over the world use to come. Every year students from Duke university,USA come to this organization which work for street children.
      Some times pl visit my blog and give feedback . Your feedback is welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I am going to do my fair share of research about these NGOs! It must be very cool and fulfilling to have worked in several NGOs, we have so much to learn from all of them! I have had a look at your blog and will do it again in the future! Keep writing as you do and doing all of these research!

      Sincerely,
      Camille

      Liked by 1 person

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