A to Z guide of the world’s groups 'without borders'
You can easily work abroad, volunteer, or meet new people in a diversity of interests – dogs, entrepreneurs, knitting, mothers, soccer, teachers, theatre, technology, translators and more.
In today's world there are so many ways to get involved and go global – even via online from the comfort of your home – boosted by the rising trend of students, young professionals, highly-skilled workers and adventure-seekers alike seeking out opportunities abroad. Business executives, entrepeneurs and specialist professionals are equally pressed with the need to gain international experience in a globalised world.
To gain valuable experience abroad – whether for a short-term project or long-term residence – there are so many ways almost anybody can get involved in their local community, or take on a culturally empowering experience abroad. Even if you're just be looking to find new people in your local community, at home or abroad, you can meet like-minded people through these groups and clubs. With the wide array of industry, professional and hobby groups available, you can easily find a group that fits your profession, interest or desire to learn something new.
How to work or volunteer at home or abroad
For almost every profession, it seems, there’s a 'without borders' group. The initial goal wasn’t to devise an A to Z guide of the world’s 'without borders' groups and clubs; it was intended to only list a few online 'without borders' groups that weren’t as well known as Doctors without Borders, such as Bees without Borders and Geeks without Borders.
But once researching, you will find that almost any profession has a 'without borders' group; from A – accountants acupuncturists – to (almost) Z – wrestlers. X and Z need to represent, though. How about X-Ray Techs without Borders and Zoologists without Borders?
Here’s a good sampling of the world’s 'without borders' groups, what they do, and how you can get involved in working or volunteering abroad.
Accountants without Borders
Not entirely humanitarian in its aims, Accountants without Borders seems to be using the SEO juice of the 'without borders' lingo to advance its goals as an 'online recruitment agency for auditors, accountants and other finance professionals interested in working internationally…, [who either have experience working] in emerging economies or the desire and suitable character attributes for doing so'.
That being said AwB does state (in the next to the last of 25 FAQs) that it can connect volunteers to legitimate charitable organisations; it also offers discounted rates to charities for other services.
If you’re an accountant who would like to join the organisation, email Acc.Wout.B@gmail.com.
Acupuncturists without Borders
Now this is more like it. The mission of Acupuncturists without Borders is 'to foster the creation of stable, peaceful global communities through its community-based acupuncture services and training which interrupt the cycles of unresolved trauma'.
To that end, the group’s members offer their services in places around the world where entire communities have been affected by shared trauma; Haiti is a recent example. Not only has the organisation provided relief through acupuncture to survivors of the January earthquake, it has also begun providing training so that Haitians can perform basic acupuncture techniques themselves.
AwB has also provided acupuncture after other massive disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and California wildfires; it also facilitates a project especially to treat US service members returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to service, AwB membership offers the opportunity to participate in 'World Healing Exchange Programs'; one such program included a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, where trip participants could learn about indigenous healing techniques and provide acupuncture in community clinics.
Membership is subscription based; more information can be found on the members’ section of the site.
Agriculture without Borders
This independent NGO believes prosperous agriculture is achieved by open attitudes and communication between individuals and communities worldwide. To boost agricultural practices, AWB stimulates the exchange of expertise between people and communities of different cultures and religions all over the world.
They encourage many to get involved:
AWB has ambitious but achievable goals and everyone has an important role to play – including you. Whether you're a first-year student, retired professional or faculty member, you can join the global agri-movement to build a better world by becoming a partner, sponsor fundraising or attending an regional AWB event.
Core projects focus on working with organisations to pair successful farming operations with struggling ones so that practices and ideas and resources can be shared. Volunteers can also get involved at the group's events or in special projects.
Architects without Borders
Careful doing a Google search on this group; 'Architects without Borders' pulls up the bizarre and the spammy. Try 'Architecture Sans Frontieres' for the legit site, which has an English-language version.
Somewhat unlike many 'without borders' groups, Architects without Borders is an international network constituted of non-profit groups and participative organisations rather than individual members. Member organisations adhere to the principles of a 'common charter', which include objectives that articulate 'access to adequate and dignified habitat as a fundamental human right'.
Artists without Borders
Headquartered in Japan, Artists without Borders invites established and emerging artists in all creative genres to apply their skills toward the purpose of providing 'psychological relief to the victims of war in the form of art and/or entertainment'. The organisation has led projects in the Caucasus and East Timor.
If you’re an artist interested in joining this organisation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Astronomers without Borders
Elsewhere I’ve professed my love of scientists of all types; I believe they’re harnessing the power of technology for the common good in some creative, commendable ways. Astronomers without Borders is one really good example. Through its 'Online Observing Program', both pro and amateur astronomers can literally be borderless as an astrophysicist from Italy’s Virtual Telescope Project, which leads stargazing – via Internet.
This is just one of many programs and services offered by Astronomers without Borders, whose aim isn’t to haul telescopes out to traumatised people, but to find ways to share the sky with as many people as possible and across geographical, social, and political borders. 'One people, one sky' is the group’s motto.
AwB’s website is also one of the most inviting and user-friendly among 'without Borders' groups. You can connect with Facebook, grab the RSS feed of the organisation’s blog, or follow them on Twitter, all from the organisation’s landing page.
Bankers without Borders
“To help microfinance institutions, the Grameen Foundation itself, and our technology partners move people out of poverty. How? By utilizing private-sector resources—people who can contribute a few hours a week or a few months of their lives—to make a difference helping the poorest of the poor.”
Though Bankers without Borders does set up opportunities for members to volunteer abroad in non-acute situations (like its current opportunity to conduct a 'landscape analysis' in the Middle East and North Africa), one of the benefits of this organisation is that it also organises virtual assignments that are location-independent.
This organisation seems like a solid way for professionals in the finance and technology communities (notwithstanding, it’s not just for bankers) to contribute their skills in the microfinance sector, while building their professional network and gaining valuable ground level experience.
For information about becoming a member, visit the BwB 'Volunteer' page.
Basketball without Borders
The US National Basketball Association’s website for its Basketball without Borders is not easy for visitors to find information but unless you’re a pro NBA baller, you’re not likely to join this group.
The NBA formed BwB in 2001 to take basketball outside the US through summer camps, the purpose of which is to 'promote friendship, goodwill and education through sport'. For example, camps have been held in Singapore, Senegal, and Spain.
Bees without Borders
I met Bees without Borders founder Andrew Cote once at the Union Square Greenmarket; when he’s not abroad teaching people apiary skills so they can source and sell their own honey, he’s peddling his hives’ bounty in New York City. Andrew – a fourth generation beekeeper and former Fulbright Fellow – has led beekeeping workshops in Iraq, the Niger Delta, and southern India.
Bees without Borders is guided by four goals:
- Respond to every single request for assistance received, at the very least with useful information.
- Maintain a global network of beekeepers and linguists to help beekeepers make their craft more profitable.
- Help beekeepers understand and create new products and markets from their unused or underused resources.
- Use every dollar wisely. All funds are used pragmatically and for the betterment of beekeepers.
Even if you’re not a beekeeper, you can contact Bees without Borders; hosting a honey tasting sounds like a pretty sweet way to help.
Braille without Borders
The mission of Braille without Borders is to empower people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired to establish schools for other people who are blind or have visual impairments, especially in countries where children with eye diseases or disabilities have limited or no access to education. Branches of the organisation exist in China, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US.
The website is a bit cluttered, so if this organisation is of interest to you, you’ll need to have some patience while navigating for information about joining.
Builders without Borders
Builders without Borders sounds pretty generalist, as if anyone with construction skills could join; however, the members of this group share some fundamental philosophical and professional values about how construction should be done and what materials should be used. Specifically, members are 'ecological builders who advocate the use of straw, earth and other local, affordable materials in construction'.
Builders without Borders members organise and promote hands-on teaching workshops to pass along these building skills, as well as develop educational material and collaborate with partner organisations on actual construction projects.
To learn more about the organisation or to join, visit their site.
Chemists without Borders
Chemists without Borders is a group modeled on the traditional 'without Borders' template, which is to say that members respond to both acute and long-term crises by sharing their trade-specific skills and expertise in resource-poor areas. The organisation’s five core goals are 'providing affordable medicines and vaccines to those who need them most, supplying clean water in developing countries, facilitating sustainable energy technologies, supporting green chemistry education, and providing emergency disaster relief'.
Check the group's blog for up-to-date information.
Clowns without Borders
I profiled this group in an article last year; here are the highlights:
Clowns Without Borders was founded in Spain in 1993 by Tortell Poltrona, a professional clown who had been invited to perform at a refugee camp in Croatia. While clowning before an audience of more than 700 children, Poltrona had his 'Aha!' moment: he realised that laughter could be just as powerful and necessary a force as medical and food aid.
Today, Clowns Without Borders has branches in nine countries, including Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the US, and its members have performed in refugee camps in Europe, South and Central America, and Africa.
Designers without Borders
Founded in Uganda in 2001, Designers without Borders describes itself as a 'consortium of designers and design educators working to assist institutions of the developing world with their communication needs'. Volunteers 'provide instruction, consultation, and varieties of development advice and assistance in both community and educational environments'.
You can join as a professional or volunteer, or if you’re not interested in getting involved directly but like what DwB does, you can buy a t-shirt or ball cap, the proceeds of which support the organisation’s work.
Dogs without Borders
Plenty of dogs are available for adoption in the US, and Dogs without Borders actively seeks foster families for those pets. It also facilitates international adoptions with the assistance of volunteer travellers.
Like most 'without borders' groups, Dogs without Borders accepts donations and invites volunteers to apply to help out.
Engineers without Borders
In the eight years since it was founded, Engineers without Borders has grown to more than 12,000 members from 250 chapters, working on 350 projects in over 45 countries. Clean water, power, sanitation and education are the organisation’s priorities.
There are many ways to get involved – from hands-on volunteering to mentoring – and the organisation’s members come together to celebrate their work and share ideas in an annual conference.
Entrepreneurs without Borders
Entrepreneurs without Borders is a young group, having been founded just a few years ago. It’s also young in terms of its members; the organisation was started at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for the purpose of helping 'entrepreneurial-minded collegiate students to establish long-term relationships with disenfranchised people in other countries and work with them to solve problems they are facing'.
Recent projects have been in Croatia and Peru, and there were plans to expand to Scotland, Kenya, and India.
Though membership is limited to current students at UI, you can learn more about the organisation’s work and explore the idea of starting a spin-off chapter.
Ergonomists without Borders
Reading the mission of Ergonomists without Borders may not be exciting, but seeing how their work makes a difference on the ground is pretty interesting because it puts the importance of ergonomics into visual relief, especially in the area of manual labor. Check out the Ergo Exposure photo slideshow to see what I’m talking about.
If you want to get involved directly, review the organisation’s current needs.
Executives without Borders
Executives without Borders was founded with the goal of accelerating the accomplishment of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. EwB has been around since 2007, and has made significant advances toward its mission of helping fill gaps in developing countries that have historically outsourced business development and infrastructure projects to expensive consulting firms.
The website is pretty complete, with information about current and completed projects, as well as clear instructions for executives who want to get involved.
Gays without Borders
It’s hard to learn much about this group – and whether it’s even a 'group' at all – especially since the blog isn't always regularly updated. It seems, however, that when the blog was updated regularly, it was a useful resource for grassroots gay activists and supporters, providing information about legislation and other actions related to LGBT rights around the world.
It may be worth keeping an eye on this blog to see if it gets updated.
Geeks without Borders
What I love about Geeks without Borders is that in its quest to close the digital divide the organisation offers so many ways for both geeks and non-geeks or semi-geeks to support their work. For example, one of GwB's projects was to collect scientific calculators and some other equipment for an Indian reservation in North Carolina.
To learn more about the organisation and see whether you can get involved click Who We Are on the group’s website.
Geoscientists without Borders
This group has probably been busy in recent years, what with earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and tsunamis and landslides in a number of other countries. The purpose of Geoscientists without Borders is to 'affect positive change in communities facing environmental hardship and natural hazards' by connecting universities and industries with communities in need.
Individual geoscientists could once apply for grants by submitting proposals about projects that will apply their skills in the field. See what current opportunities are available for membership organisations and volunteers.
Homeopaths without Borders
HwB’s mission is to 'provide humanitarian aid, homeopathic treatment and education by serving as partners with communities in need'.
Check the homepage for more information.
Inventors without Borders
The Inventors without Borders’ homepage once featured inventor William Kamkwamba, an inventor in Malawi who hooked up his home and community with electricity by building a windmill from refuse. If you’ve never heard of Kamkwamba, check out his TED lecture, which you can find in this article.
Kamkwamba’s presence hints at IwB’s larger purpose, which is to foster young innovators to serve their own communities by hosting workshops, conferences, classes, and clubs.
The Facebook page hadn't been updated for a while at time of publication, so contact for more information.
Knitters without Borders
Its French name is more fun – Tricoteuses Sans Frontières – but in any language, this organisation founded by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee exists to bring knitters and non-knitters together to raise money for another 'without Borders' group, Doctors without Borders.
Knitted prizes are occasionally given away to people who take up Pearl-McPhee’s challenge.
For one week:
1. Each and every time you think about buying something, ask yourself if it is a need (food, water, shelter, medicine or safety) or a want. Be honest. Yarn is not (sob) necessary. Lattes are not necessary. A seventh pair of shoes? Fabulous pair of new jeans? Eating out? Could you skip a haircut? Search yourself and ask, do I need this, or would the money be better spent on someone whose life hangs in the balance?
2. At the end of the week, donate the amount of money that you didn’t need to MSF. There should be no reason why every single person who reads this can’t find at least a dollar.
If you can afford to knit, you can afford to donate.
Sounds interesting? Read more on the Knitters without Borders homepage.
Lawyers without Borders
The Lawyers without Borders has hit the decade milestone since its foundation, and exists 'to protect the integrity of legal process, serve the underserved, and promote the culture of pro bono service in the legal profession – all with a neutral orientation'.
Member lawyers provide technical and legal assistance both virtually and in the field, as well as conduct 'neutral observation of trials, conflict scenarios and detention facilities'.
Librarians without Borders
'Libraries have a fundamental role as defenders of intellectual freedom and providers of equal access to information' says this organisation, which is made up of 'socially-minded librarians' who are committed to help 'address [the] vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world' by building sustainable libraries and supporting librarians.
Those 'different regions of the world' include overlooked communities in the US and Canada; a recent LwB project involved working with the Kettle Point First Nation Reservation in Canada.
MBAs without Borders
MBAs without Borders offers an alternative to the postgrad leisure gap year by matching 'experienced MBA graduates with volunteer assignments overseas in emerging markets'. Assignments range from two weeks to 15 months, just enough time to dabble or enough to make some serious career decisions.
Mediators without Borders
With all the conflict wracking the world, a group like Mediators without Borders is desperately needed. Since 2006, members of this group have volunteered in high-conflict situations to help involved parties express, negotiate and resolve problems caused by perceived or actual differences.
Medics without Borders
Many 'without borders' groups respond to acute crises; Medics without Borders takes a preventive approach, focusing on nine areas of personal and public health: preventive medicine, safe motherhood, water purification and conservation, sanitation and waste management, environmental health, EMS and ambulance services, health education and literacy, awareness of medical errors, and the use of modern technology in health care.
MwB sponsors an 'Adopt a Clinic' program, and provides training and technical support to clinics and communities in Africa.
For more information, visit the organisation’s website.
Monks without Borders
Though its name suggests otherwise, the membership of Monks without Borders is not limited to monks. Instead, its members are 'teachers, healers, activists, advocates, and peace-loving people from all around the globe [who are, among other projects] improving spiritual literacy and interfaith cooperation by establishing a museum of world religions, with an interfaith monastery and experts on site'.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a spiritual or religious leader (or even a spiritual or religious person), you can support Monks without Borders by taking the Vow of Nonviolence:
Mothers without Borders
Mothers without Borders (which also welcomes fathers, and non-parents, too) was formed in response to the global orphan crisis. A variety of projects are spearheaded by this group, including a microfinance program, feeding projects and relief supply shipments.
Learn how you can help by visiting the organisation’s website.
Musicians without borders
Musicians without Borders uses 'the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war'. They work closely with local musicians and organisations to build sustainable projects in response to local needs. They have an interesting range of projects from a Mitrovica Rock School in Kosovo to bringing music back into the lives of women survivors in eastern Bosnia’s refugee camps.
Musicians without Borders is building a global network of musicians and music lovers who support their work with their time, energy, expertise and financial donations.
Naturopaths without Borders
The principles of Naturopaths without Borders are straightforward:
1. Health care is a human right for all, not a privilege for the few.
2. Everyone deserves the best health care, regardless of finances.
3. Naturopathic medicine is well-suited for resource-poor settings.
The organisation’s website is pretty basic, but if you’re a naturopath this seems like a committed, passionate group of folks to align yourself with.
Potters without Borders
The premise of a 'without borders' group for potters may seemed unclear at first, but this organisation has a definite place in the world’s 'without Borders' groups. Consider how many communities around the world depend on ceramics for building, water storage, and other aspects of daily living and local infrastructure and it all begins to make more sense.
Rabbis without Borders
Unlike the ultra-inclusive Monks without Borders, membership in Rabbis without Borders is, understandably, limited to rabbis. This group is new, and aims to 'nurture and develop a network of rabbis with a shared vision to make Jewish wisdom available to anyone looking to enrich his or her life'.
If you’re on a rabbinical path yourself, be sure to check out Rabbis without Borders’ fellowship program.
Reporters without Borders
One group on this list that is really doing important, effective work in the world is Reporters without Borders. The need for this organisation is so profound, particularly in light of journalist repression and retribution in certain countries.
RwB provides so many services to journalists and the general public: There’s the World Press Freedom Index that it compiles; the funding it provides to journalists and media professionals who are in danger; the practical advice it has compiled for journalists in danger and/or in exile; and the blog it maintains to keep the general public informed about freedom of press threats.
If you care the least bit about media freedom, please visit RwF’s website.
Researchers without Borders
Researchers without Borders’ tagline may be 'making the ivory tower a little less ivory' but the purpose of this group is to bring together academics from diverse institutions and fields to 'direct their efforts to solve shared problems, do collaborative research and development, and build productive working relationships and collaborations'.
If you’re in university, whether as a student or a faculty member, and are eager to make your work more applied, check out Researchers without Borders.
Scientists without Borders
Scientists without Borders is an Internet-based 'collaborative community dedicated to generating, sharing, and advancing innovative science and technology-based solutions to the world’s most pressing global development challenges'.
There's a clean functionality to the SwB website, which sorts opportunities to help solve problems by region or by country. You can also propose a project and invite other members to work with you on seeing it through.
Soccer without Borders
The purpose of Soccer without Borders is to share this sport in communities and among youth who have traditionally been excluded from sports and extracurricular activities. Though the organisation is based in Berkeley, California, it runs seven year-round programs in five countries on three continents.
If you’re a traveller and a soccer player, you can sign up to volunteer; an example includes SwB’s projects in Nicaragua. SwB also hosts a long-term (almost a year-long) internship program in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Uganda, as well as a short-term summer internship. Lots of opportunities to get involved here, so check out the website for more information.
Sociologists without Borders
Founded in Spain in 2001, the purpose of Sociologists without Borders is to promote equal rights, dignity, deep democracy, and solidarity for all people, primarily, it seems, through academic discourse.
Although a more applied element to this organisation’s work could help, action does often begin with conversation, and this group fosters cross-cultural communication.
Surfers without Borders
Like Soccer without Borders, Surfers without Borders unites athletics with activism, this time in the service of promoting environmental awareness and stewardship. The organisation has hosted a variety of projects and awareness activities, and you don’t always have to be an official member to participate in many of them, like beach clean-ups. Keep an eye on the organissation’s Facebook page for information.
Teachers without Borders
The primary goal of Teachers without Borders is to provide professional development opportunities for teachers around the world. The organisation hosts loads of free resources on its website, but taking the digital divide into consideration, it offers most of its services offline.
Membership is free and easy to set up; you can register using Facebook, LinkedIn, gmail, Yahoo, WordPress, Flickr, or one of a few other accounts you probably already have. By registering through one of these platforms, you’ll also be connected instantly to others in your network who might already be a member – or invite them to become a member.
Technology without Borders
The model of Technology without Borders is pretty smart, responding exactly to existing conditions in the world, rather than some projected ideal. TwB recognises that '[i]n most developing and post-conflict economies the supply of talented young programmers continues to grow faster than their countries own economies can support them. The result is that the most talented, having taught themselves key skills, lack an outlet for these skills, and in many cases leave their native countries seeking opportunities abroad'.
TwB tries to stem that brain drain by collaborating with groups on the ground to capacitate them through funding and tech support so that they can retain talented local technology experts.
Learn more on TwB’s website.
Theatre without Borders
Theatre without Borders is a virtual community that provides resources for dramatic artists around the world to connect online and share information and resources. It has no fundraising or grant-making arm; instead, it simply aims to bring people together so they can collaborate independently.
More information is available on the website.
Translators without Borders
Translators without Borders provides volunteer translation services to NGOs that have a humanitarian function and which are not affiliated with any political entity. Volunteers work on translating documents for groups like Doctors without Borders, so that these organisations can direct their funds to on-the-ground relief.
Volunteers need not commit to massive amounts of translation; even a few pages a year is a help, says the group. Keep in mind, though, that fluency in the target language is required, particularly as the documents to be translated are often medical, legal or technical in nature.
To find out if you’re eligible or to sign up, visit TwB’s website.
Veterinarians without Borders
Veterinarians without Borders addresses the crucial but often overlooked needs of animals in disaster situations, though it also works actively on problem prevention as well as stabilising world food supplies.
Membership is fee based.
Water without Borders
From South Dakota to Africa, and many points in between, Water without Borders works to ensure that the world’s water supply is both adequate and safe. Read more about the founding of the organisation, which is an inspiring story, and learn how you can get involved.
Wrestlers without Borders
Like Alpacas without Borders, Wrestlers without Borders is pretty niche, but it’s also really interesting. The organisation welcomes member organisations who have 'demonstrated a commitment to wrestlers of all ages, gender and orientation in a safe, non-elitist environment'.
The group actively supports the Gay Games; in fact, its history as an organisation can be traced back to the 1990 Gay Games. This group isn’t for everybody but it's doing good things.
Find more opportunities on Matador’s Volunteering Abroad Focus Page.
Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.
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