I recently learned about Archivists without Borders (via Twitter, where else!) and that got me thinking about the many organizations working “beyond borders” to bring needed services to people around the world, wherever they live.
In this season of Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to recognize and thank the people who volunteer in other countries, often in challenging and downright risky conditions. To the people who join these organizations, this kind of work is more than a volunteer vacation, it is their calling.
Cultural Heritage without Borders, AiP’s project partner at the Babameto House in Albania, is an international relief organization working to promote peace, recovery and development through the preservation of cultural heritage. CHwB believes that working with cultural heritage can help vulnerable groups recover their sense of dignity and empowerment, which in turn can increase the possibilities for reconciliation and the fight against poverty.
Archivists without Borders (AwB) is a Barcelona-based non-profit organization inspired by the principles of identity, memory, right to information and defense of human rights that are inherent elements in archivists’ daily work. AwB volunteers collaborate on projects in the field of archival science and documentary heritage. They also provide training for archival professionals from countries that find if difficult if not impossible to develop their own training programs due to lack of resources or other political or social reasons.
Engineers without Borders is a term used by groups in a number of different countries, but their focus is the same: using engineering solutions to support international development. A new umbrella organization, EWB-International has formed, though many country chapters are not affiliated. Engineers without Borders projects use a lot of students, providing the chance for young engineers to gain practical project experience while helping others. (This will be a familiar tune to long-time AiP supporters!)
The granddaddy of them all is Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). MSF provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in more than 70 countries. I first learned about MSF when I was living in Croatia and working on projects in Bosnia and met some of their dedicated volunteers. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the magnitude of their operations. I am now an ardent supporter and donor.
In addition to implementing projects, these groups all advocate for their cause, for the rights of people around the world to have access to decent health services, to live within a strong and safe infrastructure, and to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions. They also rely on volunteers to share their expertise and to those volunteers, I would like to say “thank you”.