There is a terrible Catch-22 for many charities today. Their ambitious and beneficial work requires contributions from highly skilled people, yet they lack the funds to hire such experts for the work.
Maybe this is where you come in. You're trying to find something meaningful to do, something that will allow you to use your special skills to help people in need. You've found that spooning out meals or just writing a check is helpful, but it doesn't really scratch your itch for making a difference.
Engineering is one of those fields that need help. While finding engineering jobs has always been fairly simple due to good staffing services in the industry, generating a means to connect qualified experts with the groups and charities who need them isn't as streamlined. So if your heart is telling you to give back, you probably need to take the initiative yourself and start exploring a few choices.
American Know-How In The Developing World
If you don't think American engineers are needed abroad, drop by an engineering class at any stateside university and scan the class. You are likely to see many different nationalities represented, a clear sign that our skills are needed elsewhere.
More: Jingle bells all the way
More: Jingle bells all the way
But since they have so many students here, shouldn't those folks be returning home, the degree in hand, to help on the home front? Many do, but many others make connections in the US that lead to careers here. As a result, developing nations experience brain drain in their best potential engineers, and they pay the price.
Think of the frequent disasters involving building collapses, massive structure fires, and earthquake damage that you see in third-world countries. The death and financial loss brought about in these incidents are exactly what these struggling nations do not need.
Think of how many places lack reliable, potable water access for citizens, despite a natural supply that could meet the needs.
The gap in both of those cases is engineering. And if you can make contact through the Peace Corps or any of dozens of international groups, you could make a contribution to improving those conditions.
Big-City Planning To Small-Town USA
There is a story widely circulating in social media about a water pumping station that's cleverly disguised as a brick home. It's a project that was undertaken to maintain the area's residential appearance while still providing quality municipal services.
Does every small town have access to that type of know-how? Probably not. So maybe a little city networking could help you in helping them.
Even if you live in a large city, you probably have connections to small towns. Where are your parents from? What about college friends? Whom do you know that could quickly link you to a small-town mayor or county commissioner?
Once you make contact, start the conversation organically. Many people don't know what they don't know. If you can discuss their situation from a problem-driven perspective--that is, ask them first what they think they need, or what they wish they could change you're more likely to root out something that could be a place for your contributions. Just keep your tone positive and helpful, not condescending and pitying.
Your skills are specialized and expensive. While it's a gratifying career to utilize them for those who are ready to write a check, it's also great to provide them gratis for those who have equal need but limited means.