"I spend about half my time traveling." (Peter Yang)

Carpenter > Humanitarian Aid Worker

Jordan Davidoff, 37, New York City

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I worked on and off in construction for ten years. It’s hard work, and after a while you wonder if you can do it your whole life. I also wanted to be more socially involved and culturally influenced—to investigate places and people. I got my MFA in poetry in 2004 from New York University and looked for jobs at socially conscious journals, but nothing really worked out. A friend got a job with Doctors Without Borders, and I thought, If he can do this, maybe I can, too. What appealed to me was the intellectual aspect of doing good and saving lives. I applied online, got confirmed, and waited for an assignment. As a logistics supervisor, I oversee projects in Haiti, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Uganda. If you need a field clinic, I make contact with the local community, then get people there, build a shelter, get electricity, water, sanitation, HR. I spend about half my time traveling and am the go-between from the field to the technical department. We’re always reflective; there’s a constant critique of humanitarian and medical intervention. It’s the perfect conjunction of the experiences I’d had and the direction I wanted to go in.

HOW YOU CAN DO IT: Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups post opportunities on their ­websites. Another good resource is nonprofit hub Idealist.org, which lists thousands of jobs, internships, and volunteer positions as well as information on graduate-degree programs and careers in nonprofits. Field-position pay varies; with Doctors Without Borders, it starts at $1,400 per month.