Volunteer!


IMG_4150.jpgIMG_4199IMG_4208IMG_4317.jpgTrish dancing in JokibuSha'Una Dillard in SenegalNewborn ExamMary Jane Lavin and ChrisChris and MJ LavinMJ and Alpha on the ferryLisa Rohm and JittaLisa, Chris and Trish skitAmi BurnhamChrisChris and devilLisa Varnes Epstein and JittaLisa V-EEmily Kritzler in actionEmilyChris, Trish, Lisa, EmilyBuffy Price and KatumuBuffy and KatumuGretchen PeckGretchen and JittaCarol Nelson and FatmataCarol


MOMS has fabulous volunteers — skilled, knowledgable, positive, smart, and dedicated.  

Most people are curious about volunteering to teach in Sierra Leone, so the following focuses on that.  

We need board members, fund-raisers, speakers, researchers, networkers, and a social media guru.  These needs are just as real and important as the need for teachers!  Info for board members is near the bottom of the page. 

Volunteering for teaching trips.

First, what stops someone from volunteering? 

Two things:

A.  They have different priorities in one of four areas.

  1. This is not a midwife-training program for US students nor a way for western midwives to gain experience.  Our volunteers teach and must be qualified to teach. 

  2. This is not an adventure-vacation package, a romantic get-away, nor an opportunity to educate children in how the other half lives.  Volunteers work.  They can add time in-country at the beginning or end of our schedule.  They must not present themselves as part of MOMS during that time.  

  3. This is not a religious mission — MOMS is a humanitarian organization.  Volunteers teach about change agency and community health care.  Proselytizing is absolutely out of scope.  

  4. This is not a paying job.  Volunteers pay to do this work.  The donation requested does not cover the full cost of a volunteer.  Once the team is gathered in Sierra Leone, MOMS pays for transportation, lodging, and food from donated funds.  

B.  The trips are rough.

Sierra Leone has about 1000 miles of paved roads, few land-lines, no safe running water, fewer than 90 doctors, and little public electricity.  So, latrines are the norm, we treat all water, we carry flashlights, we are out of contact for weeks at a time, we must take malaria prophylaxis, and traveling 30 miles can take three hours — or longer.

Volunteers usually sleep in pairs on a queen bed under mosquito nets.  Bathing is from a bucket of cold water — which comes from a well with a hand pump.  Laundry is done by hand, and meals are prepared over a wood fire or on a camp stove.  

A trained cook prepares nutritious meals from locally available resources.  Volunteers eat what they are given; this ranges from groundnut stew to goat, with a detour into bush-meat.  We get lots of green leaves, like potato and cassava.  Tropical fruit is just outside the door in the dry season.  

We cannot ensure that you will be served food that you like!

Second, what motivates volunteers to join us?

They grab a rare chance to make a difference in an tough situation — and grow and learn about themselves and the world.  

  • MOMS' model works, so they know their effort is not wasted.  
  • As of 2014, the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone is the worst in the world — again, so the need is genuine.
  • The teams have a lot of fun.

What are the qualifications? 

Volunteers must be over 18.  

Volunteers must have the training, education, and/or credentials appropriate to the topics they teach.  

  • Our volunteers are teachers, community organizers, midwives, childbirth educators, doulas, EMTs, volunteers at women’s clinics, nurses, corporate trainers, doctors, and advocates for women.  
  • In some cases, volunteers are in a program, like a Master's in Public Health, that lets them use this experience as an internship.  

Volunteers must be good teachers.  

  • They must use training techniques other than lecture and memorization, like small group work, demonstrations, role plays, Socratic questioning, etc.  
  • They must establish respectful rapport with the learners.  
  • They must seek and accept consultation with other teachers, and admit it when they simply don’t know an answer.
  • They must follow the lesson plans.

Volunteers must be flexible, resilient, and cooperative.   They must have a sense of humor.

  • MOMS team leaders create Plans A, B, and C; then try to implement Plans Q or R.  This is sometimes a challenge!
  • Schedules can change daily.  Vehicles break down, meetings are canceled, supplies are waylaid.  
  • We've seen unnecessary deaths.  We've been in car accidents.  We've had malaria.  

Volunteers must meet basic logistical requirements.  They must...

  • have a valid passport and visa  
  • have the required vaccinations 
  • have a clean legal record
  • take malaria prophylaxis
  • contribute at least $3,000 to MOMS (via fundraising or on their own) for their airfare and support
  • support MOMS' philosophies and policies
  • follow the guidance of MOMS' Team Leader  

No volunteer may unduly risk her own health, the safety of the team, or MOMS' reputation.   

If you are interested, download the Volunteer Teacher Packet from this link.  This includes general information, the application, the waiver, and the To-Do and Packing Lists, all in one document.  

Study the information carefully.  Then complete and send the waiver and application to us.  We do need a signature so we can do the official background check.  This can be a digital signature.  Our mailing address is PO Box 1656, Gualala, CA  95445.  Email us by clicking here.

Board Membership

For more about becoming a member of our Board of Directors, feel free to contact us with all your questions.  You can read the website and download these documents:

We ask all volunteers, including Board Members, to read two books, A Book for Midwives and Helping Health Workers Learn; both are published by the Hesperian Foundation. The first provides good insight into the content of our courses, and the second represents much of our approach and philosophy.  

We also like board members to know what we are asking of teaching volunteers, so reading through that information can be very helpful.  

Feel free to email or call us with your questions, comments, concerns.  We’re glad to talk with you.  


 (C) 2011-2017 Midwives on Missions of Service