As Need for Aid Soars, Nonprofit Recruits International Humanitarian Volunteers

Thomas Brown

Team Rubicon opens its first 2023 application period for those seeking to volunteer abroad.

After doubling in four years, the number of people expected to need humanitarian aid in 2023 is now projected to reach historic levels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Global Humanitarian Overview, a record 339 million people will need assistance and protection this year, up from the 274 million people in need at the beginning of 2022. 

The next opportunity to become an international humanitarian volunteer who serves those people comes on January 16 when disaster response and humanitarian aid organization Team Rubicon opens applications to join its cohort of global responders. 

Founded following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Team Rubicon has conducted more than 1,100 operations domestically and internationally. While the majority of Team Rubicon’s 150,000 volunteers, known as Greyshirts, serve domestically—responding to everything from flooding in Kentucky and the Pacific Northwest to Hurricane Ian—a small but increasingly significant number also serve overseas on international operations. In 2022 alone, Greyshirts served on three medical aid operations in Ukraine, as well as on medical missions in Honduras and Guatemala. 

The application is the start of a multi-step vetting process that includes submission of a resume and cover letter, virtual and in-person interviews, a background check, and selection by a committee. Skills needed for international humanitarian volunteer opportunities are very specific, nearly always relating to emergency medical care and demanding highly-specialized training and experience. Preference is given to multilingual applicants and to those with experience leading small teams or managing volunteers, especially in an overseas and/or NGO context. The application process culminates with an invitation to Team Rubicon’s bi-annual International Training and Selection Course, or ITSC.

“The application process is probably more challenging than most job interviews,” says Team Rubicon’s Deputy Director of International Field Leadership and Training, John Nonnemaker. 

Man looks in boy's mouth
A volunteer provides medical care to a child in Guatemala. Photo by Chris Council.

Candidates chosen for ITSC spend a week in the California mountains learning about the unique environment that is international disaster response and role playing real-life scenarios. Rigorous, intimate, educational, and at times stressful, ITSC is designed not only to prepare candidates to lead medical aid and disaster response missions overseas but also to test their abilities to fill all international leadership roles. During the week, ITSC participants will be trained in multiple aspects of Team Rubicon international service programs, including water, sanitation, and hygiene—or WASH. And, they will be assessed for the ability to work closely with other team members in a simulated environment while adhering to Team Rubicon policies and humanitarian principles and for essential soft skills such as diplomacy and cultural fluency.

“Multicultural competence is a must,” says Team Rubicon’s Deputy Medical Director, Dr. Erica Nelson. “We need people with empathy and grace to provide appropriate care in the local context of the community we are serving.”

Not all who make it to ITSC pass. Since the course’s launch in 2022, just 72% of candidates who attended have passed and been vetted for international humanitarian volunteer work with Team Rubicon. 

Man carrying stretcher.
Applicants for the international team carry a stretcher during ITSC. Photo by Jamie Brown.

“It’s supposed to be difficult,” says Nonnemaker, “ITSC tests your competence in all our leadership roles while simultaneously challenging your ability to rapidly respond and adapt to quickly changing conditions in a foreign environment. This is not your average Greyshirt experience.” 

Applications for those seeking international humanitarian volunteer opportunities with Team Rubicon will be accepted from January 13 to January 30, 2023.

How to Apply for International Volunteer Work With Team Rubicon

Apply Now

To be a successful Team Rubicon international volunteer, you must thrive in ambiguity and be able to live in environments without access to electricity or running water. You’ll be making a much-needed and immediate impact. Learn more about applying here.


  • Resume and Cover Letter.
  • Background Check. Already a Greyshirt? No need to do another background check.

Ongoing Medical International Humanitarian Volunteer Opportunities

Because emergency medical work dominates much of international aid, Team Rubicon is always seeking physicians, registered nurses, and paramedics looking for a way to serve vulnerable communities in the wider world of humanitarian medical care. 

“We want highly-trained professionals, exceptional in the field of emergency medicine:  Physicians capable of leading a team in triage, treatment, and transfer procedures; individuals confident in low-resourced settings and able to act creatively in those settings to provide the best medical care possible,” says Dr. Nelson.

Applicants need to be comfortable in mass-casualty events and well-trained in medevac.

“If you’re drawn to austere or wilderness medicine or have experience with tactical emergency care,” says Dr. Nelson, “you can make a difference with Team Rubicon international. We need the best of the best because we’re serving the most vulnerable.”Physicians, registered nurses, paramedics, and other medical providers can apply to volunteer with Team Rubicon at any time.

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