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George Rupp has been president of the International Rescue Committee since July 2002. As the IRC’s chief executive officer, Dr. Rupp oversees the agency’s relief and rehabilitation operations in 25[…]

The refugee expert says volunteers should tread carefully in the countries they are supposedly helping.

Question: What contributions do American volunteers make overseas?

George Rupp: We have a very high threshold to bring a Westerner into the countries where we work unless the person brings very clear skills that we need to have that are not present and which the Westerner can help to build the capacity of local communities to deliver those services.  We very occasionally have volunteers who seemed to fit that bill for a variety of very unusual reasons.  But large scale volunteers that bring no special skills make sense only as a means of educating the United States, they make very little difference in the countries in which we work.  And so I think it’s a motive interaction that needs to be used very cautiously.