HELP International

    Contribute funds or materials to HELP's projects.   HELP is always looking for volunteers- check out our latest opportunities!   Visit HELP's discussion boards and share ideas. 

International Volunteer Green Technology Internship Certification Program
HELP International offers two volunteer internship program intakes per year at HELP’s farm-based Center for Ecology Research and Training at Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The program is open to both international and Canadian interns. The first intake runs from April 15 through October 15; the second from September 1 through November 30. Other customized internships may be negotiated in special cases.
The internship provides aggressive on-the-job apprenticeship training, leading green research opportunities and HELP certification for hands-on expertise gained in a wide range of green technologies, appropriate technologies, modern technologies, combined with on-the-job training in logistics, performance management and NGO administration and finance.  The program covers a wide range of applied research and programming in green and modern technologies relating to forestry, horticulture, construction and recycling technologies (depending upon the season). The program focuses on HELP's mandate of developing and modeling a method for communities to live sustainably. This model employs simple new technologies for manufacturing new products or buildings from waste, proliferating trees at low to zero cost and in proving the efficacy of trees and other plants in a wide range of phytoremediation applications for salinity control, nutrient recycling, and habitat development. The program also develops and models low cost intensive organic farming techniques for small holder and subsistence farms.
History of the Program
The program has been running since HELP's inception in 1993 and has hosted several dozen interns from Africa, Europe, Canada and the far North. 
The program currently negotiates volunteer internships for periods from one to six months year round but with the bulk of forestry and horticulture programming applicable for the April through October period. The program is open to undergrads that require an internship as part of their undergraduate degree and is also open to higher level students who use our program to carry out Masters or PhD level environmental research.
About HELP International 
The voluntary non-governmental organization HELP International was founded by an emergency aid worker who had worked with large scale programs in the UN, WUSC and CARE International in war zones and drought stricken countries of Africa.   The founder believed and continues to prove that it is possible to carry out more effective aid and poverty alleviation at far lower cost with far more sustainable results for both human communities and the natural environment.  
In Canada, HELP created a five part environmental protection program designed for communities to live sustainably.  HELP carried out portions of this program with fifteen rural and twelve urban Canadian municipalities which resulted in: 
  1. The largest stream margin forestation of cultivated stream margins in Canada with more than 220 km of stream margins forested so far. 
  2. The first living landfill forest caps and landfill forest filters in Canada. 
  3. Salinity Reversal Applied Research: The first field trials that proved that trees can reverse severe soil salinity in as little as seven years. 
  4. Effluent Irrigation: The first woodlots for community-wide effluent irrigation in Saskatchewan. 
  5. The first zero waste facility in Canada where applied research is carried out to convert 100% of household waste into new products. 
In Kenya, Africa HELP focused its attention on two problems that have defied solution for government, NGOs and private industry: slum conversion and devastating deforestation. In these two areas, the small Weyburn based organization HELP has achieved the following:
  1. Carried out a slum conversion program involving acquisition of land tenure for slum residents; compound housing and school construction, zero waste community management, urban forestation and more than a dozen recycling micro enterprise start ups.
  2. Carried out a national agro forestry program in fourteen districts involving circa 450 communities.
  3. Designed and implemented a forestation and food security program for arid land districts.
These major programs in Kenya organized both urban homes and rural farms into predominantly women-led home associations for purposes of training, programming, marketing and accessing group credit.
Location of Internship 
The program operates on HELP’s ten-acre riverside property just outside Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Dozens of deer inhabit the property.  Adjacent properties include the Weyburn Riding Club.   HELP’s property referred to as: Center for Ecology Research and Training (CERT) includes the following:
  • A Simulated African Village (seven mud and thatch houses) where students live and work for one- to three-day sessions during the June program.
  • Two guest houses plus two cabins for intern accommodation.
  • Other buildings for classroom, African art gallery, and waste industries.
Interns participate with HELP in carrying out partnership forestry on private and public properties in communities throughout Southern Saskatchewan.
Certificate Program
The program provides HELP Certification in six levels.
Level One: Novice: The intern has been introduced to the safe use of select technologies which the certificate recognizes.  
Level Two: Intermediate: The intern has the ability to work with the technology efficiently and safely under supervision.  
Level Three: Proficient: The intern has  worked independently on a number of occasions in the proficient, safe and effective, organized use of select technologies or methodologies, site set up, clean up and the maintenance and logistics associated with that technology and its products. 
Level Four: Sector Manager and Trainer: The intern has managed the technology sector and taught others in a number of occasions in the safe, efficacious use of technologies or methodologies that the certificate recognizes and takes care of the post production care of products and equipment associated with the technology.
Level Five: Innovator: The intern has completed level one to five and has additionally assisted in an innovation of the technology or methodology that is considered by HELP to be strategic.
Level Six: Inventor: The intern has created the drawings and actual prototype for what HELP considers to be a new strategic green technology or methodology. 
Roles for Interns
Each intern will play a variety of roles including technician, manager, trainer and researcher.
This new organizational management model flattens out the organization more by each intern playing one or more management roles instead of the CEO being central task master. This allows the CEO to spend more time in training, coaching and quality control and allows interns the opportunity to learn serious management roles. Interns who take on management roles will be given higher certification Level 4 which is reserved for those who are not only proficient in an area of expertise but who have excelled to manage that area and train others in that technology area as well).
The management roles interns are asked to choose from for which the CEO will model and coach/advise throughout the program include:
  • Food and Accommodation Services Manager - in charge of coordinating intern rosters for cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and water hauling.

  • Safety Manager - in charge of coordinating interns to take their turn in writing up a five minute safety first meeting slip on a daily basis (called Tool Box Meeting Slips) and ensuring that Hazard Assessment Quick Sheets are filled for any new programming site and during periodic visits to all standard programming sites at HELP CERT.

  • Tree Production Manager - in charge of coordinating intern rosters for irrigating the tree nurseries, in harvesting cuttings and seedlings for transplanting into HELP's floating and/or bunching nursery; also in coordinating the bailing water when rainfall has overwatered the bunching nursery.

  • Community Tree Services Manager - in charge of coordinating the files for forestry customers for whom we will carry out forestry installations, tree sales. This person is in charge of the logistics of calculating amounts of trees, grass seed, plastic mulches and machinery needed to be used and coordinating the team in the efficient loading, hitching and tie down of the same.  At the end of forestry install days, this person calculates the actual trees installed and plastic mulches and grass seed installed and works out the final invoice for the forestry partner as per our simple calculator contribution agreement sheet(s).  This manager will also coordinate the team with the tree production manager to harvest 6,000 seedlings from HELP's floating nursery to box and place in indoor cold storage for spring shipping or use by HELP future plantings.

  • Research Manager - works with the CEO to coordinate the selection of research projects by new interns (i.e. circa two research projects per intern to set up or take on) and document measures (for the growing season for forestry, phytoremediation and horticulture experiments) and help to plot those results into graphical representations on PowerPoint and research write ups.

  • Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance Manage

  • Social Events/Vehicle Tasking Manager/ and Media Manager – as relief from the intense internship work, this intern manager will do all possible to facilitate interns if they desire to leave the work/living site for an evening, a weekend or part of a weekend. This manager should also work out intern educational tours in and around Weyburn, the region and possibly out of the province for a national park or Rocky Mountain eco-tour once during the season.

  • Site Maintenance Manager - is responsible for coordinating the roster for grass mowing, monitoring interns in post work sites clean up.

  • Zero Waste Industry Manager - is responsible for coordinating special days for portions of the team to carry out Styrofoam milling, grain bag resizing for production of tree mulch pads, ground membranes for landscaping and for construction vapour barriers.  This manager would also coordinate the team for sorting of community used wood deliveries, sorting out the good wood by dimension and cutting second grade wood into bio-fuel pieces for winter cabin heat. I estimate up to one day per month of team employment in each of the these three zero waste industries will achieve serious industrial production and catch up with current waste for recycling deliveries.

  • Performance Management and People Support Scrum Manager - coordinates with the CEO to set up weekly or twice weekly group meetings where managers coordinate and vie for team labour, create work plans with quantified output objectives, and train interns to facilitate Circle Checks which provide interns opportunity to document and share with an intern (and sometimes CEO) facilitator the achievements, frustrations and challenges from an individual human perspective.

  • Finance/Bookkeeping/Procurement Manager - assists with organization bookkeeping, coordinates procurements (purchasing), and do banking on behalf of the organization.  One of HELP's board members carries out a couple hours per week of bookkeeping so this intern manager would hand over to this member a portion of the receipts and ensure interns making the purchases label the receipts clearly in terms of what method (Mastercard, Interact, cash, cheque) paid for particular purchases. 
Though these may seem like tall orders, remember that, although we do a lot as an organization, our organization is still small relative to our output.  Even two-person 'Mom and Pop' businesses have to cover all these management portfolios in addition to the main duties of their business.
 HELP has come to use the term mini-CEOs and "Generals" (as in army generals!) to define the management roles played by the interns. 

Challenging Programming Environment
This volunteer environmental internship program is considered the most aggressive and challenging in Canada and is not for everyone. HELP looks for physically/emotionally/psychologically robust people who are service-driven and who have significant life experience to show they can handle serious challenges and steep learning curves.  Farm background, environmental sciences background or human service background are serious assets. 
Many less seasoned interns find the physical demands, the sometimes hot sometimes cold/dry/windy climate and the wide diversity of programming very challenging for them.   Many interns thrive in this environment, others with little or no significant work experience might find the program too challenging for them, so we cannot accept interns who cannot provide proof of their capacities in these regards.

Sharing of Domestic Duties
HELP is run by community volunteers and volunteer interns.  All volunteers and interns share all domestic duties including cooking, cleaning, and site maintenance. When properly organized, select interns can be relieved early from work sites to prepare meals and carry out other maintenance as part of the work day.

Interns and Community Volunteers as Managers
HELP wants good managers rather than good subordinates. The program therefore seeks people who are self directed.  Let us use the simple example of a driver in our Kenya operation. The driver is not considered simply a driver but the manager of transportation services which implies far more such as vehicle servicing, cleaning, fueling, knowing and managing itineraries of various people who have transportation needs, knowing protocol for airport pickups etc.  Imagine in your more advanced mature intern positions what manager means.

Interns as Research Leads and Research Writers
Each intern is asked to select one or two items of research to be in charge of in addition to their normal group green activities. Each intern takes up new green research considered strategic to HELP and the intern and his or her sponsoring institution or organization in their home country.  Each and every intern is given their own green sector or sub-sector to head up which can consume between 20 and 30% of their time at HELP depending upon the sector.  Sector manager interns (meaning all interns) sometimes are required to carry out their responsibilities alone (under the coaching and supervision of the HELP CEO).  Interns will be expected to delegate their roles to other interns if they must be absent from the center and to negotiate when they need larger team support in their sector.  All this is done with training, coaching and quality control back up from the CEO or more experienced interns.
Outline of HELP’s Programming Season in Canada
A) April 15 to 30
    1. De-winterizing of the ten-acre Center for Ecology Research and Training (which has a similar appearance to many institutional seasonal camps) occurs in early April.
    2. Harvesting cuttings from stooling beds and other trees. 
    3. Attending farm auctions to acquire adaptive technology and materials for HELP programs.
    4. Some zero waste facilities construction and ongoing zero waste recycling industry.  
 B) April 25 to May 31
Intensive field forestry (phytoremediation) with a range of private and municipal partners typically occurs from mid April to end May.  
C) June 1 to 31
Intensive live-in school programs at HELP’s Center for Ecology Research and Training (CERT). This involves the training of students in a diverse combination of traditional, appropriate and green technology practice and research.  
D) July 1 through August 31
  1. Setting up and maintaining a low cost outdoor 100,000 tree proliferation nursery. Some of this corresponds with the seeding out period of various tree species so some of this work will also occur in May and June (for elm and cottonwood for example).
  2. Sign up landowners for forestry this year fall season and next spring.  
E) September 1 to October 31
  1. Fall forestry
    • Carry out installation of up to 50,000 trees, with grass and mulch.
    • Assess this year’s forestation installations and recommend follow on programming on these sites for next season.
  2. Winterizing activities for nursery tree stock, including packaging a portion for next year programming.
  3. Complete the documentation for many research experiments setup earlier in the year and carry out new short cycle green experiments.
  4. Zero waste recycling activities including plastic grain bag recycling, Styrofoam milling, soil production. 
  5. Zero waste construction and facility upgrades - using advanced engineering concepts to create new or rehabilitated structures using a combination of used and new materials.
F) November 1 to 30
  1. Harvesting cuttings from HELP stooling beds.
  2. Cutting cuttings to size and placing them into Styrofoam blocks.
  3. Produce nursery soil and fill Styrofoam blocks. 
Note: Six month internship programs normally start on or before May 1. 
Additional programming that runs throughout all the above seasons
  1. Reception of voluntarily delivered community waste.
  2. Sorting milling, processing and packaging of new products from waste.
  3. Zero Waste Construction: building cabins or upgrading existing privately owned  or HELP owned buildings  using zero waste materials/processes.
  4. Managing zero waste in HELP living quarters (includes separation of waste in houses, maintaining organic pits as well as vermiculture).
  5. Maintaining and documenting current low cost tree proliferation experiments.
    • Watering and measuring growth rate of tree nursery (hybrid poplar, elm, caragana, evergreen and more).
    • Documenting variety of silviculture experiments i.e.: differential growth rate of poplars potted in variable size containers and many more.
  6. Management of HELP's recycling program.
    • Sorting, cutting, bundling wood.
    • Monitoring and aiding composting materials dropped off.
    • Try out new HELP technology i.e.: motorized paper mill/plastic extruder.
    • Mill stryrofoam.
    • Produce potting soils, mulch pads etc.
  7. Carrying out residual live ecology camps and eco park and field tours. 
Setting and Maintaining World Class Performance Standards
Performance standards are set by several means:
  1. Commercial standards in the industry.
  2. Government regulatory standards.
  3. Past high expectation of program partners.
  4. Seasonal strategic plans (as noted in A to F above).
  5. Weekly to monthly group planning sessions (using MBOs, setting and reviews of same).
  6. Weekly to monthly: formal written and verbal narrative feedback sessions that cover a multitude of areas of the intern’s ongoing experience.
  7. Daily activity tracking system.
Caliber of Volunteer Interns Sought 
The program looks for mature, hard working individuals in post-secondary studies or post graduates who can handle adverse climatic and work conditions, and a wide range of learning opportunities. The program can involve the use of over one hundred technologies from operating a car and truck, tractors, cultivation equipment, mowers, mills, simple appro-tech brick press, roof tile form, fiberboard maker, tree planter, tree mulch applicator, power tools: wood saws, drills, presses, metal chop saw, arc and oxy-acetylene, welder, plus traditional technologies such as mud and thatch house building, traditional tool making and stone carving. This all forms part of an understanding of where we have come from and what decisions our societies have made along the way that brought us to where we are.  Armed with this in-depth understanding, we can make confident new informed decisions for helping communities develop ways of living sustainably into the future.
So the people we need are those who can handle great diversity in the program and those who can handle and thrive on a steep learning curve. The interns must be able to be willing to be corrected several dozens of times due to trying so many new things.  Making small mistakes and being corrected is normal and the intern needs to be patient with themselves as well as with their coach and their host organization.
Note: HELP is also open to one or two interns who have interests and capabilities in HRD, patents, marketing and finance.        
Intern Obligations
The following is the sole responsibility of the prospective volunteer intern:
  1. Obtaining passports.
  2. Travel permits.
  3. Any health clearances.
  4. Payment of their own airfare to and from Regina, Saskatchewan.
  5. Give 40 dedicated hours of volunteer work per week.
  6. In off-time, share household cooking, cleaning, zero waste duties with the HELP team in residence.
HELP Obligations
  1. Providing an engagement letter and a letter to the Canadian High Commission to familiarize them with the program suggested visa category etc.
  2. Accommodation, food and a small volunteer stipend of $5/day.
  3. Ongoing field supervision, coaching, technology and safety training are provided.
  4. Certificates and a detailed performance assessment are provided for technologies mastered while in the program for interns who carry out the required self-assessments.
  5.  Publication of research and lead and assistant researcher status for interns who accomplish responsible research and research writing that meets professional standards that are publication ready.
How to Apply
We prefer that you find a partner organization (or your university) who is interested in endorsing your internship and who has an interest in the potential research you will carry out during your voluntary HELP internship. Those applying for the six-month internship should send an email to specifying that their application is for the six-month internship and including the following material:
  1. Resume.
  2. Three references (preferably one academic and two work references).
  3. One page personal biography covering skills and background not covered by the resume.
  4. An expression of the areas of research considered most strategic to yourself and your collaborating organization or university.
  5. Completed 'Application/Declaration of Intent' form, signed in all the appropriate places (a sample form can be downloaded from here). In this document you will, in addition to committing to the fast-paced programming regimen, identify areas of research considered most strategic to you and/or your collaborating organization or university. In the same document you will suggest which of the management functions you are most interested in. Please contact HELP administration to confirm that you have the current and correct form for your situation (form may be tailored to your country of origin and the internship you are applying for).
  6. Letter of application showing compelling reasons why you are interested in this program, what you believe you can contribute to and gain from such a program and why you believe you can handle this extremely physically and mentally demanding program.
Each application goes through three screenings relating to:
  1. Potential to contribute.
  2. Potential to gain.
  3. Potential to transfer skills and carry out follow on programs in their own country or region.
  4. Maturity/durability.
  5. Ability to live and work in group to create a safe, happy, productive program.
  6. Ability to work without supervision.
  7. Commitment and dedication.
  8. Sincerity of application.
Formal acceptance is legalized by an email from the HELP CEO and the Application/Declaration of Intent signed by the intern and HELP CEO.
Additional Advice for International Applicants - Procedures and Timeline
  1. Applicants submit by email the documentation as listed under the ‘How to Apply’ above.
  2. Those who pass the screening process will receive an acceptance email and a signed copy of the Application/Declaration of Intent.
  3. For non-Canadian applicants, HELP will provide a letter to the Canadian Embassy giving them orientation as to how Canadian embassies typically process visas for this program i.e.: the type of visa permit provided etc. The applicant will also be emailed a copy of this letter.
  4. The applicant should put a copy of all the above documents mentioned into an organized portfolio, preferably with tabs (this means put the documents into an organized file).
  5. Next, foreign applicants would fill out a six-month work permit application (even though it is for volunteer non-paid apprenticeship). Having a work visa for this program will allow you to have free health coverage while you are participating in the program.
  6. Foreign applicants would then would present themselves, along with their document file and work permit application to the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate. From this point, you would follow their instructions. Depending upon the country, the Canadian embassy could take up to three months to process your visa permit application depending upon how busy they are.
If you have more questions about your application or the process, you can contact the HELP CEO at

 © HELP International 2014