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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Top Seven Things To Do At Your NGO When They Have No Work For You And Have No Idea How You Can Contribute

7) Sit down next to the other interns and just write your yak while they do actual work.

This is probably the least effective use of your time but hey, at least it’s something to do. If your NGO is like mine and the interns don’t speak English, they might think you are doing actual NGO related work!


6) Get food/coffee for your NGO.

Luckily, I have a drinks and noodles stand right outside of my office, so this is easy and accomplishable. Learning everyone’s drink order is actually an alright ice-breaker so even if you aren’t saving the world at your NGO, you can learn a little about the people you will work with.


5) Nongkrong

This is the Indonesian version of hanging out. You could just sit there and talk to someone for a couple of hours. Ask about the local lunch spots, learn some Javanese, learn more about your NGO. Eventually, though, your coworkers will leave to do their work and you will have to think of something else to do.


4) Keep asking people what they need help with until they get tired of you asking and give you some insignificant remedial task.

To be honest this method is not recommended. It’s not a great first impression and leaves you with some pretty boring work.


3) Read some literature about the issues your NGO deals with.

From what I’ve seen, most NGOs will have a library. This is a great place to find a book and learn about the issues you might help with when you get actual work. However, if your NGO is like mine, and 99% of the books are in Indonesian or Dutch (no one in my office speaks Dutch so I don’t know why they have these) you must resort to the internet to find something, so get googling.


2) Make Origami.

No joke this is what I did for the first couple days at my NGO. It is what the interns were doing and I was told to help the interns, so that’s what I did. I have no idea what it’s for, or where it will go, but I must have made at least a hundred butterflies, cranes, and turtles.


1) Finally, cave and watch an episode of Stranger Things and regret even coming to Indonesia. What’s the point? They don’t even need your help, you’re a burden, you’re a tourist.

JUST KIDDING. But to be honest I got through about twenty minutes of the show and then someone came over and gave my first real task. So, the moral of the story is, just wait, and hang out, and be bored, and eventually, they’ll think of something you can do.