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Three volunteer laughing in conversation.Three volunteer laughing in conversation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the questions we get asked the most about MDS and Volunteering. Don’t see your question here? Please feel free to reach out to us using this contact form.

General FAQs

Disasters are commonly caused by fire, flood, tornado, hurricane and earthquake. A disaster can happen at any time and most any place, but there are times and places when a disaster is more likely to occur.

Fires occur most commonly in the western parts of the U.S. and Canada following long dry spells.

Floods occur year-round when heavy rains or melting snow or the combination of both cause rivers and tributaries to rise.

Tornadoes are most common in the mid-section of the U.S. and Canada and the southern U.S. during seasonal weather changes, such as late fall and during late winter and through spring and early summer.

Hurricane season affects coastal areas of the southern and eastern coastal U.S and eastern Canada from June through November.

The West Coast of the U.S. is currently at the most risk for earthquakes.

You can support MDS through volunteering your time or making a donation.

As a volunteer, you will be rewarded with an experience that fosters both personal and spiritual growth.

As a donor, your financial contribution to MDS will be used for volunteer support.

MDS has volunteer opportunities include serving on an MDS project for one week helping to repair or build a house, or as a Leadership Volunteer, serving for one month or longer.

No, MDS invites persons from all faith backgrounds to serve with us. Mennonite, Amish and Brethren in Christ groups may be given priority.

The MDS logo displays a handshake in front of a cross.

The cross is a the center of our logo because Christ is at the center of our work. MDS volunteers serve in Christian love.

The handshake in the MDS logo represents the primary relationship between MDS volunteers and the clients we serve. Effective disaster response begins with working partnerships between organizations, agencies and individuals. Many of these partnerships begin and end with a handshake.

When money is designated to a specific project, 100 percent of the first $25,000 goes to the project. Following that, 90 percent will go to the project and 10 percent is allocated towards administrative costs.

General Volunteering Questions

If you have completed the volunteer registration form and the volunteer application which was emailed to you, MDS staff will work to connect you with any ongoing project of your choice. However, sometimes areas have urgent needs, projects become temporarily closed, or teams fill up before we receive your application. Please stay in communication with us to see the next available dates when you can serve, or be flexible on which location you prefer.

In Canada, please be in touch with the Winnipeg office and we will do our best to fit you in.

MDS provides sleeping accommodations for volunteers, though that location type can vary from hospitals to churches, convents, schools, malls, camps and even empty houses. MDS also covers meals and ensures there’s room to shower and sanitize.

Unless otherwise noted in a job description, volunteers do not need construction trade experience, though it is very appreciated. MDS values teaching volunteers new skills needed to get the job done. Similarly, if you have tools you may bring them, but MDS will have tools on each project site.

Weekly Volunteer FAQs

Weekly volunteers serve as individuals or groups on an MDS construction site for one to three weeks, aiding in the repairing or rebuilding of homes that were damaged by a natural disaster. MDS Leadership Volunteers (ex. Project Director, Crew Leaders, Office Manager, Cooks) serve for at least a month at a time and are responsible for the day to day operations of an MDS project. For weekly volunteers, much of each day is spent working on a construction site, guided by an MDS Crew Leader.

Weekly volunteers arrive to the MDS base on late Sunday afternoon for the weekly MDS orientation. The work week is from Monday through Friday (Friday afternoons are spent cleaning up the camp and supplies). Volunteers can leave on Friday evening or Saturday morning, depending on travel plans. Please view the daily schedule in the MDS Volunteer Guide (page 9).

MDS welcomes both skilled and unskilled volunteers to serve, though specific projects may require a certain level of skill or experience. Whether you have worked in construction for many years or have never picked up a hammer, the biggest requirement is to be flexible and ready to work – there is always something for everyone to do!

We do recommend that volunteers are at least age 15 to serve at an MDS project, due to safety precautions and the general nature of construction work. However, with the prior approval of the Project Director that is serving on site, we occasionally have volunteers younger than age 15 serve at a project, if fully supervised by a parent/guardian and with the understanding that there would be some restrictions on work that minors can do. All volunteers under age 18 must have a parent/guardian complete a minor release form to serve with MDS if unaccompanied by a parent/guardian. Age/minor policies may vary per MDS program.

While Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to responding to natural and man-made disasters in Canada and the United States, we gladly welcome volunteers of all denominations and faith backgrounds. Volunteers are drawn together for the common cause to love and serve our neighbors.

Weekly volunteers are responsible for the cost of their transportation to the MDS project base, as well as coordinating travel arrangements. Lodging and food are provided at no cost to the volunteer during their time of service. MDS bases vary per project, and may range from campsites, churches, houses, etc. Weekly volunteers should expect to share bunkrooms by gender – there are not private rooms for couples. The consensus is that MDS food is incredible! If you do have a specific food allergy or dietary needs, please note this ahead of time on your volunteer registration so that our MDS cooks can accommodate your needs.

Complete the MDS Weekly Volunteer Registration at least one month before volunteering, whether online or by paper form. If crossing an international border to volunteer, you will also need to complete border crossing information for your MDS border crossing letter. Communicate with the Coordinator for Weekly Volunteers with any scheduling questions or changes.

Volunteers should confirm that tetanus shots are up to date before volunteering – no additional shots are required. MDS suggests that volunteers check with their health care plan to make sure they have coverage for the location where they will be serving. If the plan does not provide coverage for the location, MDS recommends that volunteers purchase additional health care coverage. Volunteers will assume liability for any costs related to health care and accident costs they may incur while serving with MDS.

Weekly volunteers should bring clothes and shoes that follow the MDS dress code. Volunteers are also required to bring bedding, towels, and a pillow to use during the week. Tools are provided, but volunteers may bring personal tools if preferred. Find the full packing list and dress code requirements in the MDS Volunteer Guide (page 12 and page 7).

Volunteers may or may not have any interaction with the homeowners that that they are serving. If you do get this opportunity, a listening ear is often appreciated. Remember to be respectful when interacting with community members and other volunteers that may have differing lifestyles and beliefs from your own. Be prepared to be flexible and come with a serving heart!