VSA was set up in 1962 amid an exciting world climate that talked of the challenge to eradicate world poverty. Within its first year, New Zealand’s very own volunteering agency was sending volunteers to Thailand and Samoa.
In February 1963, Sir Edmund Hillary became VSA’s founding President, a role he continued for 13 years, steering VSA forward with his unique brand of support and expertise.
Nearly 50 years on, we are still going strong. In the 1960s, most of our volunteers taught in schools. Today the range of assignments is much broader. VSA's project partners, once mostly host governments, now include a range of government agencies, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and community organisations.
Our programmes in Polynesia, Melanesia and Timor-Leste are managed from our Wellington office but in-country programme managers in each Melanesia and Timor-Leste provide on-the-ground support to volunteers and partner organisations.
We are an incorporated society and our members vote on resolutions at an AGM (annual general meeting) held every October. VSA is guided by our Kaumātua and a governing body of nine people. The Council meets five times each year to agree ongoing policy and activities. Our council works closely with VSA’s CEO,Gill Greer, to oversee policy and strategic implementation.
Gill Greer joined VSA as CEO in July 2012 and leads the implementation of our international development work.
Dr Greer, a Wellingtonian, spent five years in London as director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). She was previously executive director of the New Zealand Family Planning Association. She also chaired the Asia Pacific Alliance and the New Zealand NGO-Ministry of Health Forum, and spent a term as Assistant Vice Chancellor at Victoria University.
Dr Greer was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to family planning and literature in 2005 and was awarded a CBE in the January British New Year’s honours list for her work on international health and women’s rights.
Kaumātua Awi has been VSA's Kaumātua for 12 years. He is a respected teacher and author and holds the Queens Service Medal (QSM) for services to education. Awi's role as VSA's Kaumātua is to see that the Māori perspective permeates VSA's policies and procedures, so the voice of Tāngata whenua (the original inhabitants of the land) and the voice of Māoridom continues to be heard.
President Gavin has been involved with VSA since 1970, formerly as Chair of Nelson Branch, Council member (1972-89) and President since 2001. He has seen VSA adapt well to change while remaining true to its values and principles and believes an organisation that embraces well-considered and principled change lives and grows. “I have abiding faith in the values and principles of VSA and in the long-term effectiveness of the work of its volunteers through person-to-person sharing skills.”
Chair Farib’s strong 30-year marketing background in both the private and public sectors is supporting VSA’s ongoing communications work. Farib has worked extensively throughout Asia and brings a passion and clarity to development. Looking forward to the next three years Farib says, “I am excited about VSA’s new partnership focus allowing more New Zealanders from various backgrounds to volunteer and contribute to our partner organisations’ development strategies and outcomes.”
Deputy Chair Don’s involvement with VSA spans more than 30 years, firstly as a volunteer in Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands, later as a selection panellist and more recently, Council member. “I am looking forward to bringing my business development and IT knowledge to the Council, helping VSA explore new models of volunteering and consolidate its work in the Pacific region.”
Tony has worked for over 30 years in community-based development and resource management in Africa, China, Vietnam, and Samoa. He is currently Professor of Geography at the University of Otago, Dunedin and in 2007 helped to set up VSA’s successful UniVol programme with the University. Of his new appointment he says “I look forward to continuing to promote VSA’s work and encourage a wider interest in development issues in New Zealand and beyond.”
Susan is a retired lawyer with more than 30 years of legal, financial and strategic planning expertise to draw on. As a recently returned volunteer she also appreciates and understands the issues facing volunteers and their partner organisations. Susan says “I am committed to the values of VSA and would like to contribute whatever skills I have to ensure the long-term viability and preservation of the historical integrity of VSA.”
Shona is a former volunteer, VSA staff manager, and international development and communications specialist. She is particularly interested in how VSA can use its unique ‘asset set’ including volunteers, supporters, local and overseas partners and donors, to enhance the value of people-to-people development. “I like the way VSA reflects on its work, and on the changing dynamics of the poverty problems it is helping to solve. VSA manages to adapt in considered ways, continuing to live up to its desire to be effective 'with', and relevant to, partner communities and to New Zealanders. I look forward to being involved in the continuing VSA thinking process.”
Simon is a former VSA in-country representative and volunteer in Vanuatu, has a doctorate in international relations and brings a wide range of development and strategic planning and business experience to the VSA council. “Having seen first hand the great work of New Zealand volunteers working overseas, and the professionalism and dedication of staff, branches and supporters in New Zealand, I am hugely committed to VSA’s vision and values.”
Evan is a civil engineer who has been actively involved in development as a volunteer, aid advisor, project manager and consultant over the past 35 years. Having lived and worked in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Kenya and Nepal he brings considerable international development experience and knowledge of the private sector to the VSA Council. He is currently a manager with GHD, an engineering and environmental consultancy company. “I am a passionate advocate for the concept of VSA and of development aid and have been actively encouraging our professional staff to consider VSA as a means of contributing to their personal growth.”
Two years as a VSA volunteer in Fiji sparked Sandy's subsequent international career in rural and community development. She spent 25 years working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and now back in New Zealand works with NGOs and the government as a Rural Development Adviser. Sandy brings a wealth of knowledge to VSA and is excited to be part of the VSA Council. “I am committed to the New Zealand Government’s anti-poverty and small scale development programmes and believe the field programmes and capacity VSA has can make a difference in these areas.”
Download our Strategic Intent 2011–2015 (PDF | 445KB)
Download the constitution of VSA here. Please note that this constitution is subject to change in light of amendments made at VSA congress 2011. (14 pages | 600KB)
Hear from our Country Programme Manager, Diane Thorne-George, about the long-term success of our Vanuatu programme
Hear how VSA volunteers are helping our Bougainville partners achieve their goals