Published on 14th March 2011
VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad) is expanding its programme in the Pacific and providing a greater range of volunteering options to New Zealanders keen to share their skills in developing countries.
VSA, New Zealand’s largest and most experienced international volunteer agency, is re-establishing relationships with Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati, taking the number of Pacific countries it works in to seven.
VSA is also increasing the number of short-term volunteering assignments available throughout the Pacific. This will make it possible for more skilled New Zealanders to work as volunteers.
Traditionally, VSA assignments last for two years. Short-term assignments, on the other hand, can last for between two weeks and six months. VSA chief executive officer Debbie Snelson says by offering more short-term volunteering assignments VSA hopes to increase the number of volunteers who go on assignment each year by almost 30 percent.
“The core of our work will continue to be two-year assignments. But we also need to provide New Zealanders with more flexible volunteering opportunities, and meet the changing needs of our partner organisations.”
Ms Snelson says VSA’s new direction reflects the Government’s focus on sustainable economic development in the Pacific, and its desire to provide more New Zealanders with the opportunity to volunteer.
“As a New Zealand organisation we are uniquely placed to work in the Pacific. These countries are our neighbours. Focusing on just one region is an efficient use of our limited resources, and it allows us to build long-term relationships with the communities we work with.”
In order to introduce the changes VSA is reallocating its resources to focus on the Pacific, and phasing out its programmes in South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Current long-term volunteers in those countries will finish their assignments but at this stage no new two-year assignments will be developed.
However, Ms Snelson says there will be opportunities for New Zealand volunteers to work in Africa and Asia in the future as new partnerships and relationships are set up with other international NGOs and programmes.
VSA remains committed to working in Timor-Leste, and the number of volunteers there will increase.
Ms Snelson says VSA is also investigating ways it can work with the private sector and large public sector organisations to develop different types of volunteering opportunities.
“VSA is now almost 50 years old, and we have made many changes to the way we work since we first began in 1962. It’s about responding to a changing world. New Zealanders need more flexible volunteering options, and as an organisation we need to keep changing and diversifying.”
VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad) is a home-grown Kiwi volunteering organisation and has placed more than 3,000 skilled New Zealanders on volunteer assignments overseas since 1962.