Published on 30th September 2010
VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad) is adding a new kind of assignment to its volunteering options – short-term volunteering.
VSA volunteer Ron Rowe, of Napier, leaves for Samoa next week (October 4) to start a three-month assignment as a business development adviser with two Samoan business organisations. They are Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI), whose activities include supplying virgin coconut oil to The Body Shop, and Small Business Enterprise Centre Samoa (SBEC), which provides training and advice to small businesses. SBEC’s recent activities include working with farmer groups to revive taro exports to New Zealand, and supporting organic farmers to become more productive.
Traditionally VSA assignments last for two years. According to VSA’s Pacific programme manager Peter Swain, VSA’s experience over the last 50 years has shown that it takes time for volunteers to develop good relationships, get a good understanding of the context in which they are working, and work with partner organisations to develop something that is sustainable.
“We know that it takes time to build sustainable development.”
However, in some cases partner organisations do not need the support of a long-term volunteer, but rather short-term technical assistance. VSA’s move to include short-term assignments as one of its volunteering options recognises this fact.
“The people running the organisations that Ron Rowe will be working with in Samoa have said they need support to work out how to go to the next level,” he says. “They want to strengthen their management capacity, and rather than bringing in high-paid consultants to help them do this, we are sending a volunteer.”
He says the short-term assignment is part of a wider VSA strategy in Samoa intended to strengthen economic development in the agricultural sector.
“Samoa already has a good depth of skills, but there remain some gaps, and that is where VSA can help by providing support. Once the Samoans have developed those skills themselves, we will leave.”
Ron Rowe is a Napier-based management consultant and trainer who, with his wife Ngaire, recently returned to New Zealand from a two-year VSA assignment at Kokopo Business College in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. While there he helped staff at the college to run training workshops with local business owners, and also spent time working with middle and senior management at PNG Balsa, one of the world’s largest balsa wood companies.
Mr Rowe says he is delighted to be the first volunteer selected to take part in the new initiative, and is looking forward to helping WIBDI and SBEC expand and improve the services they provide to new and existing small businesses in Samoa.
“Both organisations already have a really good track record, and they want to move up another notch. I believe that by working together for three months, we’ll be able to make a real difference.”
"The concept of short term assignments is a wonderful one and I would certainly be interested to participate in such a scheme should one in my field of experience ever become available. Kind regards, Bill Chadderton" - bill chadderton