Published on 11th July 2016
Volunteer Gerda Pentinga is a pioneer of VSA's new e-volunteering model.
Gerda's e-volunteering assignment as an English Language Resource Development Adviser deals with two of Timor-Leste's challenges – weak internet connectivity, and a profusion of languages that makes teaching at any level difficult. She is based in New Zealand, primarily using email.
This work follows an assignment in Kiribati, and builds on a further assignment Gerda carried out at the start of the year in Timor-Leste, spending three months developing a curriculum in English for the IT and Engineering Department of the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT).
She became an e-volunteer on returning home in May, continuing work on the curriculum and taking advantage of New Zealand’s faster, cheaper internet to research teaching of technical subjects.
“Sometimes technical information needs to be seen to be understood,” she says. “I needed to download big images and files to create teaching resources for areas like solar energy.”
Gerda has one of the first of VSA's e-volunteering assignments, enabling volunteers to support their partner organisations from a distance, coupled with visits to build the relationship and plan the work needed.
Another Timor-Leste volunteer, Herman van Gessel, has been a successful guinea pig of the “hub-and-spokes” model, in which a volunteer is partnered with a central organisation, but works with others that need expert help on particular, but similar, projects. Herman is based with CC Business Solutions, an accounting firm in Dili, and so far has worked with nine NGOs and small businesses providing financial advice.
Timor-Leste Programme Manager Diane Thorne-George (who has finished her latest contract with VSA, and welcomed her successor Victoria Gregory) said the success of Herman's assignment shows there’s potential to use the model in other areas, such as Human Resources or IT support. “It has been a great way to see that it can really work.”