Edition no. 11, June 2015
View this email in your browser


The bi-monthly enewsletter of VSAConnect, VSA's alumni association

  • Promising signs for VSA, says CEO Gill Greer
  • VSAConnect's new Coordinator Pat Martin
  • Returned volunteers displaying Timorese art
  • VSA counsellor Linda French sailing off on a new adventure
  • PNG Country Programme Manager Howard Iseli on returning home
  • Plus news and comings and goings...

CEO comments

Positive signs in difficult times

At the end of our annual two-week planning session in Wellington, I'm feeling very positive about VSA's future. We’re back operating in the Cook Islands, there’s likely to be a new volunteer role in Niue, we’re appointing our first local country programme officer in Samoa and we’re planning to re-open in Fiji and Tokelau.
We will be moving to deliver the new Strategic Intent and developing a new Grant Funding Arrangement with MFAT, our major funder. Clearly, our in-country partners still need volunteers and we’re continuing to explore different themes and sectors. A new focus is likely to be resilience in Pacific countries – disaster preparedness and plans to adapt to and mitigate climate change, which is especially topical after Vanuatu’s cyclone.

Global 'tipping point'

This is all taking place in a global context that might best be described as a ‘tipping point’. The Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in July will talk for the first time about volunteering being essential to development. September’s UN summit on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will grapple with how to provide jobs for people without further straining the planet’s environmental sustainability. The SDG draft refers to volunteering and capacity building, something we’ve pursued for a long time. And a UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December will lead to legally binding conventions.

Warm regards

Introducing new VSAConnect coordinator
Pat Martin talks about his move from Dili to Wellington. 

It's hard to believe that only three months ago I sat chatting with our volunteer neighbours on our Dili porch in the warm evening air. Over a cold Bintang, we talked about what might lie ahead when my two-year assignment finished. Now, here I am in downtown Wellington, working 20 hours a week for the organisation that took me to Timor-Leste, charged with keeping VSA’s 3000 or so returned volunteers in touch.

It's nice to be home. Drinking water from the tap, grandkids full of fun, no rats in the ceiling or centipedes in the laundry. But Wellington in June is nippy and I miss the colour of Timor. I’ve been looking for a winter jacket and the offerings remind me of Henry Ford’s Model Ts: I can have any colour I want, so long as it’s black. The Timorese would think Lambton Quay was one giant funeral procession.
Volunteering is a special time. Many returnees keep in touch with friends they've made and maintain a lifelong interest in their host country and in VSA. My aim is to encourage that. I'll be organising speakers and events, meeting many of you, providing news and helping you contact other returned volunteers.

The bonus for me is that I won't lose touch with volunteering either – I didn’t want to pack away my experience and return to New Zealand as though it never happened. So feel free to contact me at I hope to catch up with you soon.


Pat in Timor with a colleague, Ze Calistro. "My role was to pass on communication skills to the Timorese staff of World Vision and Ze, nicknamed 'Ali Baba' by other staff for his wicked smile, proved to be an excellent photographer."

Assignments coming up

Currently there are 41 vacancies listed on VSA's vacancies page. Most have an application deadline of 14 June 2015.

This position has a 19 July closing date:
Database Adviser

Short term (6 months).
Develop computer systems to capture data to assist a Victim Support Group help violence survivors.

More new listings will be posted on the VSA vacancies page after 14 June.

News clips

VSA fundraising for Vanuatu
VSA has raised over $45,000 for Vanuatu following March's cyclone, with branches, and returned and prospective volunteers all contributing.

CEO Gill Greer says VSA has put in an outstanding effort to help Vanuatu get back on its feet, from fundraising through to the work of 21 volunteers in country.

"During my recent de-brief with Karen and Ron Roberts, I was reminded of just how valuable it is to have volunteers on the ground who know the language and the people."

Karen was a Programme Manager and Disability Adviser for CARE International for two years.

Spreading the word
Returned volunteers will talk to over 50 different groups around New Zealand as part of a programme set up by previous VSAConnect coordinator John Bowis seven months ago.

John contacted 180 Rotary and Probus clubs to offer speakers from a pool of 30 volunteers.
Fifty-nine clubs replied. As a result, 20 speaking invitations have been completed, with another 34 speakers lined up for the coming months.

If you are interested in joining VSA’s pool of speakers, please contact Pat Martin at  

New VSA office for Samoa
An office in Apia for VSA’s first in-country staff member is due to open in July, with VSA now in the process of appointing a local as Samoa’s first country programme officer.

Programme Manager Ryan Brown, who looks after Tonga, the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Kiribati as well as Samoa, is looking forward to having an on-the-ground staff member in Apia.

Welcome to VSAConnect

Welcome to these volunteers who have joined VSAConnect on returning home.

- Moniek Kindred

- Julianne Sanders
- Pat Martin

- Karen Roberts
- Elena Procuta

Invercargill display of Timorese art

Katy Buess and Rob Wait are holding an exhibition of Timorese art, crafts and photos in Invercargill during June based on their time volunteering in Timor-Leste in 2013. Also on show are Katy’s drawings and Rob’s photos.

Rob was a furniture designer at the Bamboo Centre at Tibar, just out of Dili, while Katy taught art and mentored at Dili's Gembel Art Collective. She had also put her artistic skills to good use while volunteering in Vanuatu 2008-2009.

They have offered to give talks to art groups or interested parties either at their gallery or off site. Also available for view at the exhibition is a Ros Dunlop DVD ‘Lian Husi Klamar/Sounds of the Soul’, that features traditional music of Timor-Leste.

A sketch of Timorese man Atai Fernandes by Katy Buess.

Setting sale on a new adventure

VSA counsellor and selection adviser Linda French will leave the organisation behind in July when she sets sail for the Bay of Islands.
After a summer’s practice, Linda and husband Dave will set their 44-foot sloop on a course for either a Pacific island or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The pair met while sailing in the UK before emigrating to New Zealand 37 years ago.

A social psychologist and family therapist, Linda has been a selection adviser for VSA for 33 years and has met hundreds of volunteers. They haven’t really changed in that time, she says. "They still want an adventure, want to help, and they’re pretty resilient."

What has changed, Linda says, is the economy around them. "It used to be common to get unpaid leave and a job on return. That rarely happens now. In addition, young people today are often saddled with student loans."

Linda has met many returnees during de-briefs and says most settle back easily. Some, however, struggle with luxury and wastefulness in New Zealand after seeing poverty up close in their assignments. "It can be difficult for teachers too, especially those who have been in Africa or Asia where education is so highly valued."

Linda’s looking forward to her sailing adventure and says she needs to go now before she gets too old. "But I’ll miss the VSA scene hugely. Volunteers are fun and the longer I’ve worked with them the more I’m impressed with how hard people are prepared to work and how much they are prepared to give."

'Kiwiness' of VSA a strength, says returned PNG Programme Manager

The ‘Kiwiness’ of VSA is one of its great features, says Howard Iseli, who has just returned home after nearly two years as Programme Manager in Papua New Guinea.

Howard, who was also a volunteer in Vanuata from 2010 to 2012, says he was attracted to the organisation knowing that Sir Edmund Hillary was the founder. "Hillary was always a hero of mine. Being adventurous, that attitude of getting out there and doing it, is still part of a Kiwi approach."

A sense of fairness, neighbourliness and multiculturalism also stand Kiwi volunteers in good stead, Howard says. One highlight in PNG was the East New Britain Minister of Provincial Education saying to him: "I like the way Kiwis speak to people from PNG as equals."

Howard took up the Programme Manager’s position in August 2013, accompanied by his wife Jacqui, based in Kokopo in East New Britain province. They’ve returned early from a three-year posting for family health reasons.

Howard was a business consultant in Pukekohe before volunteering for Vanuatu and he likes the thought of returning to consulting. "My ideal job now would be to consult in development. That might be international development, or community development in New Zealand." First on the list, however, is a well-earned holiday.
Howard decides to see what's on offer at the local coffin shop in East New Britain.

Visit VSAConnect online

On the VSAConnect section of the VSA website, you can get in touch with other returned volunteers and keep up with news about VSA and development.
Join VSAConnect online
This newsletter is sent to VSAConnect members with who have supplied VSA email addresses.
Copyright © 2015 Volunteer Service Abroad, all rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences