Junior moves on
After 13 years with VSA, International Programme Manager Junior Ulu moved on at the end of August to spend more time with family and to complete his PhD over the next two years.
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Vanuatu most popular VSA destination
Vanuatu is the most popular country for VSA volunteering and Papua New Guinea the least popular, based on the number of applications per assignment.
Generally VSA finds it easier to fill volunteer assignments in countries like Samoa, which has a strong connection through migrant population and cultural and sporting ties, as well as geographical closeness.
VSA's main recruitment difficulties in the past year were in securing volunteers for long-term technical roles in PNG, particularly in academia, medicine and IT. By contrast, some assignments proved particularly popular, with many applications for roles in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam.
'Fly in coffee' still a handy guide
Some things haven’t changed in the world of volunteering in 50 years, as this handy guide written by a VSA teacher in Sarawak in 1967 shows.
According to the teacher, you can tell how long a volunteer has lived in the country by their reaction to discovering a fly in a cup of coffee:
Less than 3 months: Orders new cup of coffee
3-6 months: Fishes fly out
6-8 months: Avoids drinking fly
8-10 months: Swallows fly with grimace
10-12 months: Swallows fly without noticing
Over 12 months: Catches more flies to enhance taste
(Source: The VSA Way: 25 Years of Volunteering Overseas. Neville Peat. 1987).
Interpersonal role model - who, me?
Many volunteers intuitively know that on assignment, it's the hard-to-measure things that can make the biggest difference to a workplace. That intuition has been confirmed by a 10-year Australian Volunteers International study which found that partner organisations highly value the 'intangibles'.
Partners identified improved work ethic, increased staff understanding of their roles, greater confidence and enthusiasm for work, better systems and processes, and exposure to and interaction with the outside world as 'critical improvements'.
According to the study, partners value that kind of capacity building more than anything, and say it was the 'interpersonal role modelling' of volunteers that made all the difference.
So, yes, it was worthwhile getting to work on time, leaving on time, completing a job properly and insisting on standards. Those things may be tricky to measure, but your partners noticed.