No.22, May 2017
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Outgoing VSA head leaves strong legacy

VSA’s dedicated chief executive Gill Greer will step down in August after five years in the role.

Gill's contribution has been impressive, says council chair Evan Mayson. ‘She has led VSA with care and commitment as it has grown its volunteer numbers, developed new models for volunteering and increased the number of partnerships in New Zealand and internationally.’

When Gill took on the role in 2012, VSA was moving out of Asia and Africa to focus on the Pacific in alignment with its major funder and strategic partner, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Under her leadership, VSA’s expansion of its Pacific programme across 10 countries has seen a return to the Cook Islands, Niue, Fiji and, soon, Tuvalu. VSA has also returned to Asia with a small number of MFAT-funded partnerships in Indonesia and Cambodia, while a partnership with Save the Children has resulted in volunteers in Nepal.

Gill, who is renowned for her personal touch with volunteers as well as staff, often says VSA is the best organisation she has worked for. “The skills and expertise of our volunteers are critically important, as are the knowledge and understanding of the partners they work with. In the end, an assignment succeeds or fails because of the relationships that are established. Changes that result from these relationships and shared achievements are often a very concrete, effective form of development aid.” 

She is pleased with the growth of VSAConnect which has become a model followed by other organisations, and says that

debriefing returned volunteers has been a highlight of the job. “I would like to thank many of you for your commitment both as volunteers in-country and in willingly sharing your stories to encourage future volunteers to make a difference.”

When Gill became chief executive, she advised VSA’s Council she would stay a maximum of five years. After she steps down, she looks forward to book-writing, consulting and ongoing advocacy on issues ranging from climate change and volunteering to youth and gender issues. VSAConnect members wish her well in her future endeavours.
Election draws volunteer back to Timor-Leste
Former volunteer Del Bovill spent a 20-hour day in tropical heat as an observer in Timor-Leste’s recent presidential elections, an experience she would not have missed.

Del was in a 26-strong Australian mission that spent four days observing the elections held on 20 March. It was the first election run entirely by the Timor-Leste Electoral Commission without outside support and it went extremely well, she says. Read more >

Right: A festive atmosphere prevailed at a huge rally for favoured candidate Lu’Olo in Dili the day before the election. “It was quicker to jump out of the taxi and walk to the rally,” Del says.
Kiwi volunteers reap 50-year reward
Treating people well 50 years ago paid an unexpected dividend for Robin Stewart.
Last year, Robin Stewart spent a week at a school reunion in Vancouver, Canada, thanks to a group of students he had taught as a VSA volunteer in Brunei nearly 50 years ago.

Robin, now International Director at William Colenso College in Napier, says an email
invitation arrived 'out of the blue' from former students of St Margaret’s School in Seria in Brunei where he volunteered in 1969 and 1970.

‘I said I couldn’t afford to go but they said they would pay for me and my wife Kathleen. They also invited another volunteer, David Mitchell who had taught there just before me.’

Read more >
The Kiwi contingent, with Robin at right, give a fine rendition of Po Ata Rau at the Vancouver reunion.

Left: Robin with students on a field trip to Brunei town in 1969.
UK study explores impact of overseas volunteering
Overseas volunteering has an impact that extends well beyond just the personal changes that affect volunteers, according to a major study released in March by the UK agency Voluntary
Service Overseas (VSO). Impact Beyond Volunteering explores how being a volunteer influences not only future behaviour and career choices but also how volunteers go on to have an influence on others.

The study is the result of an online survey completed by 2735 of VSO's returned volunteers, indepth interviews with 63 and an online discussion with another 600.

Outcomes that the returned volunteers mentioned most often were a career change or direction, influence over others, and a change in practice. Read more >

An assignment
for you

An assignment in Cambodia for a horticulture business development adviser is one of 24 current vacancies.

VSA is also looking for a diabetes nursing adviser in PNG, a finance mentor in Timor-Leste and a sign language interpreter in Vanuatu here's the full list of vacancies.

The deadline for applications is
28 May 2017.

Feel free to pass these listings on to friends or professional networks.

You can register your interest in certain types of assignment. Just complete an easy online form and you'll be emailed when a vacancy in your field comes up.

Keeping track of our talks

Ellie van Baaren’s talk about her time volunteering in Fiji made a big impression on 25 Zonta members in Auckland in March.

‘She spoke exceptionally well and our members really enjoyed her presentation,’ said Zonta’s Janice Germann.

In the six months to the end of April, approximately 950 New Zealanders have heard presentations from 24 returned volunteers around the country.

And that’s just the talks we hear about – we’re keen to record the impact of volunteers post-assignment, so if you’ve given a presentation through your own contacts or community networks, email Madeline McNamara with the details.

Welcome to VSAConnect

Welcome to these volunteers who have joined VSAConnect on returning home from assignment recently (click to read their VSA profiles):
  • Neelum Patel, Alison Turner (ex-Bougainville)
  • Thoraya Abdul-Rassol
  • Rachel Hutchison, Rebecca Sim, Paulina Szczygiel
  • Gabrielle Chin and Sam Lawrence, Jale Moala, Lindsay and Barbara Gault
    (ex-Solomon Islands)
  • Steve Hales (ex-Tonga)
  • David Major, Matthew Wenborn (ex-Kiribati)
Join VSA's 27,261 Facebook followers
Can you help us contact the 'Missing Millions'?
VSAConnect will soon launch a membership drive to get back in touch with the many returned volunteers who are still missing from our ranks (although perhaps not in their millions).

VSAConnect was set up in 2013 as VSA’s free alumni group. Volunteers and accompanying partners have joined steadily on returning home since then and membership now stands at just on 1000. But many from earlier times, such as the person in the photo right, are still missing.

We’ve searched our old databases and records and come up with a list of more than 1000 emails and addresses of past volunteers who are not VSAConnect members. Some may be in this photo gallery – let us know if you recognise anyone.

We will soon get in touch with them all, urging them to join VSAConnect and once again become part of the VSA community.

New job hunters' website
Returned volunteers looking for work have a new jobs' site to browse. Smart Select, which is free to job hunters, was set up in February this year.

The site, where you can post your CV online, is one of several listed on 'Guide to re-entering the job market', a VSAConnect page that includes advice on how to present your assignment when job hunting back in New Zealand.

Bhutanese administrator remembered
From left: Roy Whittington, Craig Nicholson, Rinzin Norbu, Joan Reader and Alan Reader in March 2003, soon after the new volunteers' arrival in Bhutan's capital, Thimpu.

Alan Reader is among the volunteers who fondly remember Rinzin Norbu, VSA's administrator in Bhutan, who passed away in March. Read more >
Helpers sought for Auckland conference
If you're an Auckland volunteer with an hour or two to spare on Saturday 29 July, Engineers Without Borders and VSA are looking for some helpers.

With VSA's support, EWB is putting on a conference at Auckland University from 8.45am to 5.30pm, The conference aims to inspire people to volunteer overseas in development. VSA has been invited to make two 30-minute presentations.

We are looking for a group who can help at different times, such as during the presentations, to run the stands during breaks and be available to talk about their volunteering experience. If you can assist, email Mary Curnow at VSA.

Staying in one place vs being on the move
Travel writer Adam Constanza struggled to visualise what daily life would be like before he went to Bougainville for a year as the accompanying partner of VSA volunteer Ashlee Gross.

“Would I get the same travel buzz staying in a fixed location as I do from always being on the move from one place to the next?” he wondered. Adam writes about the experience in this Stuff article.

UniVol focus for Otago gathering
Otago VSAers are invited to a finger-food meal and discussion at the Geography Department, University of Otago, on Friday 6 May, starting at 6pm.

Topics include the UniVol programme, former UniVol Sam Mehrtens talking about his pending return to Papua New Guinea, and VSA Council discussions on the evolution of branches. All welcome. For further information, email Ken Baker.

Well qualified for Kiribati role
Aucklander Holly Coulter is in Kiribati until January 2018, on a VSA assignment as a cervical screening systems adviser for the Kiribati Family Health Association.

It's a role she is sure to handle well - in the latest issue of Metro magazine, Holly is named as a member of the Cartwright Collective, the group of campaigners who finally extracted a public apology for the 'unfortunate experiment' at National Women's Hospital 30 years ago.
E-nius is sent to VSAConnect members who have supplied email addresses
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