VSO: The Volunteer Experts

VSO-logo1I’ve been thinking about adding a section with details on specific organisations. I’m going to start off with an excellent volunteer group- VSO. If you are a skilled professional and you are looking for a way to use your skills and expertise where it is needed most, VSO are a fantastic organisation to get involved with.

A while back, I featured Sarah Naughton, a friend of mine who volunteered in Rwanda a few years ago, in the ” volunteer experiences” section and she described her volunteer placement with VSO. I was really impressed with how Sarah described VSO, and I’ve always been a big fan of how they operate. Here’s why:

– they are dedicated to long term solutions

-they send experts in their fields, to ensure that projects succed

-they ask volunteers to commit for at least 6 months, non of this ” gap year” two week business.

VSO is one of the world largest volunteer networks in the world, and like the UN, they want the best of the best for the projects. They advertise their placements the same way the advertise paid positions and if you want to apply, you will need to send you CV and a covering letter. It is competitive and they want the right person for each position. You must commit to at least 6 months, and fundraise for your trip. This is volunteering done right.

If you cannot commit to a longer term placement overseas, VSO encourage you to volunteer for them at home where you can campaign and fundraise. They have lots of ideas on the website to help get you started.

Do you know another great volunteer group that you would recommend for someone wanting to volunteer overseas? Please comment or e-mail me volunteerasia@hotmail.com

Volunteer Stories: Sarah Naughton

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Sarah Naughton shares her experiences volunteering in Rwanda with VSO.

You can read the full interview here, as well as some more volunteer stories.

Why Volunteer?

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It may come as a surprise to you but I get asked, often, “why do you volunteer?, what do you get out of it?”.

Its not about what I “get out of it”. Its not about me. Its about helping people who need help. Simple as that. When people are interested in volunteering, I never advise them to do it because it is “rewarding” or “enriching”. I don’t think other peoples struggles should be seen as an opportunity to enrich your own life. Of course, volunteering does bring you a great feeling of accomplishment and is a very rewarding thing to do, that is just not my personal motivation for doing it. I volunteer because awful things happen to people living in poverty (and animals and the enviornment) and I simple can’t sit around and pretend I don’t know about it. Someone has to to something, and I am that someone. It makes me mad to think that people volunteer to simply boost their CV or tick something off their bucket list. But whatever your motivation, get out there and do some volunteer work. You will not be sorry!! Some of my best friends and favourite people are people I met while volunteering.

Money will always be needed by NGO’s and non-profits and donations keep their programmes running but many also rely on volunteers. Whereas some of the bigger NGO’s can afford to pay all their full time staff, they still need volunteers to fundraise and become involved in campaigns and projects. Many smaller NGO’s rely more heavily on volunteers, some operating 100% on volunteers.

There are so many ways in you can volunteer your time and talents. You can volunteer overseas and at home. From walking dogs who live in a pet shelter, to doing a charity run, using your expertise to advise and consult (IT advise is a great example of this). You can get out in your community and plant trees, clean up public areas. You can volunteer at hospitals, support helplines. You can get involved in sports clubs. The list is endless, and there are so many fun options!

(for more information on the types of volunteer work you can do overseas, see my article “Making Your Time as a Volunteer Count“)

International Volunteer Day is December 2013. Whether its an hour, and afternoon, a weekend, or longer, get out there and do some volunteer work!!!