VSO: Leona Daly

Leona Daly

Press Officer

VSO

What does VSO do?

We’ve been in operation for 50 years and we’ve developed as we’ve gone along. We send workers to 34 countries, and we’ve sent 30,000 skilled volunteers overseas since we started.

There are six key areas we send volunteers into:

Health

Disabilities

Education

HIV/AIDS

Secure livelihood

Governance

We work mainly in Africa and Asia. Our volunteer positions are very specific, we’d be looking for people with a real interest in the area and with skills they can take with them.

The key to it is to send people who have experience, relevant experience, and can train local people and leave a lasting impression on the area.

Placements range from 2 weeks to 2 years.

Run two dedicated youth programmes, but they have to have shown an interest in the subject area. We don’t just send anyone. Most of our volunteers in this area go to Africa.

Global exchange programme, a cultural exchange, we’d send nine volunteers from the UK to Asia and nine Asian volunteers would swap with them – and those from developed countries do volunteer work there, and Asian volunteers do volunteer work here. That’s been running for five years now.

Why volunteer?

We’ve seen a real change in the demographics of people who volunteers, we have a lot more ‘golden gappers’ as we call them. People who have retired, or are nearing retirement, and want to do something different or give something back with the skills they have learned throughout their careers. Some people just don’t want to put their feet up.

We want to give something back to the community, and through these experienced volunteers we can.

They have to show before they go that they have a passion for the developing world and the issues facing it.

What do volunteers get out of it?

Most volunteers get more out of it than they give, that’s just because for many of them it’s such a relief to be doing something completely different to what they were doing before.

They’ll be dealing with problems overseas that they would never have faced in the UK, and resolving these problems can be really rewarding.

It’s an amazing experience to go and live in the community, our volunteers are paid a local wage so that they don’t feel above/below the people they are working with, and many of them make friendships for life.

A lot of people while working on VSO placements either find themselves re-considering their careers, their lives, and what they want to do. It can give them a different perspective on things.

What do you think of the rise of meaningful travel, with companies that specifically target young people?

Really have to be careful where your money is going, need to research who you’re going with and what the place is like. You hear a lot of horror stories about people paying large sums of money and turning up in a foreign country, and the place has no idea who they are etc.

A big consideration has to be the impact you will make on the community you’re going to be living with. They will not be used to seeing Westerners, and if they are, then they may will try and sell you everything under the sun and not act naturally.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Volunteer organisations, Working abroad

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