VSO – volunteers and development

16 04 2007

Harborne HallIn December I was accepted as a volunteer by the charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO).  This is an international development charity that works with volunteers.  They work by finding suitably qualified expert volunteers for partner organisations in disadvantaged countries, usually for two years.  The majority of the volunteers are in education or medicine, but they also place business and technical experts.  If a suitable role is found I will be going as an IT consultant.  Apparently there are an increasing number of IT roles as organisations try to use databases and other technology to improve their efficiency and in education.

I’ve got a number of reasons for wanting to do this.  A big part of me doesn’t want to reach 60 feeling that all I’ve contributed is to have made rich people richer.  It would be gratifying to feel my skills and experience can be used to perhaps make things a bit better for people who really need to have their lives improved.  Given that I’m in a job which is boring me witless and I have no financial worries (my mortgage was low and now paid off) now seems the perfect time to do something.  When I got back from overseas in late 1999 I resolved that I would only stay in the UK if I settled.  Seven years on I’m a single man approaching middle age in a dull job, time for a positive move.

The assessment day was hard work, with probably the most gruelling interview I’ve ever had as well as group exercises.  To be selected as one of the 700 volunteers for this year from the large number of applications I was humbled and apprehensive.  Since then I’ve been on a couple of training weekends in Harborne Hall, Birmingham.  The first was called “Preparing for Change” and was intended to give us an idea of the personal issues that might affect us in our placement, and to consider whether volunteering was actually for us.  The second was last weekend, “Volunteers and Development”.  This covered the basics of development issues and how they would affect us as volunteers.  Both were interesting, challenging and tiring. 

One aspect that was particularly interesting was meeting other volunteers, and participating in group exercises and discussions with them.  VSO chooses people who are self-confident, self assured, intelligent, articulate, motivated and flexible.  Putting a large number of these types in a group makes for an interesting dynamic.

And now I’m waiting on tenterhooks for details of my placement.  VSO should be getting details of the roles available at the moment, so hopefully I’ll know where I’ll be going and what I’ll be doing in the next few weeks.

Here is a photo of the Last_V&D course participants.




One response

1 07 2009
Goodbye Ghana « Tim in Tamale

[…] you’re interested please read the blog (perhaps starting from from here) or look at my photos […]

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