I have wanted to volunteer since I was 14 years old. In my 20s I applied to the Peace Corp (I am American) and by the time I was accepted, many months later, i had planned a big trip of many months to Europe. I never did volunteer. Life happens, career, home etc. Finally I realized I was healthy, still wanting to volunteer, willing to give up all my work and go. My blog is called "When I'm Sixty Four" if that tells you anything! The actual name is: whenimsixtfour.blogspot.com..(it was a typing error) Anyway, I figured if I was going to give up all my work which included a private psychotherapy practice, teaching psychiatric nursing students and some consulting with Visiting Nurse Service around patients with emotional as well as physical problems, I needed to get a placement for at least 2 years.
I’d been spending my spare time volunteering back home in England for a while, but I wanted more, I wanted to travel, to have a big adventure, to challenge myself and make a difference to the lives of people living in developing countries. I knew I didn’t want to pay alot of money to volunteer for an NGO where I might not have a big impact, I wanted to be supported by a reputable organisation. I did lots of internet research and went to the Volunteering Centre near my house in Bristol and VSO, or Voluntary Services Overseas, was the best I could find. VSO has a strategic alliance with the UK’s Department for International Development and work in over 40 countries, sending volunteers to share their skills rather than money. All placements with VSO are fully funded and each country has its own programme office supporting volunteers.
6 months in placement. 18 to go.
Am I able to say that this volunteering “fancy” of mine has been a good idea at all?
Without a doubt!
Will I change my mind at the end of the whole two years?
Why so? Well that, for me, is because of the very nature of volunteering. Every volunteer knows from the outset that things are going to be very different from the cosy security of ‘home’, wherever that may be. As a result, they are somewhat shielded from the shock of facing new cultures, new levels of (dis)comfort, new paces of life and new communication barriers. Furthermore, since these are the very new experiences that attract a lot of people to volunteering, they tend to see it more as a challenge... a goal. But then you hear a lot of people saying “I totally didn’t expect it to be SO different!”.
Mar & Mark (or Mar(k) for short) are the latest volunteers to answer some questions for us. They are currently volunteering in for VSO in Ghana, and are on a two year long placement. If you are, have or plan to volunteer and would like to share your story, perhaps by writing a blog for us or answering some questions like Mar(k), we would love to hear from you! Should you be intrigued by this short interview, you can read more about Mar(k) and their adventures on their volunteer blog.
When and why did you decide to do volunteer work?
We first decided to do some volunteering work about two years ago. We were coming to the end of our “working lives” in the petroleum industry, and wanted to do something more “meaningful” that could utilise our business skills, and at the same time, hopefully help others in some way.
We got in touch with John Callaway a short while back, after having found his blog, and asked him to tell us a bit about himself and his international volunteering journey. As it turns out, he had recently written a great article on the topic for Portsmouth Today, which he kindly offered for us to publish as well. Said and done, here is the complete, unedited, article:
The earthquake that hit Haiti some 6 months ago, on the 12th of January 2010, caught the attention of the entire world. Thousands of images and videos depicting a catastrophe of a near-unbelievable magnitude made up the headlines of nearly every news broadcast and publication. The poorest country in the western hemisphere lay in ruins, and the lack of infrastructure has made for a difficult hindrance to help efforts.
We've asked another helpful volunteer to answer a few questions for us, just like Bunty & George in Jamaica. Catherine Dupre is currently volunteering with VSO in Mongolia, and kindly agreed to share some of her experiences with us. If you want to read more about her adventures, check out her personal blog: Monglian Nursing Adventure. She's also supplied us with a gallery of photos that she has taken in Mongolia, which you can view right at the bottom of this article (shortcut). Now, on to the questions!
There are very interesting and rewarding jobs out here for everyone.
We recently got in touch with a couple of fabulous volunteers called Bunty and George, who are volunteering in Jamaica through VSO. To find out more about their experiences, we asked them a few questions which will hopefully be of value to those of you who are considering to do a similar placement. Without further ado, here are the questions we asked and their answers. Right at the bottom of this post you'll find links to their blog and CUSO-VSO volunteering summary.