Travel · Volunteering

A Journey With VSO

VSO International – also know as Voluntary Service Overseas is an organisation whose main purpose is to fight poverty in many countries overseas. They do this by sending volunteers to communities in need, where they help to educate and inform, and make a positive difference.

VSO volunteers aim to improve education, health and liveliness, and usually spend around three months in their placement country, living in a host home and community. They operate in many countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and I have been lucky enough to have been selected to be a Team Leader in a place called Nyimba, Zambia beginning in September.

It was quite a long time ago that I began researching this program, one which is facilitated by an organisation namely ICS (International Citizen Service), and funded by the UK government. I applied a few times over the last two years, but each time it came around, I had something else planned. However, after Christmas, I got back in contact to see if my details were still on file – and I resubmitted my application.

A few weeks passed and I was contacted by ICS, who I spoke to at length about the whole logistics of the program. They asked me about when I would be available, and told me they’d contact me again in a few weeks when they began selecting volunteers for August and September departure dates. Sure enough, a few weeks later, they got in touch again with potential dates and programs that they thought I’d be interested in. Very quickly, my application was sent over to VSO – who sent me notification within a few days that I’d been accepted to take part in an assessment day.

The assessment day was like an audition for the Apprentice. I won’t go in to great detail because that would ruin the experience for future applicants, but it was a day full of challenging situations with an almost hour long interview. We were informed we’d find out the results of the assessment day the following week, so I spent the next few days constantly refreshing my email hoping for a positive outcome. In the middle of the week, I received the email I had been waiting for – and I had been selected to be a team leader!

And so the journey then began.

From then, it became a process of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. Some of the many tasks needing completed include; DBS check, vaccinations, visa, flights, training weekend and most importantly – fundraising.

Fundraising is always a touchy subject in my opinion. Knowing that part of the program involves fundraising makes me apprehensive – not because I don’t think I can do it; but because of the perception from some who question what the money is for. I’d much rather pay the £800 total myself – but fundraising is a key component of the program. Just for some clarity, I’d like to explain what the fundraising itself actually pays for.

It does not pay for me – and it does not pay for any part of my program. It does not pay for my flights, visa, injections, anything. The program itself is funded by the UK government. The money that is raised through fundraising is a requirement of the program to facilitate and pay for future participants to continue to be involved, and to keep the program running. The more people who do the program, the more who can do it in the future.
Trying to generate ideas for fundraising has been difficult so far – although I have arranged a coffee morning/cake sale in work in a few weeks time, so I’m hoping to gather a decent return on the day. I’ve also set up a JustGiving page which you can find here, if you could spare a few pennies.

Although it’s still very early in the VSO journey, I know it’s going to fly in, and before I know it I’ll be arriving in Zambia in September. It’s an exciting project that I’m looking forward to being a part of – and I’m excited about sharing with you all the work that our team will be a part of.

‘Fighting Poverty’ is literally our job role. Included in this is educating people about HIV and AIDS, encouraging community involvement and empowering women in the workplace; helping them to improve their economic status, and promoting their rights. If you would like to hear more about the specifics of the program, feel free to visit the VSO website here.

In the meantime, whilst I arrange the logistical aspects of the program, I will continue to update you all on the VSO Journey, pre-placement, during placement and post-placement. I can’t wait to share the experience with you all.

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