In 2017, we celebrated 10 years of our UniVol programme. 

This year, we've sent another 15 UniVols to countries around the Pacific to put their studies at university into practice, working alongside local organisations, communities and people to share skills and change lives.

The Pacific is a young region: in the countries where VSA works, up to 60% of the population is under the age of 25. Our young volunteers often work alongside young community leaders, creating links that last a lifetime.

You can read about the 10th anniversary here, and keep your eye on the website in May, as applications for the 2019 UniVol programme open then. Any student at Otago, Victoria, Massey or Auckland Universities studying Geography, Development Studies or a related discipline to 300 level or beyond is eligible to apply.

We asked current and recent UniVols about their experiences:  

Finn Egan

Finn EganFinn volunteered as a Student Learning Support Coordinator with Divine Word University in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, in 2017.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I saw volunteering as an amazing opportunity to get my foot in the development door, while also contributing meaningfully to a great community.

What did volunteering give you?

A sense of purpose. A chance to work with others. Friends in new places.

What advice would you give to future UniVols?

Don't be afraid to take the first step and put yourself out there. The more you put in the more you'll get out of the experience.

Danielle Petrie-Deely

Danielle Petrie DeelyDanielle is volunteering as a Monitoring & Evaluation Assistant at World Vision Timor-Leste, based in Dili.

What inspired you to volunteer?

Since I was very young I have always had a strong desire to learn about international issues. I travelled a lot throughout my childhood and young adulthood, so I was exposed to poverty and inequality firsthand. During my last year of high school, I volunteered in Tanzania. This helped me discover that I wanted to study Development Studies and International Relations at Victoria University.

How is life on assignment?

There is no typical day in Dili, each day is completely different. There is so much to get involved in here, both the local community and the expat community are so welcoming and I have enjoyed being a part of both.

How is the assignment developing your professional skills?

I think that undertaking a VSA assignment is so beneficial for both personal and professional development and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure and a challenge! It has surprised me that so many skills and expertise are needed here in so many areas, but Timor-Leste is such a new country which has had to start building everything from scratch after so much conflict and unrest, so it is still in its early stages of development.

Astra Rushton-Allan

Astra Rushton AllanAstra volunteered as a Community Conservation Assistant with the Bougainville Bureau for the Environment in 2017.

What inspired you to volunteer?

One part curiosity, one part career development, and one part “Wow, what an awesome way to spend an extended period of time in a place and be so completely supported by the amazing VSA.” 

What did volunteering give you?

Volunteering gave me a greater sense of direction about how I wanted to focus my energy and a deeper understanding about where I wanted the next phase of my life to go. 

What did you give volunteering?

I gave volunteering my complete all. By the end of the year I was completely exhausted, but the beautiful humility of the people I met, the sense of pride I feel for the things I achieved, and the all the many adventures, made it totally worthwhile. 

What was your assignment highlight?

Collaborating with the Bougainville Women’s Federation to put on the first annual Buka Town Cleanathon event. It was so cool to see so many groups of people come to together for a common cause.

How did the assignment help develop your professional skills? 

I think the practical experience of having been in the field played a huge role in me landing my new job at Fairtrade Australia New Zealand. If you want to work in the Development field, having a VSA assignment on your CV is a valuable asset. 

What is some advice you would give to future UniVols?

At the end of the day, it is just as much about the relationships you make as the work you do. So take a deep breath and take it slow.

Kayt Bronniman

Kayt BronnimannKayt volunteered as a creative Content Assistant with the Bougainville Directorate of Public Affairs, Media & Communications in 2017.

What did volunteering give you?

Volunteering gave me so much. It gave me great friends and workmates in Bougainville who always took the time out of their day to talk with me, to teach me Tok Pisin and to help me adjust to island life. It made me appreciate so many things that I take for granted, such as hot water, consistent mobile network and 24/7 electricity. It gave me a connection to a small island in the Pacific with amazing and resilient people.

What did you give volunteering?

I gave my time and my effort. I brought an open mind and an open heart. But really I feel like I gained so much more from my time in Bougainville.

What was your assignment highlight?

There were two. The first was going a three-day trek through dense bush and up and down muddy hillsides to the remote Lake Bill Mitchell. After two days of tough hiking through the wilderness and scrambling up a steep mountainside we came to the lip of a massive crater lake, hiding amongst the clouds.

The second was the Goroka singsing on the mainland of Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of different groups from throughout Papua New Guinea, performed traditional songs and dances in the most incredible array of costumes.

How did the assignment help develop your professional skills?

I learned how to work in a challenging environment, where resources were limited. This allowed me to think creatively. It also allowed me to learn how to listen and learn from others.

What is some advice you would give to future UniVols?

  1. Travel as much as you can around the island and also in the rest of Papua New Guinea. It is such a beautiful island with so much to explore.
  2. Learn the local language as much as you can. Once you know the basics it’s a really great way to feel more a part of the place.
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There will be days where you don’t feel like you have achieved much but you are contributing a lot by being there.