Published on 10th April 2013
Recently returned volunteer Chloe Pinel is about to start a new job with Trade Aid in Christchurch – and she says her experience as a VSA volunteer in Timor-Leste played a big part in helping her get the position.
“I have managed to score my dream job thanks largely to my VSA experience,” says Chloe, who takes up her new role as Trade Aid’s craft product coordinator next week. “It was a fantastic niche experience which has led to a really great niche job.”
Chloe spent four months as a Textile Product Design Trainer with Hamahon Feto Timor (Hafoti), an organisation that helps train rural Timorese women to make and sell products to earn additional money for their families.
While she was there she helped Hafoti members gain the sewing skills they need to make a new range of textile products to sell in the Hafoti shop in Dili, such as tote bags, cushion covers, purses and covered notebooks.
“Many of the women were new to sewing, and it was a huge learning experience for all of us,” she says. “For me, it provided a real insight into just how much is involved in helping women in developing countries gain the skills they need to make and sell fair trade products.”
Chloe is one of many former volunteers who have found that going on a VSA assignment is not only hugely rewarding personally, but is also a good career move.
In a 2004 study, most of the 48 returned volunteers who took part told researcher Sheen Hudson that their VSA experience had influenced their career “more than somewhat”.
About half said it had provided them with the opportunity to learn new technical skills, and a similar number said it had allowed them to develop personal skills such as self-confidence, patience and adaptability.
Those findings are echoed in a recent study by VSO in Britain, which found that 57 percent of returned volunteers said they developed their professional skills while volunteering, and 30 per cent said they had changed job after volunteering overseas. Almost one in 10 got a promotion after completing a volunteer assignment.