Frank O'Connor receiving his Life Membership in 2023.

This National Volunteer Week, we’re thrilled to celebrate one of our recent VSA Life Members, Frank O’Connor.

VSA Life Membership is not a lightly awarded honour. Just three Life Memberships are awarded each year. Requiring nomination by more than one party, Life Membership celebrates the hard work of a past volunteer who has gone above and beyond. Life members must demonstrate loyal and lengthy involvement as a VSA member, a significant and outstanding contribution to VSA, active participation in and commitment to improving VSA and its work, and consistent upholding of VSA values.

In every particular, Frank, an organisational psychologist since 1989, exceeds these criteria. Since 1990, he has provided support services to VSA in a variety of forms. He was first brought in to run team-building exercises for the first group of VSA volunteers heading to Vietnam; he followed this up with another session for volunteers bound for Cambodia.

Then Frank became a Selection Advisor, helping the VSA recruitment team choose suitable volunteers to send overseas. Contributing a Saturday every month or two, Frank interviewed dozens of candidates against assignment and situation briefs. Over the years, he also presented a conference paper on the VSA recruitment process to a national audience, highlighting the clarity VSA had on what made a good appointment and why the broad effort in the selection process was so efficient: 180 applicants needed to dispatch 100 volunteers annually! Frank also prepared a workshop for VSA staff around identifying and assessing different social risks. Safer and more effective – together. At every stage, he has embodied VSA’s core values.

Frank brings decades of experience living and working in many of VSA’s partner countries. This gives him a better understanding of the various social, economic, and cultural traditions in which volunteers work. He has shown great cultural sensitivity and knowledge of the Pacific, Melanesian, and Micronesian regions. On occasion, he has provided advice to VSA CEOs. Throughout these years of support and expertise, he has invoiced VSA only once: for a specific piece of work on partnerships with national employers interested in providing specialists for a period on leave without pay, involving possible funding from multilateral development agencies.

In the years leading up to gaining Life Membership, Frank provided organisational insight to the VSA recruitment team around the effectiveness of current practices. He made himself available to facilitate Selection Advisor interviews with candidates. He contributed to debriefs with returned volunteers, and participated in Selection Weekends. For VSA staff, Frank has been an invaluable source of information regarding past practices and what did or did not work. He has guided several volunteers through adverse events, averting early returns and maintaining partner confidence in programmes while volunteers recovered and returned to work.

Frank has acted in generous service, and we are enormously grateful for the all the help he has provided.

VSA would like to encourage our members to nominate individuals for Life Membership in 2024, in recognition of outstanding service. VSA currently has 17 Life Members and if you believe someone should be added to that list, please contact VSA through for a nomination form or for more information. Nominations are due by 5 August, and will be confirmed at the AGM in November.