April 2023 - Jackie Cronin has shown a true commitment to volunteer work throughout the Pacific, taking on three roles across two countries with no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

Having three active assignments already doesn’t stop Jackie and her husband from thinking about volunteering in the future, “We were going to volunteer, and then COVID-19 hit, so now the borders are open again, we would like to take the opportunity to volunteer more in the future.”

The first volunteer assignment Jackie signed up for was as HR Policy and Procedure Advisor for Live & Learn Solomon Islands (L&L). This ran from 2017-2018 and she kept in touch both professionally and personally with the organisation after her assignment finished and she returned to New Zealand. She wanted to stay updated about the sustainability of the work that was completed during her time in-country.

L&L’s vision is a sustainable and equitable world free from poverty. In April 2021, Jackie began volunteering with them through another assignment as Human Resources Adviser through VSA’s e-volunteer (e-vol) programme. Her role focused on mentoring and working closely with the L&L Country Manager and management team to review and deliver improved operational policies and procedures to ensure the team could efficiently comply with all core project operations.

Soon after, in November 2021, Jackie began a second e-vol assignment as Operational Policy Advisor with San Isidro Care Centre in Solomon Islands. The Centre is to provide students with special needs the right tools to make a living for themselves, which in turn can benefit their families and their community.

Sister Maria Fe Rollo with some of the deaf students. Photo: RNZ Pacific

San Isidro Care Centre identified the need to upskill the teaching and learning capacity of staff and students. Jackie assisted with developing a policies and procedures manual for the operation of the school. She also trained the principal and staff to understand how policies are developed and how to use them on a day-to-day basis, leading to better management of the Centre.

Taking on two e-vol roles is a big commitment, but Jackie felt strongly about her commitment to helping local partners, so while continuing her two e-vol roles in Solomon Islands, she successfully applied for a standard in-country assignment as HR Policy Adviser for the Office of the Public Service Commissioner in the Cook Islands.

“I started the e-vol assignments during COVID-19, and then as I wasn’t working, I felt I had the time to take on the San Isidro assignment as well.” Jacki says, “My husband and I agreed I should apply for the assignment in the Cook Islands as we knew how great of an opportunity it would be to experience volunteering in-country.”

The Office of the Public Service Commissioner (OPSC) is responsible for supporting the Public Service Commissioner to deliver mandated functions outlined in the Public Service Act 2009. The most pressing challenge is developing relevant HR policies, systems, and processes. Jackie is helping implement clear, relevant, and responsive HR policies and procedures to support effective and efficient operations and sound decision-making for Government Ministries, promoting a productive, motivated workforce that understands its rights and obligations, operates within mandates, and set government standards.

When asked about her hard-earned experience with both e-vol and in-country assignments, Jackie claims, “The benefits of an e-vol assignment are that it is more flexible as they’re generally part-time, and it allows people that cannot travel to be able to volunteer, but I think in-country roles are preferable. Although it comes with more challenges such as culture, language, and location adjustments, working with a partner in-person helps you connect to their community day to day and better understand their needs and goals, and deliver accordingly.”

Jackie also spent a short amount of time in Solomon Islands to reestablish her connection with both partners and said the benefits were immediately and mutually felt. She enjoys immersing herself in the local community when on assignment in-country and says, “Getting involved with sports, whether it be a walking group or competitive, is a great way to foster relationships. Also trying to learn the language, even just some common words and phrases.”
Having worked in NGO’s in Aotearoa New Zealand most of her life, Jackie confirms she gets great satisfaction contributing her time and skills to international development projects, both professionally and personally, because she knows her contribution is helping to make a big difference for communities in the Pacific.