What is VSA?
VSA is Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest and most experienced volunteering agency working in International Development. We send Kiwi volunteers to support locally identified and led initiatives throughout the Pacific. Through sharing of industry skills and experience, we facilitate New Zealanders to assist in capacity building with a focus on sustainable, ethical and inclusive volunteering.
For those unable to volunteer overseas, there are opportunities to support VSA and our Partner Organisations in the Pacific through E-volunteering.
Since 1962 VSA has had long-lasting and trusted relationships with international partners. We work closely to understand their unique goals and objectives and collaborate to achieve sustained and meaningful change.
We are proud to authentically deliver a locally-led approach to international volunteering with offices located in Dili (Timor-Leste), New Britain (Papua New Guinea), Buka (Bougainville), Honiara (Solomon Islands), Santo and Port Vila (Vanuatu), Apia (Samoa), Nuku’alofa (Tonga) and Avarua (Cook Islands), as well as Wellington (Aotearoa New Zealand). We will soon have offices re-opening in Kiribati and Fiji.
Our partners include regional and central government agencies, local and national NGOs, education and health organisations, schools, colleges, and health clinics. We also work with Aotearoa New Zealand and regional partners such as UNICEF, UN Women and the Pacific Community (SPC).
Each volunteer role aligns with our SDG’s to reach our vision of a world with thriving communities.
The relationships and experiences our volunteers gain from their time on assignment are truly immeasurable and cherished for a lifetime.
What do VSA volunteers get from their experience?
Each assignment, location, partner organisation and context is different and no two volunteer experiences are the same. In saying that, most volunteers speak of the life changing experience of living and volunteering and how the challenge has had a positive impact on other aspects of their life. Volunteers often come back with a different perspective and have spoken about personal growth. Others have found it has helped in their career while others acknowledged the joy of ‘giving back’, making life-long friends and making a real and significant impact in the communities they have volunteered in.
What skills and experience do I need?
Volunteering today looks a lot different to volunteering when VSA began in 1962. Back then volunteers would have been found teachers taking lessons or nursing patients, but today, volunteers build capacity alongside colleagues within organisations located overseas.
These days our partners are looking for people with experience across a range of business and community skills. We partner with government, businesses and organisations whose work requires experience in policy development, education, marketing and communications, tourism, information technology, engineering, agriculture, medical and mental health, law and community development amongst others. All assignments focus on sharing skills and resources, so key relationship-building, interest in learning Pacific culture, and mentoring are essential when volunteering to make a lasting impact long after a volunteer returns to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Alongside professional skills are the life skills volunteer need. The ability to be adaptable, be flexible, respectful people and new ways of doing things, and have a sense of humour. The ability to take a breath and take a different approach to working in the sometimes-challenging environments presented in developing countries are essential when living and volunteering.
VSA also closely with partner organisations to identify the individual skillset requirements of each assignment. Our recruitment team work then hard to carefully select candidates that match the traits listed on our personal attributes.
Demand for skills varies, and new assignments are being identified all the time, so check out our volunteer opportunities to match your experience to a current volunteer assignment.
What are the expectations of a VSA volunteer prior to assignment?
There is a lot to arrange before heading overseas on assignment. While comprehensive medical insurance is provided, volunteers are responsible for additional insurance, including any professional indemnity and public liability insurance. They are also responsible for tax commitments. VSA is not qualified to provide comment or advice on tax, ACC cover, student loan repayments, superannuation or insurance and remains the sole responsibility of the volunteer to contact the relevant authorities regarding their own unique situation. VSA can provide letters of support if required. You are also advised not make any big changes (i.e., sell your house or leave your job) until VSA advises that your assignment is confirmed.
The safety, health and wellbeing of our volunteers and the local communities for which they work within are of utmost importance. All volunteers going in country are required to undergo a medical clearance under an external medical adviser, including vaccinations for COVID-19 and other relevant diseases.
What are the expectations of a VSA volunteer on assignment?
VSA volunteers are expected to be adaptable and flexible and represent the VSA brand and values at all times while on assignment.
VSA is accountable to its funders and donors. We collect information and data to meet these requirements, including reports from volunteers and partners. This means that in addition to working towards the objectives detailed in the volunteer assignment documentation, volunteers are required to complete periodic reports.
Who will I volunteer with?
Each assignment is voluntary and as such volunteers are considered part of the VSA whānau and not employees of VSA. A volunteer works with an overseas organisation which may be a small local community organisation or business, government agency, national or international NGOs. Each volunteer opportunity has a volunteer description that includes an overview of the partner organisation, available on the volunteer opportunity page.
Volunteers work with a local partner organisation that VSA has assisted to identify the specifications for each assignment. The partner organisation will be listed in the descriptions of each assignment.
Our partners include regional and central government agencies, local and national NGOs, education and health organisations, schools, colleges, and health clinics. We also work with New Zealand and regional partners such as UNICEF, UN Women and the Pacific Community (SPC).
Can I choose which country I go to?
Volunteers can choose to apply (or not) to any advertised volunteer vacancy. We don't create assignments for volunteers, but match volunteers that have specific skill sets to existing assignments. Assignments are created based on a locally identified need thus specific to the development needs of the community or country. Our programmes are designed with robust procedures and processes to support volunteers and we generally have offices and local staff available to manage all situations that may present themselves to volunteers who work in these new environments.
The country is listed on the volunteer opportunity for your reference and aligned to the international programmes VSA operates at the time.
Do I have to be a New Zealander?
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is a major funder of VSA and all volunteers (including e-volunteers) must be a New Zealand Citizen or Permanent Resident. If a volunteer intends to travel on a non-New Zealand passport, volunteers are required to disclose this with the recruitment team upon application as this may impact the extent of consular support in-country in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.
Are there any age restrictions?
VSA volunteers are highly skilled and experienced in their industry meaning that volunteers would typically be expected to be over 25 years old.
However, university students under the age of 30 who are in their final year at university may be eligible to apply for VSA’s Univol programme. We currently partner with Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou - University of Otago, Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa - Massey University and Waipapa Taumata Rau - University of Auckland.
Regardless of the nature of the assignment, for those going in-country living and working in the Pacific demands a strong level of physical fitness, and for some countries restrictions for those over the age of 65 or 70 may apply. All potential volunteers undergo a full pre-assignment medical and clearance process before they travel. For those over the age restriction you may want to consider e-volunteering.
Can I take my partner or children?
For long term in country assignments (6+ months) accompanying partners are permitted to travel with the volunteer. The relationship with the accompanying partner could be a marriage, civil union, de facto, or living together in a serious relationship. The accompanying partner will often find voluntary work in the local community, and occasionally assignments may be available for both partners in the same location.
Accompanying partners must go through a similar recruitment, vetting and onboarding process as the volunteer and are expected to represent VSA values, behaviours and approach to international development throughout the assignment. Like volunteers, accompanying partners must either have New Zealand permanent residence or citizenship. VSA will pay the accompanying partner’s flights, accommodation, and other relevant expenses, and if they are not a volunteer as well, they will receive a living allowance of two-thirds.
Accompanying Partners who have not been living together in a de facto relationship, may not be able to defer student loan or other payments. It is the responsible of the volunteer and accompanying partner to contact IRD and/or other relevant organisations around their own personal situation.
Currently, VSA is not in a position to recruit families with children or support whānau (family) deployments given contractual, insurance, duty of care and logistical implications.
What if I have a health condition?
If you have a pre-existing health condition that can be well-managed, you may still be able to become a VSA volunteer. Any health conditions which may impact your assignment must be disclosed and all volunteers going in country are required to undergo a thorough medical check.
What support will I receive from VSA prior to starting the assignment?
VSA will support the volunteer through the recruitment and onboarding process prior to going on assignment, including arranging visas, flights and other logistical requirements. Each volunteer and accompanying partner must attend a thorough 3-day pre-deployment briefing in Wellington with flights and accommodation paid for by VSA. The briefing will involve a series of workshops addressing VSA approach to volunteering and international development, intercultural communication, health and wellbeing amongst others.
What support will I receive during the assignment?
As well as working closely with the local partner organisation that will allow for you to build trusting relationships, each country programme has a dedicated VSA Programme Manager who is available to support the volunteer during the assignment.
Volunteers in-country are expected to have a degree of self-sufficiency much as they would in an Aotearoa New Zealand context, but the Programme Manager is there to support the volunteer to ensure they have the skills and knowledge for this to occur. For these volunteers, VSA arranges and pays for basic accommodation and a living allowance to cover basic costs in country. Country orientation and language lessons are provided upon arrival. VSA provides an establishment grant to assist in setting up the volunteer’s accommodation with basic amenities.
All programmes have a thorough health and safety plan and volunteers are provided comprehensive medical insurance during the assignment and up to four weeks upon return to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Note: The living allowance is designed to cover a simple standard of living, including food, at a level similar to that of the local community. In-country volunteers are expected to be adaptable and will likely experience a different diet and standard of living then they may otherwise be accustomed to in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Can I take additional baggage?
Volunteers are provided with a standard economy ticket with applicable baggage allowance. We do not recommend taking additional luggage, but volunteers may do so at their own cost. If the assignment requires ‘tools of the trade’ or are asked by the Programme Manager or Partner Organisation to bring something (ie school resources), this cost will be met by VSA.
Is it safe?
While some countries may experience periods of political instability and can be vulnerable to natural disasters, VSA takes their duty of care seriously. An external security adviser works closely with VSA staff in Wellington and on the ground in the Pacific to regularly assess and ensure all assignment locales are safe for volunteers.
Prior to deployment, all volunteers are required to undergo an in-person briefing at the Wellington office to ensure they are prepared. During this briefing, the volunteer will take part in a number of sessions covering topics, such as how to keep safe on assignment, health and wellbeing, insurance and mental health.
For the majority of countries we work in, an in-country Programme Manager will be present who is responsible for ensuring any risks and mitigated and volunteers advised accordingly. Each volunteer will have a disaster preparedness plan, adequate emergency supplies, and access to VSA’s resources in the event of an emergency.
How can I support VSA if I cannot volunteer?
For those unable to volunteer, there are many ways you can support VSA and the work we do with local partners to improve the wellbeing of communities in the Pacific. You could join your local VSA Interest Group, make a donation or bequest, become a VSA Member, like and share our content on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.