On the eve of flying out for assignment number seven, Peter Blinkhorne reflected on the pleasures of volunteering.
Peter flew to Tonga early in December 2015 to begin an 18-month VSA assignment, his seventh in the past nine years. “It’s a lifestyle that suits me at the moment,” he says. “It’s stress free, the host organisations are very receptive and there’s a lot of satisfaction in meeting an assignment’s goals.”
Peter, 63, a qualified chartered accountant from New Plymouth, has financial advisory skills in high demand. In Tonga he will offer business advice to the Tonga National Youth Congress. Past assignments have taken him to Tanzania, Papua New Guinea twice, the Solomons, and Botswana where he worked with Australian volunteers. For most of 2015 he was in the Cook Islands.
“VSA reinforces a minimalist way of life that I find quite pleasant,” he says. “There’s none of the temptations of life back here with the neighbour getting a new car and me wondering whether I should get one too.”
While he’s away, his financial interests back home are managed. Without that, he says, he couldn’t afford to volunteer as much. His family in New Zealand are all well and getting on with their lives. “They’re really only a flight away, so it’s no big deal. You can always get on a plane and come home.”
Tanzania, home to his first assignment at a remote Lutheran Church, remains a favourite country. “I had a four-wheel drive so I could visit game parks, I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, and I met so many good people.”
Meeting people, getting to know a society rather than just passing through, and being free of New Zealand’s pressures add up to a package that Peter is now set to enjoy for the next year-and-a-half.