Australia's newest international volunteer programme
19 January 2006
by ABC News
Melbourne, Australia: Volunteering for International Development from Australia (VIDA), Australia’s newest international volunteer programme, is looking for skilled Australians who want to work in the Asia Pacific region.
"As we are a new program, just starting up, initially we are going to countries across the pacific like Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Across Asia we’re going to Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Timor, PNG, and ultimately, over the next year or so, we’ll spread across to South Asia, and also other countries like Mongolia, China and across into the far regions of Asia," says Anthony Rologas, vIDA Project Manager.
A diverse range of opportunities are available, not only for people from professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, economists and people with extensive government experience, but also for people with non-academic or formal professional backgrounds, like mechanics and people assisting with re-construction activities.
VIDA is operating under the Australian Volunteer Program, which is funded by the Australian Government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID). It works very closely with other agencies, like the Australian Volunteers International and Australian Business Volunteers, to essentially deliver different parts of the same volunteer program. All have different strengths and different programs that are managed and structured in different ways to complement one another.
"So, for example," continues Anthony, "Australian Business Volunteers focuses on short term placements for more mature, for example retirees, whereas our program is much more focussed on longer term, 18 months plus volunteer assignments across people from 18 right up to retirees."
There are, however, opportunities for people who are employed full-time and are looking for volunteering experience, but can’t commit for a longer term. "They might go for anywhere from potentially six weeks to up six or nine months, taking some time out from their job and hopefully we’re encouraging employers to support this program by acting as partners on these volunteer assignments, where they can provide support to the volunteer and to the agency or organisation that the volunteer will be working with in the developing country."
The programme provides a living and accommodation allowance while the volunteer is on assignment, which is enough to support a moderate life style. Airfares for people to travel to the country that they’re working in are provided and support with pre-departure preparation is given, which includes things like undergoing a comprehensive training program, medical preparation and vaccinations. They are also covered with a comprehensive insurance policy. In-country support is also offered, while the person is working in a country.
Couples are encouraged and if some one has applied and is accepted, then opportunities for their partner, if their partner is keen to accompany them, are actively sought. There are also some avenues to support people with dependants. There is a process for people who want to expose their children to a cross-cultural environment.
Anthony is well qualified to speak about the program, as he spent a year in the Philippines on a programme called the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program. "It was a live changing experience for me," he says. "It is a growing experience. You do have the opportunity to reflect on your own values as much as anything else. You’re confronted, often with poverty, with very difficult situations. It really does give you a growth opportunity. But you’ll find 99 per cent of volunteers would come back, wanting to go back and volunteer again, which to us is the biggest thumbs up that people can give.