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Have you got what it takes to volunteer abroad?

You could surprise yourself – and make a real difference.

HOW MUCH DO you know about the opportunities for volunteering abroad?

Perhaps not as much as you think. There are incredible openings in a wide breadth of countries around the world for a whole range of skills and roles.

The world of volunteering is a lot more diverse and vibrant than people realise.

VSO is an international development organisation that works through volunteers living and working as equals alongside local partners. VSO’s purpose is to bring people together to share knowledge, experience and skill to fight poverty.

Where can I go?

VSO has programmes in a range of over 30 countries, including places like Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Mozambique and Sierra Leone. VSO’s work spans right across Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

If you’ve ever wanted to really see the world, then volunteering your experience, knowledge and skills can take you there – and with a real purpose.

What can I do?

You need a mixture of professional and people skills to volunteer with VSO. A basic requirement is three years experience in your field, gained in the last five years, and a lot of countries also require an official qualification in order to secure a work permit. It’s not all about qualifications though – you have to be self-assured, problem-solving and flexible to adapt to the challenging but rewarding life of a poverty-fighting volunteer.

There is a huge breadth of opportunity for roles you might not have considered as volunteering positions – across sectors like teaching, medicine, farming, business, tourism, IT, midwifery, fundraising, communications, animal husbandry and botany.

How long can I stay?

VSO asks volunteers to make a long-term commitment. This is important as volunteers need to immerse themselves in a local community and build relationships with their counterparts to ensure that the work is sustainable.

There are standard roles for skilled professionals of all backgrounds, open to volunteers aged between 24 and 70; and VSO is keen to talk to retirees in particular. Placements last for between 12 and 24 months.

This might seem like a long time, but VSO believe that the impact a long-term volunteer can make justifies the time commitment. A real, sustainable and long-term change to people’s lives takes time.

However, there are also specialist assignments available for between three to six months. These opportunities are open to highly-experienced professionals who can provide advice at senior levels – generally with 10 years of experience in their chosen field.

And what’s it like?

Volunteers report working with VSO as a life-changing experience. Ruari O hEithir, a secondary school deputy principal from South Dublin, volunteered as an education management advisor in Rwanda for two years. He described his work as “the single greatest experience” of his life. Others working as midwives, HR managers, engineers in countries like Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Uganda describe their volunteering as “a wonderful adventure”, “an exciting and rewarding experience”, and “the start of a ripple effect” in their life.

So, do you have what it takes?

With the broad range of skills needed from volunteers, as well as varying time commitments and regions needing our help, you might just be the perfect person to get involved and make a real difference.

Why not come along to our Meet VSO events in Dublin, Belfast and Galway this October to find out more? Visit vso.ie to learn about the opportunities available to you.

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