Give people a fish and you’ll feed them for a day, teach people to fish and they’ll feed themselves for life.
Volunteer Service Abroad puts that principle into practice and it’s getting money to help with its work:
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced a three-year support package of $24 million for Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) to help place skilled New Zealand volunteers in developing countries.
“New Zealand is a world leader in areas like agriculture and tourism development that are vital for developing countries, especially in the Pacific,” Mr McCully says.
“The government wants more New Zealanders to be involved in the delivery of our aid programme. VSA now has a strong focus on supporting economic development and is delivering more opportunities for volunteers in the Pacific.”
In the last year alone VSA volunteers have contributed to; improved access to drinking water for almost 9000 people, the provision of sanitation facilities for more than 3000, the treatment of more than 200 patients, and the upgrade or building of around 90 kilometres of roads.
“VSA is also offering more short-term assignments and partnering with other New Zealand organisations such as Downer NZ, Tuia International, World Vision and Rotary NZ to access more New Zealanders with specific expertise,” Mr McCully says.
Giving security of funding for three years gives the organisation some certainty and VSA is understandably pleased with this:
VSA Chief Executive Officer Debbie Snelson says this is the first time the government has approved up front a three-year funding commitment. It means that VSA can confidently go ahead with its plans to provide more Kiwis with the opportunity to volunteer in the wider Pacific, and to develop new assignments in partnership with New Zealand businesses and organisations.
“We see this decision as a real endorsement of our work – and it’s a truly wonderful 50th anniversary present,” she says. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is our core funder. Until now it has provided funding on a year-by-year basis. Knowing that we have secure funding from MFAT for the next three years will give us more flexibility to access the Kiwi skills that our overseas partners are looking for.”
She says the details of the funding arrangement are still being negotiated, and it is contingent on VSA delivering satisfactory results. These include increasing the number of short-term assignments to about 55 a year, and developing 25 assignments a year in partnership with New Zealand businesses and organisations.
Under the agreement VSA will continue to focus its work in Melanesia, Polynesia and Timor-Leste.
“We are confident that we can keep playing a significant role in New Zealand’s overseas development assistance programme, particularly in the area of economic development.”
At least one MP has practical experience of VSA. Invercargill MP Eric Roy was a volunteer in the Pacific in his 20s.
A couple from our district, Bill and Shirley Kingan, have had two postings in Papua New Guinea and are now on a short-term assignment in Samoa.