|Volunteer Story: CUSO-VSO, Bunty & George|
|Written by Martin J., Bunty & George|
We recently got in touch with a couple of fabulous volunteers called Bunty and George, who are volunteering in Jamaica through VSO. To find out more about their experiences, we asked them a few questions which will hopefully be of value to those of you who are considering to do a similar placement. Without further ado, here are the questions we asked and their answers. Right at the bottom of this post you'll find links to their blog and CUSO-VSO volunteering summary.
When, and why, did you decide to do volunteer work?
I was offered an early retirement package and so George decided to retire early himself making us free to do international volunteer work before we felt we were too old to work or travel!
What country did you choose, and why?
We originally chose Malawi because George had grown up in Africa and had friends of the family with an AIDS hospice who we thought might like some free help. They actually did but progress was slow working out what we would actually do there and when we would start. Had we gone to Malawi, we would have been solo volunteers...we would have had to pay for everything ourselves. Eventually we started looking at other options such as Cross Cultural Solutions where you pay them several thousand dollars for a specified period of time. The time period that we could afford was shorter than our hoped for time abroad - much shorter. We wanted to go for a year, maybe more! Then miraculously we discovered CUSO-VSO. They pay the volunteers travel expenses, in country housing in safe neighbourhoods, a monthly stipend and health insurance. They also offer placements from 3 months to 2 years which is exactly what we were looking for. This was too good to turn down and George very quickly found a job in Jamaica with CUSO-VSO which matched his skill set perfectly and off we went.
What type of work are you doing, and is it what you expected it to be?
George is a database manager here. He has a law degree and is a qualified Chartered Accountant using all these skills in building the database for his host employer. I am here as his spouse and am currently volunteering privately. I am also in the process of finding paid employment since we agreed to come for a 2 year period.
Yes, the work is exactly as expected from the original job poster and from information provided by CUSO-VSO advisors.
Are you volunteering with a big organisation (where you pay them a fee and they arrange a place to stay and work, transportation, etc) or are you 'flying solo'? If the former, do you think they are a good organisation to volunteer for? Do you feel that you are getting good value for your money?
We are with CUSO-VSO (the Canadian branch of VSO) and we didn't pay them fees up front. They pay us through a grant from CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). So yes, it's excellent value. Amazing in fact. It's the best working experience we've ever had. CUSO-VSO has expertise all around the world and look after their volunteers keeping them safe at all times. We just went through a period of political unrest here in Jamaica with the country in a state of emergency .All the CUSO-VSO volunteers always felt safe and well looked after during the crisis.
Do you have any general advice for anyone considering to do a volunteer placement similar to your own? Any words of warning or wisdom?
You can't really tell what things are like until you go there so it's best not to look at life through your home country's perspective and not venture out. But once you get there, the experience is life altering. You won't go home the same person you were when you left. Guaranteed. You can live a lot cheaper abroad and there's no freezing winter temperatures in a large percentage of the world.
That's all from Bunty & George for now, but hopefully we will hear from them again in the future. Perhaps next time they will be in Africa? If you want to read more about Bunty and George, please do visit their CUSO-VSO volunteering profile, and their fantastic blog.