Volunteer Service Abroad

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Volunteer Service Abroad
Founded 1962
Type Non-governmental organization
Focus Development
Area served
Melanesia, Polynesia, Timor-Leste
Key people
Kirikaiahi Mahutariki - Kaitakawaenga
Simon Mark - Council President
Evan Mayson - Council Chair
Gill Greer - CEO
Slogan New Zealanders making a positive difference in the world
Website www.vsa.org.nz
Member of Council for International Development
VSA volunteers at work in Vanuatu

Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) is New Zealand's largest and most experienced volunteering agency working in international development. VSA volunteers share skills with people in the wider Pacific to help them build a better future for themselves and their children. VSA's work is diverse and driven by the development needs of in-country partners. These partner organisations range from regional and central government agencies to local or national NGOs, education and health bodies and individual schools, colleges and health clinics. VSA is a registered charity and is non-religious, non-political and non-governmental.

VSA has 85-100 volunteers in the field at any one time. During the 2013-2014 financial year, volunteers undertook a record 191 assignments. Over the past 50 years VSA has recruited more than 3500 ordinary New Zealanders from a wide range of backgrounds, from business mentors and lawyers to IT advisers and eco-tourism operators.

All VSA assignments fit within one or more of six focus areas: building local business, supporting strong communities, safeguarding the environment, fostering good governance, education and health. In addition to these, VSA considers issues related to gender equity, human rights and young people as central to all our work.

VSA is currently working in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea (including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville), the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Vanuatu in the Pacific and in Timor-Leste in Asia. VSA volunteer assignments in countries other than these “core programmes” are arranged through the New Zealand and Regional Partnerships Programme (see below).

VSA needs ongoing financial support to continue to send Kiwi volunteers to share their skills with communities in the wider Pacific.


VSA began by sending New Zealand volunteers to Thailand and Samoa in 1962. In February 1963, Sir Edmund Hillary became VSA’s founding President, a role he continued in for 13 years. In the 1960s, most VSA volunteers taught in schools. Today the range of assignments is broader. VSA's project partners, once mostly host governments, now include a range of government agencies, non-governmental organisations and community organisations.

VSA's programmes are managed from a Wellington office, but in-country VSA programme managers and administrators in each region provide on-the-ground support to volunteers and partner organisations.

Method of operation[edit]

VSA works with in-country partners overseas to make sure that all volunteer assignments are locally identified, locally relevant, and locally delivered. The goal is to transfer skills and knowledge so that the development achieved during an assignment is sustainable once a volunteer returns to New Zealand. There are both long (usually 1 to 2 years) and short-term assignments.

VSA also works with New Zealand partners through the New Zealand Regional Partnerships Programme (NZRP) to provide innovative volunteering opportunities, making it possible for more New Zealanders to volunteer and contribute to lasting change. VSA currently has twenty NZRP partnerships with organisations such as Downer NZ, World Vision and UN Women (Pacific).

VSA is an incorporated society and its members vote on resolutions at an annual general meeting held every November. VSA is guided by a Kaumātua and a governing Council of nine people. The Council meets five times a year to decide ongoing policy and activities. VSA's Council works closely with the CEO, Gill Greer, to oversee policy and strategic implementation.

Gill Greer, CEO[edit]

Gill Greer became CEO in July 2012 and leads the implementation of VSA’s international development work.

Dr Greer, a Wellingtonian, spent five years in London as Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). She was previously executive director of the New Zealand Family Planning Association. She also chaired the Asia Pacific Alliance and the New Zealand NGO-Ministry of Health Forum, and spent a term as Assistant Vice Chancellor at Victoria University.

Dr Greer was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to family planning and literature in 2005 and was appointed a CBE in the January 2012 British New Year's honours list for her work on international health and women’s rights.

External links[edit]