Volunteer Voices

How we share our skills to support those in need

Volunteering has long been part of our organisational culture. Whether through an individual’s time, specific expertise or consulting services, we’re very proud of our tradition of supporting communities in need. Working with NGOs directly or via social projects enables us to share knowledge and in turn benefit from the enrichment these experiences bring to our company.

VSO Partnership
From direct support to longer-term partnering, we’re building on our work with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) year-on-year. Did you know that we have been a VSO corporate partner since 2011?

VSO is the world’s leading independent development charity currently providing volunteers in over 30 developing countries. With roots stretching back to the 1950s, VSO has placed over 40,000 people in various projects around the world and supported millions of people through the sharing of skills, energy and insight.

Our aim of enhancing society together with our partners and clients matches well with the vision and values of VSO. Our employees and other stakeholders expect us to make positive contributions to the communities in which we operate, and we’re honoured to work on projects that deliver meaningful and technical help to local people.

Director of Human Resources, Kees Lekkerkerker says of the programme: “Our employees always come back enriched from their involvement with VSO. They gain overseas experience, grow their knowledge from working with a different culture, and develop as an individual - all of which benefits our organisation immeasurably.”

VSO Ethiopia
This view is reflected by Frank Soree, Oil and Gas Consultant, the initiator of our VSO partnership, and a recent advisor on climate change for VSO Ethiopia. Here’s what he has to say:
“Although education and healthcare are the main knowledge areas of VSO, climate change has recently been identified as a theme that impacts both these topics. My role during my six months as a VSO volunteer was to develop the Secure Livelihoods programme for Ethiopia, and then to integrate climate change into the education and health programmes being run there.

“I worked together with locals and other volunteers to identify challenges on the ground and to create a shortlist for partnering. We consulted widely to ensure the Secure Livelihoods programme provided VSO Ethiopia with the means to help as many of the most vulnerable people in the country as possible.

“In order to integrate climate change across existing health and education programmes, I mapped out the major climate change related policies, strategies, programmes and projects in the country and began to build on regional climate change impacts. Typically this meant focussing on awareness of nutrition and certain diseases and the impact of education access; but for the most vulnerable people, it meant working on climate-related food security issues.
“It was hugely satisfying to have designed the implementation strategy for the Secure Livelihoods programme and to have found funding for two important volunteer positions in critical areas. It was a wonderful time with a wonderful result and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have contributed something worthwhile.”

VSO Bangladesh
Water expert Janneke Snijders spent six months in Bangladesh as a policy campaign advisor, sharing her knowledge and experience with GBK, a local NGO. Janneke says: “We needed to raise awareness of water scarcity among the local community. There is a big contradiction between the rainy season when it floods and the dry season when there is almost no water at all.

“One of the big challenges was to make the local people aware that their rice production methods were unsustainable. Finding a solution meant involving other people with different expertise. It has been an amazing experience that really changes you as a person and the way you look at the world.”

 VSO Bahaginan
Engineer Arnoud Keizer is currently on VSO placement in the Philippines until November and will soon be working as a trainer in partnership with the VSO for the use of Open Street Map in disaster risk reduction.

“I’m based at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City (Manila) working on the DREAM program which produces flood maps for the most critical river basins across the country.

“Part of my role is to help the organisation become more efficient, such as in the planning and delivered quality of work. The other part is connected with helping communities through my work on flood modelling. After distribution of the flood maps, local governments can use the maps in setting up their activities in disaster risk reduction. In the end, the products I worked on can help communities be more resilient.

“Some of the real highlights for me so far have been the enthusiastic response to management training and the willingness to change the organisation and the ultimate drive of people within my organisation to help the Filipino people to be free from disasters. That fact really motivates me in my work.”

During the remainder of 2014, we will continue to encourage our employees to share their skills and knowledge anywhere we can make a difference. In this way, working with our clients, partners, and the communities in which we work, we can build on current progress to enhance society together.

You can read more about Janneke and Arnoud’s experiences here