Frequently Asked Questions

What skills and experience do I need?

Our partner organisations are looking for skilled volunteers with recent, relevant experience in their specialist field. In most instances, volunteers will have a recognised professional, trade, or commercial qualification, and at least two to three years relevant experience. We recruit volunteers from a range of backgrounds, including education, business, tourism, IT, management, engineering, agribusiness, communications, health, law, community development and several trades.

Demand for skills can vary, so check the current volunteer vacancies page for up-to-date information about your skills area.

Our staff work with partner organisations to identify the requirements of each assignment, including the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed to do the job.

Who will I work for?

All volunteers work for a local organisation identified by our field staff overseas. These partner organisations include government agencies, national and international NGOs (non-government organisations), community-based organisations, training institutions and small local businesses.

The overseas partner initiates the assignment by contacting VSA and requesting a volunteer. VSA will not be your employer.

How long would I go for?

VSA is an organisation which is involved in long-term development. Most assignments are for one or two years but we also have short-term assignments from one month to one year.

Can I take my partner?

For our long-term assignments we regularly place couples overseas, but for assignments of less than six months this is not possible. With long-term assignments, the accompanying partner will often find voluntary work in the local community. Occasionally assignments may be available for both partners in the same location. Accompanying partners must also complete an application form and go through VSA’s selection and briefing process. Like volunteers, accompanying partners must have either have NZ permanent residence or NZ citizenship. VSA will pay the accompanying partner’s flights, accommodation, and other relevant expenses, and they will receive a living allowance two-thirds of that of the volunteer.

Can I take my children?

No, unfortunately, VSA is not in a position to recruit families with accompanying dependent children. This is due to a number of reasons, including contractual, insurance, budgetary constraints, plus access to suitable housing, health and education services. This is also based on considerations for the communities and partner organisations we work with.

Do I have to be a New Zealander?

You must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and be currently living in New Zealand. (Australian citizens living in New Zealand are also eligible to apply). Ideally, you will have lived in New Zealand for at least two years.

Can I choose which country I go to?

There is nothing preventing you from limiting your applications to positions that are advertised in a single country.

Are there any age restrictions?

The requirements for volunteers to have a couple of years’ work experience and relevant qualifications means it is unusual to send anyone under the age of 25. For insurance purposes the upper age limit is 75. Students aged 28 and under who are enrolled with Otago University’s Geography Department, Victoria University’s Development Studies Department, or taking Development Studies papers at Auckland University may be eligible to apply for VSA’s UniVol programme.

What type of person will VSA be looking for?

All volunteers must have the skills and experience to carry out the professional goals of the assignment and to meet the partner organisation's requirements. VSA also looks for people with the necessary personal attributes such as flexibility and tenacity to adjust to what will be a major change in every aspect of life. You will need to be adaptable and realistic, resilient and positive, and to have the ability to share skills with work colleagues and the community.

What financial support will I receive?

As a VSA volunteer you don't receive a salary. However, you do receive a living allowance which is adequate to support a modest lifestyle, covering food, local travel, communication and other costs. It will not stretch to cover luxuries, and you will not be able to save large amounts of money or meet financial commitments at home, such as mortgage repayments. VSA will cover accommodation costs, and you’ll receive establishment, rest and respite, and resettlement grants. VSA will provide return flights and arrange visas and permits. VSA also provides comprehensive travel insurance cover.

Am I still eligible for National Superannuation while I am away?

Volunteers receiving New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran's Pension, who are on assignment with VSA, can continue to receive this pension for up to three years (156 weeks) while they are away. We will write a letter to Work and Income on your behalf. You must be in New Zealand when you apply for National Superannuation.

Will I need to speak the local language?

VSA provides basic language tuition during the in-country orientation programme, and we strongly encourage all volunteers to learn the local language. Even the most basic language skills can help enrich your cross-cultural experience and reduce the frustration of being an outsider. In some cases, you will not be able to carry out your assignment without a good grasp of the local language.

Is it safe?

While some of the countries VSA works in experience periods of political instability or unrest and are vulnerable to natural disasters, we give our volunteers a thorough briefing on keeping themselves safe while on assignment. Our field staff are always alert to any risks, and work with other agencies, including MFAT, to monitor any – rare – dangerous situations, and advise volunteers accordingly. Volunteers always have disaster preparedness plans, adequate emergency supplies and access to VSA’s resources in the event of an emergency.

Do I need to have vaccinations before I go on assignment?

VSA’s insurers require volunteers to be vaccinated prior to departure in accordance with the instructions of VSA’s medical adviser. VSA covers the cost of all recommended vaccinations. It is important that once selected, a volunteer actively begins the process of receiving vaccinations as delays can have implications, including delayed deployment.

What if I have a health condition?

If you have a pre-existing health condition that can be well managed, you may still be able to become a VSA volunteer. It is important that you tell us about your condition so that we are able to provide you with accurate information about relevant issues and any limitations that it might place on your assignment. All volunteers are asked to undergo a full pre-assignment medical and clearance process, before they are placed in the field.

What if I become sick while I'm away?

It is important to VSA that volunteers remain healthy on assignment. All our volunteers undertake a comprehensive medical examination, including blood tests, appropriate to preparing for assignment. They will also attend a medical briefing as part of their pre-departure briefing course. VSA has a comprehensive insurance policy which includes medical insurance, though it will not cover routine prescription medications (e.g. blood pressure tablets, etc) or any expenses which are expected. VSA works with an emergency assistance company that provides 24-hour assistance in case of a medical emergency, including evacuation to the nearest suitable hospital if necessary. We work with VSA Care, a private medical management organisation, with a team of internationally recognised experts. Its role is to support VSA volunteers and staff with their medical preparation and return medicals. This is coordinated nationally, on behalf of VSA.

What do VSA volunteers get from their experience?

Many of our returned volunteers say that the experience has been a life-changing one. They value the opportunity to learn about themselves and another country, to take on a challenge and meet it, to contribute in a way that is worthwhile and meaningful, to "give something back", to do something adventurous and interesting, and to gain new skills and new friends.

How can I support VSA if I do not want to be a volunteer?

Support our volunteers, help us send more. There are a number of ways you can make a difference by supporting VSA. Choose which suits you best:

  • VSA Future: Become a regular giver and help VSA plan for the future and meet the needs of the communities we support.
  • Donate now: there’s no time like the present. Make a donation to support VSA volunteers working with communities in the wider Pacific.
  • VSA membership – as a member you can have a say in the direction of VSA by attending our annual congress, standing for election on our Council, or voting for Council members.
  • Bequest – By leaving a bequest to VSA you can make a lasting difference to the lives of people in the Pacific. Tell us you are planning on leaving a bequest so we can keep you informed about VSA.
  • Word of mouth – Tell as many people as you can about VSA. Maybe inspire a few others to volunteer or support us in other ways. We’re really grateful for those who spread the word about the good work we’re doing.
How can I request a volunteer to work in my organisation?

VSA is currently recruiting volunteers for partner organisations working in the wider Pacific. See “Where do VSA volunteers work" for a list of these countries. If you are an organisation working in one of these countries, you can contact us and your request will be forwarded to the appropriate staff member in our International Programmes Unit.

Do I need to fundraise?

Fundraising is about telling the story of the amazing work you will be doing and encouraging others to do their bit as well as you. It costs money to send volunteers overseas, so we ask all volunteers and accompanying partners to fundraise $1,000 for VSA before and during their assignment. Fundraising is your chance to show the world what you are doing and help VSA do even more of it. Every dollar raised is used to help us send even more volunteers in the future. Check out our A–Z of Fundraising on the website for some ideas about how to raise money for VSA.

What is VSA?

VSA is New Zealand's largest and most experienced volunteering agency working in international development. Our Kiwi volunteers share skills with people in the wider Pacific to help them build a better future for themselves and their children. Our staff build relationships with in-country partner organisations (mostly government agencies and non-governmental organisations) and work with them to identify their priority development needs. This ensures all our assignments are designed in partnership and are locally identified, locally relevant, and locally delivered.

Do you have programmes for younger and less experienced volunteers?

Yes, VSA’s UniVol programme; a partnership between VSA and Auckland, Massey, Otago and Victoria Universities.

To be eligible for UniVol you must be:

  • enrolled in your final year of university studies (bachelor degree or higher) in either Development Studies, Geography, Marketing, Communications or related disciplines at the following participating universities: Otago, Victoria, and Massey. We will also be accepting applications from Development Studies students from University of Auckland.
  • a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • aged 30 years or under on July 31 2019
Will my student loan accrue interest while I’m overseas?

Volunteers can apply to IRD to have any student loan interest accrued during their assignment written off. VSA will provide a letter in support of this application.