Fiona, can you talk a bit about your background and your experience with Short-term volunteering?
I spent many years in my locality working in administration, but there was always something missing. I wasn’t satisfied with a job that paid the bills and needed to find a way give a more positive contribution to society. I had been a social justice and prison reform advocate for a long time and visited incredibly successful projects in Sweden for youth and former prisoners of all ages and nationalities, which was very inspiring. I finally plucked up the courage and went back to full-time education and completed my masters in International Human Rights Law in NUIG, and what an eye-opener that was. What inspired me the most, was the depth of knowledge and experience that other students gained from their volunteering in countries all over the world.
For the past year or more, I had been working voluntarily with a new NGO in Ireland, who aimed to be a sending agency and volunteer recruitment for other international agencies. As it was only in the process of being established, I spent a lot of time on ensuring legislative requirements were met, introducing procedures and best practice before we could start recruiting and building projects. While building relationships with other organisations, I was recruiting volunteers from all over the world for long-term and short term placements in several countries. It was very enjoyable and I met some amazing people who have dedicated their lives to human rights and development.
Why did you decide to work for VMM?
To be honest, when I saw the job advertised I thought Louise was leaving! When I discovered I would be working alongside her, I jumped at the opportunity as I had met with Louise before and she spoke very passionately about VMM’s work and I thought to myself, I want to be part of that. Now that I have spent time with the VMM team and seen their passion for what they do and how they support each other, I know I’ve made the right decision.
Which benefits do you see in volunteering overseas?
Experiencing the glaring poverty gap between your home and the communities where you have volunteered will inspire a more positive outlook and they will see that the newest model mobile or Xbox is not the most important thing in life. Being materialistic only results in having ‘stuff’ and you can’t bring that to the grave with you but you can leave a positive legacy that inspires others to be more caring.
From a professional perspective, employers will see that you care about the world you live in and want to be part of something bigger than yourself by contributing to the quality of life for others. As a representative of VMM in African communities, it shows how you can adapt to different cultures even if only for a few weeks and that you are trusted in sensitive roles that require compassion and understanding. Donating your time to others is something to be proud of, and why wouldn’t you be? And potential employers will see that too.
When you are not working, what do you like doing in your free time?
I have two amazing sons aged 25 and 12 (yes, there is a tiny age gap) and we have great fun. I have endured the fear of the Cú Chulainn Coaster and even been dragged to Comic Con (the things we do for our children!) and we all love going out together for a long lunch. I have two equally crazy dogs who demand a lot of attention, monitoring the theft of socks and walks in forests and parks. I love to escape with a book, concerts or afternoon out with my much loved friends.
Thanks for your time Fiona!