For the first time since the inception of Volunteers in Mission (VIM) in 1986, there is only one application in the works. According to VIM coordinator Jill Cruse “this isn’t a crisis, but is a cause for concern. We can’t really afford an expensive advertising campaign to find volunteers. We depend on general church communication channels.”
The VIM program pairs qualified volunteers from Canada with churches in other parts of the world that request particular expertise or assistance. The system is based on local support and initiative at both ends. The requesting church initiates the project based on local needs and solutions and provides all non-expertise support, including housing for a volunteer. The Canadian volunteer gathers a support group in his or her parish to raise living expenses and to provide emotional support and news from home while she or he is away.
The needs of each requesting church vary widely. Requests for teachers and professors are fairly common, but there are also requests for doctors, nurses, farmers, pharmacists, woodworkers, journalists, youth workers and priests. There are currently 47 outstanding requests for volunteers.
In the 10 years of the program 65 people have gone from Canada to fill positions in other countries. One VIM helped to launch a university in Haiti. Another, Archbishop Douglas Hambidge, headed up a theological school in Africa. Some people have continued as volunteers and filled multiple positions. The people who step forward are not all single, recent university graduates. Retirees, couples and whole families have taken part in these opportunities. One couple even started a family while in Kenya.
Richard and Rhondé LeSueur took their two sons with them to Jerusalem. “The boys have had a terrific year,” the boys’ father, Richard, wrote in a Christmas letter. “Jamie is in Grade two and Philip in Grade one at a school in West Jerusalem. On the wall of each classroom a large world map identifies where each child comes from; a tapestry of name tags and strings stretching to all corners. They’ve ridden camels up Mount Sinai and fallen in love with sleeping out under star-filled nights in the Sinai wilderness.” The LaSueurs returned from their three-year placement in 1995.
The last people who were in process and not already in the field will leave in the next few weeks. This leaves VIM staff wondering where to find the next volunteers. “We know that VIM is not for everybody, but we believe there are many people out there looking for opportunities like these,” Ms. Cruse said in an interview. “Our hope is that the launch of our Web site will help us reach them. After 10 years, it’s hard to stay at the front of people’s minds, but the needs are as great and the opportunities as exciting as they ever were.”
The VIM Web site contains letters from volunteers who are overseas, opportunities available, and an on-line registration form to let people start the process right there. You can find the VIM Web site at www.anglican.ca/vim/. VIM letters are also published regularly in diocesan newspapers and in MinistryMatters.
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