Ann and Joe O’Riordan tell us of life as a VLM Volunteer.

Joe O’Riordan, a 2013-14 VLM Volunteer worked in Bruh Tesfa Teacher Training College in Woylita Soddo with his wife Ann for six months. Joe gives us an account of his experiences as a VLM Volunteer:

Joe O'Riordan, Mary Anne Stokes VLM and Ann O'Riordan

Joe and Ann prepare for departure with Mary Anne, VLM.

“Ann and I are both involved in education and in 2013 we took leave from our profession to work as volunteers. We did a lot of research and contacted several organisations. Once we came in contact with VLM, however, our choice was easily made. The Vincentian philosophy of working with those most in need and their emphasis on capacity building and skill sharing rather than creating a dependency on aid appealed to us. On a practical level VLM were also the easiest and most efficient charity we dealt with. Staff were quick to respond to our email of interest, by calling to discuss our expectations and hopes around placements.  This positive initial contact combined with the fact that VLM operate in Ethiopia, a most alluring and interesting country, meant that we had found a group who met our needs and aspirations.

VLM support more than eight projects all over Ethiopia ranging from health initiatives to adult education and so we had a wide range of options to choose from. In the end we decided to opted for a voluntary placement in  Bruh Tesfa Montessori Teacher training college in Woylita Soddo in Southern Ethiopia. VLM facilitated our departure and ensured that everything was in place upon our arrival. This meant that we only had to concern ourselves with personal preparation.

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Ann teaches arts and crafts to a class of Montessori Trainee Teachers

In Soddo we worked with the student teachers in the areas of English, Music, Art and PE. We are also worked with the other instructors and administration staff on capacity building and with the current teachers working in the model KG school on site. Our work was not without its challenges but was highly rewarding. The staff, students and sisters made us so welcome and by the end we began to feel like locals. The staff really helped us to get to know Ethiopia and many happy hours were spent outside of work immersing ourselves in the vibrant and varied culture. The time flew by as each day brought new experiences and of course the ever present sunshine which helped!

Our voluntary experience with VLM and the Daughters of Charity exceeded our expectations and we would encourage anyone who has that niggling urge to work for as a volunteer to grasp the opportunity and make contact with this efficient and effective charitable organisation.”