With all the knowledge that I had and the experience that I accumulated through my work in the HIV/AIDS arena over the years, I would occasionally think about doing a stint at volunteering in Africa or some other place in the world where I might be able to contribute. I even investigated a bit here and there, especially when I would encounter some one from an international development agency dedicated to connecting volunteers to compatible HIV /AIDS assignments like ICAD in Ottawa.
I found all kinds of reasons not to pursue it. I needed chiropractic care from time to time and that was not available. I was having perpetual eye problems and was afraid to be away from my specialist for a long period of time. But mostly I was not ready to walk into the void of the unknown for a period of six months or a year, which is what most assignments started with. In short, I was afraid, or not yet committed enough to carry through with what I thought I wanted.
That was in the days between the 'heady' work of financial management, was had left me completely cold and the work with the BC Persons with AIDS Society which I had come to love and which fed my passions. Once I was working here in Vancouver and finding it rewarding, I had a good reason to avoid going away for a year or so.
Then last summer, I ran across an article on a Canadian overseas volunteer program called Leave for Change. This program provides short term assignments for professionals who are still working. The assignments are usually from 3 to 4 weeks, the volunteer donating their vacation time to the program. This can be in a number of specialized areas such as HIV / AIDS, horticulture, engineering etc. It sounded interesting and just what I wanted. Did I have the qualifications and the experience they needed?
I checked it on the website of the Uniterra Program (www.uniterra.ca) and clicked on Leave for Change. I was intrigued and excited. Could this be it? An email to the Program Officer, Philippe Leduc [firstname.lastname@example.org] with my resume followed. Soon I heard back. Yes, they believed that I had skills they could use. They would send out my resume to their sector officers in the field and see if there was any interest in my skill set as there was not a job that complemented my skills on the current volunteer request list.
After a couple of weeks, I heard back. Yes, there is a group in Gaborone ( gHa-ba-row-neigh), Botswana that is interested in your business background, your financial planning-accounting skills. What!! Wait a minute! That’s not what I feel passionate about. Finance is part of a past life and I really don’t want to go back there. Is there not something else that might fit with my other skills, more people focused?