VOSESA research welcomed internationally

By Rejoice Shumba [1]

Representatives from AVSO and VOSESA participate in the European Parliament workshop on ‘Shaping Policy for Voluntary Service through Research’ in June 2007. Workshop convenors Gisela Kallenbach and Marian Harkin (second and third from the right, respectively) are both members of the Green Party (in Germany and Northern Ireland respectively).

The research results obtained from VOSESA’s cross-national five-country study on civic service and volunteering in Southern Africa were commended as breaking new ground in the African context and were enthusiastically received by a range of influential players in different parts of the world, including United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and members of United Nations Development Programme in the Southern African region.

The findings show that civic service in Southern Africa is quite different from social service in industrialised countries, where those who provide service are generally more affluent than the beneficiaries. In Africa, where poverty is so prevalent, civic service is largely the domain and the achievement of the poor. It is the extension of a helping hand between equals. (See research reports at www.vosesa.org.za.)

Assistant Professor Amanda Moore McBride from the Global Service Institute in the USA called the study “impactful” and commended the VOSESA researchers for their “conscientiousness, professionalism, and great work”.


Following the successful completion of the study, VOSESA had the opportunity to present the findings at a number of occasions, both locally and abroad. These included:

- A fellows’ seminar hosted by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, in February 2007. The seminar was attended by fellows from 17 countries, who presented the findings from their research on service and volunteering, conducted across more than 30 countries. The VOSESA delegation included VOSESA’s Executive Director, Helene Perold; VOSESA Project Coordinator, Rejoice Shumba; Professor Leila Patel, Head of the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg and VOSESA Board Member; and her research assistant René Carapinha.

- ‘Shaping Policy for Voluntary Service through Research’ European Parliament workshop in Brussels in June 2007. Attended by approximately 130 people from various European countries and sectors, including policy-makers and NGOs, the workshop was convened by Gisela Kallenbach and Marian Harkin (from the Green Party in Germany and Northern Ireland respectively), both strong advocates for voluntary service among European member states. The workshop was organised in partnership with the Association for Voluntary Service Organisations (AVSO). Prof Leila Patel and Helene Perold presented the VOSESA research findings. Other presentations included one from the AVSO research team (Steve Powell) on the impact of voluntary service in Europe and a case study on intercultural competence among volunteer organisations (Sonia Haapanen). Dr Mae Chao (UNV), Karin Lopatta-Loibl (Policy Officer within the youth policy unit of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture) and Massimiliano Viatore (AVSO President) were some of the other speakers at the workshop.

- United Nations Volunteers, Bonn in June 2007. A VOSESA delegation comprising Helene Perold and Professor Leila Patel presented the findings at a staff forum convened to discuss research on volunteering. The results were enthusiastically received. The delegation spent two days engaging with UNV staff on a range of matters including topics and methodologies for further research, research-dissemination strategies and ways of building closer working relationships between VOSESA and UNV.

- Imagined Futures Conference, University of Pretoria in September 2007. VOSESA was invited to present its research findings at this regional conference that involves people from the SADC region and further abroad. The VOSESA presentation raised considerable interest among the delegates who identified with the findings from their experience in their own SADC countries. Some delegates commented on the significant role that volunteers play in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.

[1] Rejoice Shumba is the Project Coordinator at VOSESA.