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Ordinary work in extraordinary circumstances

A surf lifeguard, a youth worker and an HIV/AIDS adviser will be among the first Australians to volunteer with Australian Red Cross, as part of a new program funded by the Australian Government.

Australian Volunteers for International Development is managed by AusAID in partnership with Australian Red Cross, Australian Volunteers International and Austraining International. Through this program, Australian Red Cross will place volunteers within Red Cross societies and other organisations in Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

Volunteers will be supported with airfares, a living allowance, accommodation, insurance, training and emergency support. Most assignments are for 12 months, although they can range from three months to two years.

International volunteering involves ordinary work under extraordinary circumstances, explains Roz Wollmering, manager of International Delegate and Volunteer Services at Australian Red Cross.

'On the surface, an international volunteer role has a lot in common with your day job in Australia. You complete paperwork, go to meetings and submit reports.

'Except that the proposal you write might help a Red Cross society to get the funds to carry out relief work in a flood-damaged town. Your morning meeting might be on a Pacific island with people who are rebuilding their homes after a cyclone. The report you write might show how a group of HIV-positive women are supporting their families through a small business scheme.

'As a volunteer within the world's largest humanitarian movement, you will help mobilise the power of humanity to reduce or prevent human suffering wherever it might be found.'

Australian volunteers supported by Red Cross will include health professionals, financial and human resource advisers, community development and social workers, lawyers, blood specialists, volunteer managers, and communications and fundraising professionals. While they will have diverse backgrounds, experiences and aspirations, they all need to be adaptable, resilient, self-aware and able to work effectively with people of other cultures.

Red Cross societies in Asia and the Pacific have welcomed the program, and many societies have already identified assignments for Australian volunteers. These assignments include:

• raising funds to support road safety programs in Cambodia
• establishing a surf lifesaving program on a beach in the Philippines
• creating procedures that enable Red Cross societies to quickly mobilise local volunteers
• developing peer education programs to reduce HIV transmission in Kenya
• strengthening financial and human resource management processes in Timor-Leste

Volunteers stand to gain both professionally and personally through this program. 'For some people, international volunteering is an opportunity to gain diverse experience, broaden their skills or fast-track a career in international development,' says Roz. 'For others, it's a chance to make a unique personal contribution or have a life-changing experience.'

If you have what it takes to be an international volunteer, let us know. Visit to view current assignments or call us on (03) 9345 1834 to discuss your options.