Overseas volunteering program sees new life

Volunteers in Mission (VIM), the Anglican Church of Canada program that sends Canadians to work with overseas partners, has been on an upswing lately, after experiencing a dearth of applicants since 2001.

“For whatever reason, God is answering the call for international and cross-cultural work,” said Jill Cruse, VIM co-ordinator. “I wish there was a way of explaining it. Most (volunteers) are in a place in their lives where they’re able to answer the call.”

Ms. Cruse said that she and her ecumenical colleagues in Canada had noted a lack of interest shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. “People were afraid, I guess,” she said.

Since last year, though, four volunteers have been sent to the field; four more are in the preparatory process and one is in the application process.

Most volunteers, who may be lay or ordained, are new retirees “who still have lots of energy and lots of skills to share,” said Ms. Cruse. But there have also been a few young people.

VIM, which began in 1988, has had volunteers ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-70s.

Ms. Cruse said the new batch of volunteers just finished its 10-day cross-cultural orientation seminar in Toronto last January. (The next training session, which will run for three weeks, is scheduled for July.) The seminar, organized by the Canadian Churches Forum for Global Ministries (an ecumenical coalition of Anglican, Lutheran, United, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches), prepares volunteers and missionaries for life overseas.

Volunteers are normally asked where they would like to be assigned. “One of the reasons why we do this is because it’s difficult to live and work cross-culturally,” said Ms. Cruse. “There are lots of stresses and if it’s where you want to be, it helps to reduce that.”

But, she added, the decision about where volunteers go “is a three-way conversation between the partner, myself, and the applicant. It’s very seldom that we have a perfect match. It’s like looking for clergy.”

Currently, the demand is for native English speakers who can teach the language, lay and ordained teachers for theological colleges and diocesan schools, medical personnel, accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors. “There’s not a lot of need for technical people, but they also want those with basic computer skills and clergy to work in parishes,” said Ms. Cruse. The average overseas stint is one to two years.

For more information about VIM, contact Jill Cruse at (416) 924-9199 ext. 315.

Author

  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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