Volunteers program in trouble: fears for future blamed for lack of applicants.

Author:Davidson, Jane
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Volunteers in Mission, the Anglican program that sends Canadians to work with overseas partners, has a dearth of volunteers for the first time in its 14-year history.

General Synod staff who coordinate the volunteers are concerned that fears over the future of the national church have cast a chill over the program.

"We usually have three or four applicants in the process, which might include couples," said Ellie Johnson, director of partnerships, "but it has slowed down in the past two years."

Volunteers in Mission is promoted by word-of-mouth and through the magazine, Ministry Matters. Approved as an outreach program by General Synod in 1986, VIM enables people of different ages, backgrounds, skills and professions to offer themselves for voluntary service overseas for two years. In late October 34 positions remained unfilled. VIM responds to requests for qualified volunteers to fill specific needs, which are identified by partner churches and institutions.

Seventy volunteers have gone to countries in Africa and Asia as nurses, theological lecturers, a principal of schools, a farm manager, child care workers, teachers, clergy, a medical doctor, an archivist and a librarian since the program began. The first volunteer, Irene Ty of Toronto went to the Amity Foundation in China to teach English as a second language.

There are presently seven adults and one child "in the field," but none in the application process pipeline. "We've been working to encourage applications. We are still in business," Ms. Johnson said. Members of Partners in Mission are supposed to promote the program in their own dioceses, and volunteers whose term is over give talks after they have come back, Ms. Johnson said.

Among the positions awaiting volunteers to fill them are: a tutor in agriculture in Uganda, a diocesan administrator in the province of West Africa, an ESL teacher in...

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