FAQs Returned Volunteers

x
Meet VSA's staff: the people behind the scenes.

Click on a photo to read a little bit about each person.

Gill Greer

Chief Executive Officer

What’s your favourite Pacific or Timorese phrase or saying?

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui ("Be strong, be brave, be steadfast") — these are my usual words to departing volunteers.

 

A movie, book or piece of music that summons up the Pacific to you?

Mr Pip.

 

Someone who inspires you?

Each volunteer I debrief at the end of their assignment.

 

Chris Rimats

Programme Officer (Bougainville)

What does your job entail, day-to-day?

I assist the VSA Programme Manager based in Bougainville, providing volunteer support, liaison and profile building, office administration, financial tasks and more. But, most importantly, I work to ensure all VSA staff and volunteers' safety and security.

 

What was it about VSA that made you want to work for the organisation?

VSA has been in Bougainville since 1998 after the Bougainville Crisis. As a local I am very grateful for VSA’s contribution and their continued support of rebuilding Bougainville.

 

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Meeting and working alongside all volunteers, having that friendship – but it's also sad to see them leave at the end their assignments.

 

What’s your favourite local place to introduce volunteers to?

The Buka vegetable market, then a boat ride to the Mainland (Kokopau) and Sohano Island. Always a good experience for new volunteers, and they enjoy the boat ride.

 

Kesaya Baba

Programme Manager - Solomon Islands

What do you do?

I oversee the Solomon Islands VSA programme. This includes activities like scoping and designing assignments, ensuring our placements align with the development priorities of the Government and NZ Aid Programmes and building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders in the region. I am also responsible for managing the volunteers once they are in-country. This includes securing adequate housing, monitoring their safety and security situation and ensuring volunteers are happy and healthy.


What’s your favourite thing about working for VSA?

The best thing about working for VSA is the diversity in the people I meet and the tasks I get do.


What’s your favourite Pacific saying?

My favourite Pacific saying is “Sega na leqa” from my home country Fiji. It means no worries!

Mattie Geary Nichol

Manager – Programme Operations (Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Polynesia)

What do you do?

My role is Manager – Programme Operations. This means I have Wellington based responsibility for the programmes in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Polynesia. I help find and assist amazing volunteers for our partners in those countries by scoping assignment descriptions, selections and pre-departure preparations. I also get to welcome volunteers home at the end of their assignment and support that process.

 

What’s the best thing about working for VSA?

The people we work with – the staff, the volunteers, the in-country partners, the selectors, the returned volunteers and the wider group of people supporting our work. I also really like all the food that is shared around – coffee from Timor-Leste, Coconut Gold from Vanuatu and feijoas from Rémi’s garden to name a few.

 

What’s your favourite Pacific or Timorese phrase or saying?

Not really a saying but I love how in Vanuatu you can carry out almost a whole conversation with your eyebrows. I want to become fluent in that.

Anna Ung

Finance Intern

What do you do?

I’m part of the Finance team here in the Wellington office, working with day-to-day banking and payments.

 

What's the best thing about working for VSA?

Being able to work with a friendly bunch of people who all play a part in transforming people's lives – this really is a privilege!

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Somewhere warm and tropical… sipping on a freshly cut coconut and listening to good music with some great people…

Bridget Cassie

Partnerships Administrator

What do you do?

I am part of a small team of two people who work with private, public and corporate partnerships. We use these partnerships to create innovative and valuable assignments and then send out volunteers to work with our amazing partners in the Pacific and South East Asia.

I am in charge of preparing and briefing volunteers for the field who go to countries that are outside of our normal volunteer locations, and also making sure they get there safe and sound.

 

What’s your favourite thing about your job? Or what do you think is the best thing about working for VSA?

My favourite part of my job is getting to know the experienced volunteers and staff in both Wellington and in the countries where we work. I am also excited to be part of the process of sending volunteers out into developing countries so they can share their knowledge, interact with and learn from the local people.

 

What are you renowned for in the office?

My owl cup.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

On an isolated atoll right by the sea doing cartwheels on the sand.

Amanda Baker

Recruitment assistant

What's your favourite thing about living in Wellington?

I love its lively little buzz and how close you can live to both the city and sea. I feel pretty lucky being able to have both!

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Probably having a glass of wine in the sun with good friends and family, followed by some live music or theatre.

 

 

Samantha Morris

Programme Officer (PNG, Bougainville and Timor Leste)

What do you do?

As a Programme Officer I help volunteers make sense of all the paperwork required to get them where they want to go (and back again), if where they want to go is PNG, Bougainville or Timor Leste.

 

What's the best thing about your job?

The people and the places. It’s awesome to work with a bunch of incredibly warm, genuine and passionate individuals as well as drawing closer to the Pacific, and learning more about Aotearoa in the process.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Outdoors! Halfway up a mountain, in the bush or by the sea, ideally with friends and whānau.

Andrea Gemmell

HR Co-ordinator

What do you do?

Human Resources Co-ordinator, assisting the HR and Volunteer Recruitment Manager and colleagues with the day-to-day, people-related stuff like health and safety, recruitment, HR policies and more.

 

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Working with such a mix of brainy, passionate and colourful people doing their best to make a difference through the work of VSA. And the shared lunches are pretty good.

 

What's your favourite thing about living in Wellington?

The multicultural vibe, the coffee, food, Bookabach for mini-breaks, and proximity to the gorgeous Pacific Islands.

 

What are you renowned for in the office?

My coffee habit (I get a little bossy over the coffee making process in the staff kitchen).

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

In a beach Fale in Samoa, looking at the sea and sipping on a nice chilled coconut water (from the coconut), or a New Zealand Sauv.

Kerry De La Haye

HR and Volunteer Recruitment Manager

What do you do?

I am VSA’s HR Warrior Princess!  My role encompasses responsibility for the Human Resources function and also managing the Volunteer Recruitment unit. So it’s all about ensuring we have the right people in place to do VSA’s great work, as our people (all our volunteers and employees) really are the heart of what VSA is about.

 

What's the best thing about working for VSA?

The best thing is working with a really awesome bunch of VSA staff (my best colleagues ever) and meeting lots of inspiring VSA volunteers.

 

What’s your favourite Pacific or Timorese phrase or saying and why?

“Obrigada”, which means thank you. I heard it a lot on a recent work trip to Timor-Leste when visiting VSA’s volunteers in the field and hearing from partner organisations about the positive contributions our volunteers are making to their lives.

 

What are you renowned for in the office?

Defying the stereotype that HR professionals are always totally PC.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Beside the beach, under a palm tree on any hot sunny island. But more typically my Friday nights involve couch time with my husband and cat (Madame Eliza), plus a pizza and an apocalyptic zombie movie or two.

Kelly Nelson

Executive Assistant

What do you do?

I’m Gill’s left-arm woman (Carolyn is her right-arm!). I help Gill keep her diary straight, get involved in interesting projects like organising VSA's Annual Congress, compiling Gill’s reports to Council and our big annual report to MFAT. I support the Management Team in various ways. I also get to interact with our volunteers if they have insurance claims to be made. Hanneke is my Assistant Administrator and together we make up the “Executive Support” team.

 

What's your favourite thing about living in Wellington?

It’s not Christchurch, but 13 November marks 20 years since I left the mainland for Wellington, and it’s almost home now. I love that nothing is really that far from anything else in Wellington, that you can see some kind of body of water in about five minutes from wherever you are, and you can be in the CBD or the wops within 30 or 40 minutes depending on which direction you take.

Remi Jugand

IT Coordinator

What’s your favourite Pacific saying?
Kore rawa e rawaka te reo kotahi: one language is never enough.

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday evening, where would it be?
On a Friday evening I’m likely to be outdoors if it’s sunny, or lost under a heap of strange looking pieces of electronics if it’s not — either way not too far from a glass of New Zealand Red.

Hannah Stewart

Manager, Programme Operations (PNG, Bougainville and Timor-Leste)

What do you do?

My role is Manager – Programme Operations for the programmes in Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Timor-Leste. I help find and assist amazing volunteers for our partners in those countries by scoping assignment descriptions, selections and pre-departure preparations. I also get to welcome volunteers home at the end of their assignment and support that process.

 

What do you think is the best thing about working for VSA?

The thing I enjoy the most about working for VSA is knowing that the work I do contributes to a positive change overseas. One of my favourite aspects is hearing from our overseas partners about the great work our volunteers are doing every day.  

Margie Meates

Recruitment Adviser

What do you do?

I work in the team that recruits the awesome people we have volunteering.

 

Who is someone who inspires you?

Loads of people, but always the inspiring people I get to meet at the start of their engagement with us, who step right out of their comfortable environment in New Zealand to volunteer their expertise, and who then tell us about how much their experience changed their lives.

 

What are you renowned for in the office?

For not being too particular about my coffee!

Sarah Barnett

Communications Manager (Acting)

What’s your favourite Pacific phrase or saying?

I lived in Papua New Guinea for a while when I was four years old and had a treasured t-shirt with a picture of the “tripela liklik pik” (three little pigs) on it. Not really a saying, but I love Tok Pisin and had a great time practising it when I went back to PNG a few years ago. Lukim yu bihain pukpuk (see you later, alligator).

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday evening, where would it be?

Eating fish n chips (or anything someone else has cooked) with the extended family and a bottle of something from Mum’s wine cellar.

Anna Ravendran

Programme Officer (Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Polynesia)

What do you do?

I'm the Wellington-based Programme Officer for PNG, Bougainville and Timor Leste.

 

What are you renowned for in the office?

My gourmet lunches of baked beans, burrito wraps and hot sauce.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Listening to live music in the sun… with a picnic and a mango smoothie. Tu meke!

Ash Lyall

Graphic Designer

What do you do?

I am a graphic designer. I solve problems with visual communication. 

 

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Working with like-minded individuals who want to help make a difference.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday, where would it be?

A new place I haven’t been to - exploring. 

Kalena Jordan

Online Communications Officer

What do you do?

I look after the VSA web site and social media channels.

 

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I love being able to share the amazing adventures of our volunteers with the world, via their photos and stories. 

 

Your favourite thing about living in Wellington?

The cultural diversity, the progressive attitudes, the breathtaking scenery, the amazing coffee and - yes - even the crazy wind.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

With good friends at Alice Cocktail Bar in Forresters Lane, Wellington.

 

Alice Clowes

Programme Administrator

What do you do?

Together with Samantha and Hannah, I support our Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Timor-Leste programmes, working with volunteers before they go on assignment, as well as assisting with their return to New Zealand.

 

What’s the best thing about working for VSA?

I really enjoy working with (and learning from) VSA’s awesome staff and volunteers, who are living their values every day.

 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Wellington? 

Definitely the wind :-)  And I love the walkability – Wellington is very different to my hometown Auckland in that regard. 

Fiona Smith Cutting

Fundraising & Stewardship Officer

What do you do?

I support the work of our amazing volunteers by raising money and I ensure that our generous donors are thanked and kept up to date about how VSA is helping communities across the Pacific.

 

What’s the best thing about working for VSA?

The best thing about my job is that I know that VSA makes a difference. Sounds a bit of a cliché but so, so true.

 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Wellington? 

My favourite thing about living in Wellington is the restaurant scene. I love that we have so many choices of places to eat!

Mary Curnow

Partnerships Manager

What do you do?

I work with partner organisations from the public and private sectors including businesses, to expand VSA’s work in the South Pacific, with the aim of getting even more people involved in the awesome work that VSA does.

 

What’s the best thing about working for VSA?

Working with people from all walks of life – it's a real privilege.

 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Wellington? 

I’m new to Wellington, but I love the feel of the place – vibrant, fun with lots going on but not too 'in your face'.

 

If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday afternoon/evening, where would it be?

Depending on my mood, either an empty windswept beach on the West Coast of the South Island (my favourite bit of NZ except for the sandflies!) or getting together with friends and having a fun night out.

 

Denise Aquino

Fundraising Administrator

What do you do?

My job is to record all the donations and gifts that VSA receives. I also have to make sure that the lovely people who sent us these gifts know that we really appreciate and value their support.

 

What's your favourite thing about your job?

My favourite thing about my job is that I can see how kind, compassionate, and generous people can be towards others in need. In times like these, when we hear of bad news from left to right, it’s always great to be reminded of the goodness of humanity.

 

What's your favourite thing about living in New Zealand?

I love that New Zealand is a big melting pot of people from different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. It is a place where you can feel accepted and celebrated regardless of where you came from. And in a way, that tradition of cultural acceptance and celebration is one of VSA’s most outstanding qualities.


If you could be anywhere in the world on a Friday evening, where would it be?

In my bed, snoozing happily.

 

 

Clemmie Newton

Programme Manager - Vanuatu

What do you do?

As Programme Manager in Vanuatu, I manage the strategic direction of VSA’s development programme here, and work with a variety of different partner organisations to identify what their needs are and how volunteers can help. I also provide support for volunteers who are on assignment, from arranging housing and paying electricity bills, to supporting them in their work, and making sure they are happy, healthy and enjoying what they do.


What’s your favourite thing about working for VSA?

For me it is the people! VSA partners, staff and volunteers are so diverse and interesting that it is a real pleasure to get to interact with so many people daily, this is a real people job and I love that. No two days are the same.


What’s your favourite thing about living in the Pacific?

I live in Luganville in Vanuatu, which is smaller than the capital Port Vila, but has everything you could possibly want. There are so many amazing things about living here, the people, the community, the organic fruit and vegetables, my little vegetable garden… but if I had to choose one thing it would be the water. On the island of Santo we have amazing beaches, blue holes and rivers. You can scuba dive and snorkel, and we have even started a swim club where we do our laps in the sea. 


What is a movie, book or piece of music that you’d recommend to someone who wants to get a flavour of the Pacific/Timor?

A Vanuatu String band!