Sunday, November 19, 2006

Preparations begin with a vengeance

On the VSO front:
We are now officially destined to be volunteers overseas, but that's only the beginning. Last weekend we spent hours obtaining additional passport photos, copies of passports, filling in CV's, personal profiles, competency checklists, personal preference details etc; all to enhance and trigger the process of matching us, with our skills, to the needs of host countries.
We have also booked in on an essential Personal Preparation Programme for four days in January to help us to gain a better understanding of development issues, meet others who have been on VSO and generally sensitise us to the do's and don'ts of volunteering overseas. We are also due to begin extended discussions with our Placement Adviser who will help steer us through the various options until we eventually agree a placement.

On the domestic front:
Preparations begin so what do we do? we start doing all of the the things in the house that we have been promising to do for ourselves for years, just so that we can leave it in good condition for someone else to live in! The lights and flooring in the loft that we have always wanted, probably a new stair carpet, even a new loo seat, which is really taking things a bit too far.
We have also started the inevitable check list of arrangements that will have to be sorted both before we go and taken care of whilst we are away it's amazing how much there is. What do we do with the cars, the furniture etc?

Finishing work and going on holiday:
Most important Jenny finishes work at Ifor Williams Trailers after 5yrs so though we have a diminution in income to look forward to we have the added bonus of Jenny being available to help organise things to smooth our eventual departure. We are also having a treat; we have arranged to meet up with my brother Martin and family and two of our sons and friends in Capetown over Christmas, a special celebration before the dawn of a new era.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's Good News Week - accepted as Volunteers

Great news, we received confirmation from VSO, on Saturday November 4th, that they would like us to become volunteers overseas. We received the 'volunteers pack' and promptly exchanged our bedtime reading for something much more serious; as Jenny said, it's almost like preparing to die! There is so much to do in the way of arranging one's affairs to operate whilst you are abroad, it's definiteley not for the faint hearted. So at least it's one of many more milestones passed. It's now down to finding out when we can go on the compulsory 'Personal Preparation' training events and to liaising with our VSO link officers to begin to discuss possible placements.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

So why are we volunteering?

Second thoughts? - just for a milli-second only!
Two days to go before VSO let us know if they will accept us as volunteers. It's only 5 days since our VSO assessment but it's long enough to make you think again and ask yourself, what are you doing and why are you doing it? The questioning phase lasted only until I went to the hospital today. I was successfully treated for early stage prostate cancer three and a half years ago; today was a routine check and all is well. However, when I saw some of the other patients in the waiting room, grey, gaunt, but bravely cheerful I knew just why we were volunteering. You are only here once - make the most of it!

Getting all philosophical!
I'm not a religious person, and I really respect people who have made the leap of faith to believe; but ever since my first years in school I have questioned the existence of a God. I have generally been disposed to scientific explanations of how we came to be who we are and Charles Darwin, and of all people Bill Bryson, in his brilliant 'a Short History of Nearly Everything' have enabled me to happily come to terms with the fact that my atoms will one day be dispersed into who knows what and at some stage in the future will re-combine with other atoms to create who knows what again! I can only hope that 'it' is another me because I (we) have really enjoyed life thus far; but I don't mind if it's a worm, an elephant, or a rock; this part of existence has been fantastic on its own and I am very grateful!
At this stage I am comfortable with not having a clue as to how the whole shebang came into existence and I am happy to remain as excited and curious as anybody else to receive an explanation, but I think we will be still searching by the time I 'pop off', so here's to the future, for now!
So my brief hospital reminder of how valuable life is, served to reinforce how important it is to me to make the most of what we have whilst we have it.

I am not a material (girl) man and I don't do:, clothes, swimming (because Jenny is better than me!) and material things generally;

But I do do: the great outdoors, good tennis, mountain tops, trying to sing tenor in the chorus of our local Operatic Society, good friends - they know who they are! (Jenny being my best), three great sons, travel (especially Africa), and social justice within the context of equal opportunity. Which basically accounts for why volunteering overseas is our chosen next pathway. Compared with some other countries people in the UK have all the opportunity that they need, to get on and lead a decent life; not so in much of the developing world and we know, from our several vists to Malawi, that we have skills, experience, and a certain degree of humility and humanity that might enable us to make a difference to the lives of others, should we be invited to volunteer. Phew - that was hard work but I felt that I wanted to say it!