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A new sense of what's important in life

Mark Kelly from Dublin is an IT professional volunteering in Ethiopia. We asked him to describe a day in his life and to tell us a bit about his placement.

Why did you decide to volunteer with VSO and what does your role invlove?

I wanted to use my professional skills to help the less fortunate. I also wanted to live and experience a completely different culture. VSO fitted the bill on both fronts. I am an IT adviser to an Ethiopia NGO. My work is mainly office-based and involves working with local people to maintain computers, build websites and design publications.

Describe your average day

I usually head to the office around 8.30am. I spend around half an hour greeting everyone and try to come up with a plan for the day. I work alongside my counterpart to carry out the plan, experience an unscheduled power cut and enjoy some famous Ethiopian coffee. I continue working, deal with another power cut and share lunch with people in the office. Usually this involves being fed or feeding someone else at one point or another. I continue to work in between power cuts and coffee breaks. Finish work at 5.30pm and either head home and cook or meet up with friends for a beer and some food. Home by 9pm and asleep by 10pm.

What advice would you give to a volunteer just beginning their journey?

Try and learn the language so that you can involve yourself in more conversations. Try all food at least once (even if it is raw meat) – the locals appreciate it. Find a nice balance between having local friends and foreign friends.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement to date, and what are the highs and lows?

The fact that my counterpart has a huge amount more professional knowledge now than she did when I first arrived is a huge achievement. My lows were the constant attention from local people. You are always on show. The high points of my placement were having great weather all the time, always meeting new people and feeling like you are doing something good!

How did you overcome any difficulties and what skills will you take back to Ireland?

By keeping in touch with people from home and developing friendships with other volunteers in the country. Also, developing local friendship helps to solve any major problems. I will be able to have a conversation with in Amharic over a pint of Guinness. I've increased my problem solving skills and  I'll also take back a new sense of what's considered important in life.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with VSO?

If you like a challenge and something away from the normal everyday life, go for it.

Interested in volunteering overseas? 

We'd love to hear from you! You can contact us about current volunteer opportunities by calling 01 640 1060 or emailing

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