Our History

VMM has a unique identity and history in both faith and development within the lay missionary movement and wider family.

Our membership network identifies VMM within our peer group and distinguishes it from other non-faith based development organisations. Founded as a lay Christian development organisation in 1969, VMM has placed over 2,600 specialist personnel, such as doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists teachers, engineers, agriculturists, accountants, builders and mechanics and many more diverse skill sets throughout Africa on a range of projects. Each volunteer has had an untold positive impact upon the lives of those who are descriptively labelled as ‘the marginalised and the poor’. We have done this through our commitment to a ‘life shared’ expressed through a willingness not just to meet the specified purpose of any given project but to fully integrate and share one’s life in a given community.

VMM has in many respects always worked towards contributing to “A world where we live in the shelter of one another” through the very personal ethos, “to share who we are and not just what we have”

In effect we recruit, train and support qualified personnel to work, usually for a period of two years, in areas of great need in developing regions of Africa, including Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia . More recently in a partnership with the Missionary Ss of St Columbanus we are also looking to work in Myanmar. VMM aims to help reduce poverty by supporting community and diocesan initiatives, primarily in in accordance with the strategic aims outlined in this document.

We continue to maintain and build new links with diocesan organisations and others that are responsible for the health, education, development and empowerment of communities and its people. The same is true of the many other organisations (NGO’s and charities) we work with that have a passion for improving the living conditions, health and education of those they seek to assist in areas of great need.

We have however reflected upon our vision and mission and responded to the changing global environment we are part of. To support this shift we have also looked with a critical eye upon our organisational values and behaviours to more clearly define and determine our culture to deliver our new vision to work towards a ‘one world conscience’. In many respects we have returned to the founding charism defined by Edwina Gateley in 1981 which is as relevant today as it was then. That is not to say that we underestimate or are not part of the wider international development movement as indeed we are, but we have our niche offer that is the belief in the power of a life shared, “to share who we are and not just what we have” that defines our unique and compelling reason to exist in many positive and sometimes immeasurable ways.

In ensuring that our organisation is a relevant and a contributing member of both the faith and secular development agendas we have also restated our commitment to performance with our sustainable organisation values. This is not in any way a drift from our core values, but rather an affirmation that we will do everything we can to support them. The role of the VM has evolved over the years and will continue to do so whilst maintaining its market difference through our values and behaviours. Equally the needs of donors and partners evolve as the performance and value for money agendas call for greater outcomes at less cost to the public and private purse.

And so VMM will continue as long as there is a real need that gives the call to which we respond. We are not a recruitment agency, we are a development agency that works with partners to enable them to develop their capacity to positively change the life chances of the many beneficiaries we are here to serve and this is part of our unique and compelling reason to exist and that is about redressing the imbalance that exists within the world we share.

But this is just a strategic framework, which without the commitment, expertise, experience, love and faith of our VM’s would not amount to anything worthy of the foundation it has been built upon.

Reinforcing our future; building resilience

A new strategic framework is one thing but in tough economic conditions, with a keen public eye upon the performance of the charitable sector generally and rightly increasing levels of regulation, we now work in a challenging environment.

This current climate is not without opportunity for VMM as we look to build resilience in all aspects of our operations by using our own area of expertise to generate a surplus to continue our given mission. This strategic framework is very clear in that VMM’s purpose goes much deeper than simply running a sound and viable organisation. However, by reaffirming and increasing the viability of VMM, we have preserved and sustained a vital platform upon which we can deliver our unique contribution to mission development.

As part of our future and in a competitive market VMM is currently piloting a short term placement programme that will:

respond to a clearly articulated need from existing and new partner organisations in Africa
build upon our reputation and network
recruit a new cohort of VMs for the future
promote the concept of mission in a positive light in Ireland and the UK
create a designated surplus for mission investment
enlighten and involve volunteers on Development Education issues

The proposed short term programmes will provide the capacity to meet a now well-articulated need from many of the partners we have established close and continuing links with. Equally a number of new partners have emerged that are very open to receiving short term volunteers as part of a longer term relationship

Although a new aspect of our mission purpose, this proposal does not represent a significant divergence from our founding charism, as the proposed programmes will be a joint response to a definable need (SDG linked) with existing and new partners. This process of ensuring that outcomes contribute to the current theory of change we measure ourselves against will enable each volunteer be part of making a lasting positive difference in the lives of others while assisting the longer term objectives of our partners and VMM.

This is not just about VMM, it’s our service contribution to the wider mission family in responding positively to real need and in so doing reinforcing and developing the role of lay mission in international development, providing the opportunity for a new generation of VMs to share their life in doing good by living out our vision mission and values.

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