Category Archives: CUSO-VSO

CUSO-VSO’s Volunteer Financial Support

While our CUSO-VSO placements are “volunteer” placements, CUSO-VSO provides financial support to cover the majority of the costs of being an overseas volunteer. Specifically, they provide the following support:

  • Attendance at a CUSO-VSO assessment day (candidates must cover the first $150 of the most cost-effective travel expenses and accommodation costs).
  • Travel and accommodation costs associated with pre-departure training.
  • Return airfare and visa/permit (this includes a return flight in the case of a family emergency).
  • Coverage for required vaccinations, medications and comprehensive health insurance.
  • Accommodation while overseas.
  • A small local currency living allowance to cover the cost of food, power & water etc.
  • Quarterly payments to support you in your placement.


All CUSO-VSO’s Burkina Faso volunteers are provided housing with a minimum of the following:

  • bed with mattress,
  • small study table,
  • two-seater sofa and chairs,
  • dining table and chairs,
  • pantry,
  • dresser,
  • mosquito net,
  • three burner gas stove & 12kg gas bottle,
  • water filter.

Notice washing machine, microwave, dishwasher & AC are not on the list ….

The original french version from the country briefing document:

Enfin pour votre logement sachez que vous y trouverez le minimum requis pour votre
bien être :

  • Un lit avec matelas
  • Petite table d’étude
  • Deux fauteuils et un canapé de deux places
  • Une table à manger et deux chaises
  • Un garde mangé
  • Une armoire à linges
  • Une moustiquaire
  • Une cuisinière trois foyer à gaz avec une bouteille de 12 kg
  • Un réfrigérateur
  • Un filtre à eau

CUSO-VSO’s Volunteer Recruitment

There are a number of steps to CUSO-VSO’s volunteer recruitment process. The following gives a brief overview of this process from my perspective and experience as a prospective volunteer.

Online Application

The first thing potential volunteers need to do is fill out and online application form. CUSO-VSO require the following information for this online application:

  1. Your basic personal information.
  2. A recent copy of your CV/resume.
  3. A personal statement explaining your motivation for volunteering with CUSO-VSO and how working overseas with CUSO-VSO would fit into your personal and professional goals. (500 words maximum)
  4. 3 references

Additionally there are a number of conditions that you need to meet to agree to such as:

  • I am 21 years old and over.
  • I am currently residing in Canada or the United States.
  • I am willing to volunteer where my skills are needed most.
  • I understand that placements with CUSO-VSO require professional qualifications and at least two years of relevant work experience.
  • I understand that CUSO-VSO’s application and pre-departure process may require 6 months or more.
  • I am available to begin my volunteer placement within the next 12 months.

Luckily for me they only require potential volunteers to be currently residing in Canada. Given I am in Canada on a work permit I would not have been eligible if they had required citizenship or permanent residency.

Once submitted, the application is then assessed by an CUSO-VSO advisor against the current demand for your skills.  If there is a match, you will be invited to take part in a preliminary phone interview. In my case, I received an invitation for this first interview less than two weeks after applying.

Phone Interview

The phone interview as far as mine went, seemed pretty standard. The advisor asked questions related to work and life experiences as well as motivations for applying. It was also an opportunity to obtain more information about CUSO-VSO and volunteering in general. Following the phone interview, successful applicants are invited to attend an assessment day in Ottawa. I think by the end of the phone interview my advisor had informed me I would receive and invitation to an upcoming assessment day.

Assessment Day

The final part of the recruitment process is an assessment day in Ottawa. Candidates from all over Canada and the USA are required to come to Ottawa for this assessment day. A number of candidates and nearly an equal number of assessors participate in an assessment. The day is a combination of group activities, tasks and discussions as well as an hour-long one-on-one interview with one of the assessors.

What qualities is CUSO-VSO looking for at the assessment day? According to their website,

“To meet the challenges of a CUSO-VSO placement, volunteers must demonstrate a positive and realistic commitment to volunteering and to CUSO-VSO, be committed to learning, be flexible and adaptable, sensitive to the needs of others and keen to immerse themselves in a culture that may be different to their own.

CUSO-VSO also looks for a certain degree of self-assurance, natural problem-solving ability and an aptitude for teamwork.”

After the assessment day CUSO-VSO usually contacts candidates within a week with the results. Successful candidates are assigned a volunteer advisor and the placement matching phase begins.


The organization with whom I will be traveling to Burkina Faso is CUSO-VSO (the result of the merger of the Canadian University Service Overseas and Voluntary Service Overseas Canada in 2008). CUSO-VSO is the North American member of VSO International, a worldwide federation of Voluntary Service Organizations based in the UK, the Netherlands, Kenya, the Philippines and Canada.

Where they work

CUSO-VSO sends volunteers to 40 countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Bangladesh Ghana Mozambique South Africa
Bolivia Guyana Namibia Sri Lanka
Bosnia & Herzegovina Honduras Nepal Tajikistan
Cambodia India Nigeria Tanzania
Cameroon Indonesia Pakistan Thailand–Burma
China Kenya Papua New Guinea Uganda
El Salvador Laos Peru Vanuatu
Eritrea Macedonia Philippines Zambia
Ethiopia Malawi Rwanda Zimbabwe
The Gambia Mongolia Sierra Leone

What they do

CUSO-VSO works on six development goals:

Each country office selects only two or three of these development goals to focus on at a time. For example, in Burkina Faso they are currently focusing on HIV/AIDS, health and participation & governance. Continue reading