History teacher Chris Staples taught English in Indonesia and Vietnam in the 90s and 00s. Educating some of the world’s poorest people, he had the most memorable moments of his life.
Chris is passionate about the role volunteering can play in changing lives around the world and so has left a gift in his Will to VSO. Here, he tells us about the experiences that fostered a strong trust in VSO’s legacy.
Change of plan
I believe in Thomas Paine’s quote "the whole world is my country and to do good is my religion".
The plan was to volunteer when I retired, around 58 years old. But I lost three jobs in three years- life doesn’t always go as planned! I decided to volunteer earlier. So life really did begin at 50 for me.
I’d always wanted to work abroad, and VSO provided me with enormous opportunities. I volunteered in Vietnam and Indonesia as an English teacher to students who were about 20 years old.
I felt like I helped
My time volunteering was one of the best times of my life. At times frustrating! But I enjoyed it immensely. I even continued on in Vietnam for two more years separately.
During my placements I really felt part of the community. I felt like I did a good job. I think I helped people because I was always ready to listen to them. People always came to talk to me in confidence. In Vietnam, everyone came to my English lessons, even the Dean! I encouraged them to read things like Agatha Christie together.
I'm always worried that so many people have so little, and I have so much. This is my way of addressing it.
Many of my students are now in good jobs and some teach English in schools. Keeping in touch has shown to me the positive impact of volunteering and a good education.
I'm so pleased to hear about their lives and see photos of their weddings and children! I've gone back to visit Vietnam and Indonesia a few times, and it's such a joy catching up.
Leaving a legacy
I came away from my placements feeling like I’d gained so much more. I realised that no race or gender is superior to another. All people are equal.
I’ve been in secondary education my whole life. Everything in life depends on your education. If you can’t read or write, as many couldn’t in Indonesia, then that affects you your whole life.
Passing it on
I sing VSO’s praises when I can. I really believe it’s very good. I worked hard and I learnt a great deal. I was excited to go when I got the placements and sad to leave at the end.
Remembering VSO in your Will ensures that your life's work goes on. It's a way to achieve things that perhaps you don't have the time for in life. It changed my life and helps ensure the goods of the world - whether that is knowledge, health or money - are a little bit better distributed.
I'm always worried that so many people have so little, and I have so much. This is my way of addressing it, and giving people the opportunities they need.
I know whatever happens VSO will spend it well.
Leaving VSO a gift in your Will means you'll ensure we can keep on working towards a world without poverty.
Over five years since world leaders created the Sustainable Development Goals, with attention now focused squarely on the global pandemic, you'd be forgiven for wondering: does anyone still care about the SDGs?