The Vincentian Lay Missionaries (VLM) is a not-for-profit volunteer sending organisation. Partnering with the Vincentian Fathers and the Daughters of Charity, we work with disadvantaged adults and children in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Burkina Faso. All of our partner projects strive to serve the poorest and most marginalized people in their communities. Our volunteers play an important part in that.
Our mission statement is:
To form and facilitate our members to immerse themselves in the experience and culture of the Vincentian mission overseas, so that reflecting on the learned experience, they will, on their return, effect change and transformation both locally and globally.
Since 2002, VLM volunteers of all ages and backgrounds have been making valuable contributions in the sectors of education, health, administration and community development through sharing skills and knowledge, oftentimes in challenging environments.
It All Started with a Simple Need
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a little school called Atse, hidden behind corrugated iron gates on a twisty back lane, built on the slopes of a stream, a little miracle of education was being run by the Daughters of Charity. VLM was founded in 2002 by Fr. Michael McCullagh CM with the mission “to alleviate poverty in communities in the developing world through the promotion of educational, health, poverty, and community projects through the provision of personnel and funding”. While working with the Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia, the Sisters had expressed a desire for volunteers from Ireland to assist them in their schools. On returning to Ireland, Fr. Michael reached out to some young people he knew in Cork and invited them to take up the challenge of volunteering with the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia. In the school in Atse, several hundred children, many of whom would have had little chance of breaking out of the poverty trap were enabled to go on to further education through the help of our volunteers who taught on a summer programme.
The work of VLM expanded. In the North of Ethiopia, in the Tigray region, the children who were known as the street children, victims of a long-drawn-out war, needed a different type of education to be re-integrated into the community. Here again our volunteers taught them English, music, art, and sport, thus helping them to grow in self-esteem and make a re-entry into their local community. Since then over 300 volunteers have travelled to projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Burkina Faso in many projects such as schools and kindergartens, women’s groups, training teachers and, recently, a new innovative work, with children who are deaf.
What Makes VLM Unique?
VLM volunteers live simply and in solidarity with the people they serve, listening to the needs of those living in poverty. We promote peace and dignity and strive to create lasting, systemic change. In response to someone who once said, why start another overseas project with so many already in the field, Fr Michael McCullagh, founder of VLM replied: ‘Well, we can do one thing, we can do something.’ We believe everyone can.
“Do one thing, do something!”