Volunteers for Prosperity Program Authorization Signed into Law

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON D.C. - Today President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Included in that legislation was a first-ever legislative authorization for the President to establish the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The VfP program aims to promote short- and long-term international volunteer service by skilled American professionals to addressing the needs of those living in the poorest areas of the world.

Volunteers for Prosperity was first established on September 25, 2003 by Executive Order 13317. The volunteers, working under the direction of U.S. nonprofits and companies, are deployed to developing countries on flexible, short-term assignments ranging from a few weeks to several months.

When speaking of service today, President Obama said, "All that's required on your part is a willingness to make a difference. That is, after all, the beauty of service. Anyone can do it. You don't need to be a community organizer, or a Senator -- or a Kennedy - or even a President to bring change to people's lives."

"It is an honor to witness the President sign this important piece of legislation into law," said Alonzo Fulgham, USAID Acting Administrator, who joined the President at today's bill signing. "Volunteers for Prosperity allows everyday Americans to make a difference by applying their expertise to pressing challenges overseas. USAID is thrilled to have the President's and Congress' support for continuing this important initiative."

Since 2003, the USAID Volunteers for Prosperity program has developed a network of more than 250 partner organizations of U.S.-based nonprofits and companies that utilize Americans trained in professional specialties as volunteers overseas to share their skills with local communities. Typical VfP volunteers include professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, business executives and IT specialists. Volunteers are generally mid-career professionals with high levels of practical skills and experience who come from and return to active work environments. Since the programs inception, nearly 120,000 American professionals have shared their skills to support USAID's agriculture, economic growth, education, environment, global health, and democracy and governance sectors.

VfP partner organizations manage their own volunteer programs. The prospective volunteer is responsible for contacting the partner organization directly and applying for a volunteer assignment The VfP website is a resource that gives prospective volunteers exposure to VfP partners' international development and volunteer activities. When contacted directly by a prospective volunteer, VfP Office staff assess the prospective volunteer's skills and interests and provides guidance on partner organizations that might be a good match.

In March 2008 the Volunteers for Prosperity Service Incentive Program or "VfPServe" was launched. This is an innovative public-private partnership to help address the financial challenges facing a number of skilled Americans interested in short-term international voluntary service by providing matching grants ranging from $500 to $1000 to offset travel and living costs of volunteering abroad. The grant award process is competitive and a prospective volunteer who applies for a matching grant must have at least three years of professional experience, have identified and contacted a sponsoring U.S. organization, and in collaboration with that organization, developed a service assignment.

To be eligible for a matching grant, the volunteer must raise at least an equal amount of funds from within his/her local community, as well as any additional funds needed to meet the assignment's budget. Fundraising is facilitated through an online platform funded and managed by USAID and implemented through its partner NGO. During the first year of the program applicants requested matching grants totaling approximately $153,000 to help offset roughly $453,000 in total assignment costs which provided services in over 30 countries. The application for the VfPServe grant can be found online at http://www.globalgiving.com/cb/vfpserv/.

For more information about the Volunteers for Prosperity program please go to transition.usaid.gov/about_usaid/presidential_initiative/vfp.html