"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."       Luke 4:18-19

MVSA Mission Statement:

Providing opportunities to act on faith by assisting congregations in service to their communities.

Faith and Values Statement:
MVSA affirms the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and shares the Mennonite community's Vision for Healing & Hope:

"God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God's healing and hope flow through us to the world."

MVSA declares Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and as the model for service! Directions for MVSA arise from Jesus' life, ministry and teaching. Jesus worked among the poor and disenfranchised of his day. It is His example that we follow.

We Emphasize:

We believe that service:

We believe that service is best done in a community of servants committed to: caring for and confronting each other; living simply; recognizing the equality of women and men, young and old; worshiping and learning together.

Introduction to Mennonite Voluntary Service

Mennonite Voluntary Service Adventure (MVSA) seeks to help meet the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged.

The local church is the focal point for meeting these needs. MVSA gives assistance to congregational outreach endeavours as they seek to serve the people in their communities. MVSA is also committed to helping the church speak to issues related to peace, justice, faith, and other concerns.

We welcome you into Mennonite Voluntary Service Adventure! We value your commitment to Christian faith, to cooperative Unit living, and to caring for the needs of others while you grow and are nurtured. As an MVSA volunteer you have an opportunity to use your gifts, training and experience to work with and learn from a wide variety of people and situations. During this time you will explore new places and opportunities, face difficult questions, and step out of the familiar into the unknown. You will walk with those in need in a troubled world, and you will be supported and prayed for by many people and churches while you do so.

The policies outlined in this manual will help you understand the financial, administrative, and spiritual resources and guidelines of the MVSA program. While providing order and clarity, policies can also be flexible when special situations arise. Volunteers may discuss needs not covered in this handbook with the local MVSA committee. Any special arrangements should be detailed in the Volunteer Covenant.

It is our hope that you will feel appreciated and supported as you undertake your assignment and that this handbook will be a handy tool to refer to during your term of service. 

Mennonite Voluntary Service began in the United States in 1944, and in Canada in 1966 as a mission project of Hamilton (Ontario) Mennonite Church to address the needs of inner-city Hamilton. Today Mennonite Voluntary Service is run by grass-roots MVSA committees in three locations across Canada (Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Edmonton).

Program Objectives:

Program Commitment:
Community: church-service-unit lifeMVSA exists to help participants become involved in issues and activities of a local community and a local Mennonite congregation, to share in a household where a simple lifestyle is affirmed and caring relationships are nurtured, and to demonstrate compassionate service which honours and imitates Jesus Christ's love for all people and his special concern for those who suffer from injustice.

Four essential components of the Voluntary Service experience are Unit Life, Service, Church, and Community.

Program Components:
While it is expected that participants will contribute to their hosting communities in significant ways, it is also expected that participants will come away from their experience with much new knowledge and insight. To facilitate participants' learning, a number of components have been put in place.


Volunteers: are individuals who bring unique skills and motivations to a full-time volunteer assignment.

All volunteers commit to:

The MVSA program is organized primarily for the benefit of single young adults. Older applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis by Units which can accommodate them. 

Unit: An MVSA Unit is three to six individuals living in a common residence in a particular geographic area, sharing living responsibilities and resources, while serving to meet human needs in their volunteer placements. 

Local Leadership: The MVSA Committee of the sponsoring congregation.  

Sponsoring Congregation: the local congregation that is responsible for teh MVSA Unit. The Sponsoring Congregation is the official employer of all MVSA participants.  

Placement Agency: the organization(s) providing the volunteer work for MVSA participants. 

Term of Service

Philosophy: a strength of MVSA is being committed to local congregational outreach for the long term. The longer one is in a community, the more able one is to identify with the joys and sorrows of that community.

Length of Term: the preferred, and usual, length of service is one year. 

Extension of Term: Volunteers who are interested in extending their term of service should discuss their interests with Local Leadership as early as possible. Extensions are not automatically granted, but depend on program considerations.

Short-term Service: On rare occasions, a term of service of less than one year may be arranged. Local Leadership works out the details of a short-term assignment on a case-by-case basis.

Changes in Assignment: Reassignment to a different volunteer position is sometimes necessary because of personal issues or placement needs. Volunteers are encouraged to keep Local Leadership informed of any circumstances  which might necessitate changes to their volunteer assignment. All changes are made in consultation with Local Leadership after a careful review of the program and the needs of the volunteer and the volunteer placement.  On very rare occasions, a vlunteer may be reassigned to a different unit in a different city. If the volunteeer does not have permanent resident status in Canada, moving to a different unit requires an approved application to change the conditions of their Canadian Work Permit. 

End of Term of Service: The MVSA term ends on the date agreed to at the time a volunteer enters the program. Normally, Local Leadership will insure a gap of approximately one week between volunteer terms to allow for necessary house preparations and arrangements to take place.

Voluntary Early Termination: If a volunteer wants to terminate their volunteer position early for personal reasons, they must discuss the situation with Local Leadership. Whenever possible, attempts will be made to find alternatives to an early termination. If no alternatives are found, efforts will be made with all concerned to end the term in a positive way. Volunteers are responsible to cover transportation costs to return home in these situations.

Involuntary Termination without cause: In rare situations, it may be necessary for the Local Leadership or Placement Agency to terminate a volunteer's position early because of program changes. In these situations, Local Leadership will pay for any additional travel costs incurred by the early termination. 

Involuntary Termination with cause: In rare situations it may be necessary for the Local Leadership or Placement Agency to terminate a volunteer's position as a disciplinary measure of last resort because they are not meeting the requirements and/or standards of MVSA or the Placement Agency. In these situations, the volunteer is responsible for any transportation costs home. They are also expected to leave the unit household immediately after termination unless other arrangements have been made with Local Leadership. 

The Covenant

A letter of understanding and agreement, known as The Covenant, will be drawn up for each volunteer. This will be signed by Local Leadership and by the volunteer. The Covenant will state local terms, conditions, and expectations of the Sponsoring Congregations and the Placement Agency. Changes to The Covenant during the volunteer's term of service will only be made following discussions/negotiations between the volunteer and Local Leadership.


Volunteers are introduced to voluntary service and to their unit, Sponsoring Congregation and the larger community through a locally organized orientation program. This program also addresses issues of communal living, accountability, and preparation for the volunteers’ assignments. A review of relevant portions of the Handbook forms part of the orientation. When a volunteer begins a term partway through the year, members of the Unit will participate in that volunteer’s orientation.

Non-Canadian Volunteers

Volunteers from outside Canada enter Canada on a work permit as a non-immigrant, temporary visitor to perform volunteer work of a charitable nature. Foreign volunteers should not expect to stay in their host country beyond their periods of service. MVSA complies with the Canadian governments' expectations that volunteers will leave the country upon completion of their service assignments. Volunteers may, however, extend their term of service if the local MVSA committee agrees to issue the documents required for the volunteer to make and application to renew their Canadian Work Permit. 

Unit Life

Philosophy and Commitment: In most cases, a commitment to MVSA is a commitment to live communally in a household with other volunteers. Living in community requires tolerance, flexibility and a willingness to work at maintaining healthy relationships. Living in community also provides opportunities for rich fellowship and fun. Unit members share in household work and activities, and meet regularly with the household for Unit meetings and prayer or study sessions.

Volunteers commit themselves to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. As such they are accountable to God, to the church, and to fellow volunteers with whom they live and work. Volunteers are called upon to show sensitive regard for the moral, social and religious values of others. At stake is the calling and style of living volunteers represent, the church they serve, and the witness of the Christian gospel.

Responsible Behaviour: MVSA participants represent their Unit, their host congregation, their home congregation, and the MVSA program in the larger community.  MVSA participants are expected to make a good-faith effort to conduct themselves in a manner that respects the healthand well-being of others, themselves, and the environment.  They are expected to be open to counsel regarding what is perceived as addictive or emotionally unhealthy behaviour.

Itis expected that participants will:

Disregard for any of the above stated expectations will result in discipline, and may result in dismissal from the program.

Relationship to Supporting Churches: Volunteers are encouraged to worship at the Sponsoring Congregation.  Sunday morning worship services are important, but they are not the total life of the church.  Volunteers are encouraged to become involved in educational programs of the church, music and worship leadership, or other areas of ministry.  Volunteers should determine their priorities for service carefully in conjunction with both the Unit and Local Leadership.  If active participation and worship with the sponsoring congregation is required, the volunteer will be informed of this in the placement exploration process. 

Associate Members: MVSA units occasionally welcome people who are not full-time volunteers.  These may be students or people with regular jobs in the community.  Associate membersare expected to be fully involved in the life the unit.  They will pay a monthly living fee to the Unit for food and housing costs, but do not receive the monthly stipend.  This type of arrangement must be approved by current Unit members and the local Leadership, and a Covenant will be signed with the Associate Member.  No more than 50% of the household will consist of Associate Members.

VS’ersfrom other programs such as the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) may be invited to live in the Unit. They are full members of the Unit and will be supervised in a manner consistent with the regular operation of the MVSAhouse.

Basic Needs: Sponsoring congregations provide for the basic needs of each volunteer: a fully furnished home, food, transportation, basic medical coverage, bedding, etc.  Unit funds are used to purchase shared personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.  Household members plan together for the wise and frugal use of money and supplies. Knowledge about conservation, ecology, health, and justice will be reflected in responsible decisions and habits. A voluntary service lifestyle is one of simplicity in which one is free from the baggage of material possessions. Volunteers will have their own bedroom unless sharing has been agreed to in the application process.

Volunteers provide their own clothes which should be suitable for the work they will do and the communities in which they live. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to keep to a minimum the number of other personal items they bring to their assignments.  Appliances, furniture, and large decorative items are not appropriate.  It is understood that volunteers are fully responsible for their own computers, cell phones, devices,  cameras, etc. 

Leave: If a volunteer is temporarily unable to perform their work due to an illness/emergency in their immediate family, they may request an emergency leave of up to one month.  Volunteers onemergency leave will be paid their regular personal allowance.

In the event of a death in the immediate family (parent, grandparent, sibling,children), the Unit will cover travel costs for the funeral.  Families and the volunteer’s home congregation are encouraged to help with these costs as well.


When a volunteer needs to be away for personal reasons, a non-emergency leave may be granted for up to 30 days without allowance after conversation with the Placement Agency and Local Leadership.


Volunteers who serve with MVSA through other agencies such as Christliche Dienste and EIRENE will adhere to the leave policies for their supporting organization.


Media:  Each unit receives the Canadian Mennonite.  In addition the Unit house has full internet services so volunteers can stay in touch with family and friends, and with local, national, and international news. 


Meetings:  each unit is encouraged to have weekly meetings that all volunteers attend.  The quality and vitality of Unit life depends upon these meetings.  Agenda may include group and individual concerns, Bible study, discussion of faith issues, housekeeping matters, and administrative problems.  


There will also be monthly meetings between Local Leadership and the Unit. These meetings will contain “how is it going?” sessions, discussion of Unit house issues, future planning, and Unit relationships with community organizations and the congregation.  Minutes will be kept of these meetings.


Pets:  Because of varying personal preferences and allergies, pets are not to be kept in Unit households.

Visitors: Family and friends are encouraged to visit volunteers. All visits must be approved by the Unit household.  Visits are generally limited to a maximum of three days.  The Unit household and Local Leadership may approve longer visits if family and friends are travelling from long distances.  Lodging and meal arrangements should be worked out according to available space in the household, with care taken to avoid having too many visitors at one time.  Visitors who stay in the household are invited to take an active part in household life, and to make a voluntary financial contribution to the household for the costs incurred by their visit.

Romantic Relationships: Establishing a romantic relationship during Voluntary Service, either within or outside of the household, has been shown to significantly distract participants from the objectives of the program.  Such relationships are strongly discouraged.  Should such a relationship develop, it is expected that:

Disregardfor any of the above stated expectations will result in discipline, and may result in dismissal from the program.

End of Term Evaluation: Near the end of the volunteer’s term of service, Local Leadership will initiate an evaluation process/exit interview about how the year has been for each volunteer.

Re-entry after service: Local Leadership and Unit members are encouraged to help each volunteer prepare for the transition from Voluntary Service to “normal life.”  The volunteer is encouraged to contact their home congregation, pastor, family and friends for additional support ande ncouragement during this time of change.


MVSA Retreats: An all-units retreat is held in the spring of each year (usually on the May long weekend) at a location chosen by the hosting group.  All volunteers are expected to attend this retreat, and all Local Leadership are invited to attend. Transportation costs for volunteers will be covered from Unit funds.  In addition, Units may arrange for local weekend retreats.  Unit funds may be used for this purpose with Local Leadership approval.


Style of Living:  Members of MVSA are expected to practice a lifestyle in keeping with the principles of sound ecology, good health, and wise stewardship of resources. Consumption of food, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs in a manner harmful to health, personal growth and community life, or which jeopardizes the effectiveness of the service program’s witness in the community, are unacceptable.


All relationships and work should reflect Christian life and values.  Volunteers are expected to give priority to their service assignments and Unit life over other relationships.  Because an individual’s behaviour and relationships directly affect others in the Unit, volunteers should be willing to discuss these subjects openly with Local Leadership and Unit members.


Personal Vehicles:  MVSA views transportation as a justicei ssue.  In seeking to identify with the poor it is essential that we face the discrepancy of access to transportation and the larger impact that operating a personal vehicle has on our world.  For these reasons, MVSA has a general bias against personal vehicles in Units.  MVSA recognizes the need for vehicles in some locations, especially in light of certain workplace partnerships.


Personal vehicles may be brought into MVSA only with the permission of, or request of, the Local Leadership.  The Unit may cover operating costs only if the vehicle is equally available for use by all members.  The person bringing the vehicle retains ownership of it, and should oversee its use.


Personal vehicles will be reimbursed based on a standard rate determined by Local Leadership for work-related or Unit-related travel. 


Volunteers are personally responsible for the cost of any and all traffic violations or accidents.


Unit Vehicles:  Some MVSA units have vehicles which are available for travel to and from work, Unit activities, local MVSA involvements, and limited personal use by volunteers.  Volunteers are responsible to ensure good maintenance, cleaning, and repair work in consultation with Local Leadership.  Local sites establish guidelines for personal use of the vehicle that reflect MVSA philosophy towards vehicles noted above.


Personal problems/counselling:  It is natural that volunteers will at times have concerns and feelings they need to discuss confidentially.  The place to secure this help may be within the Unit, from Local Leadership, or from a trusted person within the Sponsoring Congregation or the community.  It is important for volunteers to find meaningful ways to express concerns and feelings.   A special reference group for an individual volunteer may be established by the Unit and Local Leadership to work with a personal problem.


At times, a local person outside the MVSA circle may assist in this process.  Individuals are encouraged to seek counseling when needed.  In certain situations professional counseling may be arranged. Prior approval must be obtained from Local Leadership if costs are incurred.  The volunteer is not expected to share the cost of counseling for a diagnosed clinical mental illness, unless there is a pre-existing condition, in which case any costs incurred are the responsibility of the volunteer.

Settling Disputes:  Matthew 18:15-17 states: “if one of my followers sins against you, go and point out what is wrong privately, just between the two of you. If that person listens you have won back a follower.  But if they refuse to listen, take along oneo r two others.  If the follower refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the church.”

 In line with the instructions of God’s word, efforts to resolve conflict should take the following form:

 If still not resolved, involved parties shall appoint a mediator both sides can agree on.  If no such person can be foundor agreed upon, another person shall be selected with input from Local  Leadership.  The role of the mediator is to gather information and to make recommendations for resolution of the issue.


If mediation is not successful, an ad hoc problem solving committee shall beformed.  Each involved party will select one representative.  A mutually agreed upon MVSA Leadership person will be appointed to serve as mediator and to facilitate the problem solving process. The objective of this committee is to agree upon solutions to the issue at hand.  This step is considered successful if all parties involved are reasonably satisfied with its outcome.


If this committee is unsuccessful, any involved party may appeal to the Local Leadership who will investigate the issue and make a decision.  Any decision made by Local Leadership isfinal.


Substance Use: Use of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs in a MVSA household, or during one’s voluntary service term is strictly prohibited. Violation may result in discipline and may result in dismissal from the program.


Sexual Harassment:  is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, invitations, requests, and any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  If allegations of sexuallyharassing /abusive behaviour are made against a VS’er, Local Leadership will

 If the VS’er alleges sexually harassing or abusive behaviour against an individual in their service assignment or elsewhere, the program will support the VS’ers to take the required steps to address the issue.

Guidelines for dealing with offences:  Substantiated disclosures of serious ethical offences, including acts of violence or possessiono f illegal drugs, will result in the immediate suspension of the offending volunteer.  These offences include, but are not limited to:

Guidelinesfor dealing with ethical offences are outlined in a separate document entitled Guidelines for Dealing with Offences in Mennonite Voluntary Service.  This document is available as a resource from Local Leadership, on request.  In all matters related to ways of living and behaving, MVSA is committed to following Christ’s example.  Jesus is our model, not only in how we respond to the world’s needs, but also in our personal behaviour. 

Family Policies

Marriage:  Single volunteers are encouraged to postpone marriage until after completion of their service assignment.  When a volunteer wishes to be married during a term of service, they should discuss the implications of this decision with the Unit and Local Leadership before making definite plans.

Finances and Financial Responsibility

Philosophy:  All MVSA Unit funds are generated locally through agency stipends, pooling of funds from salaried positions, orthrough contributions and grants from congregations and other organizations. These funds are administered by Local Leadership. 

Local Leadership is responsible for establishing bookkeeping procedures, defining allowable expenditures, and generally determining how Unit funds are used.  Formal reviews of Unit finances occur annually in collaboration with the Sponsoring Congregation. 


Clothing: is to be supplied by the volunteer.  When special uniforms are required, these costs will be paid by the employer or theUnit.   


Education: Volunteers may take advantage of educational resources for personal and vocational growth if they do not conflict with their volunteer position, Unit life, or (in some cases) the conditions of their Canadian Work Permit.  Special courses or seminars are the expenseof the volunteer unless they are directly related to the performance of their volunteer position.   In these cases:

Recreational Allowance: Each month $25.00 per volunteer is available from Unit funds for group recreational activities.  Decisions on the use of this allowance should be made as a group and the whole group should participate in the activity.  Other recreational activities are the expense of the volunteer and should come from their personal allowances and/or resources. Recreational Allowances may not be given to an individual volunteer to be spent as personal funds.

Educational Loan Assistance: MVSA expects that volunteers will postpone payment on all student loans while they are in MVSA and it is the volunteer’s responsibility to care for and respond to deadlines for student loan related matters. There may be situations where student loans make it impossible for an applicant to participate in the MVSA program

Food Spending Guidelines:  MVSA views food as a justice issue and believes that how we eat and the dollars we spend for food affects the world around us.  Volunteers should eat well while also being conscious of how their food dollars are spent.  For this reason, food budgets are adequate for a healthy, but simple, diet.  Because the amount of money required for food varies depending on the number of people in the unit, local economic conditions, etc., Local Leadership will determine a food budget that is appropriate to their context.

Personal Monthly Stipend:  a personal monthly allowance of $75.00 is paid to each volunteer from Unit funds.  It is to be used for personal expenses such as clothing, personal recreation, haircuts, postage, and other expenses not covered by the unit. 

Special Costs:  Special costs for expenses incurred because of the requirements of a volunteer’s assignment will be considered for reimbursement from Unit funds on a case-by-case basis if the Sponsoring Agency is unable to do so.

Supplemental Income:  MVSA calls people to identify with Jesus and to stand with the poor and needy in the world. In the Canadian context this demands a move to a less consumptive lifestyle.  With this in mind, MVSA challenges volunteers to commit to live within the monthly allowance guidelines provided by MVSA.

Some volunteers enter MVSA with savings or independent sources of income, while others have no financial resources apart from their personal monthly stipend.   Some volunteers receive direct financial support from their home congregation, friends, and relatives, while others have no external sources of financial support.  These financial differences can cause divisions within the unit that damage the MVSA experience of community life.

Volunteers entering MVSA with financial resources are invited to share their wealth while in voluntary service.  Since personal circumstances vary, such sharing is not mandatory.  However, such income is not to be used to enhance the volunteer’s llifestyle to the extent that it creates two classes of people in the unit of those who “have” and those who “have not.”  

Performing services such as babysitting, housesitting, etc. is discouraged as this takes the volunteer away from community time with fellow volunteers.  If income is received by the volunteer for performing such services, this becomes income for the entire unit.

Transportation and Moving: Travel costs to and from the assignment are the responsibility of each volunteer.  Moving costs for any household goods and personal possessions are also the responsibility of the volunteer.

Unit Finances: Each MVSA Unit will appoint a treasurer who will oversee finances, keep records, and submit a monthly report of transactions to Local Leadership.  Bookkeeping procedures will be determined by Local Leadership: computer program, traditional ledgers, etc.

Vacation:  Volunteers will receive two weeks of vacation per year.  It is important that volunteers who have placements that allow them more flexibility or vacation time than allowed by MVSA not take advantage of this.  MVSA expects the additional time to be spent on location assisting the community in other ways. 

While it is exciting to be in a new place or country, the local neighbourhood and community is the primary home and focus for volunteers during their term of service.  Lengthy times away from that environment can seriously detract from the fullness and integrity of the MVSA experience.  Extensive individual travel for the purposes of tourism should happen during the volunteer’s vacation, or during periods of time before and/or after their volunteer term.


Medical – Dental – Ophthalmic

General Medical Care: Volunteers are required to have a thorough physical examination prior to joining MVSA.  They should also have a dental check-up with any needed dental work being done at that time.  An eye exam should also be undergone to ensure that eyeglasses are adequate if needed.

Dental and Optical: Volunteers will be registered with the government health care plan in the province in which they serve.  This provides basic medical care only.  It does not cover expenses related to dentistry, physiotherapy, eye exams, eye glasses, or prescription drugs.  Volunteers are encouraged to purchase their own optional extended medical coverage before beginning their volunteer term to cover services not funded by the provincial government health plan.

If a serious dental or optical need arises during the first year that is not covered elsewhere, the volunteer must discuss this with Local Leadership. During the second and subsequent years of service MVSA will cover the cost of one routine dental and optical visit/exam. MVSA will cover the costs for any routine dental care required – simple fillings for example.  If updated glasses are required, the lowest cost glasses will be covered.  For those who serve a portion of an additional year, the coverage will be prorated accordingly.

Pre-existingConditions:  When possible, it is our desire to work with those who have a pre-existing health condition. MVSA requires a doctor’sstatement regarding the pre-existing condition(s) and/or a medical exam. If a medical exam is needed, it will be at the expense of the applicant.

MVSAwill cover up to $100 per month on pre-existing conditions.  If medical expenses for pre-existing conditions are more than $100 per month, local leadership will explore with the volunteer ways of raising the support needed to cover these expenses.


Personal Property: in the spirit of simple living, volunteers are encouraged to bring a limited amount of personal property to their locations of service.  Volunteers are encouraged, however, to bring items such as musical instruments, cameras, personal computers and communication devices as they can greatly enrich the volunteer experience.

Volunteers are responsible to guard the security of their personal property judiciously.  If personal property is stolen, a claim can be made through the Sponsoring Congregation’s insurance plan, or the home insurance plan of the Unit house.  The volunteer will be responsible for the deductible portion of the settlement.

Professional Liability: MVSA is responsible to ensure that each volunteer has professional liability insurance either through the sponsoring agency, or through the Sponsoring Congregation.