Elliot Taylor, 33, graduated from Leicester University with a degree in Biological Sciences. After completing a PhD he went to work for the National Rivers Authority (NRA). Several years later he applied to join the VSO and after being accepted was posted to Namibia.

"After completing the application, I was invited for an assessment. This involved role-playing about what you would do in certain situations, and group discussions. There were also one-to-one interviews. I heard back a few weeks later that I had been accepted onto the programme. They then match your skills to the various posts available and luckily for me the first thing that came up was a post in Namibia, reassessing the control of water fern, which related specifically to my specialised area of study.

"I was sent on several weekend courses, one of which was entitled "preparing for change". The whole process took less than three months.

"Upon arrival in Namibia, I had a specific picture in my mind of what the village was going to look like, which turned out to be totally different from the reality.

"The project was basically to eradicate the water fern, a native of South America which was destroying the local aqua ecology. My scientific knowledge added an extra dimension.

"Although the facilities were limited, working for the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture was rewarding and the South American beetle we released to destroy the plant actually worked. That made the whole two-year experience worthwhile.