Half the world’s population is under 30, with young people disproportionately affected by health, education and economic challenges.

VSO works with and through youth in 10 countries harnessing their special abilities and developing them as leaders of their own development.

Rebecca Gyumi Tanzania | VSO

Areas of expertise

Youth volunteering

VSO leads the International Citizen Service (ICS) consortium, through which over 4000 young people from the UK and developing countries have volunteered so far.

Last year more than 1,200 young people volunteered for VSO working in ICS teams across nine countries, mobilising other young people around health, employment and education issues.

It’s not just through ICS that young people are getting engaged in development issues with VSO – young Pakistanis have defused community tensions through peacebuilding projects, and Indian youths taken volunteer opportunities for career development while contributing to local poverty challenges.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Child marriage, gender inequalities and taboos surrounding menstruation all increase the sexual and reproductive health risks to adolescents and young people. We’re working at the community level as well as with governments to change this.

In Bangladesh, youth community mobilisers improved community health practices such as use of soap and latrines, and increased access to safe drinking water from 36% to 72%. In Nepal, not only have young ICS volunteers created a peer education network to share sexual health messages, but we’re helping 48 schools develop plans to make school a safe, welcoming place for adolescent girls, such as by providing adequate female toilets.

Adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights is a major focus of VSO's health work.

Employability and entrepreneurship

Young people are three times as likely to be unemployed as adults, with 73 million and rising out of work worldwide. When young people do get jobs they are still struggling to get by, with 40% of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa earning less than $1.25 per day.

VSO’s approach to righting this situation includes improving the skills and confidence of young people as well as addressing the quality and relevance of training and qualifications available to young people in developing countries.

Through the ICS programme in Cambodia, young people with business skills have supported other youths to develop micro and small enterprises. In Kenya, we have worked with vocational training institutes to improve teaching and ensure curricula deliver the skills that today’s employers are looking for.

Empowering youth through enterprise and entrepreneurship is a major focus of VSO's sustainability work.

Find out more

Learn about our work with and through young people in our Youth capability statement [PDF].

Aged 18-25 and interested in volunteering? Find out more about volunteering with ICS.