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VSO Bangladesh works in communities, sharing skills and experience with local people and organisations who can use them to help address poverty. Our volunteers work directly with people’s organisations in a sustainable people-to-people approach, with the villagers themselves shaping and providing a focus for our work. Together, we seek to support disadvantaged groups to unite as active citizens with the capacity, confidence and platforms to participate in development.

151 000 000
Capital city
GDP per capita
US$1 458
HDI ranking
146 out of 187
Life expectancy
69 years

VSO Bangladesh focuses on groups who are most excluded from the social and economic growth in Bangladesh and who are the least resilient to economic and environmental shocks. They include:

  • extremely poor or marginalised women, including widows, female agricultural day labourers, landless women, abandoned women, and impoverished mothers and women of reproductive age

  • adolescents and youth, focusing on those in poor rural communities facing un/underemployment

  • excluded groups, including indigenous communities, Dalits, people living with HIV and AIDS and people with disabilities

VSO Bangladesh works across different programme areas which are fully integrated in our planning. We develop alliances with other organisations, the government and communities to complement and add value to one another’s work, for a comprehensive approach to tackling poverty in Bangladesh. We aim to reach at least 698,216 people directly by 2015. As the results are subsequently scaled up with our partners across the districts, the total reach will be at least 2.5 million impoverished and marginalised people. Our thematic areas are:

Good governance

Good progress has been made in democratic governance in Bangladesh, yet much remains to be done to translate this into real improvement in areas such as living standards and social inequality. With support of our NGO partners and international volunteers, we build strong and effective people’s organisations through our citizen committees and youth clubs, which represent and comprise of disadvantaged members of our target communities. Citizen committees are linked closely to local governance bodies, such as the Union Parishads to increase accountability, transparency in budgeting and decision-making, and effectiveness at fulfilling their mandate of service delivery and community development. Youth clubs focus on model villages to support the design, implementation and replication of initiatives, targeting specific drivers of local poverty which can be tackled through improved local governance.

Sustainable livelihoods

Thirty-six million Bangladeshis are chronically hungry, by 2050 this will have grown by 100 million more. Bangladesh is also extremely vulnerable to climate change and declining freshwater resources. Here technical skill in agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries is low and marginalised farmers are poorly connected to marketing chains.

Our approach includes identifying and replicating community-designed innovations, such as diversification of agriculture and using water more efficiently, while taking into account local skills, resources, practices and challenges. We also bring in relevant ideas and practices from both the developing and developed countries through our international volunteers. This is done by capacity building among local producers, both to establish market linkages, and to improve and diversify their livelihoods practices.

Inclusive health rights

Although Bangladesh has made promising progress in raising its overall health status and living standards, critical primary health problems persist. The country suffers from widespread childhood malnutrition, and has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. There is also a high incidence of preventable diseases, due to the lack of access to and information about sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and sexual health.

We work to improve quality of and access to rural primary healthcare services. Through the expertise of our healthcare volunteers, we will build technical capacity among targeted groups of community healthworkers, especially in maternal health and community clinics. We also build capacity among the youth clubs as peer educators in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, nutrition, and hygiene and sanitation. We will support the activation of government health services, to increase local awareness of and access to the services available.  

As a cross-cutting theme, gender equality and climate change are an integral part of the VSO Bangladesh programme.

Youth volunteering in Bangladesh

People aged 18-25 can apply to do fully-funded placements lasting three months in a number of developing countries, including Bangladesh, through the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

UK and Bangladeshi volunteers on our ICS programme work in the country with entrepreneurs in the handloom industry to grow their businesses. Tasks include market research, business development, marketing and support with the entrepreneurs’ businesses.

Find out about International Citizen Sevice.

Contact us

Get in touch with VSO Bangladesh at:
House # 382 (1st & 5th floor), Road # 28, New DOHS, Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Find out about volunteering

By volunteering abroad with VSO you get to put your skills, energy and personal qualities to work helping people break out of poverty. Interested in volunteering abroad?