Greater range of volunteers than ever step forward to help end poverty

Greater range of volunteers than ever step forward to help end poverty

To mark International Volunteer Day on December 5th, VSO is launching a global campaign inviting people to #StepForward to support volunteering for development in 2015. 

Last year, there were 3624 VSO volunteers working in programmes in 35 developing countries. These volunteers came from a range of countries and age groups; they were international and national, long-term skilled and youth. Their work was on projects as diverse as helping to reduce neo natal mortality by two thirds in an Ethiopian hospital, to an innovative education project in Papua New Guinea using text messages to deliver lesson plans to teachers in the remote areas.  

VSO has also increased support to over 60,000 community volunteers and 60 partner organisations to improve their own volunteer management.  Another significant contribution is coming from the private sector building markets and fostering entrepreneurship.

VSO Chief Executive Jim Emerson says he is excited by the new face of volunteering. 
“We are seeing people from Asia going to Africa, and people within Africa volunteering in neighbouring countries.  We are seeing highly skilled education and health professionals as well as corporate volunteers continuing to have a huge impact and simultaneously more young people working in small communities alongside national volunteers to bring about change at a community level.  This is the new face of volunteering and it’s exciting,” said Jim Emerson, CEO of VSO. 

Among those who volunteered last year is 65 year-old, semi-retired Irish grandfather Dr. Michael Donovan. He’s helping to improve the day-to-day functioning of a hospital in Tanzania by supporting local medical staff caring for 600,000 patients a year.

“I’m optimistic the tutorials in X-Ray and ECG interpretation as well as training in bedside clinical skills will leave a lasting impression on the medical students and interns. There are very few senior doctors at St Francis Hospital so having someone here to teach these subjects is rare for medical students in Tanzania,” said Dr. Donovan at the Ifakara Health Project in Tanzania this week.

In 2014 global emergencies like Ebola highlighted the impact volunteers have on development and on the challenges they face.  In Sierra Leone VSO volunteer midwives were working on maternal health when Ebola first broke out. Of the 15 VSO international volunteers, 12 were recruited from within Africa and shared valuable experience with local health-workers at the start of the Ebola response. VSO local staff continues to be directly involved in this response.

Over the course of VSO’s 56 year history, the profile of volunteers working in international development has changed significantly. VSO volunteers apply via recruitment hubs in the Philippines, Kenya, India and South Africa, as well as in the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK.  VSO recruits IT specialists, communications professionals, farmers, plumbers and even textile designers, as well as health-workers and educators.

Through the VSO-led youth International Citizen Service (ICS) programme 3,644 volunteers aged 18-25 from the UK and developing countries worked on 112 projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. ICS is funded by the UK government and delivered by respected development organisations. Since the programme started in 2011 it has already supported more than 10,000 young people to take up placements in some of the world’s poorest communities, making the first step toward a lifetime of active citizenship.

These broad trends in volunteering are echoed in the recently concluded Valuing Volunteering Research Series, conducted by VSO with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal and The Philippines over the past two years.   The findings show that volunteers play an important role in meeting development goals.  The report also recognises the significance of sharing skills and transferring knowledge so that communities can be part of their own development.

“People around the world want to be able to influence the decisions that affect their lives. The poorest countries and communities don’t want to be told what’s best; they want to be active partners in their own development,” said VSO Chief Executive Jim Emerson.  Mr. Emerson is speaking at an event on the topic in Brussels on December 2.


For further information plase contact: VSO Press Office +44 (0) 20 8780 7640 and +44 (0) 7500 918 478. 

Editor's notes

To mark this step change in volunteerism, VSO has launched the Step Forward campaign for International Volunteer Day on December 5th.  VSO is asking people of all ages and nationalities to take up the challenge and join the millions of ordinary people worldwide who are doing extraordinary things. 
Watch the #Step Forward film

Brussels debate:  VSO CEO will be one of a panel of experts debating the subject of people centered development in Brussels on December 2nd.

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all.  Read Dr. Michael Donovan’s story here

Valuing Volunteering Research Series
A two year global action research project conducted by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the UK  into, “How, where and when does volunteering affect poverty?” The key findings from across four sets of country inquiries will be published in January 2015. The research was conducted by VSO international volunteers in Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal and The Philippines and documents the views of volunteers from across the volunteering spectrum – self-help groups, community volunteers, national volunteering schemes and national/international skilled volunteers.

ICS is led by VSO and funded by UK Government. VSO delivers the programme in partnership with respected development organisations. See more on ICS Website