Young people lead the charge to end global poverty

Young people lead the charge to end global poverty

Through its work with youth, VSO aims to improve the lives of young people living in poverty, support young people to be active in development work, and support youth participation within their communities.

The number of youth volunteers has increased significantly in the past year due to International Citizen Service (ICS), which brings together 18-25 year olds from the UK and developing countries to fight poverty in developing countries. ICS is led by VSO and funded by the UK Government, and sees VSO working in partnership with ten other development organisations. By August 2015, ICS will have created 14,000 active citizens globally.

Working in cross-cultural teams, 940 VSO ICS volunteers worked in 46 communities and 14 countries across Africa and Asia, totalling over 74,200 volunteer days (between April 2013 and March 2014). Together, they have been tackling problems, around the issues of health and education, and contributing towards sustainable development.

Angela Salt, Director of VSO UK says, “VSO sees real value in working with young people from the UK to improve the lives of other young people living in poverty and to support them both to be more active in development work, while encouraging greater participation in their communities.”

“The majority of volunteering programmes involved peer education and awareness-raising where young people add significant value due to their energy and enthusiasm to motivate audiences. Afterwards they are confident, energetic and passionate about overcoming issues in their own communities and abroad. That is what volunteering is all about.”

In Tanzania, VSO ICS UK volunteers worked alongside 330 VSO ICS Tanzanian volunteers on a variety of programmes, sharing information on sexual reproductive health, civic education and entrepreneurship. These projects have led to greater awareness about sexual reproductive health issues for over 2,000 young people.

In Uganda this year, 4,500 young people have developed knowledge and skills through non-formal vocational skills training in the areas of literacy, numeracy, entrepreneurship and mentoring.

According to Bonavitha B Gahaihi, 24, from Tanzania, who took part in the VSO ICS Karagwe Health project in Tanzania, “When I first embarked on VSO’s ICS programme I was shy and I wasn’t confident enough to speak in public. However, after taking part in global citizenship days, team meetings and community action days I was able to run sexual reproductive health sessions in schools, churches, sports events and even at bus stops. I even ran a session in Swahili almost single-handedly to a crowd of 100 people.”

As the world marks International Youth Day on 12 August, it is clear that young people, such as Given Sakajila, 18, from Zambia, are realising the positive change they can have on communities too.

During Given’s placement, he worked at the District Hospital alongside his UK counterpart and Given strongly believes that volunteering is a platform through which youth can make a difference.

“The value of youth volunteering for me is about making a difference,” says Given. “Many youth may not be directly involved in decision-making, but that doesn’t exempt them from feeling the effects of decisions and policies passed by the people who may not represent their views. Through volunteering, young people can make the change they want to see – not just because we have the time, but because we care. Change no matter how small makes a difference.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities with VSO ICS, visit:

For more information, photos or case studies, contact:

Angela Singh, Media Officer – VSO UK 
Telephone: (0044) (0)20 8780 7368

Editor's notes

ABOUT ICS: International Citizen Service (ICS) is a UK government funded programme that brings together 18 to 25-year-olds from all backgrounds to fight poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. ICS is led by VSO in partnership with respected development organisations and works on projects where young volunteers can make a real impact, pairing UK volunteers with volunteers in-country.

ABOUT VSO ICS: VSO ICS works in some of the world’s poorest communities in Africa and Asia. Working alongside in-country volunteers, volunteers from the UK will contribute directly to development projects around health, livelihoods, education and participation, on 10-12 week placements.

Highlights from 2013-14 (statistics and information have come from VSO’s annual report 2013/14):

Community level:  

  • In Bohol, Philippines, 2,480 young people have increased awareness of environmental issues affecting the Carood Watershed as a result of the ICS team conducting peer education and awareness-raising activities in schools and youth clubs. 

  • ICS volunteers supported the Union of Carood Youth Group (UCYG) to form a Memorandum of Agreement with the Carood Watershed Model Forest Management Council. 

  • Six representatives of UCYG now sit as official youth delegates in the council’s regular meetings and there are accounts of increased youth participation in environmental management.

Change for partners:

  • “An ICS volunteer submitted, and was successful in receiving $47,000 grant from UNDP under the Access to Justice Fund, this has enabled the organisation to work to cover a wider number of people and to turn project ideas into tangible concepts,” says the Director of CAHSec, a VSO partner in Sierra Leone, who highlights a key achievement of an ICS volunteer in the past year.

  • ICS volunteers have had a significant impact on partner organisations – for example, raising their profile on social media and building organisational capacity through improving monitoring and evaluation systems.

Change for individuals: 

  • “ICS has been and will continue to be a transformational experience for many thousands of young people in the UK and across the developing world.” -  Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. 

  • Volunteers have reported on the impact that their ICS experience has had on themselves personally – helping them to engage more effectively in their community – forming alumni networks and supporting local community development initiatives.

  • All volunteers undertake ‘Action at home’ projects which continue their involvement in development work after their placement has ended.

  • There are signs of increased employability for national volunteers: “The programme has been impactful changing the lives of the Ethiopian volunteers where 73% of them secured jobs.” (VSO Ethiopia).

Leaders of the consortium:

  • VSO’s leadership of ICS has seen the programme support more than 5,000 young people from the UK and developing countries to work together on community development projects in more than 30 countries around the world. 

  • In the last financial year 2,219 ICS volunteers from the UK took part, and VSO now leads a group of nine different development organisations managing this significant contract.

  • The programme was recently awarded an A+ in its DFID annual review, and its independently conducted mid-term evaluation found that 97% of volunteers found ICS useful or very useful for personal development, and 96% for professional development; 97% of ICS’ partners said the programme had benefited their organisation and more than three quarters of those surveyed said ICS had helped to improve community engagement.

Over the past year, VSO ICS volunteers have achieved:

  • 730 peer education activities, 708 awareness raising events, 360 resource development projects, 60 community infrastructure projects and 332 action research projects across  Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.