Focus on Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)

VSO is a British based charity which I first came across in the early 1970s in Nigeria. I was the only Canadian volunteer in my part of the Western Region of Nigeria, the two volunteers in the community some 15 kilometers away were VSOs. One of them, David Shaw, became a good friend and travel companion over the year we worked in close vicinity. Christine, the other VSO volunteer was only there for 4 months at the end of her assignment so I didn’t get to know her as well. Still they were both as dedicated and hard-working as I and our Nigerian colleagues.

VSO has grown exponentially since then, at least that is what I judge from reviewing their website.

Inclusive education

The website is a very rich source of information on the work they are doing internationally. The projects page gives well illustrated information on the many projects VSO runs across three global programs identified below.

Making sure everyone gets the skills they need to live a fulfilled, dignified life.

Adolescent health and wellbeing

Improving health services for all and empowering the most marginalised to exercise their right to quality care.

Resilient livelihoods

Ensuring people have the skills and opportunities needed to support themselves and their families

According to the VSO website, the organization’s core approaches are:

  • Across all our programmes we focus on building communities that are resilient, inclusive and accountable.
  • Our three ‘core approaches’ – social inclusion and gender, resilience, and social inclusion and accountability – are fundamental to our volunteering for development approach, ensuring that the people we work with have the capacity to bring about change in their own lives.

In addition, the website alludes to the importance of partnerships.

“We believe progress is only possible when we work together.

Partnerships lie at the root of all the positive change we create. Together, we work on programme development and delivery, research, fundraising and influencing decision-makers.

We work with:

  • 500+ local organisations in 23 countries;
  • governments at all levels;
  • funders, academic institutions and advocacy platforms;
  • corporate partners.”

Indeed, in my opinion, anyone interested in international development will enjoy the wide variety of stories illustrated on their website. The one which immediately caught my eye was using computer tablets to help teach basic literacy and numeracy at hundreds of primary schools in Malawi. In fact, when I was in Malawi a few years ago, VSO was piloting this programme. The pilot clearly worked well judging by the huge scale of the current project!  

Volunteering with VSO

Much like the other parts of the website, the section on volunteering is full of detail. What caught my eye first was a call for volunteers “of any age.” That said, there are some restrictions depending on where the assignments are, but generally, this is what you’ll need to volunteer with VSO.

“Our volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds and we assess each application individually, but you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • at least three years’ experience in your professional field,
  • a relevant degree or equivalent qualification,
  • pass the criminal background check, pass VSO core competencies assessment 
  • commitment to the full duration of your project engagement 
  • willingness to live on a basic allowance and adapt to new living conditions, if you relocate as part of your work with us.”

Also of note is that VSO can hire locals as volunteers in their country or in other countries.

The VSO site is definitely worth a visit.

You can also make inquiries here:

Author: arthureshears

Passionate about writing, international development and travel

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