Voluntary Service Overseas
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VSO is an international development charity that works through volunteers living and working as equals alongside local partners. VSO has offices in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Cambodia, Kenya, the Philippines, India and China. VSO was founded in 1958 and since then over 50,000 volunteers have worked in over 140 developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
VSO works in the following areas:
VSO was founded in 1958 by Alec and Moira Dickson through a bishop's letter to the London paper, The Sunday Times, as an educational experience overseas for school-leavers, initially only boys, before starting university. Volunteers offered unskilled help in exchange for basic accommodation and pocket money. In 1962, the more recognized scheme of using 'qualified' volunteers came about. By 1968, VSO had 1420 volunteers overseas.
By 1980, the unqualified volunteers had been phased out and the period overseas had been extended to two years, with a more professional approach. Active volunteer numbers initially fell to around 750, but by 2003, the number had returned to around 1,400. As of December 2004, applications to volunteer are accepted from people aged between 20 and 75, with at least two years' experience in their field, and the average age of current volunteers is 38.
In the early 1990s, in order to meet growing demand for highly specialised and skilled volunteers from its partners in developing countries, VSO established partner agencies in Canada, the Netherlands, Kenya/Uganda (VSO Jitolee), and the Philippines (VSO Bahaginan). In 2004, VSO launched a partnership called iVolunteer Overseas (iVO) in India with iVolunteer, an existing volunteering program of MITRA, an Indian NGO. VSO's structure evolved to become an international federation which now includes Ireland, China and India as well as the above named countries. International volunteers are recruited through all of these bases, and they can be placed in any one of VSO's programmes (e.g. an Irish volunteer working in Nepal, or a Ugandan volunteer working in Tajikistan).
In 2011 VSO, in partnership with Restless Development, Skillshare International, Progressio, International Service and [Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) launched International Citizen Service ICS to provide volunteer placements for 18-25 year-olds. The group, funded by the Department for International Development DFID, now includes Raleigh International and Tearfund and will work with 3,000 volunteers annually across 60 countries.
- VSO recruits and trains experienced, professional volunteers aged between 18-75 to live and work in the heart of local communities.
- VSO offers some short-term consultancy-style volunteer placements, to complement their traditional long-term (two year) placements.
- supports a more than 100 national volunteering programmes in over 20 countries (including schemes in India, Ghana and Kenya);
- acts as a 'knowledge broker', bringing local grassroots organisations together to share learning and best practice, for example through the Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa, with a network of partners in seven southern African countries;
Advocacy and campaigns VSO undertakes advocacy locally, nationally and internationally to bring about positive change to policies and practices. VSO campaigns for global justice to help raise awareness of important development issues.
Partnerships VSO works with local partners in the communities they work with, placing volunteers with these partners to help increase their impact and effectiveness. VSO also works with corporate partners, such as Accenture, Randstad, Kraft Foods (Cadbury), Ben and Jerry's, to provide them with ways to contribute to VSO's development goals in a way that provides benefits to both parties.
Sharing good practice LINKS(Learning through International Networking and Knowledge Sharing) activities give VSO partners the chance to go to another country to learn and share good practice by visiting or working with agencies there.
- "How a Kenyan VSO volunteer is helping the health crisis in Malawi", The Nation, Malawi, 26 May 2006
- "Mica's Lost His family - I Wept For Him", Sunday Mirror, 21 May 2006
- "VSO focuses on senior teachers", Education Guardian, January 10, 2006
- "Eight Ways to Change the World", The Guardian, 7 September 2005
- "Women lead as overseas volunteers", Guardian March 20, 2001
- "Brian Deer investigates VSO", London Sunday Times, April 26, 1998
- VSO UK homepage
- VSO Ireland homepage
- VSO Netherlands homepage (in Dutch)
- VSO Bahaginan homepage (Philippines)
- VSO Jitolee homepage (Kenya)
- VSO India homepage (India)
- iVolunteer Overseas homepage (India)
- VSO China homepage (China)
- Beijing VSO Consulting Services
- VSO Indonesia