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Voluntary Service Overseas

voluntary service overseas, voluntary service overseas (vso)
Voluntary Service Overseas VSO is an international development charity with a vision for a "world without poverty" and a mission to "bring people together to fight poverty" VSO recruits professionals to work as volunteers, living and working alongside local populations in developing countries Founded in 1958, VSO has sent over 50,000 volunteers As of 2015 VSO worked in 23 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific


  • 1 Working areas
  • 2 Structure and governance
  • 3 History
  • 4 VSO today
    • 41 Advocacy and campaigns
    • 42 Partnerships
    • 43 Sharing good practice
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links

Working areas

VSO currently works in the following areas:

  • Education
  • Health and HIV & AIDS
  • Participation and governance
  • Secure livelihoods

And has three cross cutting themes that are relevant to all the areas:

  • Gender
  • Climate Change
  • Disability

Structure and governance

Voluntary Service Overseas VSO is a company limited by guarantee VSO has three wholly owned subsidiaries: "VSO Trading Limited" England and Wales, "British Executive Service Overseas" England and Wales and "Beijing VSO Consulting Company Limited", a Chinese-registered, wholly foreign-owned enterprise

VSO's governing body is the International Board, currently comprising 10 trustees The day-to-day management of VSO is carried out by the Global Leadership Team The Global Leadership Team has operational oversight of VSO's global work Each Global Leadership team member is responsible for an area of VSO's global operations, including finance, human resources and organisational development, and geographical management of Africa Group and Asia and Pacific Group

VSO is part of the "VSO Federation", an international network of organisations that share VSO's vision of a world without poverty, in which people work together to fulfil their potential The VSO Federation comprises VSO operating as both VSO International and VSO UK, VSO Ireland, VSO Jitolee Kenya, VSO Netherlands and VSO Bahaginan Philippines Each VSO federation member is a self-governing, not-for-profit legal entity Each federation member and VSO UK has nominated a representative to the VSO Federation Council, an advisory body created to advise the International Board on matters relevant to the VSO Federation


VSO was founded in 1958 by Alec and Mora Dickson through a bishop's letter to the London paper, The Sunday Times, as an educational experience overseas for school-leavers, initially only male, before starting university Volunteers offered unskilled help in return for basic accommodation and pocket money In 1962, the practice changed to using university graduate volunteers

By 1980, the unskilled volunteers had been completely phased out and the length of service had been extended to two years Active volunteer numbers initially dropped to about 750, but by 2003 had returned to about 1,400 Since December 2004, applications to volunteer have been accepted from those between ages 20 and 75, who also must have at least two years' experience in their field The average age of current volunteers is 43

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 eg an Irish volunteer working in Nepal, or a Ugandan volunteer working in Tajikistan

In 2011 VSO, in partnership with Lattitude Global Volunteering, Restless Development, Skillshare International, Progressio, International Service and Tropical Health Education Trust THET launched International Citizen Service ICS to provide volunteer placements for 18- to 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 today

Highlights of Voluntary Service Overseas today include:

  • VSO recruits and trains experienced, professional volunteers aged between 18–75 to live and work in the heart of local communities International volunteers can be from any country and are recruited by recruitment partners in: China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, southern Africa and the UK
  • VSO offers some short-term consultancy-style volunteer placements, to complement their traditional long-term two year placements
  • VSO supports more than 100 national volunteering programmes in over 20 countries including schemes in India, Ghana and Kenya
  • VSO also 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


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, and Randstad

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

See also

  • CUSO
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • EU Aid Volunteers
  • European Voluntary Service
  • Fredskorpset
  • International Citizen Service
  • Peace Corps
  • United Nations Volunteers


  1. ^ "Gap yah volunteers not all bad, says new report" The Guardian Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  2. ^ "People first strategy 2010" PDF wwwvsoorguk Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Annual Report and Financial statement 2013-14 for VSO International" PDF wwwvsoorguk Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  4. ^ Critical Perspectives on Service-Learning in Higher Education p 16 ISBN 9781137383259 
  5. ^ "Volunteering" University of Bradford Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  6. ^ "Good to meet you… Tom Jackson" The Guardian Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  7. ^ "Putting children first: transforming education in Cambodia" VSO Bahaginan Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  8. ^ "Dublin doctor helping Africans most in need" The Irish Times Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  9. ^ "History Voluntary Service Overseas VSO" Official website Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  10. ^ "Tearfund International Learning Zone" PDF Tearfund Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  11. ^ Weeden, Clare Responsible and Ethical Tourist Behaviour Routledge p 44 ISBN 9781136996283 
  12. ^ "VSO Volunteers" Official website Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  13. ^ VSO LINKS - promoting volunteering to fight poverty and disadvantage
  14. ^ "RAISA - Our programme initiatives - About VSO" wwwvsoorguk Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  15. ^ "I chose to have my twins at 50" ParentDish Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  16. ^ "VSO Business Partnership Program" Accenture Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  17. ^ "VSO Voluntary Service Overseas" Randstad Holding Retrieved 3 April 2015 
  18. ^ "What we do" wwwvsointernationalorg Retrieved 3 April 2015 

Further reading

  • "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
  • "Meet the VSO Volunteers" Grasya, July 2011

External links

  • VSO homepage
  • VSO Ireland homepage
  • VSO Netherlands homepage in Dutch
  • VSO Bahaginan homepage Philippines
  • VSO Jitolee homepage Kenya
  • VSO Hovos homepage India
  • VSO India homepage India
  • iVolunteer Overseas homepage India
  • VSO China homepage China
  • Beijing VSO Consulting Services
  • Volunteer in the Philippines

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