Two people, one in a VSO t-shirt, survey a camp for internally displaced people
VSO/Suraj Shakya

Volunteering for development programme

DFID logo

Driving volunteer impact to deliver improved health, education and livelihoods outcomes for two million people.

Our Volunteering for Development programme, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), works to improve?access to quality health and education services, as well as developing livelihood opportunities for the most poor and vulnerable.

The grant recognises VSO's extensive experience of putting volunteers in the right places to tackle poverty and inequality.

Volunteering for Development helps us to drive stronger volunteer impact and support the development of Britain’s reputation as a global leader to deliver improved health, education and livelihoods outcomes for up to two million of the poorest and most marginalised people across the globe.

Key aims of the programme

Advocacy

Mobilising poor and marginalised groups to give them a voice and to hold duty bearers to account, to monitor development progress and ensure that policy makers consider their needs.

Volunteer standards

Develop and drive the widespread adoption of a global set of minimum standards for responsible and impactful volunteering.

Building capacity

Enhance the practices and effectiveness of 350 partner organisations and more than 4,000 expert volunteers to extend the reach of basic services to the poorest and most marginalised.

Areas of impact

The grant enables us to drive vital work across several development areas. This joined-up approach sees changes happening at all levels to bring real change to the world’s most poor and marginalised.

The grant supports VSO to place expert volunteers to support projects in 23 countries around the globe. Throughout the course of the grant we aim to have supported 4,000 volunteers.

After year one, we placed 606 international volunteers and 920 national volunteers across our four areas of focus.

Volunteering for Development supports our vision to enhance effectiveness across a number of vital areas - including our three 'core approaches':

The grant also supports work to improve the standards of volunteering across the sector.

Volunteering for Development around the world

The Volunteering for Development grant is supporting work in 23 countries across the globe.

Find out more about where we work

A young woman smiles as she poses in her wheelchair in front of a building
VSO/Jeff DeKock

Social inclusion and gender equality

All our programmes are underpinned by a rigorous social exclusion and gender analysis. As a lead partner on the Leave No One Behind initiative, we are committed to inclusivity in all we do.

The Volunteering for Development grant directly contributes to reducing social inclusion and gender disparity by addressing existing educational, health and livelihoods inequalities.

Within its first year, Volunteering for Development enabled 35 social inclusion and gender specialist volunteers to bring their expertise to programmes worldwide.

Highlights from our work on the ground:

  • In the first year of Volunteering for Development, we reached 847,000 women and girls - representing 60% of our total reach. 13,601 (1%) had a disability.
  • Bangladesh and Tanzania - challenging traditional gender perceptions: Working alongside Theatre for a Change we are using drama to interact with communities and challenge perceptions of standard gender norms. 
  • Bangladesh - reducing child marriage: We are working alongside the Girls Not Brides campaign to monitor the implementation of the Child Marriage Act, which was passed in 2017.
  • Sierra Leone - tackling gender-based violence:  Reported incidents of gender-based violence have halved in Kenema, Sierra Leone, where we're working with local volunteers to work as male advocates and peer health educators. A film covering this project was selected for the Sustainable Development Goals Film Festival at the 2018 UN High Level Political Forum.
This film documenting the 'Husband School' project in Sierra Leone was selected for the Sustainable Development Goals Film Festival at the 2018 UN High Level Political Forum

Highlights from our work influencing policy:

  • African Union Gender strategy: 600 Million women and girls now have a clear actionable roadmap on gender, including an investment plan and an advocacy tool. VSO emphasised the need for an inclusion lens in the African Union’s approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • Kenya - Policy for learners and trainees with disabilities: (formerly Kenya special education needs policy). Launched by the President of Kenya in July 2018. VSO was central to the initiation and subsequent development of this policy and accompanying guidelines. The guidelines accompanying the policy have formed the basis for the development of the National Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018-2022.
  • Malawi - developing by-laws and reporting systems on child marriages: in 14 group villages.
  • Nepal - National guidelines on violence against women and girls: For the first time, clear public guidelines are provided about the services and support provided by the government to women and girls who have experienced discrimination. A VSO national expert volunteer co-drafted the policy.

Case studies from our work in social inclusion and gender equality

A female police officer stands next to her squad car
VSO

Combatting gender-based violence through democratic policing

Working with the police force, NGOs and civil society organisations to combat gender-based violence, and challenge longstanding attitudes towards harmful cultural practices in Pakistan.

A young man and young woman stand outside, conversing in Rwandan Sign Language
VSO/Mussa

Ensuring Deaf young people aren't excluded from sexual and reproductive health services

Improving sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalised and at-risk Deaf young people.

A volunteer crouches to help a young girl learn to use crutches, outside in Dhading camp for internally displaced peoples.
VSO/Suraj Shakya

Strengthening resilience and responding to crises

Building resilience to shocks and stresses is vital in ensuring sustainable advancement from poverty. During its first year, the Volunteering for Development grant enabled us to recruit 17 resilience specialist volunteers to provide support to programmes worldwide.

The grant has also enabled us to respond to natural disasters and work with partners to build resilience and enhance disaster risk reduction.

Highlights from our work on the ground:

  • Bangladesh - education interventions for Rohingya refugee children: we have implemented Home Based Early Childhood Education and Care for 3-5 year olds and child-friendly alternative learning classes for 6-14 year olds.
  • Ethiopia - education interventions for refugee children: In partnership with UNICEF, we are developing a psychosocial support programme in Oromia and Somali regions of Ethiopia to directly support vulnerable primary school children.
  • Nepal - flood recovery: We are working alongside a selection of partners to support rehabilitation and improving access to schools in addition to ongoing disaster risk reduction work.
  • Sierra Leone - flood and mudslide recovery: Continued focus on the shift from emergency response to recovery and resettlement. Through the flood response programme, technical support has been provided to the Disaster Management Department of the office of National Security and training for over 50 community volunteers to be engaged in future Disaster Risk Reduction campaigns in the Provincial districts of Kono, Pujehun, Bo, Koinadugu and Kambia.

Highlights from our work influencing policy:

  • Nepal - Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy: The government of Nepal has drafted a national disaster risk reduction strategy with support from the Association of International NGOs. VSO supported with technical expertise and organised public consultations with local communities to ensure accountability. We will also support the monitoring and implementation of the strategy.
Women sit outside in a circle and raise their hands as one woman stands. In the background are steep rolling hills
VSO/Peter Caton

Social accountability and citizen-led monitoring

Our programmes facilitate local ownership of development processes and build citizen-led accountability. Within its first year, Volunteering for Development enabled 36 social accountability specialist volunteers to bring their expertise to programmes worldwide.

Highlights from our work on the ground:

  • Citizen-led monitoring introduced across six countries: This work has reached over 30,000 citizens and there is significant increase in the awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals among these communities.
  • In Tanzania, 1453 young people across Lindi and Mtwara are actively involved in youth platforms, actively building youth networks with strong leadership skills to lead their own development, monitor progress and take action.
  • In Uganda, 3,456 community members and 3,426 school children have been involved with communications around the SDGs and social accountability.

Highlights from our work influencing policy:

  • Ethiopia - National Youth Volunteering Policy: completion of a National Youth Volunteering Policy and adoption by parliament; the National Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Policy amended to provide significant level of political space for CSOs to engage in rights, policy and advocacy issues.

Case studies from our work in social accountability

An inmate stands in front of a sign for Chikurubi female prison clinic
VSO/Cynthia R Matonhodze

Using scorecards to improve accountability for health in Zimbabwean prisons

We've been working with the Zimbabwe Prison and Correction Services (ZPCS) to empower inmates to identify areas of improvement in prison health services - and hold authorities to account where they fall short.

A young woman stands and presents a flipchart showing a diagramme outlining young people's frustrations with healthcare
VSO

Improving sexual and reproductive health services for young people in Lesotho

We've partnered with the Ministry of Health to improve young people's access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, whilst supporting a citizen-led monitoring approach that holds authorities to account.

Volunteer Janice Ann Perez turns and smiles as she stands at the front of a full classroom in Karamoja, Uganda
VSO/Peter Caton

Thought leadership on volunteering in development

We are developing and driving the widespread adoption of a global set of minimum volunteer standards across the rapidly growing, but still unregulated, volunteering for development sector.

We presented at the annual meeting of European members of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development, conducted a session on volunteering standards at the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) Conference 2018, and hosted the International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations (IVCO) Conference 2019, in collaboration with the International Forum for Volunteering in Development.

The group leading volunteering standards continues to expand its membership. We have recently added organisations with a focus on volunteering in institutional settings and a number of ‘volunteerism’ organisations, as well as UN Volunteers.

We have established a working partnership with the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) to support our work developing standards for volunteering.

Where we work

The Volunteering for Development grant is supporting vital work across the globe. Find out more about our work using the map:

Area of focus

All Education Health Livelihoods

Bangladesh

Livelihoods

Education

  • Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in Bangladesh

Health

Cambodia

Livelihoods

  • Improving Market Access for the Poor

Education

eSwatini

Health

  • Interactive theatre for justice
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of prison populations in Southern Africa

Ethiopia

Education

  • Unlocking Talent Through Technology

Health

  • Equipment and skills to reduce newborn deaths

Ghana

Livelihoods

Malawi

Education

  • Unlocking Talent Through Technology

Livelihoods

  • Improving Market Access for the Poor
  • Solar Mama Rural Electrification project

Health

  • Improving the health and wellbeing of prison populations in Southern Africa

Nepal

Education

Health

Nigeria

Livelihoods

  • Improving Market Access for the Poor

Rwanda

Health

Education

Sierra Leone

Health

Tanzania

Livelihoods

  • Improving Market Access for the Poor
  • Lake Zone Youth Empowerment project
  • Tanzania Local Enterprise Development (T-LED)

Health

Uganda

Health

  • Equipment and skills to reduce newborn deaths

Livelihoods

  • SCOPE (Skills and Capacity for Organisational Productivity and Employment)

Zambia

Health

  • Training and Local knowledge (TALK!)
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of prison populations in Southern Africa

Zimbabwe

Health

  • Improving the health and wellbeing of prison populations in Southern Africa

Find out more about our work in:

A doctor with a newborn baby in Ethiopia

Healthy communities

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

Over the past five years we have helped over 3,600,000 people access better healthcare.

A child in a wheelchair at school

Inclusive education

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

Over the past five years we have supported almost 3,500,000 children to access the quality education they deserve.

A farmer standing next to their harvested crops

Resilient livelihoods

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

770,000 people have benefited from our work supporting livelihoods over the past five years.