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Activities: Others

If you’re new to VSO, here’s a quick overview that will give you an idea of what we’re all about.

VSO is an international development charity that works through volunteers

Our vision is a world without poverty in which people work together to fulfil their potential. Instead of sending food or money, we send people from a wide range of professions who want the chance to make a real difference in the fight against poverty. These volunteers work in partnership with colleagues and communities to share skills and learning and achieve positive change together.

Our volunteers are skilled professionals

Our approach to volunteering has changed dramatically over the years. Whereas once we sent school leavers overseas, today the majority of our volunteers are skilled professionals. The average age of a VSO volunteer is 41. However, we do have youth programmes for 18 to 25 year olds.

We are by far the largest independent volunteer-sending agency in the world

Since 1958, we have sent over 43,000 volunteers to work in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, the Pacific and Eastern Europe in response to requests from governments and community organisations. Right now we have around 1,500 people working in 42 of the world’s poorest countries.

We recruit volunteers from all over the world

Although VSO was founded in the UK in 1958, we now welcome volunteers from an ever-increasing range of countries and backgrounds. Our national partner agencies in Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, India and Ireland recruit volunteers from many different countries worldwide and this international approach allows us to combine and learn from a rich variety of perspectives.

VSO Bangladesh volunteer Karen Dahlgren with some of her pupils

Our vision

VSO’s vision is of a world without poverty in which people work together to fulfil their potential. 

The part VSO plays in making this vision a reality is to promote volunteering to fight global poverty and disadvantage. We work for, and often directly with, disadvantaged people in the poorest countries where we can make a significant contribution and where it is safe to do so – in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean and Pacific islands. 

We work to achieve change for disadvantaged people in six 'goal' areas – education, HIV & AIDS, disability, secure livelihoods, participation and governance and health and social well-being.

In each country where VSO works, we build partnerships with organisations that benefit disadvantaged people, and bring people together to share skills, creativity and learning to build a fairer world. At the heart of what we do is to provide international volunteers from developed and developing countries. These are skilled professionals who join partner organisations for anything from a few weeks up to two years or more, to support their ability to benefit disadvantaged people. VSO also supports youth, diaspora and national volunteering programmes; seeks changes in policy and practice that benefit disadvantaged people; and runs workshops, exchanges, training and study visits that enable partner organisations to become more effective.

VSO’s vision is of a world in which people of all cultures are seen as equal, learn from each other and share a common sense of rights and responsibilities as global citizens. We support volunteers to build on their experience and commitment to share their experience with others and work for positive and sustainable change.

VSO’s strategic plan

VSO’s long-term strategic plan is set out in the document, Focus for Change. Published in 2002, this document describes our vision, purpose and goals.

VSO's commitment to diversity

VSO values diversity, honesty, respect and shared endeavour. Through our working practices we strive to make VSO more diverse organisation. Valuing diversity is central to the intergrity and future sucess of our organisation.

For further details visit:

There are many ways you can get involved with VSO and help carry on this work.

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