Irene Bitumbe, winner of the Health volunteer award
VSO/Georgie Scott

Volunteer Impact Awards: The unsung heroes of 2021

Friday 3 December 2021 9.30-11.30am GMT

At this years’ VSO Volunteer Impact Awards we celebrated the incredible hard work, dedication, and resilience of VSO volunteers, past and present.

2021 has continued to be a year of great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. VSO volunteers have worked tirelessly in uniquely difficult and challenging circumstances. This year’s awards recognised some of our unsung heroes of 2021, and their outstanding contributions in helping the most marginalised communities in society. Volunteers were nominated under four categories: health, education, livelihoods, and impact beyond volunteering.

Watch a recap of the awards

Our 2021 winners and finalists

We’re pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Volunteer Impact Awards. A huge congratulations to everyone who was nominated.

National volunteer Brown Niyonsaba stands smiling in front of the blackboard in a classroom at Umutara Deaf School in Rwanda.
Brown Niyonsaba

Health Award

Brown Niyonsaba, Imbere-Heze project in Rwanda

A Deaf volunteer herself, Brown has supported deaf young people to access health services, learn about gender-based violence and supported them to receive critical information about COVID-19. Brown has mentored deaf peer educators, community health workers and nurses about sign language and also engaged with parents and community leaders though video messages and WhatsApp groups. 

She has amplified the voice for the vulnerable youth deaf youth in Nyagatare by supporting them to register for national Identity cards for the first time. Browns constant communication with communities  has helped her establish forums where those with disabilities feel heard and are able to report cases of violence.

Read more about Brown's work on the Imbere-Heze project

Our Health Award nominees

Uzoamaka Onyinye Didigwu

Education Award

Uzoamaka Onyinye Didigwu, Inclusive Education in Nigeria

Uzoamaka has contributed to training over 100 teachers on the use of sign language and has helped over 1000 learners and 28 volunteers to learn sign language. She also provided sign language updates for COVID-19 announcements during the first wave of the pandemic in Nigeria. This lead to the adoption of signers being used to communicate COVID-19 messaging by National Television in Nigeria.

Our Education Award nominees

Evans Otieno, national volunteer, Engagement and Leadership in Kenya
Evans Otieno

Livelihoods Award

Evans Otieno, Engagement and Leadership in Kenya

Evans has facilitated the Organisation Performance Improvement process to help youth led organisations, become more effective, sustainable, and deliver results for the youth they seek to empower economically and socially.

He has played a key role in linking the young people with VSO experts to ensure the youth have the right skills. He has advocated for increased governmental accountability and transparency and supported young people to exercise their rights.

Our Livelihoods Award nominees

Mwarabu Adam
Mwarabu Adam

Impact Beyond Volunteering Award

Mwarabu Adam, former ICS volunteer and community volunteer in Tanzania

Former ICS volunteer Mwarabu helped to break down stigma towards people with disabilities during his ICS placement and is now continuing to support young people in his community. He has created a community- based organisation to support young people to address issues of climate change- setting up school clubs on environmental conversation and running community clean up days, and provided training to people with disabilities.

Our Impact Beyond Volunteering nominees

Recap the awards

Recording of the Volunteer Impact Awards 2021 ceremony


Not only will you hear inspiring stories from our volunteers and staff on the ground, but there will be also be live performances from spoken word poet and founder of Stand for Humanity, Yazzie Min, composer NRG and Kenyan musician and former ICS volunteer, Leteipa the King.

Yazzie Min, spoken word poet, activist and founder of Stand for Humanity

Yazzie Min, award host
Artist and activist, Yazzie Min

Artist, activist and community builder Yazzie Min began the Stand for Humanity movement following her involvement in the refugee crisis across the borders of Europe. After seeing the sheer power and possibility of what happens when people come together through volunteering, she wanted to find a way to encourage others to take action for people and planet in whatever way made sense for them. Stand for Humanity began with people making pledges to start by doing just one thing for humanity.

Yazzie shares her talks, performance poetry and workshops to inspire and encourage others to challenge societal injustice. Yazzie was awarded the Woman of Excellence award for her leadership in humanity in 2019 at the Women's Economic Forum, in Delhi, India.

Watch Yazzie's TEDx talk on 'Why apathy is our biggest threat'

Listen to Yazzie performing her poem WOMAN+


Musician and ICS return volunteer, Leteipa the King
Musician and former ICS volunteer, Leteipa the King

Leteipa the King, musician

Kelvin Leteipa aka ‘Leteipa the King’ is a former ICS volunteer based in Kenya. Apart from being a musician, he is also also a professional teacher. He also currently volunteering with VSO as a community volunteer and also a member of the Youth Advisory Panel for DFID and UKAid.

Leteipa the King is an afro-pop artist with an array of talents including being a vocalist, guitarist, composer, rapper, scriptwriter, artist, and actor. Using his deep vocals, he portrays stories of real experiences.

Listen to Leteipa the King on Spotify

Check out Letepia's Facebook page

Leteipa the King wrote a song specially for the awards in honour of all VSO volunteers.
Nisha Chand
Nisha Chand

Nisha Chand (NRG), composer

Nisha, aka NRG, is a is a British female music producer, singer songwriter and actress from London who has had her music played on radio stations across the world. She is a violinist, guitarist and keyboard player who has composed music for award-winning short films such as 'The Watchers' and 'Only One Person Will Like This Film' alongside releasing her own singles. She is currently working on her brand new single with Bollywood’s number one DJ, DJ Aqeel. 

She was a finalist in 2020 for the International Singer Songwriters Association (ISSA) award and was nominated for four awards. Her career highlights include performing at the BBC Symphony Orchestra Performance in 2009 and Kensington Roof Gardens in 2012. 

Listen to NRG on Soundcloud


Livelihoods Award winner 2020 Christine Ogola
Christine Ogola


Christine Ogola

Christine is a former ICS volunteer, Climate Change Adaption Advisor and previous VSO Award winner from Kenya. Christine won the 2020 award in the livelihoods category for her work in empowering young people to develop resilient livelihoods.


Rene Sayson Volunteer Impact Awards 2021 host
Rene Sayson

Rene Sayson

Rene Sayson is from the Philippines, and volunteered in Mongolia from 2008 to 2009. Rene recently volunteered in Rwanda from 2018 to 2019 as a Teacher Trainer on the Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme.

Help VSO volunteers continue to create a better world

VSO Volunteer Ana Paula Pinto reads textbook and performs in classroom activity with the students from primary school at Kyakathone primary school, Myanmar
VSO/Nyan Zay Htet

Support us with a donation

By supporting our work, you’ll be joining a like-minded, caring community helping to make long-lasting change by unlocking the power of people.

A group of people sit on the floor as Daw Hla Myint points out the map of village during a disaster risk management awareness session in Kyatkathone Village
VSO/Nyan Zay Htet

Volunteer with VSO

Find out more about volunteering with VSO

Children playing. Nyamasheke, Rwanda.

Stay up to date with our news

Sign-up to our free monthly email newsletter. Every month we'll update you with the impact VSO is making.

Recap of last years awards

Deaf student making bags at a Deaf School vocational centre with VSO national volunteer. Rwanda
VSO/Ben Langdon

One year on - My life since winning a Volunteer Impact Award

In 2020, we honoured the volunteers who went above and beyond to make a difference, through our Volunteer Impact Awards. A year on, find out what our winners have been up to since winning the awards.

Children hold balloons in front of a wooden gate in Ethiopia.
VSO/Jasper Kasbergen

Celebrating VSO's lockdown heroes: VSO Volunteer Impact Awards

More than 300 VSO volunteers, supporters and friends came together on 19 January 2021 to celebrate the impact of volunteering for development at the Volunteer Impact Awards.  

Emily Mabonga and Elisabeth Kisakye smile as they stand together and hold an award
VSO/Georgie Scott

Volunteer Impact Awards for 2020

We celebrate the dedication and achievements of our inspiring volunteers in our Volunteer Impact Awards