On Thursday 8 December 2022, VSO hosted its annual Volunteer Impact Awards, celebrating the exceptional contribution of volunteers from around the world in creating lasting change in some of the world’s most marginalised communities.
This year we received 70 nominations, spanning 23 projects, and 16 countries. Our expert panel of judges narrowed down our nominees to just 16 finalists. If you missed the ceremony yourself, we’ll be rounding up our 2022 winners in this blog! Keep reading to find out more about them and how they’re changing the world as active citizens.
Education Award winner: Khine Thazin Moe
As a national volunteer on the Education in Emergencies programme in Myanmar, Khine helped with the establishment of community-based learning spaces for over a thousand children. This has helped children across the country to continue access learning opportunities while Myanmar is experiencing its most difficult period in history due to the combination of COVID-19 and political instability.
When there is a crisis in any country, we know that children are less likely to attend school. As the Myanmar’s circumstances develop, local volunteers play a crucial role in ensuring that education programs can continue to run safely and efficiently. Khine worked closely with community volunteers and other education stakeholders in Mon State as part of a Community Based Education approach, meaning many children were able to stay in school, even during a time of crisis.
She took the lead in training community volunteer teachers, strengthening their skills and capacities and improving the quality of education.
Khine engaged with the country office on a regular basis to address the community's needs and limitations. Working closely with key stakeholders, community-based youth volunteers and the VSO education team, Khine challenged the difficulties children face in accessing learning by also supporting families to cope with the crisis.
Khine has become a role model to the local youth and among volunteer youth groups, encouraging volunteerism and community development. On accepting the award she said:
I'm very glad to give my speech today. It's a huge honour for me to be a VSO volunteer and for the opportunity to contribute my knowledge and skills to the community during crisis in Myanmar. This moment will be part of my great memories in my life and I will keep continuing being there for my community by working with VSO in the future.
Health Award winner: Daniso Phiri
Daniso Phiri is a community volunteer in Zimbabwe. Daniso is openly living with HIV positive status after being diagnosed in 1999. As a VSO volunteer, she provides vital information on infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, COVID-19, and other infections to prison inmates, ex-inmates, young people and women.
On winning the award, Daniso commented:
When I tested positive for HIV, that triggered me to work as a community volunteer. After 22 years of openly living, today I am humbled and honoured to receive the Health Volunteer Award 2022. My work has now been seen at a global level.
Daniso has been instrumental in linking people living with infections to community support systems. As well as this, she has supported health staff in distributing HIV treatment and following-up on lost cases, especially among young people who are more likely to default on their medication, encouraging them to adhere to their treatments and remove the stigma around HIV.
As a mother of four living with HIV herself, Daniso engages with young mothers living with HIV as part of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme, helping to reduce the chances of mothers transmitting HIV to their unborn babies. Young mothers are engaged in health talks, sensitisation and awareness meetings on HIV and other co-infections.
“The groups I work with are the ones who are looked down upon in the community. I work with the disabled, ex-inmates and those who take medication for HIV. I work with the purpose of improving adherence to medication, nutrition and forming local groups to teach people the different types of help available.”
Livelihoods Award winner: Sufia Khatun
Sufia Khatun is a community volunteer in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is considered the most climate-vulnerable country in the world due to high soil salinity. Sufia supports her 200 fellow women farmers of Sankarkathi village by organising skills building training on safe and climate resilient food production, helping them to grow their incomes.
Sufia runs her own business producing organic manure and crops and shares her techniques with the community, encouraging others to switch to eco-friendly farming techniques. She is the founder and president of Sankarkati Prochesta Mohila Samity, a community-based organisation focused on the helping girls and women to develop their businesses.
It is registered by the government women affairs department and there are a total of 58 members in the samity, who are all trained in different skill-building trades. The members deposit their savings every month and are given access to loans to help implement income generating projects. The market of organically produced crops is increasing regularly and people have more interest in organic products and crops. The awareness level of local people increases day by day because they have access to safe food. Sufia commented:
I was born and brought up in the climate vulnerable areas South-East part of Bangladesh. Extreme salinity in water and soil is a big challenge to growing crops in this area. The opportunity to interact with different VSO volunteers helped me to learn a lot. It’s made me confident to nurture my own organisation and communicate with government officers and local government.”
Impact Beyond Volunteering Award winner: Shillah Salim
Shillah is an ICS alumnus passionate about being an active citizen and bringing together like-minded peers through establishing a network of youth, Youth for Sustainable Development, Kilifi Chapter.
Shillah and her peers provide a platform for youth to offer home grown solutions to youth challenges including governance matters. After her ICS placement, Shillah has continued her active citizenship journey as a youth advocate and Menstrual Health Hygiene champion under Youth in Action, an initiative of AMREF Health Africa.
She works to influence youth policy and resource priorities in areas of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at national, sub-national, and grassroots levels in Kenya. Upon winning, Shillah commented:
“About three years ago today, I was watching my fellow peer be awarded at this event, and I envisioned that for myself. I really wanted it to come true for me too, so I knew I had to put in some work for it. I’m really grateful! I’d like to dedicate this award to my family, my child and my VSO team who have been who have been the pillar of my life. Thank you very much for everyone for voting for me!
Missed the awards?
No problem, we’ve got you covered! You can watch a recording of the full ceremony, see the full list of our incredible award finalists and find out more about the nomination and judging process.
Hear from Lameck Dition Sandram from Malawi, who volunteered in Sierra Leone where he worked on VSO’s Unlocking Talent (UT) project, applying his 25 years of experience in education to train staff and collect real-time project implementation data.
As we move into 2023, let’s have a look back to 2022. Despite, the soaring cost of living, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and a series of climate disasters that defined 2022, VSO supporters and volunteers continued to support our work in the face of adversity.
Dedicated to all our incredible volunteers past and present, Leteipa the King performed his song 'They Were There' at the 2022 VSO Volunteers Impact Awards. Watch the music video here!