VSO speakers at the VSO offices in London

Inspiring the next generation of volunteers

VSO’s brand new speaker service is made up of a network of returned volunteers across the UK. We caught up with two VSO speakers, Shonesé and Mark, who were among the first to sign up – sharing their experience volunteering with local communities.

Shonesé Howell, who volunteered in Kenya last year on the ICS programme, was keen to go back to the schools where she grew up to speak about her experience.

“Inspiring others, particularly young people, is important to me. By being a VSO speaker, I can promote active citizenship and encourage people to make a difference.”

VSO has recently developed a speaker network of over 90 returned volunteers across the UK. Having experienced the impact of volunteering first-hand, people like Shonesé can now motivate others to get involved and find out more about development.

"Students really engage with my talks"

Shonesé uses her experience to motivate others to volunteer
VSO/Shonesé Howell
Shonesé uses her experience to motivate others to volunteer

Shonesé has delivered talks in a number of schools as well as to ICS volunteers about to go on placement.

“The impact of the talks I have given vary from spreading awareness of VSO and ICS, to putting the work of VSO into perspective for fundraisers, volunteers and interested members of public.

"After speaking in schools, students have asked me how they can volunteer for VSO.

“To me this is great as it shows that students really engage with my talks and VSO’s work, and want to contribute their time and skills to VSO’s vision of a world without poverty!”

"I talk about why poverty matters"

Mark Holker volunteered with VSO from 2007-11 on one of our livelihoods projects in Namibia. He’s been delivering talks ever since, reaching out to local community groups in Devon.

“My personal motivation is to use my story to generate awareness and interest in VSO’s work and to bring it to people in the audience,” he told us. 

“I talk about why poverty matters, examples of VSO’s programmes fighting poverty and how others can get involved”.

VSO speakers are invaluable to the work we do. As returned volunteers, they are in a unique position to share what volunteering is like, and to communicate the UK’s role in fighting poverty. They get involved in a range of different opportunities including school assemblies, careers fairs and VSO events.

Mark Holker on placement with VSO
VSO/Mark Holker
Mark Holker on placement with VSO

Mark shared why he thinks others should consider getting involved: “VSO does good work in education, healthcare and poverty alleviation – which are so badly needed in so many countries. Returned volunteers are a really valuable resource; talking to interested groups and organisations is a hugely effective way of raising awareness, money and attracting potential volunteers.”

"It helps you realise how much of an impact you made"

Shonesé also encourages volunteers to share their experience through the speaker service: 

“It goes beyond talking to your friends and family about your time overseas; it helps you realise how much of an impact you made within your community, and your own personal development. In becoming a VSO speaker, you are keeping your active citizenship alive and you may even inspire others to volunteer and become active citizens too!”

VSO supports speakers all the way, from helping volunteers to set up and plan talks, to running dedicated training days to support speakers.

Having attended our most recent speaker training, Shonesé found the day “very helpful and informative. I learnt more about VSO; their work, the impact they are making, and how they work alongside their volunteers and other international development organisations.

"VSO also equipped me with multiple resources such as PowerPoint presentations, stats and facts, and prepared me for any difficult questions I might be asked during my talks”.


Request a speaker

VSO has a network of speakers across the UK made up of individuals who have volunteered with us. Hear their account of the impact of international development, as our volunteers share their experience living and volunteering overseas. Request a speaker to visit your school or community group.

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