Nigerian youth network

Meet the 2023 VSO Volunteer Impact Award winners

On the 7 December we hosted our annual Volunteer Impact Awards, celebrating the inspirational work of VSO volunteers across the globe. We’re delighted to share with you our fantastic winners.

Health Award Winner: Jamal Hossain

Community volunteer from Bangladesh working on youth development, leadership and engagement 

Jamal is a member of VSO Bangladesh’s National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN) and President of VSO’s youth forum, with a membership of almost 2,000 community volunteers.

Jamal lives in Lalmonirhat district a flood-prone area of Bangladesh. In his district, child marriage is common, and the parents consider girls to be a burden on the family. Jamal has been campaigning to stop child marriage by conducting awareness raising sessions among Dalit Harijan people (lower cast Hindu community) about the negative impact of early child marriage.

Through the youth network, Jamal has helped prevent 137 child marriages since 2015. The youth group has successfully organised 230 street drama sessions, conducted 245 courtyard meetings, organised mother's rallies, and conducted 34 cultural programs on the negative impact of child marriage. Once child marriage was a common practice in the district, but now it’s changing. 

On winning the award, Jamal said:

Thanks to my fellow volunteers, my teachers, my mentors and all the people I work with. This is a great honour for me, and I will dedicate myself to enlightening others as an active citizen.” 

Watch the video to learn about Jamal and all our health finalists

Education Award Winner: Salma Rehmat 

Community volunteer from Afghanistan on the Multi Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) project

As a volunteer on the Multi Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) project, Salma works to provide safe learning environments to some of the most vulnerable children, including those living with disabilities and Afghan refugees. 

Salma has managed to identify 106 out-of-school children by visiting the houses of recently migrated Afghan refugees and helping these children return to school via catch-up classes. Using low-cost materials, she has helped the children regain a passion for learning. Salma is now a well-known figure in the community, and she is seen as a true advocate for cohesion between host and refugee communities. 

Surrounded by her VSO colleagues, Salma accepted the award saying:

I’m very grateful to VSO and all our stakeholders for getting us to where we are now. [Winning] is not just a success of mine, but it’s a success of us all who are working for the local cause. We need to bring each and every child back to school and we will continue our mission in the future. I have no words to express my gratitude to you all for gracing me with this honour.” 

Watch the video to learn about Salma and all our education finalists

Livelihoods Award Winner: Alfonse Odipo 

National volunteer from Kenya on the ACTIVE programme

Alfonse volunteers as a climate change advisor and adaptation specialist as part of the ACTIVE programme, in Kenya. Alfonse supports farmers collectives to develop and sustain alternative livelihoods and to adapt to the impact of climate change. 

Alfonse provided technical support to the County Government of Kilifi in reviewing the county’s Climate Change Act and ensuring the needs of marginalised groups including youth, women and persons with disabilities were met through the bill. Under the Act which passed in 2023, the Financing Locally Led Climate Action (FLLoCA) project can continue its work. 

Alfonse accepted the award by saying:

I am incredibly honoured to receive this award. I want to congratulate the other finalists in the category for the good work that they do. This shows as a livelihood team globally, we are making a difference and being noticed by the community, governments and VSO as a whole. 

“It’s one thing to win the award, but the work that happens behind the scenes is tremendous. Sometimes you might want to give up as there are a lot of challenges in the environments we work in as volunteers. But I want to thank my team as this is not an individual award. It has been a team effort to create the impact we have and create an environment conducive for volunteers to operate.

"I want to dedicate the award to VSO Kenya as without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I have done and what we have achieved as a team. With that, the award goes to the VSO Livelihoods Team Kenya! I promise to continue working hard whatever I do.” 

Watch the video to learn about Alfonse and all our livelihoods finalists 

Active Citizenship Award Winner: Abdulahi Adebayo 

National volunteer from Nigeria 

Abdulahi is a VSO climate youth champion, and member of the National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN) in Nigeria. 

In collaboration with other youth champions, VSO returned volunteers, youth networks, and community-based organisations, Abdulahi trained 248 youths and people living with disabilities on climate change mitigation and adaption strategies, circular economy, waste management and other livelihood opportunities across five states in Nigeria. 

Abdulahi was presented with the award by Omar Daair OBE, British High Commissioner to Rwanda. Smiling and laughing with the Nigeria team dancing and cheering, Abdulah accepted the award saying: 

"Wow I’m shocked and surprised. I’ve been so nervous for the past 48 hours, but today I am full of appreciation for this award and the entire VSO team. Over the years, it’s been so wonderful working with them and the climate champions and advancing different projects at a grassroot level. I appreciate their support and effort over time.

This is a win for the entire youth network in Nigeria, not for me alone, especially the National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN) for all their support. We’d have never known that our work would get us this far or get us this award. The passion for us is to ensure we affect more change in our community and create the country, and the continent of our dreams. This [award] is a testament to what we can do.” 

Watch the video to learn about Abdulahi and all our active citizenship award finalists 

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