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.
Health Award: Eric Ngabonziza
Eric Ngabonziza, 27, won the Health award due to his work for the Imbere Heza (Future Bright) project, sharing sexual and reproductive health messages with deaf communities in Rwanda. Eric mentored deaf ‘peer educators’ in sexual and reproductive health, and taught sign language to community health workers and nurses to improve access to reproductive services for deaf people. Since winning, Eric has continued to work on the project.
“Volunteering is a great way of changing people’s lives and giving a voice to the voiceless. When you advocate for people, you create a platform where they can advocate for themselves,” Eric says.
By working with healthcare providers Eric has helped change attitudes and approaches to working with deaf people. Sexual health services have improved - not only for local young people, but also for the wider deaf community.
“Winning the VSO Award had a big meaning to me. When I won, this increased my motivation to work as a VSO volunteer. It shows the world that Deaf people can work, the same others. I now have got more experience, which will help me to continue to serve my community.”
Livelihoods Award: Christine Ogola
Christine Ogola, 25, first volunteered on the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme in 2018, working on community outreach projects in her home country, Kenya. After her placement, Christine created a volunteering task force of young people, to create social change in the community. Christine now works for VSO in Kenya as a climate change adaptation specialist. Christine also hosted the 2021 award ceremony.
“Climate change affects all aspects of human, social and economic development. I train youth in green economy skills and build capacity for farmers in practicing climate smart agriculture to enhance their resilience in climate change adaptation.”
Being part of a community of such inspirational people is an incredible privilege.
Christine continues to work with community volunteers and local people to identify understand food systems and identify gaps within production and nutrition to work towards greater food system sustainability.
“Winning made me realize that there are other people around the world who are fighting to make the world a better place just like I am.
“Being part of a community of such inspirational people is an incredible privilege. It was an acknowledgement of a lot of hard work, resilience, patience and sacrifice that I gave every day as a change maker. It was such a motivation to continue with the efforts of empowering the community, working with the youth and create more meaningful change."
Education Award: Anju Dhital*
Anju won the Education Award for her work fighting to get children with disabilities enrolled in school in Nepal. Since winning, she has continued to work on the ENGAGE project. The project focuses on developing the self-confidence of young girls and supporting them to rejoin formal education via nine-month ‘bridge’ classes.
As someone with a visual impairment herself, Anju remembers the challenges of being a young girl with a disability. “In the local community where we work, it is difficult to work to girls and women due to social values and religious tradition.” says Anju “I present myself as an example for the motivation of marginalised girls and children with a disability.”
During the past year Anju has supported visually impaired children with personal hygiene and making home sanitary pads, coordinated the creation of a Braille class in a school and a home-based Braille class. She has also recorded audio messages for visually impaired children around COVID-19, disability rights and child protection. She has also recorded different story books for the children to listen to.
“[Winning] motivated to me to do better for educational and personal capacity building with Primary Actors, Big Sisters Parents through the ENGAGE project. I have feel the responsibility to play a vital role in changing the marginalised community. I am very thankful with VSO Impact Award selection committee for this.”
*Anju’s responses have been compiled with assistance from a sighted person.
Impact Beyond Volunteering Award: Divya Gill
Divya Gill, 23, from Birmingham, UK, volunteered in Cambodia on the ICS programme, where she helped create student councils in school. On returning home, Divya was inspired to start a podcast, called ‘Through Brown Eyes’, discussing some of the taboo topics within the South Asian community.
Throughout the pandemic, Divya continued to put out new podcast episodes, exploring topics ranging from the representation of South Asians on British reality TV to how to manage your mental health during the pandemic.
“I have started working full time in a school as an academic coach for maths and science, helping students who have been impacted by COVID-19.” says Divya. “For World Mental Health Day, I helped with mental health stalls at the school I'm working at. I have applied and been interviewed to volunteer at the Commonwealth Games, so I'm hoping that I will be selected for that.”
“This award motivated me even more to empower young people. We wanted to help educate and reassure those of our generation and beyond that it is okay to speak up and challenge the status quo. If you’re passionate about making change, go for it, as we have to be the change we want to see in this world. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without having experienced ICS as it gave me motivation and confidence”.
2021 Volunteer Impact Awards
Take a look at the award winners for 2021 and watch a recap of the award ceremony.
Become a volunteer
The communities we work in need people like you – professionals with experience in education, health, business and livelihoods. Find out more about what you can offer as a volunteer.
Find a volunteer role
Until now, although good practices and methodologies have existed across the volunteering sector, there has been no globally agreed set of standards. Together with the International Forum for Volunteering in Development, VSO has launched the Global Standard for Volunteering.
Volunteering is too often badly misunderstood. Too often, it is seen as a “worthy” activity undertaken by people with time on their hands. However, it really is a fundamental part of any country’s development journey and when done properly, it can be a powerful tool.
In 2017 Mike Barnes, an ex-primary school headteacher, joined VSO’s Unlocking Talent project in Malawi, providing students with tablet computers loaded with local language courses in numeracy and literacy. Read how he helped improve learning outcomes for thousands of children.