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.
The VSO Volunteer Impact Awards showcase the achievements of volunteers from around the world - during their placement and afterwards.
In a year that has been fraught with so many challenges and disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these awards celebrate the remarkable strength and resilience of volunteers working with the most marginalised communities.
This year, the award winners were commemorated in a virtual ceremony, honouring the volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference to the communities who need it most.
Our Volunteer Impact Award winners
Health Award – Eric Ngabonziza
Eric Ngabonziza, 27, won the award due to his efforts sharing sexual health messages with Deaf communities in Rwanda.
To date, Eric has mentored around 30 deaf peer educators in sexual and reproductive health, and taught 400 community health workers and 45 professional nurses new sign language skills. Thanks to Eric’s mentoring, these educators and health professionals have reached 1,500 young Deaf people within their communities.
During the pandemic, Eric shared information on COVID-19 with Deaf communities, including the production of a sign language video that aired on national television and social media.
“Volunteering is a great way of changing people’s lives and giving a voice to the voiceless. Because while you advocate for people, you create a platform where they can advocate for themselves,” Eric said.
Education Award – Anju Dhital
Anju Dhital, who has been fighting to get children with disabilities enrolled in school in Nepal, has won the Education Award.
“The best part of being a volunteer is the opportunity to work with very marginalised girls from rural communities. I’m from the same community, and have a visual impairment. It’s important to me that these girls have equal rights and opportunities,” said Anju.
Besides teaching braille to five children, Anju is campaigning to get a further 50 children with disabilities in school and learning, by educating parents of the value of sending their child to school.
“Parents see me and think, if Anju can be a volunteer and do something purposeful, then so can my child,” said Anju.
The events of the last twelve months have challenged us all, but I’ve been moved and inspired by the volunteers who have been recognised by these awards. We might sometimes feel isolated and alone, but these awards remind us that we are part of a shared community working together to make the world a fairer and better place.Chief Executive of VSO
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, to motivate and inspire youth, including those with disabilities, to build strong and resilient livelihoods.
After her placement, Christine helped create a volunteering task force of young people with one mission: to create social change in the community.
Christine is the organising secretary for one of their chapters, and also delivers training in resilience, entrepreneurship and employability. Training has been carried out virtually since the pandemic, with her COVID-19 campaign reaching more than 2,500 people.
Christine, while transforming the lives of others, has seen her own personal transformation.
“Before I started my volunteering journey, I couldn't even talk to people, I was in my own small world. [Volunteering] gives you this skillset that is not taught at school. Five or ten years ago, I never knew that I'd be leading, but now I am – I don't know how that happened, but it’s thanks to volunteering!”
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 as well spreading awareness on hygiene, healthy eating and the environment.
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, such as mental health and equality.
“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.”
With the pandemic leaving many isolated, Divya’s podcast has become even more vital.
“We have received many messages from young people who watch our podcast and say that it has helped them to feel less alone and is refreshing for them to hear us speaking about topics and being so open and honest,” says Divya.
Recap the Awards
The life-changing work of volunteers like Eric and Anju is made possible thanks to VSO supporters. All donations make a real difference - for example, donating just £30 could help pay for an education volunteer to encourage girls to stay in school.
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.