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VSO improves the lives of over 2 million people since launch of ‘Global Goals’.

More than 2,178,000 people in the developing world are leading better lives, according to VSO’s Annual Report published today. This is an increase of 11.7% on the previous year when 1,950,000 people benefited from VSO’s support.

In the past year, the international development charity, which works through volunteers to fight poverty, has worked with over 400 local partners to make a difference in 24 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

In Ethiopia, the first 28 days of a baby’s life can be a matter of life or death, but neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have reduced new-born mortality rates by 40%.  Since 2013, VSO has increased the number of NICUs in Ethiopia from 3 to 16. Also, as a result of volunteer training and support, 33,231 babies, women and children have accessed better quality health care last year, compared to 23,461 in the previous year.

In Cambodia, understanding English opens doors. VSO volunteers developed the Basic English Language (BEL) project, which helps Teachers and Teacher Trainers, teach English to pupils via smartphone apps. This audio-visual digital technology enables Teachers to download and access English lessons containing recordings of English pronunciation which are connected to a loud speaker.  Research published by the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2015, shows over 15,000 children have improved their English using BEL – a method proved to be just as successful as private tuition.

In 2014 in the Odisha State of India, VSO volunteers launched ‘Samadhan’ – a system where marginalised communities could lodge grievances about the public services they’re entitled to. Each complaint, either made via a free phone call, text message or online, is resolved through a web portal which has resulted in better delivery and accountability of government services. 66% of the 1,707 complaints filed last year have been addressed including the construction of a new primary school in Jamuli Village, access to electricity in Tentiliguda Village and financial assistance in Tayaput Village.

Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive of VSO, reflects on a momentous year for international development: 

“In the final months before the 17 Global Goals were finalised, VSO volunteers and partners brought their voices and experiences to the heart of UN negotiations. As our Annual Report demonstrates, VSO has a strong part to play in delivering some of these goals through our unique approach of volunteering, which the UN endorses.

VSO has changed a lot over the past five years, but the commitment of our incredible volunteers – international, national, corporate, parliamentary and youth –remains the same. Whether it’s giving children access to education in the remotest areas of Nepal, improving healthcare for prisoners across Southern Africa, or making local government services in India more efficient and accountable, our volunteers continue to be a catalyst for change in some of the world’s poorest communities.”

Other key achievements from VSO’s 2015/16 Annual Report:

  • Volunteers trained over 66,000 teachers in 16 countries, which benefited more than 850,000 children. We believe every child deserves a decent education regardless of gender, disability or any other background.
  • Volunteers trained nearly 17,000 medical staff in 15 countries, which benefited 984,000 people.
  • Our ‘Nepal Earthquake Appeal’ raised over £700,000 which enabled volunteers to tackle immediate emergency needs and provide longer term support in health care and education.
  • VSO mobilised 8,585 British and international youth volunteers around the globe as part of International Citizen Service (ICS) – the international development programme for 18 to 25 year olds, funded by the UK government. Projects include building latrines and eco stoves, raising awareness about sexual health and improving youth employability skills.
  • In Rwanda, volunteers increased the membership of 14 disability organisations from 10,000 to 30,000 members – a more powerful force to fight for the rights of people with disabilities and to lobby for their inclusion in decision making and service provision.
  • VSO’s corporate volunteering programme, ‘Knowledge Exchange’ was launched last year. The private sector has been recognised as a key partner in delivering the new Global Goals. NTT DATA and Citi are the latest companies to sign up to the scheme.   
  • This year, VSO generated a total income of £81.2 million, up by 5.5% on £77 million in the previous year.

For media enquiries or to book an interview, please contact VSO Media Officer: / 0208 780 7668      

Full VSO 2015 /16 Annual Report available on request.

Illustrative photos also available.

Notes to editors

About VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. Since 1958, VSO has been bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and ultimately changes lives to make the world a fairer place.

About International Citizen Service (ICS)  is a development programme which brings 18 to 25-year-olds together from all backgrounds to fight poverty. ICS is funded by the UK Government and led by leading independent, international development organisation, VSO. ICS is delivered by the following agencies: Progressio, Raleigh International, Restless Development, Tearfund, International Service, Y-Care International, Balloon Ventures and Challenges Worldwide. ICS is open to everyone, regardless of income. All ICS volunteers are asked to fundraise and receive professional support to help them meet their targets. Fundraising ensures that ICS work in developing countries is able to continue in future.

About VSO Knowledge Exchange

VSO knowledge exchange was launched in July 2015 and is seed funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and run by VSO. VSO Knowledge Exchange offers skilled employees in the private sector a way to volunteer to help change the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest places.