A group of people talking
© VSO/Becky Mursell

Making the case for UK Aid

UK aid logo

At VSO, we believe in taking a stand for the good of international aid and development.

UK aid saves a life every two minutes. In the past 5 years, UK aid has: 

  • Supported six million girls into education 
  • Helped to ensure 5.6 million safe births 
  • Vaccinated over 76 million children from infectious diseases including measles, polio, yellow fever and cholera 
  • Improved the access of over 60 million people to nutrition 

These are immense achievements that everyone should be aware of, and yet they can often be overlooked during political debates and in media coverage.  

At VSO, we seek to champion the value of aid and development, through facilitating our supporters to spread the word about the good done by UK aid, and the particular impact of international volunteering with development and humanitarian work.

How you can get involved  

Returned VSO volunteers in the UK are a passionate network of supporters from all walks of life, and they play an invaluable role in our political and public campaigning.  

We rely on our returned volunteers and supporters to make the case for the value of international volunteering to MPs and Ministers, with hundreds of former VSO volunteers getting involved in lobbying the UK public and politicians on issues related to aid and development.  

Our supporters have spoken at political party conferences, lobbied their MPs about the future of VSO’s funding, and helped to mobilise public support for 0.7% spending on aid and development.  

Our returned volunteers are powerful voices for the good done by UK aid, able to speak from experience and from the heart, while drawing on their expertise and hands-on understanding of the UK’s development work.

Get involved in future campaigns 

If you would like to get involved, please sign up for the newsletter to be kept informed of future campaigns and opportunities to speak up for UK aid. 

Lobby your MP 

As an organisation which receives significant UK government funding, we value our support across the political spectrum, meeting frequently with MPs and Ministers to make the case for our work, and, when we are able, organising visits for MPs to see our programmes in action.  

We always encourage our supporters to speak to their MPs about the value of VSO’s work, and can support you to lobby your MP – just drop enquiry@vsoint.org a line with the subject heading ‘MP meeting’ and we’ll be in touch!  

Parliamentary volunteering

VSO has run a successful ‘Parliamentary Volunteering’ programme since 2005, which has taken over 50 MPs and Peers from all parties to volunteer on our programmes overseas.

Our Parliamentary Volunteers carry out specialised short-term placements which draw on their skills to assist with our programmes and with our policy, influencing and advocacy work in our partner countries. 

With the Parliamentary Volunteering programme temporarily suspended due to travel restrictions, we are now carrying out ‘Virtual Visits’ for UK Parliamentarians and other decision-makers. These allow them to connect with our programmes remotely, and hear directly from our volunteers and those who benefit from UK aid. 

Kate Green on parliamentary volunteer placement with VSO in Rwanda
Kate Green MP (second from left), with group including members of disabled women's co-operative in Rwanda

Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Education

Kate volunteered with us in Rwanda, working with the National Union of Disability Organisations Rwanda (NUDOR), and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), on a placement where she met government officials and MPs to lobby them on disability issues. 

I learnt as much from my visit as the knowledge I was able to share with my hosts about the UK. Indeed, many of the issues we face are the same in both countries – the stigma and social isolation faced by disabled people, the poor health, educational and employment outcomes they experience, and worries about assessments for benefits and support

Lord Hodgson during his parliamentary volunteering placement in Tanzania
Lord Hodgson with members of the Tanzanian National Economic Empowerment Council during his Parliamentary Volunteering placement in 2016

Lord Hodgson, Conservative Peer

Conservative Peer Lord Hodgson volunteered with us in Tanzania in 2016, where he drew on his long career in business to advise Tanzanian SMEs on how to attract investment opportunities, providing detailed planning and advice. 

I was able to bring my experience and knowledge of attracting investment and sound business practice to provide detailed advice on their planning and work.

For those parliamentarians who would like to see Africa or Asia away from the diplomatic circuit and examine close up the challenges to regional development I strongly recommend a parliamentary volunteering placement.

Alistair Carmichael on placement in Cameroon
Alistair Carmichael on placement in Cameroon

Alastair Carmichael, former Secretary of State for Scotland

Part of a VSO project in Cameroon working for Aide Legale Liberale, an organisation which aims to provide free legal representation for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

In the course of Thursday alone we saw orphans driven from their homes by relatives; widows deprived of their property rights on inheritance; a victim of assault in police custody; a human rights activist who had got on the wrong side of a powerful local man beaten and shot for his pains; representatives of minority ethnic communities suffering discrimination and persecution and much more besides.

Baroness Barker presents an award from VSO to First Lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma
Baroness Barker presents an award to South Africa's First Lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma for her commitment to improving health

Baroness Barker

Worked with Parliamentarians across Southern Africa to help them argue for evidence-based policies on issues of sexual and reproductive health and child marriage.

Hon. Beatriz Chaguala MP, from Mozambique, was so inspired by Baroness Barker’s training on child marriage that she replicated the training in her own community, working with over 600 communty leaders to raise awareness about the harmful impact of early and forced marriage.

All across the developing world, there are thousands of people with great ideas trying to do good work. But it's only when the voluntary sector, those who are in elected positions, civil servants and professional agencies all work together [that] you get lasting change. Politicians very rarely get the chance to talk to people and share experiences and learn from one another. It is immensely valuable.

Lord Jack McConnell with VSO partners in the Philippines
Lord Jack McConnell with VSO partners in the Philippines

Lord McConnell 

Completed two placements as a Parliamentary Volunteer with VSO in the Philippines.  Lord McConnell helped Beyond 2015 (a coalition of Filipino campaign groups) influence the build-up towards the Sustainable Development Goals. 

During my time in the Philippines I have seen the importance of organisations such as VSO and Beyond 2015. They work with Filipino volunteers and civil society to make sure this is a locally led effort. I want the negotiations about future development goals to include these local voices.

More on our influencing and advocacy work

Nandi locals and VSO volunteers during the deafway project community awareness parade in Nandi town, Kenya
VSO/Paul Wambugu

Regional and global advocacy

We make sure that the experience of volunteers, partners and marginalised people are heard and counted at regional and global levels.