VSO works with over 5,000 young people globally who are bringing about lasting change in the communities we operate. These young people are our regional champions, advocates and campaigners.
By equipping young people with the skills and knowledge they need to take charge of their own development, they can build and strengthen communities, shift social norms, and amplify their voices and that of their communities.
What are VSO's Youth Networks?
VSO has youth networks operating in approximately 17 counties across Asia Pacific, Africa and Europe.
Youth networks are formal or informal youth spaces or platforms designed to unify and amplify the voices of young people at a local, national, regional and global levels.
They are established and led by youth and include young people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including the most marginalised youth.
The networks can operate virtually, physically or both. They can be registered or operate as loose networks, and can operate independently depending on the requirements of the network.
Our members are a mix of young people including International Citizen Service (ICS) alumni, national youth volunteers, community volunteers, marginalised young people that VSO is supporting through its programmes, and other youth interested in VSO’s work.
Who are the youth champions?
Youth Champions are a smaller number of youth network members closely working with VSO while keeping an active connection with the wider networks. They provide an essential connection between VSO and the youth networks, having a formal role and contributing to VSO’s programming.
What do youth networks do?
The networks work closely with VSO programming teams to design and lead on key projects for VSO in a range of areas. Examples of their work include
Our youth have led research actions on the barriers to employment youth face which has informed our multi country programming on youth empowerment. They also have delivered employability events in response to the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on youth unemployment.
In Kenya, the climate youth champions created awareness and trained youth on agroecology via webinars. They also conducted research on the state of food systems and organised a dialogue to discuss their findings. Next, they organised a stakeholders’ forum to generate action plans for the priorities that emerged in the food dialogue.
“We organised a training on organic farming for 130 community members in rural Nandi. We collaborated with the Nandi County government through the Ministry of Agriculture. They provided an expert in the field to train the community on ways of farming that are better for the environment and our health.” says Fridah, a Kenyan Youth Champion.
Raising awareness about climate change
Young people are best placed to hold decision makers to account. Young people are the majority, and our future is at risk if we do nothing.HoseaYouth Champion in Uganda
From radio shows and webinars to social media campaigns, digital tools have played a big role in creating awareness on climate change, training people in climate action and campaigning for issues related to climate change. VSO youth are also creating awareness about the effect of climate change in marginalised communities through social media and media outlets in Cambodia, Tanzania and the Philippines.
In Cambodia, climate youth champion Pheakdey and her team conducted online training on climate change and developed videos on waste management and recycling, featuring two entrepreneurs. They also started the Facebook challenge: Stop Climate Change, Start with You.
With the Facebook challenge: Stop Climate Change, Start with you, we encouraged people to post pictures of their daily climate-sensitive actions, such as cycling to work, using refillable drinking bottles and reusing plastic waste. They tagged their Facebook friends encouraging them to take action as well.
Influencing policy makers and raising awareness about VSO’s work
Our youth champions have spoke at major global forums and conferences such as the Women Deliver Conference, Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit and Sustainable Development Goal forums. Youths have also been consulting with key policy decision makers and championing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nepal, Pakistan and Malawi.
Fridah Okomo, VSO youth champion in Kenya represented VSO and youth at large during Africa Climate Week. There she shared youth priorities, solutions and key demands to African government heads, ahead of COP26.
She also represented young people and VSO through a virtual event at COP26 on ‘Mainstreaming youth in climate policy’. She shared the experiences of the youth platforms and their contributions in tackling climate change by showcasing some of the innovations led by young people, advocating for the need to include youths in climate policies.
During COVID-19, VSO's youth networks set up a global-wide task force team to disseminate lifesaving information about COVID-19 to marginalised communities.
In Zimbabwe, a team of 16 VSO youth volunteers, known as the Youth Engagement Action Team, have worked with communities to debunk myths, share tips for spotting fake news, and spread scientifically accurate messages. They exposed false claims that people of African descent cannot get COVID-19 or that drinking alcohol provides immunity. They also showed how documents that appear to be ‘official’ can be used to spread disinformation.
More examples of their work include:
- Humanitarian aid: Distributing emergency food supplies and hygiene kits to over 10,000 people in Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the wake of Cyclone Idai.
- Women and girls’ rights: Advocating against gender-based violence in Kenya through social media.
- Sexual reproductive health and rights: Challenging the stigma associated with people with disabilities for continued access to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights services and information in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
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Hear from our youth champions
This month, our youth champions took over our @VSOPeople account on Twitter, to share the ways they're tackling climate change in their communities. Watch the video to find out more.
In this blog we share five ways that our youth champions have realised tremendous achievements in creating climate awareness, climate resilience and triggering climate justice in their communities.
Meet Hosea Tumwine – an extraordinary young person and enthusiastic champion of women and girls’ rights in Uganda. Hosea is a member of VSO’s global youth network.