Global Annual Review 2015

Together we can make change happen

VSO volunteers and partners reached 1.95 million people last year. They brought inspiration, energy and vital practical skills to help achieve community goals – better healthcare, more valuable education and broader opportunities.

This is the story of how they made change happen...

Where we worked

A few highlights of VSO's work in 31 countries around the world last year include...


Ethiopia - volunteers and partners improved health services for 18,133 children

Ghana - volunteers supported local businesses to market products more effectively so that they can become financially independent

Kenya - we conducted research into special needs education across 376 educational institutes to develop policy recommendations for the Ministry of Education

Malawi - built community resilience to climate change through disaster risk management in four of the most climate vulnerable districts in the country

Mozambique - where 400+ people are infected with HIV daily, volunteers worked in four provinces to improve home-based care for those living the virus

Nigeria - UK and Nigerian youth volunteers developed community parliaments that engaged local youth in the discussions that affect them and their communities

Rwanda - Kate Green MP volunteered to support government efforts to address inequality for disabled people

Sierra Leone - community health volunteers trained amidst Ebola outbreak to spread prevention information to 250,000 people

South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland - expansion approved for work to reduce the spread of HIV among prison populations

Tanzania - more than 2,550 smallholder farmers were trained, some seeing tenfold increases in profit as a result

Uganda - we helped train more than 4,700 teachers, improving primary education for over 40,000 children

Zambia - volunteers and partners trained 50 HIV and AIDS support groups, who went on to share knowledge with over 28,000 people

Zimbabwe - our GENDER project helped create a steady income for 400 women and girls who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS

Asia and Pacific

Bangladesh - corporate volunteers shared vital business skills with smallholder farmers, demonstrating ways for them to boost productivity

Cambodia - ICS Entrepreneur and long-term volunteers worked together to support business owners to successfully adapt business models to the rural economic environment

China - corporate volunteers shared their skills, among 80 specialist business volunteers who did so worldwide with VSO this year

India - a trial of our innovative SMS Story project achieved a 20% improvement in children’s reading ability compared to students in control schools

Myanmar - we partnered with the Eden Centre to produce research on inclusive education for children with disabilities that influenced policy discussions at a national level

Nepal - 98 youth volunteers supported VSO’s sexual and reproductive health work by establishing peer education networks

Pakistan - volunteers helped local disaster prevention and co-ordination organisations to work more effectively through an EU pilot scheme

Papua New Guinea - volunteers worked in every teacher training college in the country, producing materials which could be accessed by 6,500 trainee teachers every year

the Philippines - seven volunteers worked with the government modelling river basins to help protect communities from devastating floods

Tajikistan*- 148 Tajik, Afghan and UK youth volunteers supported small business development and secure livelihood projects

Thailand - we supported the Thai government's establishment of a national volunteering centre

Vanuatu* - celebrated the contributions made by more than 600 volunteers towards the nation's development

Our programmes are supported by teams in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands

*Closed in 2014/15

Valuing volunteering

Our ground-breaking Valuing Volunteering research investigated why volunteering has the power to reduce poverty, strengthening our cause and resolve.

Conducted in Mozambique, Kenya, Nepal and the Philippines, the research found that volunteering contributes to sustainable development by:

· extending the reach of public services to the poorest and most marginalised;

· creating new ways for people to work together;

· strengthening the extent to which change is controlled by local people;

· inspiring individuals to become change-makers taking collective responsibility for the future; and,

· providing a model for different ways of doing things.

Find out more:


Every child deserves an education. It is a direct route out of poverty.

But millions are missing out because of a lack of properly trained teachers, or by being excluded from classrooms simply because of who they are.

We're committed to changing this by focusing on:

Inclusive education

Children around the world can be pushed onto the margins of society for any number of reasons including gender, disability and caste. Equal access to education is denied them far too often.

Last year, we reached 13,700 children and trained 2,700 education workers in Ghana alone through a single programme: Tackling Education Needs Inclusively, focusing on the education and empowerment of girls and children with disabilities.

Using technology in education

Technology has huge potential to increase the scale and effectiveness of our education programmes. Last year in Malawi, primary schoolchildren involved in a pilot project using tablets to increase numeracy skills made more progress in eight weeks than in 12-18 months of usual classroom teaching. This project has been scaled up in 100 schools.

Teacher training

We are tackling a serious global shortage of qualified teachers. In the past year, VSO has trained 50,800 trainee teachers, 4,300 teacher trainers and worked with 31,200 in-service teachers to enhance their skills to meet individual learning needs.

"Before being trained by Mike, we would normally stay in the classroom and only write notes. Now, when I want to teach the children about plants, I take them outside and show them the real plants... the children are happy and enjoy lessons now."

-Marcel Bakanirora, teacher trained by VSO volunteer teaching methodology adviser in Rwanda

Education management

Quality learning happens in schools that are well managed and accountable. Our volunteers support school leaders in effective leadership that empowers students, parents and teachers. In Cambodia, more than three-quarters (78%) of districts in the ten provinces VSO worked in last year now have annual operating plans, compared with 40% nationally.

Health, HIV and AIDS

Imagine not being able to access adequate basic health care when you need it.

Millions unacceptably face this situation each day. Our programmes work with the most disadvantaged to realise their rights to physical, mental and social health, by focusing on:

Maternal health

As part of a new government programme in Malawi, our volunteers worked with women, chosen by their village chiefs, training them in basic midwifery skills so that they can now support pregnant women in their communities.

"They observed me helping to deliver a baby safely, with no resources, and saw for themselves that it is not just about money and resources, rather it is our skills and knowledge that can save a life."

Beth Connelly, VSO volunteer midwife trainer, explaining how she works with students in Malawi

Neonatal and child health

If we are going to reduce neonatal and child mortality, front line health workers like nurses and midwives must have the knowledge, skills, equipment and capacity to deliver babies safely and support healthy child development.

In Ethiopia, where VSO has supported five hospitals this year to establish neonatal intensive care units with training and on-the-job mentoring, institutional neonatal death decreased by an average of 40% across the board.

Sexual and reproductive health

Our volunteers worked to increase knowledge of safe sexual practice, provide support for survivors of sexual violence and change community behaviours.

At Modilon Hospital in Papua New Guinea, a volunteer psychiatric nurse helped to start a family support centre, where survivors of physical and sexual violence can receive specialist care, as well as psychosocial and legal support.


In Mozambique, our Phoning Out Poverty and HIV and AIDS programme worked with women in mining communities who are infected or affected by HIV, ensuring they understand their health issues and rights to care. It also links widows to income-generating opportunities. It reached 1,796 people in Mozambique this year, and there are plans in place to expand.

Secure livelihoods

Our world is rich enough for everyone to live free from poverty – yet for hundreds of millions of people, it's a struggle just to get by.

It just isn't right. We are determined to support disadvantaged people's right make a living, and tear down the fences that trap them in poverty.

Supporting smallholder farmers

The majority of the world’s agriculture is managed by smallholder farmers, who are most vulnerable to market shocks and climate change. We work with them to ensure equal access to markets and to add value to their produce.

Last year our Making Markets Work for the Poor programme in Nigeria helped train more than 380 community volunteers who will go on to share their knowledge of good agricultural practices to help others grow the diversity, yield and profitability of their crops.

Market-led youth employment

The global youth population (currently 1.8 billion) is rising rapidly, particularly in less developed countries. There is a huge opportunity to prepare these young people with the skills they need to thrive in, and meet the challenges of, the modern world.

In Tanzania this year, in partnership with LNG Tanzania, we built employment advice into the college curriculum, enabling more women to gain the right qualifications to pursue careers in male-dominated vocations, such as electronics.

"Now I’m thinking ahead for my children, I’m keeping money aside for their future, so they can be educated properly and we don’t need to borrow money from others."

-Philomena Aind, who was last year supported to find work with a fair employer at a rug factory in Bangladesh.

Developing rural businesses

We support small and medium enterprises to increase their profits. Our volunteers in Cambodia, for example, helped establish a micro finance scheme which set up 200 ‘self-help groups’ to enable local people access the financial investment they need for their businesses to grow.

Participation and governance

It's hard to make people hear your voice and take notice of you if you're poor.

We think everyone deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives, and for people in charge to listen to those they serve, treating them in a fair and transparent way. That's why we have been working on:

Democracy building

We support the devolution of power in countries, helping governments become fairer and more answerable to communities.

In Zambia our inclusive governance programme has seen volunteers work at national, provincial and district levels. VSO last year worked with five out of ten district councils in the northern province to build their capacity, which led to improved budgeting, financial reporting and transparency.

"In Papua New Guinea I live in a different world, far away from high-level global discussions, where I am trying to understand and support the challenges that women face [...] Experts from civil society, including volunteers such as myself, know local situations so well and can bridge that gap [from the grassroots to the global level]."

Elles Blanken, who volunteered in Papua New Guinea to build up the capacity of women’s organisations, represented VSO at UN negotiations.

Social accountability

We work with community members to get them in a position from which they can fully participate in decision-making that affects their lives.

In the Kalahandi district in India, VSO community volunteers spread awareness of Samadhan, an online platform allowing rural people to file grievances relating to delivery of government services by sending a text message. The resolution rate of these is 46%, which is seen as a great success in the Indian context.


Young people don’t just want our world to be made fairer –they want to play their part in getting there. This year we worked with more of them than ever before.

In 2014/15 we continued our work supporting young people to get involved with developing their communities.

In Pakistan for example, local youth volunteers organised eight peace forums in the Multan District, strengthening youth-led advocacy on human rights and peace building.

The International Citizen Service (ICS) programme

Through the ICS programme, UK volunteers work alongside national counterparts and support the work of local partner organisations: 97% of our partners said that ICS volunteers were supporting them to bring about positive change in their communities. Young volunteers also develop valuable skills as a result, with 96% having found ICS useful for professional development.

"As well as contributing to international development, volunteers have brought home vital skills and a new perspective that will help them succeed in the global businesses of tomorrow."

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, UK

ICS is funded by the UK Department for International Development. It is led by VSO and works through partnership with 10 respected development organisations. In September 2014, the ICS consortium celebrated having worked with 10,000 volunteers since the programme started in 2012.

Influence and advocacy

2015 is a big year for the future of our work. World leaders will agree on global development priorities for the next 15 years - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In these crucial years, we must recognise people's own active role in their futures, rather than seeing them simply as passive recipients of aid. The most effective and long-lasting change takes place when people work together and create solutions from the bottom up, as epitomised in the responsible volunteering that we have been championing for 57 years.

To meet the challenge, VSO has worked hard to make sure that volunteering is recognised as a vital way of carrying out these SDGs, and monitoring their progress.

We are delighted that our work in this area has contributed to the recognition of volunteering by the UN Secretary General:

“Volunteerism can help to expand and mobilise constituencies, and to engage people in national planning and implementation for sustainable development goals...volunteer groups can help to localise the new agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between government and people for concrete and scalable actions.”

UN Secretary General Synthesis Report on Post-2015, December 2014

Fulfilling the SDGs will take real commitment. We're over the moon to have helped convince the UK government to make into law its promise to invest 0.7% of Gross National Income in overseas development.

Our Women in Power campaign called for the SDGs to include a target to increase women’s participation and influence in all levels of decision-making.

A milestone came in March 2015, when Binti Alii Goga, the Chair of Kenyan grassroots women’s movement Sauti Ya Wanawake–Pwani (a VSO partner), spoke at a Women in Power event run by VSO Ireland, VSO Jitolee and VSO International at the Irish Embassy in London.

Another highlight was supporting our partners from Nepal to voice the experience of grassroots women’s organisations at the UN.

We're also deeply proud of our achievments securing reforms of teachers’ salaries in Cambodia, the adoption of care-givers policies in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and commitments to inclusive education within Kenya’s revised education strategy.



  • Strategic grant from DFID: £22,000,000
  • Other governmental income: £38,198,000
  • Other charitable income: £2,269,000
  • Individuals: £6,142,000
  • Companies: £2,298,000
  • Other grants and donations: £2,035,000
  • Events and community: £3,874,000
  • Other: £224,000


  • Education: £17,328,000
  • Health, HIV and AIDS: £12,208,000
  • Participation and governance: £4,059,000
  • Secure livelihoods: £13,134,000
  • Grants to ICS consortium: £17,719,000*
  • Costs of generating funds: £8,061,000
  • Governance costs: £973,000

Figures shown come from VSO’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2014/15, which can be found at the bottom of this page

*ICS is a contract based on payments by outputs, which means that VSO receives money from DFID for each volunteer who participates in a programme overseas. Due to the size of the contract, VSO has chosen to sub-contract approximately 75% of the delivery to 10 respected development partner organisations, who are also paid on the basis of the number of volunteers who participate in their programmes.

We wouldn’t be able to achieve all this and more without you.

You, our volunteers, supporters, programme, corporate and institutional partners, who share so generously in order that lives might be transformed around the world.

Whether you baked a cake, remembered us in your will, or ran a marathon so that our work could continue – thank you.

If you partnered with us to fund, establish or shape programmes so that we could achieve our goals together – thank you.

If you volunteered, with teachers, nurses, women’s groups, government departments, forestries or farmers, and shared your skills, energy and enthusiasm to help a community realise its goals – thank you.

Thank you

Will you join us and make change happen?

Stay in touch with us through our website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram for more about our work, and to hear about volunteering opportunities and other ways to get involved.

Access further information including:

· this Annual Review as a PDF
· full Annual Review 2014/15 film
· VSO full annual report and financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2015