Celebrating VSO’s wide range of Youth Work

Students studying tourism conducting a tour of Dushanbe, Tajikistan for visiting tourists. The Dushanbe City Guides program was organized by a VSO long-term volunteer, with the support of TATO (the Tajik Association of Tourist Organizations) and contributes to developing economic opportunities for young people and other disadvantaged groups.
Hannah Nunn
By Hannah Nunn: November 13th, 2012
Last week was Youth Work Week celebrated in the UK and across the Commonwealth. This is a good time for us to remember why VSO believes that Youth are central to development and what we are doing to ensure that young people have a voice and are actively engaged in work for positive change.
  • Did you know that VSO Nigeria considers youth more important than oil in the country’s development?
  • Or that VSO Sierra Leone’s country strategy simultaneously aims to improve access to youth-friendly health services, build skills of the young work force, create job opportunities and influence policies and attitudes that will help young people become active citizens capable of transforming society?

With 60% of the population of the least developed countries being under the age of 25 years, it is not surprising that it is increasingly being recognised that young people have a huge role to play in development. VSO is in a good position to lead this field and is currently involved in youth consultation on the post-2015 development framework, asking what young people’s priorities are for what happens after the Millennium Development Goals.

VSO is committed to a holistic approach to youth programming – to work for, with and support development  by young people

  • For youth – providing access to quality services in health, HIV and AIDS, education and secure livelihoods, for example supporting opportunities for vocational training of young people in Sierra Leone.
  • With youth – building the capacity of youth organisations and supporting young people to be actors in development through volunteering locally, nationally or internationally, for example as peer educators raising awareness about health issues amongst the young population.
  • By youth – supporting youth-led development, youth participation and youth voice in governance and decision making, active citizenship, youth leadership in programming and organisations, for example lobbying governments to develop pro-youth policy.

You can read more about our approach to working with young people in a position paper available on the VSO  website

Partnership is key in VSO’s approach to youth work.

VSO works with a range of organisations across the world to increase the participation and voice of young people.  Working with partner organisations is crucial because they bring an understanding of the issues facing young people in the local context together with key youth work skills to develop projects which are youth-led.

We work in partnership in a number of ways:

  • Run programmes to develop active citizenship among young people
  • Help remove barriers to support opportunities for more marginalised young people to volunteer
  • Help influence youth policy
  • Sharing knowledge and best practice between youth workers and organisations in the UK and globally.

Youth Volunteering

Promoting volunteering among young people is essential in harnessing this key component of civil society. This will help to put youth at the centre of development, and incorporate their vital perspectives. VSO has a wide range of volunteering initiatives to support this.

At the centre are VSO’s National Volunteering initiatives which encourage young people to make active contributions to their own communities. From the National Youth Volunteer Scheme in Kenya, to Sahara Youth Forum tackling health, hygiene and sanitation in Pakistan, VSO is supporting local youth to become active citizens.

International Citizen Service brings together young national volunteers and British young people for 3 months to work on themes including health, HIV, and livelihoods.  This gives youth aged 18-25 the opportunity to learn from each other and make important contributions to development goals in communities around the world. For further information and to apply visit: www.vso-ics.org.uk

Between 2005 and 2012, VSO ran the Global Xchange programme with the British Council, with the final GX exchange taking place between Hounslow and Zambia in September 2102. GX connected young people from the UK and a developing country with volunteering phases for 3 months in each country. VSO remains committed to running reciprocal exchange programmes and to the global insight and learning they have proved to bring.

Young people with relevant skills and experience can also apply to VSO as long-term volunteers, and we encourage our partners to think innovatively about what added value youth volunteers could bring through longer-term placements.

We’re also working on a series of proposals from a wide-reaching review of youth volunteering, to develop exciting new programmes which will tap into the skills of young volunteers over longer periods.

All very exciting work!


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