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Voluntary Services Overseas

Voluntary Services Overseas

'A new era for VSO'

The traditional view of VSO is something that rich countries do to poor countries. In 1998, VSO had in the region of 1,400 skilled people working as volunteers in 40 of the poorest countries in the world. Most were British. All came from Western Europe or North America.

Brian Rockliffe, director of VSO's international volunteering group, recognised that there was scope for harnessing more localised support networks. In 2000, the concept of globalising volunteering, finding innovative ways of using skilled people wherever they are available, formed the basis of three new projects.

The South-South initiative involved moving skilled workers from one developing country to another; National Volunteering looked at how to best utilise people's skills within their own countries. The charity also initiated the World Youth Exchange, which aimed to encourage young volunteers to VSO.

We initially saw all of these projects as pilots, says Rockliffe. They were quite innovative and the level of belief in them as potential successes varied across the VSO. Now ther

e are no doubters. In four years, VSO has gone from having no southern volunteers to nearly 300 out of a total of 1,500 on its main programme. National Volunteering is underway in four countries, with especially strong results in the Philippines, while the World Youth Exchange has attracted 750 young people to date. These projects have really changed the perception of VSO, says Rockliffe.

Mark Goldring

Chief executive 
317 Putney Bridge Road
London 
SW15 6PN
020 8780 7200
Reg no. 313757
http://www.vso.org.uk/

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