As we move into 2023, let’s have a look back on the past year. And what a year it was! Thanks to your kindness, we were able help create a fairer world and bring about lasting change by unlocking the power of people. Here VSO and some of our volunteers reflect on the last 12 months.
In December 2021, millions of people in the Philippines were affected by super typhoon Rai. Homes, drinking water supplies and farmland had been destroyed. Thanks to our supporters who kindly donated after hearing about the typhoon in our emergency appeal, our local volunteers could provide relief in their own communities both immediately and throughout 2022. They had been trained in the previous years on how to respond to natural disasters. These changemakers distributed tarps, food, drinking water systems and seeds for agricultural recovery. They also provided psychosocial support to children, youth and women. In addition to the urgent relief they provided, they helped their communities recover in the long run by making them more resilient to climate change.
Local changemakers in the Philippines provided urgent relief in their communities after Typhoon Rai.
The “United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” states, among other things, that people with disabilities have the right to appropriate health care and education. In February, the Global Disability Summit took place. During this summit, countries worldwide made new commitments to improve the position of people with disabilities worldwide. Within VSO, our changemakers are also fighting for equal rights for people with disabilities. For instance, national volunteer Dennis Bwire. He dedicated himself to inclusive education in Rwanda. He looks back on 2022:
“One of my biggest 2022 achievements is volunteering with VSO/BLF Rwanda for 4 years now. I have gained a wide range of experience working with teachers and learners. This enabled me to understand their needs and subsequently support them. Reaching out to students with disabilities and learning difficulties and building the capacity of teachers to deliver inclusive learning outcomes, has been one of my successes.”
Dennis Bwire is a national volunteer on the Building Learning Foundations (BLF) project in Rwanda.
With our Volunteering for Development approach, we bring together different perspectives and experiences. Through ‘blended volunteering’ – in which mixed teams of community, national, and international volunteers come together – new insights and ideas emerge when tackling complex problems. The added value of our approach is also reflected in the research study ‘Volunteering Together: Blending knowledge and skills for development‘, published in March 2022.
April was the month where International Day of Health is commemorated. Throughout 2022, VSO, together with local partners, continued to help communities access better healthcare. For example, within our Make Way program. Did you know that we are already working with 47 local partner organizations within this program? This is how we ensure that everyone – including marginalized groups – knows what their sexual and reproductive health rights are. These rights enable people to make informed choices about relationships, their bodies, family planning, sexuality, and their well-being. We train organizations and their youth representatives and bring them together in a network. This is how we join forces to fight for better policies, and thus access to quality health care for all. Click here to learn more about Make Way.
Our 20th Changemakers magazine edition landed with supporters in May, including the story of Izna from Nepal. In her story you can read how our changemakers ensure that girls with disabilities get the education they are entitled to. To reach more girls, we asked for the help of our supporters. Thanks to their kind support, our changemakers were able to change the lives of more than 2,500 girls in the Terai region. They supported the girls in VSO’s catch-up centers and at home, to develop the skills and confidence to go back to school. So that they can realize their potential and shape their own future. Read Izna’s story here.
What does Minister Schreinemacher’s policy document mean for foreign trade and international development cooperation? That was the central question of the debate on Thursday, June 30, together with policy staff, researchers and politicians in a packed auditorium of the media museum Beeld en Geluid in The Hague. In the debate, the crucial role of civil society to achieve development goals was emphasized. In addition, the importance of involving young people during policy formulation, implementation and learning was emphasized and the importance of inclusion was highlighted. You can only have sustainable development if everyone can participate. Click here for a review (in Dutch).
Debate policy document foreign trade and development cooperation
In July, Wezzie Chimwala, our Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, attended the United Nations High-Level Political Forum in New York City. She discussed how we can ensure inclusion in education and health – drawing from examples of our work in Malawi.
“We are seeing disabled students who are now able to access learning materials in our country. We’re seeing teachers who now feel more confident in communicating with their students with the support of volunteers.”
Young people are hit hard by the effects of climate change. But when solutions are being discussed, young people rarely have a seat at the table. While young people themselves often know best what is needed in their communities. At VSO we work to strengthen self-confidence and lobby skills and empower young people so they can stand up for their rights. For example, during Africa Climate Week, where some of our youth champions, including Fridah Okomo, represented VSO and young people. Fridah played a pivotal role in ensuring that climate change policies and legislations are on policymakers’ agenda by sharing youth priorities and solutions with African Heads of State.
September was marked by intersectionality: the combination or factors and characteristics that determine a person’s identity and vulnerability to oppression and discrimination, among other things. At the Partos Innovation Festival, on behalf of the Make Way strategic partnership, we presented intersectionality as an innovative view of development cooperation that allows you to truly reach the most vulnerable. During the One Young World Summit in Manchester, we addressed the added value of intersectional feminist leadership for businesses during an interactive workshop. Want to know more about intersectionality? In this article we explain this framework and its importance in more detail.
Workshop intersectional feminist leadership
Every year on October 7 is the World Day for Decent Work. An important topic we focus on within VSO. With the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE), together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palladium and Randstad, we aim to help 200,000 young people – at least half of whom are women – in the Middle East, North Africa, Sahel/West Africa and the Horn of Africa find decent work within five years. In the past year, already 2087 youth found employment in Uganda alone! Youth participation is at the heart of CFYE. What does decent work mean to them? You can read more about it here.
November was an action-packed conference month for VSO with COP27, the International Conference on Family Planning (IFCP) and the Global Campaign for Education summits all taking place.
These conferences provided our volunteers with a platform to showcase some of their inspiring work but also to alert the world to some of the most pressing issues affecting our planet.
During the IFCP, VSO volunteers like Brown Niyonsaba were there, speaking about her work to make sexual and reproductive health information and services more accessible to deaf communities in Rwanda. She was even presented with a prestigious award for her volunteering efforts.
It is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Middle East and North Africa: creating employment opportunities for the ever-growing pool of young people who want to enter the workforce. Young women in particular have few future prospects in the labor market. On December 5, together with Challenge Fund for Youth Employment partners Randstad and Palladium, we released a podcast about our blended volunteering. In this podcast, researcher Inge Boudewijn, VSO expert Alok Rath, Joost van Engen from partner organization Healthy Entrepreneurs and volunteers Rhona and Suzy tell you why this way of working effectively contributes to solving the immense problem of youth unemployment.
A heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers, supporters and partners for standing shoulder to shoulder with communities all around the world and for making 2022 such an incredible year! We are excited to see what 2023 has in store. Thank you for your continued support.