Inspiring change

Volunteering at home and overseas

Celebrating UK Volunteers Week 1–7 June

“Volunteerism is a source of community strength, resilience, solidarity and social cohesion. It brings positive social change by fostering respect for diversity, equality and the participation of all. It is among society’s most vital assets ”

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, 2009

This week is UK Volunteers’ Week, a chance to celebrate the incredible contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK. To mark this occasion we take a look at some of our inspirational volunteers, who have not only supported projects fighting poverty abroad — but who have also continued their commitment to volunteering by contributing their time and skills in their home communities.

African ideas worth spreading

Amina from London volunteered with VSO ICS (International Citizen Service) in Kilifi, Kenya, but that was just the first step of her volunteering marathon. She has since become a co-curator of TEDxEuston, an event that aspires to provide a platform for ‘African ideas worth spreading’. She volunteers her time every day outside of her nine to five job, but she says all the hard work is worthwhile:

“The feeling I get when a speaker receives a standing ovation, or when an audience member tells me how TEDx has motivated them to step up, reminds me that it’s all worth it.”

“I benefited a lot from volunteering with ICS. I learnt Kenyan Sign Language, which inspired me to take up BSL classes when I got home. Since graduating from university I have come into contact with countless adults and children who feel the need to hide their hearing loss. So last year I also ran the London Marathon in aid of Action on Hearing Loss and raised over £1800. People’s generosity really inspired me — through Facebook alone I made £400!”

Building brighter futures

Ollie volunteered in Zambia with VSO a few years ago, working with people affected by HIV and AIDS. He remembers meeting a child who had lost both his parents and was living with his grandmother, but she couldn’t afford to pay his school fees. There was nothing they could do — and that experience really stuck with him.

Ollie stayed in touch with friends in Zambia, often chatting about local music and local issues, and then he heard about Brighter Futures Zambia. This charity helps orphaned children to get an education — and with it a brighter future. Ollie works on the website and social media, and as a trustee he also helps lead the organisation’s strategy and governance. He loves the personal connection:

“I recently visited Zambia again, to meet the kids and their carers. It’s brilliant personally knowing the people that you work for, write content about and raise money for.”

Volunteering has opened doors

Anna also volunteered with VSO ICS, supporting sustainable income generation in Lafia, Nigeria. She worked for three months on a local community project, with a team of national and international volunteers. Since returning home to London she has been busy supporting several causes, including volunteering at King’s College Hospital and with her local church, supporting homeless people. She describes her motivation:
“I had recognised homelessness as an issue where I live so wanted to contribute in some small way to help the lives of these people. The kindness and generosity of the volunteers here is a real eye-opener. The chef has volunteered for 15 years after his brother found himself homeless. I learnt how much giving a little can really change people’s lives.”
“Volunteering has shaped a new pathway for what I want to be involved with outside of my career. It has opened doors to other things I wouldn’t have ordinarily done, which are so rewarding.”

Emma, another ICS returned volunteer, also became involved with a homelessness charity after completing her placement in Ethiopia. She says, “I wanted to continue to be involved in volunteering after my placement because I knew how lucky I have been in my life and wanted to do something for people who haven’t had the opportunities I have.”

Inspiring change

Having returned home from her ICS placement in Kenya, Jenna was inspired to volunteer with an organisation that works to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The charity Orchid Project was set up by a former VSO volunteer. Jenna compiles reports, edits their website and carries out research projects. She finds herself so inspired that she has recruited many others to join the campaign to end this harmful practice:

“Developing such a passion towards issues around ending FGM has been an unexpected outcome for me personally. It is unbelievable what the long term effect is on women who undergo FGM. Their stories are so inspirational. I learnt that in the UK the NHS detects 500 cases of FGM a month!”

Active citizenship

These young volunteers all demonstrate the impact that active citizens can have both locally and globally. They lead by example, taking responsibility for the world we all live in, and demonstrate the steps we can take to make the world a better place.

Feeling inspired to volunteer?

Find out more about volunteering with VSO

Find out more about VSO’s youth programmes