Jon Snow from Channel 4 news on his placement, way back when

Our history

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) began in 1958, when Alec and Mora Dickson recruited and sent 16 British volunteers overseas in response to a request asking for people to teach English in Borneo.

Much has changed since then! Over the past six decades, we've worked in over 90 countries, with more than 80,000 volunteers, supporting 50,000,000 people.

Today VSO is a truly international organisation. We recruit skilled volunteers from all over the world, with a wide range of diverse skills and passions - including people in business, doctors, teachers and young people.

Currently, over 30% of our people come from within the country of their placement. We also send increasing numbers of people from one developing country to another.

We're always looking for new ways to turn human energy and ingenuity into lasting change. We still send professionals to share their skills with their local counterparts. We’ve also embraced a range of methods that allow us to provide whatever kind of help is needed most, including promoting international understanding and action, knowledge sharing and youth exchanges.

Related links

Fishing boat
Paul Wambugu/Obscuramedia

Vision, values and strategy

Our purpose is to create lasting change through volunteering. We bring about change not by sending aid, but by working through volunteers and partners to empower people living in the some of the world’s poorest and most overlooked regions.

Schoolgirl with book

About VSO Ireland

VSO Ireland is a proud Irish charity working through volunteers to fight inequality, provide education and develop local communities overseas.

Climate champions in Kenya

Volunteering for development

At VSO, we know that people in developing countries have the power, courage and desire to help themselves. That’s why we use a volunteering for development approach that puts the most marginalised people first, to build a more equitable society.