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©VSO/John Spall


We have three decades of experience working in India.

We support a dynamic mix of volunteers to deliver livelihoods and education initiatives. Alongside Indian and international experts, we work with distinguished corporate partners including IBM, Randstad, Vodafone and Bharti Infratel to support the most poor and marginalised communities. 


We’ve trained 320 trained Big Sisters as guides and mentors for 1,155 Little Sisters.


Innovative project using SMS texts to share learning resources at hard to reach schools rated 'highly effective' by 85% of participating teachers.



12,918 children reached through 'World of Difference' programme in partnership with Vodafone. This project reported a reduction in illiteracy from 51% to 5%.

Securing decent livelihoods

Blind woman farmer with potatoes supported by VSO in India ©VSO/John Spaull

Lila Devi was blinded by childhood measles. She and her husband were trained by VSO to increase their yield and income from growing potatoes. ©VSO/John Spaull

About two thirds of India’s population – 825 million people – depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Rising food insecurity is caused by environmental degradation, pressure on land, and droughts and floods, which are becoming more common.

Only 30% of women are in the labour force. They receive just 62% of the average salary for a man. Finding a decent job is also a challenge for India’s large and growing youth population.

We offer skills training and innovations that support women, youth and people with disabilities to improve their access to a stable source of food and income, in two main ways: boosting the productivity of agriculture so people can grow more food without needing more land, and helping them adopt new and more sustainable ways of making a living.

Recent results

  • 3,000 slum-dwelling women gained employment through a skills training project with our corporate partners Bharti Infratel and Randstad
  • 6,000 people with disabilities supported to gain local employment through a project in partnership with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled and IBM
  • Trained 27 climate-smart agri-professionals to reach out to rural farmers in Madhya Pradesh to understand how they can safeguard against the effects of climate change
  • In 2017/18 our Kisan Vikas initiative supported 5,000 marginalised farmers to improve their ability to farm effectively - increasing yields at a lower cost. 

Inclusion and participation

Certain groups in India suffer from inequal access to rights and services, whether through prejudice towards their disability, gender or caste, or due to geographical remoteness such as tribal hillside communities.

Together with local NGO and corporate partners, VSO India is working with marginalised communities in Kalahandi and Koraput districts to increase awareness of, and access to basic services like health and nutrition. We also support innovative technological approaches and tools to improve the access and reach of services.

Recent results

  • 22,000 people reached in 2015/16 with improved access to information and services through one project
  • Supported affordable and innovative Samadhan online platform for the registering complaints with public officials through a low-cost SMS, which has increased social accountability. Nearly 800 complaints were fully resolved through the platform last year

Literacy for all

Though school enrolment is high, resource scarcity, large classroom sizes and skills gaps lead to poor quality of learning in India’s classrooms. Recent surveys have shown that 4 out of every 10 children who have completed four years of school still cannot read or write. Official statistics show a gulf between literacy rates of urban (86%) and rural children (71%).

Our private sector partners, through new technological approaches and innovative thinking, find solutions to help us educate everyone. For example, literacy training for in-service teachers through community and national volunteers, remedial teaching projects and the development of teaching and learning resources.

Recent results

  • 12,918 children reached through 'World of Difference' programme in partnership with Vodafone. This project reported a reduction in illiteracy from 51% to 5%
  • 450 government teachers improved their English language teaching in 300 schools in Jharkhand, Delhi and Bundi districts since receiving training through VSO
  • Innovative literacy learning plans delivered via text led to increased literacy test scores

Delivering literacy via SMS

SMS Story is designed to improve Indian children’s English reading, speaking and vocabulary by:

  • Designing a series of English literacy teaching aids taking the form of 160 character instalments in a simple story using a phonics progression
  • Delivering the daily instalments alongside a simple lesson plan to teachers, all sent via SMS

Recent results:

  • Project rated 'highly effective' by 85% of participating teachers
  • Innovative literacy learning plans delivered through SMS led to increased literacy test scores
  • Twice as many children in the active schools could read at the word and sentence level as those in the control schools (63.1% and 41.7% respectively)

SMS Story project page

Volunteering for Development programme

The Volunteering for Development programme, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) works to improve quality and access to health and education services as well as livelihood opportunities for the most poor and vulnerable.

The grant recognises VSO's extensive experience of putting volunteers in the right places to tackle poverty and inequality. Find out more:


VSO's added value: Innovation, incubation, scale

VSO is a leading development organisation using volunteers to target lasting positive change in the lives of the most disadvantaged people in society. We have three decades of experience working in India.

Our strategy for India focuses on innovation, incubation and scale. A dynamic mix of volunteering types delivers this: Indian and international experts, young people, community and corporate volunteers. These are highly motivated people who bring the skills, knowledge, energy and heart to create innovation and results with our programme.

Our cadre of distinguished corporate partners, including IBM, Randstad, Vodafone and Bharti Infratel, share their results-driven energy and ideas with our local development partners, and with the poor and marginalised communities we work with.

Shared value partnerships with the private sector

All of VSO’s programmes are supported and funded by corporate partners, including IBM, Randstad, Vodafone, Bharti Infratel and The Body Shop.

Learn more about corporate partnerships with VSO or contact Sachal Aneja, Asia Pacific Corporate Engagement Manager.

Our implementing partners are local NGOs working in education, livelihoods and governance. Last year we supported these local partners to make demonstrable improvements, including in:

  • Income generation
  • Data collection
  • Financial systems and management
  • Advocacy and influence
  • Community engagement
  • Teacher motivation

    Contact us

Interested in finding out more about our work in India? We’d love to hear from you.

Email the VSO India team:

Delhi office:

VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas)
Regus -Level 5, Caddie Commercial Tower
Hospitality District Aerocity, IGI Airport,
New Delhi - 110037, India
Phone: +91- 11-66782852
National Capital Region office:
VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas)
Regus - Logix City Centre
7th Floor Cabin No. 713
Near Web City Centre Metro Station
Sector 32, Noida
Uttar Pradesh-201301

Interested in volunteering?

Find out more about volunteering in India