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Our highlights of 2017

Like most people over Christmas week, we’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing in the VSO Ireland office. It seems like the year has flown by and yet so much has happened at the same time. Here are just some of our 2017 highlights…

Launching our new girls’ education programme

In June, we launched our Irish Aid funded girls’ education programme in Karamoja, Uganda, which will ensure more marginalised girls are able to finish primary school and access the same opportunities as boys. Shockingly, in some areas of Karamoja only 6.4% of girls finish primary school at all. Three Irish volunteers have already worked on this programme – Theresa Ghalaieny who conducted the initial baseline research to get a better understanding of the context, and Lisa Barrins and Breda Dunleavy who are currently in Karamoja. They are supporting local teachers to recognise the importance of keeping girls in school and identifying when they are at risk of early forced marriage and other pressures.

Schoolgirls at Kasimeri Primary School who have been positively impacted by our girls' education programme.

And a new maternal and neonatal health programme

We were also delighted to get funding from Irish Aid for our maternal and neonatal health programme, also situated in Karamoja, Uganda. This programme will help improve health outcomes for adolescents and young mothers who are particularly at risk when giving birth. Irish volunteers will work side-by-side with Ugandan volunteers and partners to improve and extend both maternal and neonatal health services, and sexual and reproductive health services. They will also work to reduce the stigma around accessing these types of services. If you know any nurses or midwives who would be interested in sharing their skills on this programme, tell them to get in touch!

Janet at home with her husband Jacob Okellakwo and baby who has benefited from VSO health programming in Uganda.

Meeting prospective volunteers

One of the best bits about working at VSO Ireland is meeting professionals from different types of backgrounds and of all ages that are interested in volunteering overseas. We loved chatting with you about the opportunities available at events like Africa Day, the Irish Aid Volunteer Fair, the International Careers Fair and various other job fairs and conferences. Not to mention our now monthly Meet VSO info evenings.

Our Meet VSO in March took place in Third Space cafe, Dublin and had a great turn out from prospective and returned volunteers.

Reconnecting with returned volunteers

We’re really proud of the relationship we have with our returned volunteers who are still very much part of the VSO family. Our returned volunteer social events were some of our favourites and included our Africa Day picnic, end of summer BBQ and Christmas drinks. It’s always lovely hearing anecdotes from VSO placements and learning more about the impact these returned volunteers continue to make in communities at home and abroad. A massive thank you to all the returned volunteers who helped out at stands or spoke on our behalf at events throughout the year too.

Being shortlisted at the Good Governance Awards 2017

What a great honour to be shortlisted as one of the four finalists in Category 3 at the Good Governance Awards 2017! These Awards recognise adherence to good governance and transparency by community, voluntary and charitable organisations, as demonstrated through each organisation’s annual report. We had a lovely evening at the Awards ceremony in November, meeting staff from other shortlisted organisations, including Aidlink, the well-deserving winner of our category.

Launching our new website

This year, VSO Ireland got a bit of a make-over, thanks the launch of our brand new website. We were really keen to make it easier for people to find the information they need, make an application, register for job alerts and donate to our programmes - and we think we’ve managed to do that. This website is also our platform for sharing inspiring volunteer stories, like Maria’s, Paul’s and Seán’s. The eagle-eyed of you will notice we also had a visual rebrand this year with an updated logo and new typography for our marketing and fundraising materials.  

Raising vital funds for our programmes

Our work wouldn’t be possible without the support of our monthly and one off donors. A massive thanks to everyone who donated to our First Breath summer appeal, which focused on our work in maternal and neonatal health in Sierra Leone, and our current Christmas appeal, which is increasing awareness of our girls’ education programme in Uganda.

Attaining the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice Award

Last week, we were the first organisation to be assessed as fully compliant with Comhlámh’s Code of Good Practice and awarded the Comprehensive Compliance Standard, the highest attainable. The Code of Good Practice is a set of standards for organisations that facilitate international volunteer placements in the Global South and works to ensure these placements have a positive impact on the volunteer, sending agency and local community. Our framed certificate will make a lovely early Christmas present and take pride of place in the office.

We wish all our volunteers, donors and supporters a wonderful Christmas and are excited to see what we can achieve together in 2018!

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