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VSO volunteer awards 2016

Yesterday we were joined by over 140 people, and many more online around the world, for the first ever VSO Volunteer Awards.

The ceremony took place in Grocers' Hall, central London and was hosted by Mike Wooldridge OBE, former BBC World Affairs Correspondent who volunteered with VSO in Uganda in the 1960s.

We were joined by many of the winners in the room, and those unable to join had pre-recorded video clips.

VSO staff and volunteers joined the event live via Skype and you are warmly invited to watch the video highlights below.

Everyone who attended this inspiring event, both in-person and online, left feeling hugely proud to work for VSO alongside such committed and passionate volunteers. It truly felt that the voice of volunteering was in the room. We hope you enjoy hearing their inspiring stories.

Awards ceremony highlights video

‘International Volunteer Award’ winner - Judith & Simon Hill from the UK volunteered in Nepal

This award recognises the contribution that a long-term international volunteer has made during their placement. It was presented by Fiona Barton, a journalist and author who wrote her bestselling debut novel ‘The Widow’ while volunteering with VSO in Sri Lanka.

"Volunteering has opened our eyes to world issues" Judith Hill​
"The challenge of a volunteer is to stay hidden and not be the front face of what you're doing" -  Simon Hill

In July 2014, Judith and Simon Hill from Somerset, volunteered as a couple in Nepal’s Lamjung District for two years. In spite of the tragic earthquake in April last year the Hills decided to stay. Despite their family’s pleas to return, they spent several weeks trekking to remote and mountainous villages feeding back vital information to emergency coordination teams about where food, shelter and medicine were most urgently needed. 

‘Special Award’ winner – Peter Cradock from the UK,  just returned from Papua New Guinea

50 years and counting with VSO...

This award recognises the contribution that a VSO volunteer has made during their lifetime. It was presented by Robin Lustig, a broadcaster and journalist​ who volunteered with VSO in Uganda.

Since 1964, Peter – an agricultural specialist - has volunteered for VSO six times, mostly in Papua New Guinea. Most recently he has written VSO’s strategy for vocational training, which has just been approved by the country’s Ministry of Education. 

‘Alumni Award’ - Jointly won by Bonavitha Gahaihi from Tanzania who volunteered in her home country with ICS, and Stephanie Green from the UK, who volunteered in Ghana

This award recognises the significant contribution that a long-term volunteer has made after their placement. It was presented by Kathryn Gordon, VSO executive director of people and organisation development, and chair of the judging panel​.


"Girls can do it by themselves - not relying on anyone else around them" -  Bonavitha Gahaihi 

In November 2013, Bonavitha volunteered in the Kagera region of Tanzania with the International Citizen Service (ICS) – the international youth development programme led by VSO. During their three month placement, Bonavitha and her team raised awareness about HIV/ AIDS and promoted safe sex.

In September 2013, Stephanie Green from Kent volunteered for two years in Tamale, northern Ghana with the ‘Kasalagu Women’s Cooperative’ and ‘TAMA Cosmetics’ – a local business which sells shea butter based products. Stephanie equipped female shea butter farmers with the business and marketing skills to make a better living.

Team Award winner - Syngenta’s corporate team volunteered in Bangladesh

This award recognises the contribution that a corporate team has made during their placement. It was presented by Duncan Parker, managing director of Ethical Goods.

A team of thirteen corporate volunteers from the global crop science company, Syngenta, volunteered with VSO’s local partner for one month in northern Bangladesh. The ‘Growing Together’ project benefited 7,000 marginalised farmers and over 1,300 young people.

International Youth (ICS) Award winner Eleanor Carne from the UK volunteered in India

This award recognises the contribution that an international youth volunteer has made during their placement. It was presented by Felicity Morgan, director of International Citizen Service.

In February, Eleanor Carne from Cambridge volunteered for three months in Rajasthan, India with ICS as a Team Leader.

Eleanor managed to persuade forty children to join various groups and she personally ran menstruation workshops when she was moved by the limited access girls had to sanitary towels. Since returning, Eleanor has been an advocate for women’s rights and got involved with VSO’s ‘She Will’ campaign. She’s currently involved with a sanitary towel project which ships sanitary products to girls in Rajasthan.

National ‘In-Country’ Volunteer Award winnerMaryam Masood from Pakistan who volunteered in Pakistan

This award recognises the contribution that a long-term, in-country volunteer has made during their placement. The award was presented by Kathleen Spencer Chapman, head of policy and public affairs at Bond.

Maryam volunteered with the ‘Pakistan Youth Initiative’ for ten months. This scheme enables young people to go on one month exchange visits to encourage social cohesion, cross cultural learning and national integration. Maryam created networks of activists who went on to set up ‘help desks’ in various communities to help resolve local disputes and advocate the protection of women at risk from domestic violence.

National In-Country Youth (ICS) Volunteer Award winner Oluwatosin Folarin from Nigeria who volunteered in Nigeria

This award recognises the contribution that an in-country youth volunteer has made during their placement. Presented by Julia Lalla-Maharaj OBE,​ another former VSO volunteer and CEO of Orchid Project.

In June, Oluwatosin from Lagos volunteered with ICS for three months in Osun State. Her team worked with communities where malaria is a huge problem so Oluwatosin led a campaign which provided free malaria tests and nets.

Read more about the 2017 Volunteer Awards and find out how to nominate a volunteer.