VSO celebrates 50 years of development work, and beseeches businesses to lend a hand
The Voluntary Service Overseas Federation (VSO), an international development organization devoted to fighting global poverty and disadvantage, is celebrating half a century of work that has made a lasting impact on the lives of those in underprivileged communities around the globe. Through its unique approach of volunteering for development, VSO has tapped into the expertise of professionals from various fields to volunteer in a collaborative skill- and knowledge-sharing program to reach out to 35 of the most disadvantaged countries in the world, including the Philippines, Cambodia, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, and India.
VSO Bahaginan, the Philippine resource base of VSO, is one of the most active members of the Federation today. One hundred of the almost 2,000 volunteers deployed yearly in the 42 developing countries where VSO works, are from the Philippines. These volunteers spend at least six months to two years in host countries where they work together with local communities, focusing on immersive capacity-building on areas of need identified by the organization, such as education, health and social well-being and livelihood security. The ultimate aim of these missions is to build collaborative community-based frameworks for development that are sustainable, humane and sensitive to a locality’s specific problems.
VSO envisions a brand of development that is truly multi-lateral, separating it from the ethnocentrism of many international outreach programs. Federation director Brian Rockliffe, who was in town recently to celebrate the charity’s 50th year, describes the organization’s work: “Working with VSO provides a means of breaking down barriers in the collective consciousness- in today’s world, there is no more us and them. Today’s problems are shared dilemmas, and if we are to overcome them, we have to work together.”
VSO and business: Partners in social and economic development
Volunteers from the Philippines are sourced not just from individual professionals but also from private businesses that enter into strategic partnerships with VSO Bahaginan. Among its current international business partners are Accenture and AstraZeneca. On the occasion of the organization’s 50th anniversary, VSO officers and representatives of prospective corporate partners came together to celebrate the organizations’ milestones and discuss future plans at a dinner hosted by Jaime Gonzales, CEO of Export and Industry Bank, as a show of support to VSO.
“Export Bank is a business enterprise, but we all have to pitch in,” said Gonzales. “At the end of the day, if [the problems of poverty and social disadvantage] aren’t addressed, it comes around and affects your business. Any program that improves the wellbeing of low-income communities comes back around to benefit our whole society, including the business sector.”