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Life-changing stories

What is it like to live and work in a developing country as a VSO volunteer? Read about VSO volunteer experiences, what it's like to work with a VSO volunteer from the point of view of our partner organisations and how VSO’s work is changing the lives of people in the poorest communities every day. These are real stories from real people that leave a lasting impact.
VSO volunteer nurse Briony Jenkins at hospital in Malawi
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  • Health

Seven out of ten child deaths in Malawi are due to preventable causes such as malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Malaria and pneumonia alone account for nearly half of those deaths. Through the THET programme, nurse trainer Briony Jenkins is sharing vital paediatric nursing skills with students at Nkhoma Hospital to improve nursing standards and care for children.

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  • Health

In spite of UN targets that aim to drastically improve maternal health by 2015, Malawi still has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world. Through the THET programme, UK midwife trainer Beth Connelly is spending a year at a hospital in rural Malawi sharing vital midwifery skills with more than 200 students.  Addressing the chronic shortage of trained health professionals is seen as key to help directly reduce the number of mothers and babies needlessly dying in childbirth.

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  • Health

In Malawi, one child in eight dies before reaching age of five, often because of poor access to qualified health workers. Through the THET programme, UK nurse trainer David Atherton is spending just under two years at a hospital in rural Malawi sharing vital nursing skills with more than 100 students.  Addressing the chronic shortage of trained health professionals is seen as key to help directly reduce the number of people dying because of inadequate access to professional healthcare. 

Durga's story
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  • Education iconParticipation and governance

Born and raised in a rural Himalayan village in Nepal, Durga Khatri was just 14-years-old when she was forcibly married. Pressure from her husband’s family forced her to drop out of school, but she managed to fit in time around her housework to complete a degree. Today, Durga is a strong advocate for girl’s education in her village, and is involved in local decision-making supported by VSO partner WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum).  VSO volunteer Cath Nixon conducts women’s leadership training for Durga and other women in Himalayan villages. 

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  • Participation and governance

Ganga Adhikari struggled to gain acceptance from her husband’s family because she is from a lower-caste, but her involvement in decision-making at the village level through VSO partner WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum) has helped her to earn their respect. Now she is an advocate for equality between men and women. VSO volunteer Cath Nixon conducts women’s leadership training for Ganga and other women in Himalayan villages near Dailekh, Nepal.

mandaras story nepal 446x306 landscape
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  • HealthParticipation and governance

As the oldest female leader in her village and one of the founding members of VSO partner organisation WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum), 70 year-old Mandara Malla has witnessed firsthand the changing role of women in rural Nepal. She’s played a key role in her community ensuring national policy on child marriage, polygamy and domestic violence is implemented at the village level. VSO volunteer Cath Nixon works through WEAF alongside Mandara and other women in rural Nepal to further empower women in the village with leadership skills. 

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  • Education icon

After working for many years in education management across schools in the UK, head teacher Ludiya Besisira decided to undertake a two-year VSO placement in Nepal before retiring. Passionate about the role strong leadership can play in transforming schools, she worked alongside senior education management and head teachers at Nepal’s under resourced government schools supporting them to develop and implement strategic plans to radically improve the quality of education for thousands of children.

Beth Stillings Cohen Education advisor Nepal
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  • Education icon

Educational volunteer Beth Stillings-Cohen has spent two years working in a cluster of rural government schools in Nepal with VSO. After identifying schools with high dropout rates, especially amongst marginalised children, she’s supported headteachers and teachers to improve the overall quality of education. Beth has seven years experience as a primary school teacher in the UK.

Public health volunteer nurse Cath Nixon - Nepal
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  • Health

Women suffer disproportionately from access to quality health services in rural Nepal. Although the frequency of maternal deaths in Nepal has significantly reduced, pregnancy related complications remain high, especially in rural areas. VSO volunteer public health nurse Cath Nixon has taken a two year career-break from the NHS to work alongside health workers in a district hospital and across villages in mid-west Nepal to improve standards of care and raise awareness of health issues affecting women.

Opening doors for Ghana’s girls - Balila’s story - TENI
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  • Education iconDisability

Balila, a 12 year old girl living in northern Ghana, was born with a disability that affects her growth and her ability to walk. When she was younger, she often missed going to primary school to avoid being mocked by the other children. All of that changed when Balila joined her school’s gender club, where she felt included and was encouraged to speak and take part in activities, building her confidence. Now that Balila has made it to high school, she’s encouraging other girls to take part. VSO volunteer Damien Gregory helped create the club, aimed at tackling the social issues affecting girls' education. 

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