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Voluntary Services Overseas

Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) is an international charity. It claims to be the largest non-religious, non-government development charity.

The organization has offices in the UK, Canada, Kenya and the Philippines and also recruits people from Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, the United States. It works by enabling them to share their skills with local communities in the developing world.

Since its founding in 1958, VSO has sent out around 29,000 volunteers (2001) to work in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

It was founded by Alec Dickson as an educational experience overseas for school-leavers before starting university. Volunteers offered unskilled help in exchange for basic accommodation and pocket money. In 1962 the more recognised scheme of using 'qualified' volunteers came about. By 1968 VSO had 1420 volunteers overseas.

By 1980 the unqualified volunteers had been phased out and the period overseas had extended to two years, with a more professional approach. Active volunteer numbers initially fell to around 750 but by 1990 the number had risen to 1250. The introduction of shorter placements and opportunities for volunteers to enhance their learning increased participation. In order to meet the growing demands VSO established partner agencies in Canada and the Netherlands.

VSO homepage (http://www.vso.org.uk/)

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