Triumph, heartbreak and breakthroughs: Reflecting on 2019
Reflecting on a year of inspiration, celebration and challenges that made us stronger than ever.
As the year draws to a close, it's a time when many of us like to take stock and evaluate. We celebrate what we have to be thankful for, and look at what we can learn from those things that didn't go to plan.
For VSO, it was another year in which thousands of inspiring individuals took collective action as volunteers, reaching millions more with better education, health and livelihoods opportunities. But there were also several milestones which we'll remember when we look back at 2019.
1. Our biggest humanitarian response to date
Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on 14 March 2019, bringing with it three months' worth of rain in just 24 hours. Homes, crops and classrooms were all lost to the floodwaters. Hundreds of people tragically lost their lives.
While no one could have predicted then the ferocity of the storm that would come, natural and climate-related disasters are becoming more common around the world. A year before Cyclone Idai hit, VSO began training its hundreds-strong network of community volunteers in resilience and disaster response.
We also responded to many lesser-reported disasters.
While Cyclone Idai hit the headlines, there was less coverage of floods in Myanmar, Nepal and Sierra Leone, or of the drought in Pakistan that affected five million people. In each of these cases, VSO was on the ground and able to respond. In many cases, community volunteers provided vital support coordinating the distribution of lifesaving aid and information.
2. The climate crisis entered the public consciousness
2019 was the year that the issue of climate change had a major breakthrough with the global public. From 'climate strikes' in Dhaka, London and Manila, to a state of climate emergency being declared at the highest levels of government, a sense of urgency and anger about the lack of action on mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts pervaded much of 2019.
3. Global prize for innovation in education technology
At VSO, we live and breathe volunteering. We know that, applied responsibly, it can be an incredibly powerful tool to build fair, equitable and resilient communities.
The progress didn't stop there! October also saw VSO and its International Citizen Service (ICS) youth volunteering programme partner with Lumos on a campaign to raise awareness around volunteering responsibly.
The campaign sees the ICS network of over 35,000 youth volunteers joining in efforts to end orphanage tourism and other harmful ‘voluntourism’ schemes. Research shows that orphanages can be harmful when used as a long-term solution.
We even created new resources to help young people spot responsible schemes and avoid inadvertently doing more harm than good.