The Philippines is an archipelago made up of more than 7,000 islands, composed of three main island groups: Luzon, Visaya and Mindanao. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, it has an area of 300,000 square kilometers, and is one of the world’s great reservoirs of biodiversity with hundreds of native species.
The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, but poverty and inequality continues to be a considerable challenge. It’s also incredibly diverse, with 19 recognised languages spoken across the Philippines.
Our special focus area is the island of Mindanao, which contains 8 out of the country’s 10 poorest provinces, some with poverty levels as high as 70%. This breeds inequality that feeds conflict and breaks down social cohesion in many areas. There is a need to share skills and knowledge with communities to help people rise above these challenges and enable them to take control of their lives.
VSO has an active presence in the Philippines since 1964 when the first batch of VSO volunteers provided education and health support to schools and universities.
Over time, VSO's work in the Philippines expanded to also focus on livelihoods, the environment, disability, gender and peacebuilding.
In partnership with local organisations and government agencies, thousands of VSO volunteers of various nationalities worked in and with communities in different parts of the country.
Today, there is a huge focus on peace efforts in post-conflict and fragile areas in southern Mindanao.
The area experiences higher-than-country poverty and infant mortality rates. This exacerbates intercultural strife within communities and conflict between armed groups and the government. Recent peace initiatives and agreements need to fulfil the promise of developed communities, as years of strife left Mindanao marginalised and lagging behind other regions of the country.
Through a range of volunteering approaches, VSO has worked with local partners in many of Mindanao’s coastal areas and hinterland communities, amid conflict situations, to help address poverty and other drivers of conflict. Our international volunteers from various nationalities, Filipino volunteers and our network of youth and local volunteers have helped create peaceful, harmonious, and cohesive relationships among Moro and non-Moro communities.
Disaster risk reduction
VSO believes that without effective risk management and resilience building, our investments, programme results and the people that we work with remain vulnerable to shocks and stresses. Investing in managing and building resilience is essential to reducing poverty and protecting development outcomes. VSO’s disaster risk reduction and management efforts include working with partners to build the capacities of communities to prepare for, deal with, and reduce people’s vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and climate change, noting that the Philippines is one of the world's top disaster hotspots.
VSO values the contribution of young people, especially in fragile areas in Mindanao. We believe:
- that educating the youth is a necessary precondition in building a strong, prosperous and peaceful society.
- in mobilising the youth to help address community issues, involving them in economic initiatives, enable them to gain a sense of agency, and improve their leadership skills, ultimately leading to a better community and society.
Our volunteer network
More than 1,600 skilled Filipino volunteers have volunteered with VSO, who have been deployed to countries around the world.
Upon their return to the Philippines, many continue their volunteering involvement through VSO and other organisations. With VSO, they help in peace building as well as in addressing other issues related to the sustainable development goals.
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For more information on programs and partnerships:
Location: 2/f Sazon Building Mc Arthur Highway, Matina, Davao City, 8000 Philippines
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