Takyiwa Danso, 25, London
Takyiwa has extensively campaigned and advocated for youth participation in key decision-making spaces. During her time as a VSO ICS volunteer in Machakos, Kenya, she built the confidence, passion and skills to make a real difference on the ground.
When she returned to the UK in 2015, she didn’t rest, continuing her activism as part of the Action 2015 UK Youth Panel, a campaign holding the government to account in the first year of implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
From representing the youth voice in Britain the following year as part of the BBC’s Generation 2016 cohort to travelling to New York to represent the UK at the UN’s high-profile 71st General Assembly, Takyiwa has continuously fought for young people to be present in political spaces.
During my ICS placement I was really inspired by the young people I met in Machakos, Kenya and the drive they had to make small changes to improve their community.
Their belief that they can change the opinions of everyone from their families to local politicians inspired me to realise that all young people across the world can do the same.
Ever since being a teenager, I’ve always been interested in the question of why some people are worse off than others – and why we allow that to continue.
If we want to make any progress in this world, we have to stand side by side. And that’s why I believe in the work of VSO. It sees people as the solution.
Whether that’s bringing volunteers from across the world or upskilling local people, including marginalised groups at every stage of the process is the only way we’ll see real sustainable change.
I’m really excited to be a Youth Adviser to the board. Young people are a huge part of VSO – so it’s just logical there needs to be a place for us at the top.
Felix Owino, 26, Nairobi
Felix is a proven advocate for the power of youth – having volunteered with two agencies in his home country of Kenya. His time on ICS gave him the inspiration to start his own projects and tackle issues in his own community.
While volunteering as a Team Leader in Loitokitok, Kenya in 2016, Felix started his own project, ‘The Cup’, providing menstrual education to young women. For many young girls growing up in this region, education around periods is limited and harmful myths around menstruation are common.
From partnering with a local NGO to create menstrual health sessions for 1,780 young women to engaging local ICS alumni to become ambassadors for the project, Felix has a track record of putting local communities at the heart of the causes he fights for.
My passion for development began while I was working in a hospital in the Mathare slums in Nairobi, mobilising young people to offer support to people beyond the remit of the hospital.
I realised we needed to help people gain access to services and understood that I needed to learn more about how people were tackling issues like this on a wider scale. That’s when I found ICS.
It’s changed me as a person. From touching a thousand lives through my own initiatives to addressing a crowd of 300 at the Youth Summit, none of this would have happened without ICS.
Volunteering is a key part of development. In Kenya, we’re currently fighting to pass the Volunteer Bill in parliament, which will help engage the government to make volunteering a national focus.
I share VSO’s core values. These are things that I try to apply in my own life.
The fact the board has recognised the urgent need to bring a diverse range of skills and the youth mind set into decision-making processes makes me feel much closer to VSO’s work.
For me as a Kenyan – and an ICV – working as a Youth Adviser to the board, I’m excited to be able to share a unique set of experiences that will help shape the future of VSO’s programming.