VSO works from the idea that people in developing countries can fight poverty themselves, if they have the knowledge and abilities to accomplish this. To help supply the knowledge and know-how, VSO sends out experts to countries where they can make a difference. There, they will work with local organisations that have local expertise, and they work for a local salary.

VSO works in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, those countries where they can really make a difference and where they can safely implement their programmes. At this time, VSO is active in 33 countries.

Within these countries, VSO targets the most vulnerable and marginalised groups; those who would struggle without external help. To maximise effectivity VSO selects several poor regions per country, which they focus on.

The Marthe van Rijswijck Foundation supports VSO’s work in several of these regions.