Living on an island 9×5 miles gives us locals itchy feet. If there’s one true thing about people from Jersey, it is that we do love to travel. I’ve always been a fan of back-packing and living on a shoestring whilst discovering beach huts and historic ruins, but I also feel a strong moral responsibility to give back to the cultures and communities I visit.
Working for local charities for eight years, I wanted to broaden my horizons and gain experience working for an international charity. After some late night research for job opportunities around the globe, I discovered Raleigh International. The youth development charity operates in some of the poorest countries in the world including Nicaragua, Nepal and Tanzania. Young people work with local communities to improve sanitation, health and the environment, finding sustainable solutions through education and innovation.
Many international volunteering programmes charge large fees to fund and cover the cost of projects on the ground. In partnership with Raleigh, International Citizen Service (ICS) is an overseas volunteering program for 18-25 year olds, funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development. To volunteer you don’t need cash, skills or qualifications – just the ambition to make a difference. Mostly encouraging young people to contribute to long-term development projects, it also appeals for ‘older’ experienced Team Leaders to manage and deliver programmes in rural communities.
Following an interview and training in London, I was offered the role as Team Leader in Tanzania on the ICS Entrepreneur Programme, starting in January 2016. I was ready to give up my job and home and be brave, exchanging my western luxuries for the experience of living life simply and helping global issues which extend beyond our shoreline – poverty, ill health, inequality, global warming. Although I was escaping the Jersey winter, I was under no illusion that this was not going to be a holiday and it would prove challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
Tanzania is one of the poorest economies in the world. Around 70% of Tanzanians live in rural areas where there is very little opportunity for economic growth. These areas typically have poor access to education and healthcare, and with the population often lacking good training and skills, there are few job prospects. The Entrepreneur programme, in partnership with East African Dairy Development (partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), aims to increase youth employment, and provide knowledge on opportunities within the dairy industry. It aims to do this while also teaching universal business skills, achieving gender equality, and improving access to capital.
An important element of the ICS project is that it works by linking UK volunteers with in-country volunteers to ensure community integration and the sustainability of each project. On arrival at ‘Field Base’ in Tanzania, our group of Team Leaders (from both the UK and Tanzania) were immediately immersed in a training program to provide us with the skills we would need to lead a team of young people to deliver our programme objectives in remote locations. I was ‘matched’ with Novatus, a brewery manager from Kilimanjaro, who became my lifeline to living in the community, my Swahili translator and good friend. United, we would lead a group of 12 multicultural volunteers, living in home-stays and working together for three months in a remote village location.
Our Team, Echo 2, was one of five entrepreneur projects based in the Njombe Region in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Home of the Bena people and dominated by agriculture, it is the coldest region in the country. The landscape was interwoven with fields of maize and tree plantations, with wide vistas over hills seeming to roll endlessly into the horizon. Most villagers lived in homes without electricity, no running water, an outside toilet and washroom. All water was collected from a well or rainfall, and cooking took place on open fires. The average income for a family is below £2 a week.
Our project was dedicated to helping the community of Nyombo Village to increase their livelihoods. Working in partnership to provide education and skills, we targeted equal numbers of women and men aged 18-35. Our 12-week Entrepreneur Programme was delivered daily by our team of volunteers, and included sessions on subjects from business generation to pitching for funding. We also reached out to the wider community through a nutrition programme and Action Days, including the celebration of International Women’s Day and Mother Earth Day. We also helped to promote gender equality and raise awareness of global issues within the village, as well as planting trees and improving sanitation facilities. We regularly attended the local primary school, increasing awareness of the UN Sustainable Development ‘Global Goals’ and teaching lessons including English, hygiene and equality.
I am proud to share our achievements from our small village, which exceeded our targets:
• 40 people attended educational sessions.
• 20 young people in our village were awarded certificates for completing the Entrepreneur Training.
• 10 entrepreneurs pitched for funding and 7 individuals successfully secured loans to start up their aspiring businesses.
• Increased awareness of the benefits of good nutrition and hygiene.
• We championed youth development, helping the next generation of young people in Nyombo to become pioneers and leaders.
Each of the volunteers in our team, made up of people aged 18-22 from different regions of both the UK and Tanzania, lived together with host families and immersed themselves in the village culture. They took turns as weekly leaders, delivering sessions and planning projects. The ethos of the ICS Programme gives volunteers the opportunity for personal development, providing a stepping-stone to future careers and a chance to make your world a better place. The experience helped build independence, confidence, resilience, language skills plus cultural and global understanding.
It was tough eating beans and rice every day, washing clothes by hand, and living without power and technology, but it was a privilege to be part of improving the community we lived in, and to see individuals inspired to change their own lives. As the proverb states – Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.