Daventry Girl Volunteers Overseas
Written by Darren James on February 24, 2019
Article Published on Sunday February 24, 2019 5:55 PM by Darren James
Daventry Girl Volunteers Overseas
2018 marked a year of heartbreak, freedom and adventure for me. After splitting up with my boyfriend and completing my A levels, I decided I wanted to go off and experience something new. So I cut my hair, started listening to rock music and looked up new and exciting things I could do on my gap year. Various opportunities arose online but all of them seemed to be charging a lot of money for a poor service that didn’t look very trustworthy until I came across a programme called ICS. ICS is a 90% government-funded scheme with the intention to end poverty by 2030 and turn the youth of today into active citizens. The project offers a 3-month overseas volunteering programme for 18-25-year-olds, and the best part is you only have to fundraise £800 which goes straight to the charity you decide to work with. Everything is paid for and booked for you; flights, visas, accommodation, food, vaccinations and a weekly allowance to buy clothes snacks and anything else you fancy.
During my placement, I was placed in a rural village in southern Bangladesh called Rampal and lived in the home of a local host family. Most volunteers lived in their host homes with a Bangladeshi volunteer who could translate for you and your host family; however, I was placed in the middle of Bangladesh for three months with a family who spoke zero English with a girl called Jasmine from Essex. It’s safe to say we were plunged into the deep end somewhat.
They cooked us three fresh meals per day and treated us as if we were one of the family. There wasn’t a lot to do in the evenings, and we had no phone service inside the house, so we spent our time trying to communicate with our host family which became a regular game of charades that we all found quite comedic.
Approximately 80 UK volunteers were flown out to Bangladesh, and we were soon divided into 4 teams of 20 plus 6/7 Bangladeshi volunteers in each group. 2 teams of 27 were located in the north and 2 in the south. Within these groups, were 3 subgroups, Governance – connecting the local governments with their communities, Livelihoods – creating more job opportunities and SRHR (Sexual Reproductive Health Rights) – teaching men and women about menstrual health and breaking the myths around conception.
I was based in the Livelihoods team, and our job was to provide training, equipment and support to 4 lucky entrepreneurs and help them start a sustainable business. We first surveyed the local area to find out what the local community wanted and most importantly needed, we then selected our three trades, conducted 47 hours of training to 43 participants, composed interviews, practical, theoretical tests and finally chose the most suitable entrepreneurs to take forward to the next stage of running their own business. We provided training in 3 trades, Beauty, Computer Skills and Street food, all trades that provide both men and women with equal opportunities in a country that is still so patriotic, and male-dominated.
Our time in Bangladesh was cut short due to rising political tensions so we had to leave a month short of our expected departure date. This was heart-breaking but the charity couldn’t afford to have even one of us caught up in a protest or rally as these can sometimes get violent and cause major fatalities. Luckily, we managed to set up our 4 businesses successfully with one street food entrepreneur making 500tk in his first trading day which would feed his family for just under 2 weeks. When we got home, we received an email from one of the ladies we set up in a beauty parlour business. Through translation, it read “thank you so much to the volunteers who gave me my business. Before you came, I had nowhere to sleep and no way of feeding my family. Since you helped me, even my cattle have a place to sleep and I have employed a part-time assistant to help with appointments.”
Later this year another group of volunteers will be flying out to Rampal and continuing the work we started. If you’ve just finished university or on a gap year, it’s such amazing value for money and a fantastic opportunity worth looking into.
For more information click here.