AN ECKINGTON woman who spent three months volunteering in Central America has described it as ‘the best experience of her life’ and has urged others to help if they can.
Rose Bradbury visited Nicaragua as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS), a Government-funded programme for 18 to 25-year-olds which works with different charities to place volunteers in the poorest rural communities in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
As part of a group of 11 volunteers, the 25-year-old worked within a community that needed guidance in improving their health and sanitation systems.
With a focus on sustainability, Rose stressed the importance of recycling, reforestation, hygiene and gender equality through different activities including building tree nurseries and installing grey water filters in different homes.
She said: “I had the opportunity to blend with a community and become part of a family and culture I wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise. The project focuses on sustainable development to ensure that volunteers are not coming into a community, making changes and leaving without giving the members of the community knowledge to continue the positive work for their future.
“It is more about giving them the tools to understand how they can improve their situation and therefore making the change sustainable.”
During her time in Nicaragua, Rose and her group also set up English classes, youth business sessions and women’s business sessions.
She said: “From the age 14 and 15 school is only available on a Saturday and a lot of children go on to work with their families.
“The opportunity for further education does exist although it is very difficult to reach.
“We tried to give them tools for starting jobs and information on business to remind them that there are other opportunities and hopefully add something to their skill set.”
Now working as a waitress to save up to do a masters degree in International Development, Rose said the experience has taught her many things.
“Before I found ICS, I spent months looking for a volunteer programme that was right for me.
“I volunteered with Raleigh for three months and it was one of the best experiences of my life,” she added.
“ICS programmes are not a holiday, they are demanding but extremely rewarding.
“Each volunteer also has the chance a few times on the project to be a weekly leader which gives you the opportunity to plan the week and really put your ideas into the project.
“You don’t have to spend a penny, all flights, vaccinations and living costs are covered.
“All you need to do is fund-raise £800 and volunteer three months of your time.”