Nearly half the world’s population around 3 billion live on less than £1 per day. Whilst poverty continues to be a major threat for the developing world, it is also a significant issue for many people in the UK. Many young people want to make an impact in reducing global poverty and with the introduction of the United Nations Millennium Development goals aimed at halving global poverty and combating the spread of HIV/AIDs by 2015, this has left the door open for many young people to become involved in international volunteering by contributing to the implementation of these goals. This article will talk about my involvement in delivering these goals, starting from my initial journey in becoming involved with the youth-led development agency; Restless Development right through to my experience as a team leader in Tanzania.
I will discuss the goals, achievements and challenges of my volunteering experience and assess whether, ultimately, I was able to make an impact during my placement. I will then go on to discuss what I am currently pursuing to ensure that I remain, an active global citizen and how the potential global citizens of today can become involved.
How did I become involved with Restless Development?
Following the completion of the Legal Practice Course, which would be a course designed to allow me to qualify as a lawyer, I wanted nothing more than to pursue a career in law. After a four years of continuous applications for the role of a trainee solicitor, I finally managed to secure the role in a family and criminal defence law firm. As I graduated at the peek of the recession this posed as a massive obstacle to securing the role of a trainee solicitor. Around a year into my role, the government announced that legal aid would be slashed by up to a third. Unfortunately, our firm was almost entirely reliant on legal aid and subsequently I was made redundant.
I did not want the skills I had attained to go stale and I was certain I did not want to make hundreds of applications to law firms which were also probably feeling the effects of the legal aid cuts. I decided I wanted to pursue a field I had been interested in since the completion of my dissertation on the ‘The role of the United Nations in their pursuit of international peacekeeping’. I decided to search for voluntary roles in the sphere of international law and the United Nations. I then came across Restless Development.
Restless Development boasted that they were a youth-led agency allowing young people to take a leadership role in addressing the most urgent issues facing their country and the world. The role would be supported fully by that country’s governments, their communities, businesses and civil society institutions. The role would fall into three key areas: Civic Participation, Sexual Health and Rights, and Education and Livelihoods with the ultimate aim of contributing toward the reduction of global poverty in light of the UN millennium Development Goals.
I felt like this was an opportunity not to be missed. After an initial online application and a tough interview process, I secured the role of team leader.
What were the goals, achievements and challenges of my volunteering experience?
The objective of my placement was to reach as many students as possible from various schools, collages and universities under the umbrella of Employment and Livelihoods using a career development toolkit. I was to develop a project-planning tool, which would allow the volunteers and I to market and deliver workshops in employment and entrepreneurship to students who had no exposure to careers advice.
With this newfound information delivered through workshops, one to one careers advice sessions and sessions in classrooms, this would equip students with the information and the skills needed to seek and attain employment upon completion of their studies. We would then market a careers fair to businesses all over the region. With a set dead line, we would then organise the careers fair and invite students from collages and universities all over region with the aim of bringing both the organisations and students together to encourage an employment relationship.
Key achievements included:
– Delivery of careers sessions in four universities
– Attainment of first-hand information through asking students directly on their experience and views of the Tanzanian job market
– Raised awareness of our sessions and events through flyers, social media the use of posters both in and out of the university to over 2000 students. We also raised awareness of our career fairs by contacting local media platforms such as the Radio, social networking sites and Higher Learning Institutions representatives to network our project within and to other universities.
– All together we reached almost 900 students with around 20 sessions. Half of the students we reached were female.
Aside from the achievements, there were also challenges during my placement:
- Lack of resources in order to deliver our sessions
- Language difficulties between the UK volunteers and both national volunteers/students.
- Often the classrooms were too small and therefore became over crowded during sessions.
- Occasional power cuts which disrupted the delivery of our sessions
Life at my Tanzanian home:
Life at my Tanzanian home posed a challenge initially, but as I became more comfortable life became easier. There were around 11 of us living in a 4 bedroom compound, however, I was provided with my own room. The bathroom was located as a small shed like area, which housed a hole in the ground and a bucket, used for filling water. This was something I got used to and really wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I lived with my host parents, grandparents, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters. The language was the initial barrier in the bonding process with my Tanzanian family; however as my host sisters began teaching me Swahili on a daily basis I grew closer with my Tanzanian family. The diet consisted of fish, beans and rice almost everyday. Life with my Tanzanian family was almost certainly the highlight of my placement; I was made to feel like part of the family from my first day in the family home.
How did our work link to the millennium development goals?
The UN millennium development goals are a list of 8 goals formulated by the UN as a blueprint aimed at halving extreme poverty and combating HIV/AIDs by 2015. In delivering sessions in employment and livelihoods, these sessions were aimed at contributing toward the reduction of global poverty. Thousands of individuals are graduating each year within Tanzania from Higher Learning Institutes (HLI). In Tanzania, 66%(22 million) are under 25 years with 60% of those under 24 unemployed in the country. With a higher number of graduates and scarcity of employment opportunities, this has made the job market for young Tanzanians extremely competitive. Although they leave HLI with the necessary qualifications, they lack and have not been educated on the employability and entrepreneurship skills employers look for. Our project was delivered through equipping youths with access to information, training, employment skills and direct delivery in the context of employability to improve their pre-professional skills. With these skills, young graduates would be able to seek employment, subsequently contributing to their household income, to their wider economy and subsequently local communities with the aim of reducing poverty with their country. This would result in a higher quality of life for Tanzanians as well as tailored and high quality individuals (tailored through our sessions) linked to their subsequent employers.
What did I learn and what am I doing now to continue being an active global citizen?
When I initially applied for the role of a team leader with Restless Development, nothing could have prepared me for the experiences, skills and knowledge I would come back to the UK with.
Since the completion of my placement my confidence in public speaking has greatly increased and I am more inclined to pro-actively campaign on issues I am passionate about. I have spoken in public about the wall separating Israel and the West Bank and have also been invited as a speaker to deliver a presentation to a large group of activists on the history of Palestine.
There are various ways young people can become involved in issues they feel passionate about, ways in which I would not have been privy too without my journey with Restless Development. From public speaking in schools, campaigns and charities to lobbying MPs. There is also the option to pursue further volunteering in NGO’s or a local charity. Upon completion of an international volunteering placement you may also find that the public are keen to hear about your experiences. I have been invited to speak about my experiences on my local radio station as a guest speaker. I am also taking part in an event organised by Restless Development where I can talk about my experiences and tackle stereotypes of global poverty speaking directly to the public in a rickshaw! What you choose to do with your newly found skills has the potential to contribute towards your passions and self-development both.