Monday, 15 August 2022

Henley Rotary Club - International citizens discussion

THE International Citizen Service is a volunteering opportunity open to all 18- to 25-year-olds, backed by the Government through the Department for International Development.

Natalie Jennings, who has lived in Henley all her life and recently graduated from the University of Bristol, has been accepted by the organisation, which is led by Voluntary Service Overseas, on a placement in southern India for three months.

She was the speaker at the club’s twilight meeting on August 1, ahead of her 12-week stint, which will start on September 1.

ICS was launched in 2011 by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.

It works in partnership with a select group of respected development organisations, one of which is Restless Development, with whom Natalie will be volunteering.

She emphasised that it was a youth-led international development programme which aims to tackle poverty and to lay the foundations for a stronger global society.

Natalie will be living and working in the community with an Indian counterpart, meaning that she will be fully immersed in their culture and way of life.

Restless Development is working in India as more than 235 million people there are between the ages of 15 and 25.

ICS volunteers aim to increase knowledge of diverse livelihood options and awareness of diseases such as malaria and harmful practices such as child marriage. With its population of 1.25 million people, India plays a huge part on the global stage in tackling social, economic and environmental problems.

In 2028 it is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country yet sanitation remains a big problem with 157 million people living without toilets.

Of the four areas in India where ICS volunteers are situated, Tamil Nadu has a number of additional problems as households in the rural communities have limited access to running water and few schools have appropriate sanitary facilities. Youth unemployment is also an issue and girls and young women in the region face challenges relating to their sexual rights and lifestyle.

Natalie went on to explain what she would be concentrating on during her placement, particularly the Water And Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) project and young people’s development in and out of school.

All volunteers are asked to raise at least £1,500 for the charity before they leave and Natalie achieved this by various events, including a sponsored £1 food challenge, where she ate for only £1 a day for a week.

She also sold doughnuts at university, ran a parish breakfast at St Mary’s Church and held a garden tea party.

A further £575 is needed to cover additional personal costs, such as mosquito protection, medication, walking sandals (her homestay is nearly an hour’s walk away from her placement), visa expenses and travel insurance.

The Rotarians were extremely impressed with Natalie’s single-mindedness in supporting her studies throughout her time at university with part-time jobs and working full-time during her holidays.

She has also done much voluntary work in the Henley area, having been an active member of the Henley Sea Cadets for nine years, attaining the rank of Leading Cadet, before becoming a staff member and a volunteer windsurfing instructor.

After Natalie had answered a number of questions, Peter Thomson voiced the club’s admiring thanks. President Maria Bunina presented her with a cheque for £575 to cover her additional personal expenses for her placement.

Natalie promised to return to the club to describe her forthcoming experiences.

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