In January 2017, Eleanor Evans started her year off with a real adventure. She boarded an aeroplane to begin a three-month volunteer placement in Nepal for Raleigh International, as part of the International Citizenship Service, leading a group of British and Nepali volunteers on a rural international development project. A £300 Jack Petchey Foundation Individual Grant for Volunteering helped her cover the costs of the placement.
The project focused on water, hygiene and sanitation in a small community in Makwanpur, Nepal. The work included carrying out research in the community, raising awareness on good hygiene and sanitation, establishing new community groups and supporting the community to build toilets and handwashing stations. Eleanor’s primary role was to provide practical and pastoral support to volunteers as well as taking part in the project work herself throughout the placement.
The scheme was a success, with the team exceeding all of their targets. Eleanor believed that this was down to the collaboration between the volunteers and the community. The team lived and worked with the community for the duration of the project, and ensured that their ideas were at the forefront of their work. For instance, the team discovered that there was a demand for further collaboration within the community, which led to the establishment of a new women’s group and children’s club. Both groups were successful in engaging the community and the team received really positive feedback for their role in setting up the groups.
The project had a fantastic impact on the community. For example, it provided every household access to a handwashing station, which were built collaboratively by volunteers and community members. The project also made the whole community aware of good hygiene practices as the volunteers raised awareness of personal, food, and environmental hygiene. The impact of this work was evident to the volunteers, as handwashing increased and families took further steps to ensure safe food preparation. There was also greater collaboration within the community, which was demonstrated through participation in the women’s group and community meetings.
In addition, the project had a really positive impact on the volunteers involved. Eleanor said “As team leader, I supported volunteers in identifying and meeting personal goals. These included public speaking, team work, community work, and leading group sessions. Throughout the placement I saw the volunteers grow in confidence, work together effectively, and meet their goals. Volunteers often commented on how the project had really enabled them to challenge themselves and personally develop.”
Eleanor also gained a lot from the experience. As a team leader she coached volunteers, led one to ones, facilitated group discussions and delivered training sessions. This has taught her skills that have helped her to develop personally and professionally.
On completing her placement, Eleanor said, “Thank you so much to the Jack Petchey Foundation for the grant, which hugely supported my fundraising. I had an incredible time on my placement, living as part of a rural community in the mountains and getting to work in a completely new environment. Although the role was challenging, it was a great experience which enabled me to meet many amazing people. My highlight of the project was working with the community. It was amazing to live as part of a rural community in Nepal and work collaboratively together. It was very hard to say goodbye! Both the community and volunteers commented on how much they enjoyed working with others from another culture and learning from one another.”
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