Sarah Eaton from Chislehurst completed the Great South Run 5k this weekend to raise money for the development charity, Progressio. This is part of her International Citizen Service ‘Action at Home’ project - where volunteers build on the skills they learned abroad, at home. The 23 year old returned from Honduras in June but says ‘I aim to continue using my spare time to help others and engage with my local community to truly become a global citizen’.
The volunteering adventure started even before her 10 weeks in South America. Sarah successfully raised £1500 towards the trip from bake sales, online donations, raffles and bag-packing in supermarkets. She was also supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation’s £300 volunteering grant, which is available to young people who dedicate their time to help others.
The programme took place across 3 rural locations and was in conjunction with Jovenes Liderando Cambio (JLC, Youth Leading Change). The first stage was in Belen. Each volunteer had their own project to manage and Sarah was responsible for designing and building a playground in 4 days. The playground included a climbing frame with monkey bars, a see-saw, swings, ball-swings and a sand pit. ‘After the completion of the playground the community put together a ceremony where a number of people spoke and said thanks. I was appointed to sit at the front with the President of Belen and read a little speech in Spanish to thank them. Since I arrived in Honduras with little to no knowledge of Spanish this was slightly nerve wracking!’.
Sarah also worked with women groups to promote self-esteem. The volunteers secured funding for a ladies football team kit, Sarah recalls. ‘When the women received the kits, some cried tears of joy. Something as simple as a team kit brought so much happiness to these women and allowed them to feel like a real team’. They do more than kick a ball around. They’re responsible for creating a sense of community and even creating the community itself. In fact the football team in Chiligatoro, the second rural area, helped transform an algae-ridden and dirty lake into one that tourists can boat and fish on.
Honduran villages are vastly spread out and the land is often not used properly. Therefore, during their time in Manazapa, the volunteers camped outside to show the owner what potential his properly had.
In between their main projects, the volunteers conducted a census to collate information for the JLC to craft their projects according to the needs of the local communities. This included information about the household, income, occupations and even domestic violence and gender equality.
However, it became increasingly evident that ‘women didn’t know their rights’ so Sarah created a sexual health and relationships leaflet. This was distributed to the 92 patients of the medical brigade (4 dentists and a GP), which is based on Rio Grande to provide accessible healthcare. Legal clinics were also arranged by JLC. Seminars about Honduran Law, Human Rights and Gender Equality were given out to community leaders, so that they can continue to pass on the information to others.
The University of Hull American Studies graduate has returned to her home in Bromley, grateful for the experience: ‘not only did I get to experience a beautiful country full of rich colours, amazing fresh food and people with enormous hearts, I was able to change the lives of these people and understand there is a lot more to life than England!’.
Sarah’s fundraising even four months after her return demonstrates how valuable these projects can be at home and abroad. Therefore, it is of upmost importance to support young people and the fantastic work they do.
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