A young Slough resident, who spent 10 weeks working on a project fighting poverty in Kenya, is now calling on other young people to take the plunge and consider volunteering overseas.

Zina Younes, 20, travelled to Kenya in October 2018 with international development organisation VSO, as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, where she worked alongside young volunteers from Kenya and the UK.

She lived with a local host family so that she was fully immersed into the community and could gain a better understanding of the challenges people there face.

ICS volunteers, aged 18-25, work on long-term projects that aim to end poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The scheme offers young people the chance to gain valuable new skills while working on projects that make a genuine difference to the people and communities they are supporting.

Those aged 23-35 can apply to be ICS team leaders.

Zina said: “A prominent challenge within the village in which I was based is that the majority of people with disabilities are looked down upon by their communities, they are often seen to be cursed and deemed ‘a burden on society’.

“Many children are locked up at home and are not allowed to leave for educational purposes or to even socialise with others around.

“I had the privilege to volunteer in a boarding school for [children with mental health difficulties].

“In this school, there was a great emphasis on the phrase ‘Disability is not an Inability’, the children were encouraged to learn a wide range of hard and soft skills alongside their education to prepare them for the difficulties of the real world outside the safety net of their school.

“This included making clothes, growing crops, and making bags among many other things.”

She added: “My experience in Kenya was truly life changing. I loved embracing a new culture, immersing myself in new tasks and making lifelong friends and a second family.

“My biggest achievement was the special project that me and my placement team came up with.

“The school we volunteered in was poorly decorated and didn't have simulating rooms to aid the learning and development of the children, so we decided to renovate an outside area into a warm inviting area for the children to learn in, socialise in and also use it as a safe space if they ever needed to take a break.”

More than 15,000 young people from the UK have participated on the ICS programme since 2011.

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS at VSO, said: “It’s really inspiring to hear about the fantastic work Zina did on placement.

“We’re incredibly proud that UK aid is supporting young Brits to bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities.

“As an organisation working on the frontline against poverty, VSO sees how people across Britain play an important role in delivering UK aid.

“From the NHS and Army helping end the Ebola crisis, to the millions who generously donate, and the contribution we all make through taxes, together we are all making the world a fairer, safer place.”