A Leighton student nurse has just returned from a ten-week volunteering mission to a country where one in four people are HIV+.
Abi Johnson, 21, from Billington Park experienced the harsh realities of what life is like in Lesotho.
The southern African coutry is famous for its mountains and high altitude, earning it the name the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’. However it also has the third highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the world, leaving many children living with the disease or orphaned.
The International Citizen Service, working in partnership with the charity Skillshare International, sent a group of 11 UK volunteers to work with a team from Lesotho in schools and the community to deliver HIV and AIDS education using sport and fun activities.
As well as HIV and AIDS the programs also covered substance abuse awareness and teaching life skills such as communication and teamwork. The UK volunteers worked as pairs, matched up with an in-country partner helping them learn how to work cross-culturally.
Abi said: “The placements I ran with my in-country partner were in high schools around the city centre and involved football based activities that linked in with a debrief on the issue we were targeting.
“We also ran sessions at an orphan village called SOS where some very young children lived and went to school.
“It was difficult at first as there was a slight language barrier with the children but my in-country partner was very supportive and helpful.”
The team lived with host families during their time there and experienced what life was like without the comfort of showers and flushing indoor toilets, allowing them to embrace the culture and learn what it was like to live with such basic facilities.
“Despite its challenges, volunteering in Lesotho was a life-changing experience that allowed me to meet a diverse range of people and learn what it is like to live in a developing country.
“My host family made me feel really welcome and I found it very hard leaving them at the end.
“I feel that my time in Lesotho has helped me grow as a person, giving me an insight into the problems happening in other countries and the importance of international development. I know in the little time I was out there that I haven’t changed the world but that having an impact on even just one child can make a real difference.”
This month a new team of UK volunteers are set to go out to Lesotho to continue the programs running in the schools.
If you are interested in doing something similar apply for the International Citizen Service online at: www.volunteerics.org.