– By Siobhán Hughes
On Saturday I will be flying home to Ireland enriched with knowledge and inspired by SERVE’s partners in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Thanks to the support of Irish Aid, young people in the squatter camps in South Africa, Beira and Dondo in Mozambique and Chitungwiza, Epworth and Domboshava now have the opportunity to learn a marketable skill, as well as learning essential life skills to encourage safer practice regarding their sexual health. In areas where HIV is prevalent, young people are significantly more vulnerable and so the prevention of HIV is mainstreamed throughout SERVE’s programmes.
The opportunity for young people from impoverished communities to learn a new skill, gain practical work experience and have access to a micro-credit loan is not just an impressive NGO-led programme, it is a life-changing initiative of which the communities are the driving force. SERVE’s partnership approach strives to empower both the communities we work with, our partners and the SERVE volunteers that travel overseas to our partners every year. SERVE volunteers who take part in our South Africa and Mozambique placements, play a core role in SERVE’s Development Programme. For example:
- This year, crèche workers have been trained in first aid by SERVE volunteers. This supports SERVE’s child protection policy which is mainstreamed throughout our programmes.
- A crèche is being built in Nkaneng by SERVE volunteers, in partnership with Tsholofelo’s youth group. A shibeen (illegal pub) opened next to the existing crèche and the current location was no longer a safe place for children.
- Over 200 children from 3 squatter camps in South Africa have had their weight and height measured to identify those who are stunted and malnourished. The Tapologo OVC (Orphan & Vulnerable Children) feeding programme which is supported by SERVE and Irish Aid can now use this data to ensure that children who are vulnerable are prioritised. Tapologo’s garden which was planted by SERVE volunteers in 2006 also provides fruit and vegetables for this feeding programme.
- In Mozambique where Young Africa provide skills training for young people in Beira and Dondo in the Sofala Province, SERVE volunteers have also been playing a key role. The building of 3 large fish tanks at Young Africa Agri-Tech’s campus in Dondo this year will mean that a new department can be opened and made available to students. This commitment by SERVE volunteers is providing opportunities for students in Dondo to learn a new skill, therefore increasing their chances of gaining employment upon completion of their course. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is supported by SERVE and Irish Aid. SERVE volunteers are also supporting this programme by expanding Young Africa’s Agri-Tech TVET programme.
I believe that SERVE has been successful in producing informed and engaged volunteers who are aware of their role in SERVE’s Development Programme (SDP). Through 3 training weekends, a 4-week placement, development education workshops each week and a debrief ‘Next Step Weekend’. SERVE is making the effort to inspire action upon volunteers return home. It is also evident the support and role that SERVE volunteers play in the overall programme. Intercultural learning and exchanging of experiences can be just as important as the physical work undertaken, and I feel that there is a perfect balance in SERVE’s volunteer programme. As I prepare for my journey home, I am feeling inspired by the SERVE, our partners, volunteers and communities. The partnership truly illustrates ‘solidarity in action’.