Gants Hill man urges residents to take part in ‘life-changing’ trip to Africa

Harpal with some of the children he worked with. Picture: VSO

Harpal with some of the children he worked with. Picture: VSO - Credit: Archant

A Gants Hill man, who learnt invaluable skills while spending 11 weeks volunteering in east Africa, is encouraging Redbridge residents to apply for a government backed trip

He organised a sporting competition for the pupils. Picture: VSO

He organised a sporting competition for the pupils. Picture: VSO - Credit: Archant

Harpal Sangha, 25, travelled to Tanzania with international development organisation VSO, as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

The former Valentines High School student worked alongside young volunteers from Tanzania and the UK on a sustainable development project and lived with a host family so that he was fully immersed into the community and could gain a better understanding of the challenges people faced there.

He said the experience humbled him and made him see that Ilford, despite some people complaining, is actually a great community to be apart of.

He is also urging more people under 25 from diverse backgrounds to apply for the scheme as generally speaking "middle class and people from white" backgrounds seem to know more about it.

Would you consider going out there? Picture: VSO

Would you consider going out there? Picture: VSO - Credit: Archant

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There is also a similar scheme for people under 35.

"Although 95per cent of children in Tanzania now enter primary school, the quality of education remains weak," he said.

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"This was particularly true for the rural areas of Bukoba where student's poor examination results and engagement were the consequences of many factors including children's vulnerability to child-right abuses in and out of school, a lack of awareness of child-centered learning within schools, classroom overcrowding, poor teaching resources and a lack of support from parents and community in children's education and school activities.

"Therefore, myself and 16 other British and Tanzanian VSO volunteers worked alongside the Improving Child Learning and Participation (ICLP) project to address the challenges being faced within the community.

"We developed child-centred teaching aids and supported teachers in their use within the classroom.

"We increased awareness on social issues such as climate change, children's rights and gender inequality by organising 'community action days' which brought together all levels of the community to learn about each issue and ways to tackle them locally."

As well as educating the young people the group also painted five schools with visual teaching aids and bright colours to encourage creative learning.

"I have always enjoyed learning about new cultures but living in a host home helped me to appreciate the small things in life and understand the difficulties half the world faces on a day to day basis," he added.

"My biggest achievement was organising the inter-school competition with another volunteer.

"We saw that the children really enjoyed the sports clubs we were running, and when we found out they have never had a competition with other schools, we saw an opportunity for the children to have a memorable experience alongside their parents and community."

ICS allows young people aged 18-25 to contribute to sustainable development projects in Africa and Asia.

Harpal is now using the skills he developed overseas to carry out an 'Action At Home' project back in the UK.

"After having such an inspirational experience on ICS, I decided to create YouTube video under the title 'VSO Tanzania | ICS Programme | Project to highlight the amazing work the VSO and DFID are doing in developing countries.

"I have also created this video to spread awareness on the opportunities available for young adults especially the ones from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities.

"I think young people should get involved with ICS because they are able to build self-confidence, make lifelong friends but more importantly have a lasting impact on a community."

ICS is funded by UK aid, so young people don't need cash, qualifications or work experience to take part, just the desire to make a difference to the lives of some of the world's poorest communities.

Before he left for Tanzania, Harpal raised £1200 for VSO, which will ensure that communities in developing countries can continue to benefit from the work of volunteers.

Felicity Morgan, director of ICS, said: "It's really inspiring to hear about the fantastic work Harpal is doing.

"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."

To find out more about ICS or to apply, visit

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