Christians and Muslims sign up to government-backed volunteer scheme

By agency reporter
March 3, 2008

People of all faiths and of none will be involved in a new Government-backed global volunteering scheme for 18 to 25-year-olds announced on 2 March 2008 by UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander.

The scheme, says the government, will offer young adults from less advantaged backgrounds the opportunity to live, work and learn about life in poorer countries while making a real difference to people’s lives.

Over the next three years 2,500 young adults will be sponsored to do voluntary work in a developing country and raise awareness of development issues in the UK.

The £10 million scheme is backed by the Department for International Development (DFID) and will be run in partnership by Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and BUNAC.

Announcing the scheme in Birmingham today at South Birmingham College, Mr Alexander said: "This scheme aims to give young British adults who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity the chance to make a valuable contribution to the lives of people overseas who are blighted by poverty.

“By living and working with people from very different backgrounds, facing very different challenges, they will learn new skills and help unlock the potential within them to become better global citizens. And on return they’ll be applying what they’ve learned to activities in their own local communities.

“It is important that young people understand the issues that shape the world they live in. All round this should prove to be a very rewarding life experience for the young adults involved.

Starting in summer 2008 with placements to Ghana and South Africa, the volunteers will spend 10 weeks in a developing country working on local community development projects such as environmental conservation or HIV / Aids awareness.

They will then design personal activity plans with other volunteers during a residential weekend on their return to the UK and build understanding about the world back home through road shows and activities in their local communities and encouraging their peers to join the fight against global poverty.

Christian Aid’s director, Dr Daleep Mukarji, commented: “We are delighted to take a lead in this venture, which is the first of its kind. Christian Aid’s mission is to expose the scandal of poverty and together with Islamic Relief and BUNAC we will be able to directly engage young adults with the issues surrounding poverty, and give them an opportunity to make a real difference.”

Dr Hany El Banna, President of Islamic Relief said of the project: “It will be a continuous journey of discovery; of how and why different people across the globe face different levels of poverty and development, and of how all our actions and destinies are so intertwined.

He added: “Sharing these stories upon their return will potentially have life-changing consequences, not just for the young travelers themselves, but also for their families, friends and possibly whole communities, both here in the UK and beyond.”

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