Christian Aid, which works with people of all faiths and none, has welcomed being chosen as a key partner in a new government-backed global volunteering scheme for disadvantaged 18- to 25-year-olds.
As reported on Ekklesia, 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 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 recently, international development secretary Douglas 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.
'I’m pleased that BUNAC, Christian Aid and Islamic Relief will together be helping the government to deliver on our commitment to tackle inequality and poverty.'
Starting in summer 2008 with placements to Ghana and South Africa, the volunteers will be:
* spending 10 weeks in a developing country working on local community development projects such as environmental conservation or HIV / Aids awareness;
* designing personal activity plans with other volunteers during a residential weekend on their return to the UK; and
* building 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 Daleep Mukarji said: '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: 'This project is an amazing opportunity for everyone involved. It will offer young British adults from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, especially those from the least well-to-do families in the UK, the chance to travel as a group and do a voluntary work placement in a developing country.
'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.
'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.'
Callum Kennedy, Director of BUNAC said: 'BUNAC is excited and proud to be a member of this partnership and is looking forward to playing its part in this new DfID venture. Volunteering in a developing country shouldn't be the preserve only of those who can, literally, afford to give up their time to do it. Many people are unaware of the existing opportunities or do not have the means to take advantage of them.
'The DfID initiative will show that young adults from all walks of life and from all backgrounds can contribute to and learn from the volunteering experience.'
Mark Vyner, global volunteering programme manager, from Christian Aid, said: 'These young adults will have an experience that will transform the rest of their lives. After being fully involved in a 10 week programme of grass roots development work, we hope they will take their enthusiasm and commitment back to their own communities.'