Buxton graduate’s African adventure to help tackle poverty

Buxton's Tom Hodgson (foreground) and fellow volunteer Colin at the community action day he organised.
Buxton's Tom Hodgson (foreground) and fellow volunteer Colin at the community action day he organised.

Buxton’s Tom Hodgson has recently returned from Tanzania, where he has been working on a project tackling poverty.

Since landing back in the UK, Tom, a university graduate from Harpur Hill, has been raising awareness of international development projects.

Tom Hodgon outside the house where he stayed with his host mama.

Tom Hodgon outside the house where he stayed with his host mama.

Here, he tells us his experiences of his African adventure:

“I worked alongside volunteers from Tanzania for three months as part of the government-funded development programme, International Citizen Service (ICS).

“During that time, I worked on a project run by the development charity, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), which aimed to improve the quality of teaching in the country by working in two teacher training colleges, developing new methods of teaching for student teachers to use in primary schools as well as tackling other development issues including HIV/AIDS and unemployment.

“While there, I lived in the Mbeya region of Tanzania, close to the town of Tukuyu, with a local family who spoke very little English.

“One particular highlight of my time in Tanzania was organising a community action day to help get 15 to 24-year-olds tested for HIV and to educate them on methods of prevention.

“There being a certain stigma surrounding the virus, we had the idea of combining the testing and education with a dancing competition to help attract people.

“The event was a resounding success with almost 700 attending the event and almost 200 people being tested for the virus.

“The family I lived with and the people I met were some of the warmest and welcoming people I’ve ever met and it was so difficult to leave. I’m incredibly eager to return in the future.

“The whole experience was life-changing, adapting to a new culture language and way of life. Before this experience I had never travelled outside of Europe.

“The work of development charities like VSO really does help change the lives of those in impoverished countries by investing in people to teach them new skills.

“ICS allows young people aged 18-25 to contribute to long-term development projects in one of 28 developing countries.

“The scheme offers young people the chance to develop personally and learn about team working and leadership on projects that are of genuine value to communities around the world.

“I’m now using my experience overseas to raise awareness about the fantastic impact overseas development work has on local communities in developing countries.

“This ‘Action at Home’ project is a key part of ICS and means UK and overseas communities benefit from the skills that volunteers gain while working in developing countries. Volunteers are encouraged to use their Action at Home to raise awareness about their overseas work and increase understanding of global development issues.”

Brian Rockliffe, Director of ICS, said: “We’re passionate about investing in young people, our future leaders, and using their energy to tackle poverty.

“Our experience of working with young people shows they want to challenge the status quo, take on some of the big issues and make a difference.

“ICS creates active citizens who make a lifelong contribution to positive change in the UK and developing countries.”

To keep up to date with Tom’s work, see his blog at tomtotanzania.wordpress.com.