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Young Charlecote volunteer will spend Christmas 4000 miles from home to help people living in poverty

Thomas Meredith, right, pictured with a fellow volunteer in Nepal. (Submitted photograph)
Thomas Meredith, right, pictured with a fellow volunteer in Nepal. (Submitted photograph)

THOMAS Meredith, from Charlecote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, will spend Christmas in Nepal this year, working on a project to combat poverty and inequality in the Himalayan country where a quarter of the population live on less than $1.25 a day, and millions are still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2014.

Thomas, 19, is working in a team of young British and Nepali volunteers on a project to promote inclusive and quality education in schools, encouraging parents in the local community to become more involved in their child’s education and support activities such as reading at home. Thomas and his team mates are also working to improve hygiene and sanitation in the local community, running educational sessions in schools and organising awareness raising days in the community.

He travelled to Nepal in November with international development organisation VSO, through the UK Government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

Thomas will be missing out on Christmas at home with friends and family in order to continue his good work, and will spend the festive season; running English Proficiency classes with children aged 13-15, organising events to teach students the importance of washing their hands, and working with local youth organisations to clean up litter and put recycling systems in place.

Thomas said: “Missing out on a my 20 Birthday and Christmas at home is a small price to pay for all the fantastic work me and the others on my team aim to do with our time out here. We have decided that on Christmas Day we will be going for a picnic at a local hill station higher in the Himalayas. Although we may not have the proper ingredients for a Christmas lunch I’m sure we can pull something together. It will also be a real treat to show our Nepalese counterparts something of our culture.

“The first week or two out here was hard, it can be quite a culture shock and there are plenty of traditions and manners that must be observed in and around our host homes. So far my team has been focusing on integrating ourselves into the community and teaching English in the local secondary school. Our next step will be to run events in the school and the community at large. After our mid phase review we will be refocusing on the primary school in our community, looking particular at the state of the toilets and the English proficiency of the younger students.”

Thomas is living with a local Nepali family whilst in Nepal, so he can fully immerse himself in the local community and better understand the challenges the community face.

Thomas said: “The best part about living with a local family is the children, you can pick up so much of the language and the culture from observing their behaviour, and playing games in the evening with my host sisters has really helped me and my counterpart become better integrated with local life. Again I mention the massive culture shock, but with time and patience you can pick up most of the local manners, which really helps when going into school or to local community groups for meetings.”

ICS volunteers spend three months in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, working alongside local volunteers on projects that focus on issues ranging from sexual health and youth participation in politics, to climate change and sustainable livelihoods.

Since 2012, ICS, has sent more than 1000 young people from the West Midlands to volunteer on projects abroad, alongside young volunteers from the country they’re in. Young people don’t need cash or qualifications to take part, just the motivation and commitment to make a difference.

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